Monday, August 18, 2014

Local food in Appalachian hills ... and more

My last post was pre-programmed as last week I drove to Tennessee, near Nashville, to my daughter and her family's home.  My husband had been staying there for two weeks enjoying our four grandchildren.  The week-end before I arrived they all had driven to Columbus, Ohio, to visit my husband's sister and her family.  On the way back to Nashville they stopped at the 364-acre (147 ha) Kings Island Park, east of Cincinnati.  It is advertized as the largest amusement park in the Midwest, with "thrilling" rides (I have never been in this park.)  There is even a, somewhat, replica of the Eiffel Tower there.  Below on the right is my husband with the grandchildren.  Our daughter is on the left holding our granddaughter and the young au-pair French lady from New Caledonia is on the right.  (Click on collage twice to enlarge.)

The grandchildren have so much energy - they kept my husband busy.  We had not seen them since last March and could tell that they had grown.

When it was time to go back home, I decided to drive on some Tennessee back roads for part of the trip.  From Murfreesboro, TN, we went to the little town of Beersheba Springs, TN.  I had read that it had been a resort in the 19th century.  In 1854, a rich Louisiana planter had bought property there and built a luxury hotel to accommodate 400 guests, cabins and stores.  French chefs cooked for the guests and music from New Orleans entertained them.  The hotel declined after the Civil War and in 1940 was purchased by the Methodist Church as a retreat and for summer camps.  There is a yearly arts and crafts festival there.  The resort area has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Below are photos and postcards of the hotel, with the current view at the bottom right, but now the town is tiny with only 477 inhabitants and it is hard to imagine it as a "resort."

The area is very hilly with narrow roads curving up and down.  The hills are not tall mountains but still when you get to the top and see all the hills surrounding you and the valleys way down below, it seems that we are pretty high.  It is difficult to take pictures because there are no places to stop and it is dangerous to stand by the road - it would be easy to tumble down if a car came by, but there were hardly any vehicles on the roads.  In the valley tall corn and other crops were surrounding us.

These hills are part of the Appalachian mountain range.  The name comes from the Apalachees, a Native tribe who used to inhabit the area.  This mountain system is very old, formed about 480 million years ago as a result of tectonic movement.  It is the oldest chain of mountains in North America and located mostly in the US apart for a small part extending into south-eastern Canada and France.  Yes, France, but France in North America.  Most people do not know that France is in North America in the northwestern ocean, facing Newfoundland, in the small islands of St Pierre et Miquelon.  We visited the islands in August 2008 and I wrote several posts about it (click on the post titles to read them) - Destination St Pierre et Miquelon, part one, then part two,  and part three, and lastly the final part.  Below are some pictures I took while at St Pierre et Miquelon where the hilly Appalachian terrain can be seen.

The Appalachian system of mountains extends for almost 2,000 miles (3,200 km) with a width of from 100 to 300 miles (160 to 480 km) wide.  It spreads from Newfoundland and Labrador province in Canada to central Alabama in the USA.  The mountain used to be as high as the Alps or the Rocky Mountains but they eroded and now the average height is 3,000 ft.  In addition to the provinces in Canada (Newfoundland-Labrador, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, etc.) and France (St Pierre et Miquelon) the mountains cover parts of the US states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.  Most of the range of the Appalachian Mountains is covered with thick and extensive forest (evergreen, spruce, birch, oak, beech, etc.)  When you drive to the top of hills the view is very scenic.

Our little Kennesaw Mountain (1,000 feet high/300 m) is part of the Appalachian chain.  I took the photo below about 12 miles from the mountain coming back from a grocery store.

Hikers can walk the Appalachian Trail or Appalachian National Scenic Trail which is about 2,200 miles long (3,500 km.)  A while back I was at the place where it ends, or starts, in the North Georgia mountains.  It extends to Mount Katahdin, in Maine.  The top 4 pictures below were shot in Georgia (photos courtesy Wikimedia Commons.)

