Wednesday, March 22, 2017

More People of Substance

And more hidey holes...

I read about a new locally owned restaurant that opened up in North Columbus called Nana's Country Kitchen, which had opened in a location that used to be a BBQ joint. The building was long and low-slung  with just the right kind of atmosphere that promised an interesting experience. I arrived in the dark and couldn't readily get a good picture of the outside—just think red tin walls.

Inside the cafe, along the outside walls, had I been much over six feet, I would have had to duck, but toward the inside of the cafe, , behind which was apparently the kitchen, the height of the ceiling approached eight feet, but not quite. There were plenty of tables, a salad bar, and on one end of the room a fireplace. There was only one other customer at this fairly early hour, but it was dark out and the restaurant was warm enough that I could remove my jacket.

The other customer was reading a book, apparently waiting on her order, and so I zeroed in on the menu, specifically the catfish, but when the waitress asked me how I wanted it, I asked what the choices were. She said fried or blackened. I had seen "blackened" catfish on other menus, but until that night I hadn't explored what that meant. About that time another waitress brought the other customer her order. And then I asked the waitress what "blackened catfish" was. The waitress for the other customer overheard me, and she said, "Come over here and have a look," and I did. The customer smiled as I looked down on her fish. I could see a few black spots on the filet, which looked like pepper...hmmm. I thanked the customer for giving me a chance to see her entree, but when I sat back down, I told the waitress I'd stick with the fried.

My meal was brought. I dug in, but I looked up at the other customer and asked how it was. She smiled. "I should have also ordered the fried." We started talking across our tables and how I had become addicted to it and how she liked it, too. We ate our meals, but at one point, after we had visited for a little while and given the usual elevator summaries of who we were, Pat decided to join me at my table.

She talked about knowing all the little places around Columbus and in nearby counties where she knew many of the kind of cafes we were now in—little hidey holes as I have been calling them, and she was soon reeling off all kinds of places, telling me about a cafe in Amory, Mississippi, that had been in continuous business since the late 1800s, where all you had to say when you walked in was "with" or "without." It was a hamburger joint, and if you wanted onions (cold cut or sauteed) you said "with." Apparently the only thing they serve in the way of an entree is a hamburger. She told me about the "Tin Lizzie" in West Point, Doug & Hazel's Drive In in Columbus, and a whole host of other places.

Pat Matthes is a Librarian at the Mississippi State University Libraries and works with Collection Development Services. That department orders books, newspapers, and journals in print and electronic formats. Access is provided to these materials via an online catalog. Pat has lived in Columbus since 1964 when her father was stationed at Columbus Air Force Base. Her family is from Booneville, Mississippi. She graduated from Caledonia High School and from the Mississippi University for Women (right here in Columbus) with a BS in Library Science. She got her MLS from the University of Alabama. She's both a strong Mississippi State Bulldog fan and Roll Tide Alabama fan.

I gave her my quick summary of degrees and the kind of work I've been doing for over thirty-five years, but the most significant (in this present context) about her is that she's got the inside track on hidey hole cafes and restaurants from here to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and from here to Tupelo, Mississippi, and points in between—and more. We have been getting together for dinner as the winter has given way to spring, and the last place we ate was just this past Friday at Doug & Hazel's. I've discovered other cafes and one of my favorites is The Cafe on Main, which serves up multiple entrees, along with scrumptious desserts, which I usually don't have room for. I was there for lunch one day as soon as I saw that catfish was on the menu that day. In fact, the owner told me that The Cafe on Main will be including a purely Southern line of foods, and I'm looking forward to trying every one of them.

Maybe this week or next I'll venture farther afield and head over to Starkville to a place(s) Pat knows there. We both agree that the chain restaurants are convenient and some of them good, but nothing beats the locally owned cafes in these small Mississippi towns.

Ellie is sacked out on
Mae's nice soft tummy.
An update on Cliff's progress getting to Columbus. He closes on a house he has found here, March 31, and I've been working with the realtor to line up a contractor and other individuals that will turn this office back into a residence. While it's a small house, it's bigger than mine and will accommodate a lot more of his furniture and artwork—and his family's grand reproducing piano. Pictures will appear in this blog just as soon as the work starts in earnest. And we can watch the transformation from office building, back to a residence.

My twin girls are now the ripe old age of one year old. And while they probably think they know all there is to know, I'd say they got surprises ahead of them. I now call them my little yearlings, or stout farm girls, or little squirts, depending on just what they're up to.

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