A Culture of Food: MeMa’s Chick’n & Ribs

IMG_6417The term ‘rustic style’ has become a quintessential part of decorating in recent years; especially in the American South. Known for its emphasis on bringing about the rugged beauty that nature itself has to offer. A rustic style embraces nature, allows nature to inspire the textures, uses simple earthy colors, and ultimately presents a non-pretentious organic environment; which welcomes you and beckons you to feel welcome in its warm IMG_6423embrace. It was that same welcoming spirit that you long for in not only your home; but in a restaurant. I felt it as soon as I opened the glass door to let my family inside, when we heard a sweet voice say, “welcome to MeMa’s,” that rang out over Christian music that softly played in the background. I smiled, and we walked inside to see the contemporary rustic style decor. This gorgeous yet extremely charming restaurant was clean and tidy (also evident in the Sanitation grade which we noticed was a 100); while the smell of BBQ permeated the air. We notice several other families who are already sitting; and it would appear that they came to eat lunch straight from church on this warm Sunday afternoon in September as well. My family decides what they want from the menu and while my wife, son and mom find us a table; and I make my way up to the register to order our food. The menu has a plethora of classic dishes (Pork Spare Ribs, Catfish, grilled chicken, pulled pork, etc) while some that you would never expect (fried green beans with a sriracha-mayo dipping sauce).

img_6415.jpgAs our food was brought to the table, it was evident why MeMa’s Chick’n and Ribs had been awarded WWAY’s 2018 “Best Barbecue Restaurant” award. The Ribs were fall of the bone tender and the taste indicated that just the right amount of dry rub had been used while cooking. The grilled chicken was quite literally some of the best that I had ever had. The combination of sweet, spice and smoke threw my taste buds into a frenzy. From memaschicken1the seasoned french fries to the pulled pork BBQ to the vinegary slaw to the aforementioned fried green beans; everything that was placed before us was amazing.  Everything was made from scratch (even the BBQ sauce which is done by the former Marine chef and co-owner). As our meal came to an end, my wife noticed the dessert being placed on the adjacent table; so of course we had to try it. The short wait time is well worth the seconds it might take, because everything is hand-made…even the whipped cream that they put on the scratch-made desserts

You know I love good food; and MeMa’s portions were as big as the flavors; and we did memas chicken2not complain. Well I did have one complaint: I only complained to myself because I had not I had not visited the award winning restaurant earlier. The wait staff and owners are some of the nicest that you will ever meet. Don’t hesitate to head down to Burgaw, NC RIGHT NOW! Inside the glass front exterior, you’ll find a world of culinary delights that has foodies from around the world talking. Don’t wait on me; go ahead to the counter, place your order, get a glass of the most delicious Lemonade that I have ever had in my life, sit down at the table and wait to have some of the most delicious food that you’ve ever had placed before you. I expect to see you there. I’ll wave to you with BBQ sauce covered fingers; behind the rib bones that I will inevitably pile up.

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Images:

Other miscellaneous Images taken by me. Sept. 9, 2018.

Combination plate images accredited to MeMa’s Chicken & Ribs, Burgaw, NC, 2018, Fair Use. http://www.memaschicknandribs.com

 

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Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Unusual US Roadside Attractions

I grew up in a small town and we have many things that we can count as our ‘claim to fame’. One of those things is the oldest (established in 1975) and largest (producing approximately 450,000 cases per year) winery in the US South: The Duplin Winery. Another thing that Rose Hill, NC (besides their pork and poultry farming) is the one thing that I find laughingly amazing. I find the fact that we are home to…wait for it: the world’s largest frying pan. It sounds like one of those road side attractions that you hear people traveling around to see; and that’s exactly what it is. Much like the world’s largest ball of twine (a 5,000 lb. – 8 foot tall monstrosity in Cawker City, Kansas) or the world’s longest running steak house (which is in fact The Delmonico Steakhouse in Manhattan); the World’s Largest Frying Pan is a roadside attraction which brings in a trickling amount of tourists. So if you’re one of those people that enjoys the more obscure side of life and wants to see some of the more unique parts of what creates the beautiful underbelly of Americana; then don’t go to Disney Land. Steer clear of the mouse-themed amusement parks and find somewhere off the beaten path. Maybe go visit – Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Unusual US Roadside Attractions.  


Honorable Mention:

World’s Largest Ball of Paint (Alexandria, Indiana) – 

What began life in 1977 as an ordinary baseball, the ever-growing, now 3-foot in diameter ball has received an average of two coats of paint a day. As of 2011, the ball of paint had been coated over 20,000 times and weighed well over 1,300 pounds.