From Beesheba Springs we drove down Highway 56-S to Tracy City.  We went up and down hills and winding mountain roads at least 3 times.  We stopped in Tracy City, in the foothills of Monteagle, as I had read that the oldest family bakery in Tennessee was located there.  We parked on the side of the building, facing some large squashes on a rack.  Across the road was the Tracy City Police Department and City Hall (population about 1,500.)  No one was around.

We entered the Dutch Maid Bakery, established in 1902.  At first, it is difficult to concentrate as the shop is full of baked goods, antiques, Americana, photographs, signs, vintage objects, etc.  In the center of the room were tables with small cakes and sample plates.  On the side were racks of breads - salt rising, sour dough, whole wheat, old world rye and more.  Cookies were displayed on top and inside glass display cases.

We sampled some of the little cakes.  My husband decided on chocolate chip cookies and I choose several of the small cakes in addition to a loaf of salt rising bread.  Fudgy brownies were just coming out of the oven, so we purchased one as well.

Two of the cakes I purchased were the Mixed Berry Mountain Moonshine cake and the Apple Pie Moonshine cake.  You could sure taste the liquor in the cakes!  When I came to the US I did not know what "moonshine" was.  Moonshine is high-proof distilled spirits, produced illegally, mostly during Prohibition (1920-1933.)  In Appalachia distillers produced moonshine (mostly corn mash) at night so as not to be detected.  Moonshine has many nicknames: white lightning, mountain dew, Tennessee white whiskey, hooch, city gin, skull cracker, ruckus juice, mule kick, panther's breath, cool water, happy Sally, wild cat, jump steady and many more.  It was a big industry in the backwoods of the Tennessee hills as well as other part of Appalachia such as Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, etc.  Government prosecutors would arrest bootleggers when found, send them to jail and destroy their still.  Below is a postcard of a still and two old photos from Grundy County, Tennessee, where both Beersheba Springs and Tracy City are located.

In the 1950s moonshining was widespread in the Southern states.  From 1954 to 1974 Federal Agents destroyed 72,000 stills in the Deep South!  Now you can legally purchase some moonshine brands but distillers are still producing it in large quantities, illegally.  In 2009, an 82-year old woman from North Carolina, was arrested for distributing moonshine out of her child day care center.  Two brothers were arrested, also in 2009, for producing 929 gallons of moonshine.  On the map below you can see the approximate route, in red, we took from our daughter's house outside of Nashville, to our home.  I circled number 44 which is the location on the map of the Dutch Maid Bakery in Tracy City.

We were so tired when we arrived home that we did not eat supper - just a couple of peaches.  The next morning we had a large breakfast at the J. Christopher restaurant - actually it was too large as we took half of it home.  My husband had the Route 66 Skillet: corned beef hash and oven-roasted potatoes capped with sunny-up eggs and an English muffin.  I had the J."Grits'-opher's" a bowl of cheddar grits topped with bacon and served with a biscuit.

In the afternoon we had a cup of tea, served in our new St. Petersburg, Russia, mugs and slices of the Mixed Berry Mountain Moonshine cake.  We kept the other moonshine cake, the maple cake, brownie and cookies for another day.

At the bakery, Appalachian local food maps were given, called Bon Appetit Appalachia!  I took one.  It shows the locations, in the Appalachia areas, of farmer markets, farm-to-fork restaurants, farm tours, festival and events, vineyards and wineries, craft breweries and spirits.  They have a site online and it is active - you can click on a number in a state and see what is offered at that location - click here to have a look.

We will certainly use this map again.  While looking online I saw that the historic Dutch Maid Bakery in Tracy City has a small YouTube video showing how they make their moonshine cakes.  The owner of the bakery does not give out the recipe.  I guess I am going to have to find some moonshine and bake my own version as Tracy City is a bit far away.  At the beginning and the end of the video you can see the roads and hills around Tracy City.  Here it is below.

