Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 10/18/16: Staying Home, Podcast Binge, Looking Up in Savannah

1.  Today was a stay home and rest day after four days in Savannah, arriving home after 1 a.m., and not going to bed until well after 2 a.m. Now, I'm unpacked. I did my laundry. Mostly, I tended to my mind and spirit, working with pictures I took and listening to podcasts.

2.  The Southern Foodways Alliance posts a podcast every two weeks called Gravy.  Each episode explores ways the food, culture, politics, traditions, and life in the South intersect. Since arriving at the Savannah Airport Monday evening, flying to Atlanta and Baltimore, and arriving home in Greenbelt, I've listened to four fascinating Gravy episodes.

First,  "What is White Trash Cooking?" looks admiringly back at the life and some of the recipes of the late Ernest Matthew Mickler, author of the loving tribute to the recipes of poor, working class, rural people in the South called White Trash Cooking.  You can listen to it, here.

Then I listened to "Repast" the story of Booker Wright, a proprietor of his own bar in the black district by day and a waiter by night in Greenwood, Mississippi, who gave an interview on a 1965-66 NBC documentary called "Mississippi: A Self-Portrait." His account of his experience as a black man working in an upscale whites-only restaurant made him an unlikely hero of the Civil Rights movement and inspired the composition of a recently composed opera which premiered in Oxford, MS in 2014 and was later performed in Carnegie Hall.  The episode is structured around Wright's story and the music of the opera. The podcast is here and you can see video of the 1966 interview, here.  There's more to Booker Wright's story than I've written here or than the podcast tells and as a search of the World Wide Web will reveal.

I learned more about Chinese immigration and the introduction of dried shrimp and dried shrimp powder into Louisiana cuisine by listening to the episode, "Dancing the Shrimp Dry: How Chinese Immigrants Drove Louisiana Seafood".  You can listen to this episode, here.

It turned out that I saved my favorite Gravy episode for last.  Caleb Johnson tells the story of coal mining in Alabama through interviewing his father, Ronnie Johnson, and by focusing on the contents and the packing up of his dad's lunchbox. This episode hit home. Ronnie Johnson's story closely paralleled the stories of miners in Kellogg and the Silver Valley as well as those of us who worked on the surface in, say, the Zinc Plant or the Lead Smelter.  The episode is titled, "The Leftovers in a Coal Miner's Lunchbox" and it is here.
(By the way, this would have been a perfect episode for Margaret's and my students in the American Working Class course. )

Just for the record, I also listened to part 3 of the "Who is This Restaurant For?" series on Sporkful titled, "One Sign in Arabic, Another in English" which examined a Korean restaurant in Gowanus, Brooklyn, a Middle Eastern eatery in Astoria, Queens, and a vegetarian cafe in the East Village in Manhattan.  It's fascinating to listen to how these chefs constructed their restaurants to be inviting to as many potential customers as possible -- and the challenges they face doing so.  Want to listen?  Just click here.

3.  For part of the time I listened to podcasts, I also worked with pictures I took in Savannah and I completed Sibling Photo Assignment #8. Christy assigned the three of us to find beauty by looking up. So wherever I went in Savannah, I looked up, sometimes way up, and, in the case of the portrait artist sitting behind the bicycle, only a few feet up.  Here are the pictures I posted to complete the assignment:

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