 

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10. They Also Ran Gallery (Norton, Kansas)

Norton is the county seat of Norton County, Kansas and is home to only around 3,000 people. The population may be small but Norton, Kansas has a one of a kind museum. In the mezzanine of Norton’s First State Bank houses an interesting collection of images. All thanks to the bank’s former president and owner, William Rouse. He received a book entitled “They Also Ran” by Irving Stone; which is the story of nineteen men who were all defeated for the presidency of the United States. He loved it so much that he started collecting black and white copies of portraits and photographs from the Library of Congress; and when the bank moved to a spacious new location…he utilized the mezzanine to house his collection. The new portrait of Hillary Clinton will hang on the wall next to the distinguished or sometimes lesser known losers. This intriguing glimpse of America’s political history is definitely one a kind.

9. World’s Third-largest but World’s Largest “Working” Fire Hydrant (Beaumont, Texas)

Okay firemen…I know that it isn’t the first or even the second largest; but the third-largest Fire Hydrant is 24-foot-tall. Did I also mention that it is white with black dalmatian spots and was used to promote the 1999 re-release of Disney’s 101 Dalmatians? It was built at Disney Land in Anaheim, CA The fire hydrant was gifted to the Fire Museum of Texas from the movie studio. But here is the kicker! The mottled shell houses the capability of blasting 25 gallons of water a second! So if you’re ever near Beaumont, Texas you won’t miss the 4,500 pound black and white fire hydrant.

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8. The Beer Can House (Houston, Texas) –

So what do you do when you’re tired of mowing grass? Well when John Milkovisch of Houston, Texas got tired of mowing grass he started cementing his yard and in which he inlayed thousands of marbles, brass figures and metal pieces into the concrete blocks which now make up his entire yard. In the late 1960s he started amassing the piles of beer cans left over from 18 years worth of a six-pack-a-day drinking habit. He decided that he would do what any of us would do. Of course he cut off the ends, flattened the sides, riveted them together, and used them as aluminum siding for his house. Of course this heated the house to an uncomfortable degree due to the reflective surface in the blazing Texas sun; so he took the remaining parts of his beer cans and made curtains and shades for the exterior of his home. The Beer Can House is now operated by The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art and for a mere $5 you can venture inside the establishment to experience John’s extraordinary imagination up close. Rednecks rejoice. You and your beer loving buddies have a king.

7. Coral Castle (Homestead, Florida)

I have always had a love for architecture. Especially medieval architecture. My love for castles was fueled by an early love of He-Man (and my wanting of my own Castle Grayskull) or the appreciation for the craftsmanship of the building itself. In another blog, I wrote about the Top 10 Castles in the United States and I felt terrible not listing one. So what would have been my number 12 on my list is now a roadside attraction and has been a tourist destination since the 1940s. From 1923 to 1951, Edward Leedskalnin single-handedly and amazingly carved 1,100 tons of coral rock. He didn’t just carve the rock but he created what is now one of the most mysterious accomplishments in the world. If we had been lucky enough to visit Coral Castle in the 1940s, we would have been guided on the tour by Ed himself. The short, small framed man would have introduced you to his fantasy world until the day he posted a note in 1951 on the castle door that said “Going to the Hospital”. Three days later, he died but his spirit lives on in the location in which he was ever so proud.  He spent those 28 years building the castle as a monument to his fiancee, who called off their wedding at the last minute; but we can visit and appreciate the sheer wonder of this massive hand made castle.

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6. Bishop Castle (Beulah/Rye, Colorado)

Okay. So yes this is another castle and technically it has already been on a top ten blog of mine (reference the link in number 7); but the Bishop Castle is truly amazing. This private home isn’t your normal, everyday roadside attraction but this is no normal home. In 1969 creator Jim Bishop, started building a one room cottage at the age of 15 using rocks from the surrounding forest. He didn’t set out to do more but a friend of his told him that it looked like he was building a castle…so he continued building and did just that. His self-described “largest one-man construction project in the country, quite possibly the world” is truly a site to behold. The ever growing, hand-built structure highlights a tower that ascends high into the sky above the 3 story 160-foot-tall castle, and a fire breathing metal dragon that he fires up on special occasions.