It must have rained in Georgia while we were away as our plants in containers looked gorgeous.  Also some unknown mushrooms sprout up outside the kitchen window.  Anyone knows what type they are? Good to eat?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A magazine request ... and more

This post is starting with the "...more" of the title and is another eclectic post.  Now that the Tour de France is over, life is returning to a normal routine.  I found some lovely apricots at the market, so I made some jam - spiced apricot.

Later I found some good looking raspberries - so made more jam.

My husband is with our daughter and her family, near Nashville, Tennessee, for a couple of weeks.  They traveled to Columbus, Ohio, to see his side of the family.  Our other daughter, who lived in Memphis, Tennessee, moved to Sacramento, California, last April.  Then, before we could go and visit her there, her company promoted her and she had to move again, back to Atlanta this time.  But wait - as soon as she arrived they sent her on business to Florida and Pennsylvania, even before the furniture had arrived in Georgia.  I have been feeding her cats.  Last week while driving on my way back from her town home I saw an "estate sale" sign.  I stopped to have a look.  It was a good sale, with a lot of stuff and inexpensive.  I know I should not look at books anymore because I have so many - but I did.  I only bought 3 books - a book by George Orwell on Dickens, Dali & Others, and another by Eudora Welty "The Golden Apples."

The third book is large.  It is called "Year: Mid-Century Edition, 1900-1950 - The Dramatic Story of 50 Turbulent Years in 2,000 Pictures, 100,000 words.  A Permanent Record of All the Important National and World Events."  I should learn a thing or two from it.  (Click on collage twice to enlarge.)

I paid a total of $5 for these three books (or 3.72 Euros.)  I checked online to see if I made a good deal - the 1946 first edition of the Orwell book is valued at about $30.  The Year book at about $10 but the deal is the first edition Welty book.  In good condition with a dust jacket it starts at $50.  CDs were also for sale, two for $1.  I did get several in a variety of music styles.  So far I have only listened to the Stan Getz and Oscar Peterson Trio CD - it sounds very good.  I like the cut "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.)

Other purchases were a retro coffee pot - an advertisement for Sanka decaf coffee ($2) and a vintage ceramic salt cellar, made in Czechoslovakia ($2.)  I'm using the little coffee pot while I am alone (but dark roast coffee, not decaf.)  I'll use the salt cellar not for salt, as I don't use much, but to keep my little match boxes handy.

I could not resist that delicate bone china cup from England ($5.)  The lacy tablecloth was also a good deal at $4.

I was pleased with my purchases and then stopped at a new pizza restaurant.  It is called "Uncle Maddio's."  I had a thin crust, extra crispy, Portabella Pesto Pizza: herb pesto sauce, mozzarella, portabella and white mushrooms, feta cheese, Roma tomatoes and fresh basil.  It was tasty and filling - I took half of it home for my dinner.

I am missing watching the Tour de France.  I found out that next year it will start in the Netherlands, in Utrecht.

It's time for some of my observations.

Some of my blogging friends, last year and also this year, have commented that they do not watch the Tour de France anymore because some of the cyclists used drugs such as Lance Armstrong.  As a fan of Lance Armstrong, I was deeply disappointed with him.  It is disheartening to cheer an athlete and then find out that he did not win on his own merit but with the use of drugs or other external means.  There are close to 200 cyclists in the Tour de France each year and most of them are hard working professional who are tested very often.  The Tour de France association is at the forefront on the fight against doping and has made great efforts to eradicate it from the sport.  They perform numerous checks throughout the year and during the race which is the reason why the public has been made aware of the problem.  I enjoy watching the Tour and won't stop because some have been found to use drugs.  It has hurt them, their families and the sport.  For the same reason I keep watching the Olympic Games even though several athletes have tested positive for drugs.

I just checked to find a list of doping cases in professional sports, and there are so many names listed that they are in alphabetical order.  You can check it here on Wikipedia - List of doping cases in sport.  If you click on A for Armstrong, you will see that his name is there but also names of athletes convicted of doping in swimming, boxing, water polo, cricket, wrestling, weightlifting, drag racing, tennis, football (soccer,) shooting, rugby, volley ball, ski jumping, auto racing, American footbal, baseball, boccia, etc.  and this list is just for the athletes whose names start with the letter A!  Using this same logic as for the Tour de France then people should not be watching football, soccer, baseball and tennis anymore.  How about drugs used by musicians, writers, actors etc.?  Same logic applies - no more listening to music, reading books or going to the movies?  I don't think so but it's the same analogy, isn't it?  But there may be other views and opinions on this subject, and that is fine with me.

Some bloggers have beautiful gardens and I love looking at their photos.  Unfortunately, we have a mass of trees, much shade, hard Georgia clay and rocks.  This year again my husband planted some annuals and herbs in containers.

 The view above is of the back yard.  We are not in a subdivision or have neighbors close by so I can place my laundry on the line to dry.  The caladium grew very tall but the basil looks pitiful (on top in photo below.)  In the front yard however the basil is growing nicely (pictured at the bottom below.)  I don't know what happened - same basil.

In the front yard, just like the basil, the plants are growing strong and lush.  The Torenia plant (Torenia fournieri) is a profuse bloomer with a multitude of little upturned violet flowers (the plant is deer resistant as well.)  The green coleus almost looks artificial and the curly caladium has beautiful patterns.  The wild periwinkles are everywhere.  I like their name in French - "pervenche."

In the front yard is a horde of little crawling insects.  If you touch them, they curl up.  They are about 2 cms (1 inch) long and if by chance you step on one it sounds like you walked on a potato chip - a crusty sound.  Does anyone know what they are and if they are good or bad for plants?  They are at the top of the containers also but the plants look healthy.

Now about the magazine request: about a month or so ago I received an email from the photo editor of the magazine "Civil War Times."  They had planned a small story on Allatoona Pass in Georgia for their October issue and were asking if they could use my photograph.  You may remember my photo; it was at the top of my post of November 20, 2013 called "Hiking on historic Allatoona Pass Trail" - click here to see it.  They used my photo for their article.  My post on the pass trail was much longer (as usual) than their story.  A copy of the magazine was courteously sent to me so I could see my picture.

 Civil War Times magazine contains many period photos, eyewitness accounts, maps, travel guides, biographies and more.  For people interested in that historic time period, this magazine is a great source of fascinating stories.  I read only part of the magazine, so I'll go now and keep on reading.

Woman reading in a garden, by Peder Severin Kroyer, Danish, 1851-1909

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Tour de France 2014 honors 1914 Tour riders

On my post of July 9, 2014, I showed pictures of the start of the Tour de France in England (click here.)  On Sunday 27 July, 2014, the Tour ended on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.  The Tour lasted three weeks and was made up of 21 stages which covered a total distance of 3,664 kilometers or 2,276.7 miles (about the distance between Atlanta, Georgia and Los Angeles, California.)  There were 9 flat stages, 5 hill stages, 6 mountain stages, 1 individual time-trial stage and 2 rest days.  The last stage ending in Paris was won by Marcel Kittel of Germany.

The winner of the 2014 Tour de France is Vincenzo Nibali of Italy.  He had the most overall points and wore the yellow jersey 18 days out of 21.  Nibali is a strong rider and has also won the Vuelta a Espana in 2010 and the Giro d'Italia in 2013.  He rides for the team Astana of Kazakhstan.  The general manager of this team is a former racer, and one of my favorite riders, Alexander Vinokourov (he also won a gold medal at the Olympic Games of 2012) and is shown below in the middle right of the collage.  The green jersey went to Peter Sagan of Slovakia, the polka dot jersey to Rafal Majka of Poland and the white jersey to Thibaut Pinot of France.

Since I retired in early 2008 I have been able to watch the Tour de France live on TV.  For me, in Georgia, it usually starts around 8:00 am, sometimes earlier, and ends around 11:30 pm to noon.  I never plan any activity or trip in July so I can watch it every year.  I enjoy the race but I also love to look at all the various roads in and out of the little villages in France.  The helicopter coverage gives an excellent view of the landscape along the race.

It is always a thrill at the end of the race to see the riders arriving in Paris and watching their eight laps around the Champs-Elysees.

The first three stages of the Tour started in England.  The Tour organizers decided to have the next seven stages take place along 1914 Belgian and French battlefields to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers of the Great War.  As a sad coincidence, the 1914 Tour de France started on June 28, 1914, which was the day of the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo and his wife (that led to the outbreak of the war a few weeks later.)  The 1914 edition of the Tour had 15 stages totaling more than 5,400 kilometers or 3,355.4 miles (farther than the distance across the USA since Miami, Florida to Seattle, Washington is 3,298 miles.)  The 1914 Tour de France was won by the Belgian Philippe Thys - his second win.  He would win a third time in 1920.  The Tour was suspended during the war and started again in 1919.  Below is the 1914 route, the 2014 route, a vintage photo of the 1914 start of the Tour and Philippe Thys.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

It may seem strange to some here now, that a major international sporting event would go out of its way to include a tribute to soldiers from a long ago war, mostly unremembered in the US.  On November 11, 1919 US President W. Wilson established Armistice Day to mark the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany and to honor its dead.  Later on it was changed into Veteran's Day.  In France, Belgium and New Zealand it is still Armistice Day, in England it is Remembrance Day.  With roughly 20 million deaths (1,400,000 in France) or a total of 37,466,904 casualties - this was a dreadful war not to be consigned to oblivion.  The memory of this war is still vivid in France.  I think every family there knows of a family member, or friend who died in this war.  My grand-father was in WWI and several of my grand-mother's cousins died there.  There are roughly 36,000 war monuments in France - each large city, town or village has one with the list of their fallen, even in the small suburban town near Paris where I spent my teenage years, St. Leu la Foret. (Click on the collage to read the name of the towns.)

 In France these monuments were built, not to glorify victory, but to honor those who died during the war.  The monuments were mostly financed by citizens in each town but also by war veterans who made up 90% of men aged 20-50 years in France in those days.  Eight million men were called up to the war, 1.4 million died and 3 million were injured in a population of 40 million at the time.  These monuments were erected in the hope that their sacrifice had not been in vain and that this war would be the last war, the war to end all wars.  All the monuments say "Mort pour la France" (died for France.)  The city of Washington, DC, has a WWI monument but in the nation's capital there is no "national" monument as a US memorial to its veterans of WWI.

As Peter Kuznick, professor at the American University in Washington says "This is a forgotten war."  I asked one of my friends, an educator, why young people here are uninterested in history.  She replied that history has been squeezed out of the school curriculum for the benefit of math, business, science and other subjects more relevant to helping students find a job and making money.  In France at least education still includes history as a major subject, as well as geography and foreign languages.  Below is a book for children.  I translated the title - The 2 world wars explained to the youngest.

A professor in a Texas university tested entering students for historical knowledge and reported that "the degree of historical ignorance was considerable."  It is too bad, because when wars are forgotten it is easier to start new wars, such as Iraq.  In France many people were affected by WWI, even from well known families.  Doctor Robert Proust, the brother of writer Marcel Proust (author of "In search of Lost Time" formerly known as "Remembrance of Things Past") was called up on August 2, 1914, and was posted near Verdun.  He survived the war and was decorated for courage.  Below is an excerpt from a letter Marcel sent to a friend on August 2, 1914 - "I have just seen off my brother who was leaving for Verdun at midnight.  Alas he insisted on being posted to the actual border."

Some 424 French sport greats including 78 cyclist gave their lives in the storm of 14-18 including three Tour de France winners: Lucien Mazan, nicknamed Petit Breton (1882-1917) winner in 1907 and 08, Francois Faber (1887-1915) winner in 1909 and Octave Lapizee (1887-1917) winner in 1910.

During the seven stages commemorating the fallen cyclists of WWI the Tour went from Flanders to the Vosges.  The riders followed the paths of the Great War and rode by historic sites and battles.  Stage 5 started in Ypres, in West Flanders, Belgium.  This is where the first gas attack occurred against Canadians, British and French soldiers.  Now Ypres has the title of "City of Peace" and has close ties to another town, "Hiroshima."  Below are postcards of Ypres before, during and after the war.

For Stage 6 the Tour rode on the Chemin des Dames ("Ladies Path" named thus as it was the route used by two daughters of French King Louis XV) while going from Arras to Reims.  Three battles were fought along the Chemin des Dames in 1914, 1917 and 1918.  The final count was 271,000 French casualties and 163,000 German casualties.  That day the Tour riders wore a "bleuet de France" (cornflower) the symbol of WWI veterans.  You can see a bleuet/cornflower on the jersey of the riders, below, during the podium presentation.  (In Canada the word "bleuet" is used for blueberries instead of the French word "myrtille" for that fruit.  I wonder what word is used in French Canada for cornflower then?)

For Stage 7 the Tour went from Epernay to Nancy and rode by l'Ossuaire de Douaumont (The Douaumont Ossuary.)   It contains the remains of soldiers who died during the Battle of Verdun.  The Battle of Verdun lasted 300 days (Feb. 21, 1916 to Dec. 16, 1916) and resulted in 230,000 deaths out of a total 714,231 casualties (or an average of 70,000 casualties for each month of the battle.)  Recent estimates increased the casualty number to 976,000.  The officials of the Tour de France placed a wreath at the Verdun monument.  Below is the ossuary, the battlefield then and now, still showing scars.

This week-end French President Francois Hollande is meeting with the President of Germany, Joachim Gauck (Angela Merkel is the Chancellor of Germany.)  They are commemorating WWI which started in France a hundred years ago today, August 3, 1914.  They are meeting at the Hartmannswillerkopf Memorial, a French National Monument in the Vosges mountain of Alsace.  A bitter battle was fought there with 30,000 French casualties.

The French President emphasized that "this Franco-German commemoration is a testament to the strength of the friendship between the two countries that allows them to look at their shared history, including its most dramatic period."  Tomorrow, Monday August 4th, 2014, the two presidents will go to Liege, Belgium to commemorate with a dozen other leaders the centennial of the invasion of Belgium by the troops of the Reich.  The French President said that "These commemorations are a way to celebrate Franco-Belgian friendship and French debt to Belgium for its fierce resistance to the invasion."  Also on August 4th there will be a joint British-German memorial ceremony at the St. Symphorien Military Cemetery near Mons, Belgium.

This is a somber subject, so I'll explain why the "bleuet de France" (cornflower) is the symbol of memory and solidarity for veterans, victims of war, widows and orphans.  On the battlefields even though all plant life was almost gone because of bomb shelling, the cornflower and poppy survived and were the only bright colors on the desolate battlefields.  France chose the cornflower as a symbol and Britain the poppy.  The term "bleuet" also referred to the young French recruits of 1915 who wore horizon-blue uniforms while the older soldiers' uniforms had turned grey with mud.

At the end of WWI France had millions of wounded veterans, some seriously handicapped and unable to work.  In 1925 two French women established workshops where the men could make little lapel pins from blue tissue paper or fabric to sell to the public and thus give them an occupation and income.  The organization became "Le Bleuet de France" and with the backing of the French Government it continues today to support veterans and their families.

The Latin name of the bleuet (cornflower) is Centaurea cyanus.  It has several symbolic meanings and one meaning I like is "Wealth, prosperity, fortune and friendship."