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5. World’s Largest Chest of Drawers (High Point, NC)

Not only is High Point one of the biggest cities in North Carolina; but it is also known as the “Home Furnishings Capitol of the World/Furniture Capitol of the World”. A furniture industry that began as early as the 17th century by English artisans who had settled in North Carolina; flourished in the 19th century. The city was located in the center of the Piedmont region, was located in the junction of a busy railroad or a main thoroughfare that ran through NC, and had lots of cheap labor. By the end of 1898, High Point was the leading furniture center in the South and was shipping eight fully loaded freight cars a day. The market had highs and lows but the Southern Furniture Expo was still drawing in 5,000 to 6,000 people from around the world even until the 1980s. Many of the larger furniture companies have sadly started closing their doors in the 1990s; but that doesn’t take away from High Point’s influence on the furniture industry. If you visit High Point, you can visit the High Point museum and see the examples of the furniture; or you can visit some of the countless examples of larger than life furniture. Yes, I didn’t say that exaggeratively. The city of High Point is home to a couple of the “World’s Largest” pieces of furniture; but the one that stands out the most to me was built in 1926. The world’s largest chest of drawers was originally called the Bureau of Information (get the pun) and stands 36 feet high. “The Furniture Capitol of the World” called attention to their booming furniture industry; as well as High Point’s hosiery industry (hence the two socks seen hanging out of one of the drawers. The 36 foot high 19th-century style furniture piece has been painted several times and was recently restored; so its ready for you to go and awe at this amazing creation. And if that really gets you excited, you can travel about 5 miles down the road and visit the “world’s largest dresser” which stands almost 80 feet high.

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4. Carhenge (Alliance, Nebraska)

Always been intrigued by the prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England? Not want to travel across the ocean but would still love to see something like that? How does a trip to Nebraska sound? Well even though the archeologists won’t tell you that Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska could be 5000 years old…historians will tell you that Jim Reinders conceived the art installation as a memorial to his father in 1987. Reinders studied the layout of Stonehenge while living in England. Instead of using large standing stones, like that of ancient man, Reinders used cars covered in gray spray paint. Carhenge consists of 38 cars arranged in a circle; just like Stonehenge. The heel stone of the build is a 1962 Cadillac. The ten acre site is now known as the “Car Art Reserve” where other automobile related sculptures have been added throughout the years. I mean, you may think it is corny but the site has appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows as well as listed as one of the top places to visit in the US and Canada. That’s saying a lot, eh?

640px-Fountain_of_Youth_postcard3. Fountain of Youth (St. Augustine, Florida)

I have always been intrigued by the mythos surrounding Ponce de Leon and his search for the Fountain of Youth (enough that I’m writing a short story using it as my inspiration). Well if you don’t know, Juan Ponce de Leon was a Spanish explorer and conquistador and sailed with Christopher Columbus to the Americas in 1493. He settled in what is now Hispaniola (which is now the Dominican Republic) and acted as the military commander there at that post. He discovered the island of Borinquen and there in discovered large deposits of gold. On order of the King of Spain, he returned to the island in 1508 and named it Puerto Rico. He was removed from his governorship after two years by the King to be replaced by Christopher Columbus’s son. After his hurt from being removed from the position, he journeyed through the Bahamas and was the first European to set foot in what is now Florida. The aging adventurer was in search of new lands and treasure; but also was in search for the magical spring whose waters could make older people young again. His ship lands in modern day St. Augustine, Florida. He claimed the land for Spain and since he discovered the beautiful landscaped place, he was entitled to name it. So he named it La Florida or in English the Place of Flowers. Though he never discovered more gold or the actual mythical fountain, he did think he had discovered it. He found a natural spring that he claimed was the Fountain of Youth. Since it turned out that it was not, the site is now just a kitschy tourist attraction. You can can even take some some of the water home; as long as you buy the “Fountain of Youth” souvenir bottle.

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2. Field of the Wood (Murphy, NC) 

Back at the turn of the 1900s, a Christian man named Ambrose Jessup Tomlinson traveled to visit with the Western North Carolina mountain people to pass out tracts and teach them about Jesus. He loved the area so much that he and a few followers decided to form a new church (the church would become the Church of God of Prophecy which now has over 700,000 members in 115 countries). The story goes that Tomlinson decided to take hike up a nearby mountain to pray. He came back from his hike saying that God had spoke to him and told him what kind of church he should make; and just like Jacob of the Bible’s Old Testament (who had a vision of a ladder leading from earth to Heaven), he came back to the area where this happened and memorialized that spot. Cradled in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, you’ll be able to find the spot that Tomlinson’s holy place. The church bought 210 acres, of which included the mountain that Tomlinson claimed he spoke to God. He began this project and in doing so created the World’s Largest Ten Commandments, the World’s Largest Altar, the World’s Largest Cross, and countless replicas of other holy sites. Whether you are religious or not, the site is more than a testimony memorializing the mountain where God revealed his vision for this man’s church; it is testimony to the abilities of human engineering.

  1. Cabazon Dinosaurs (Cabazon, CA) 

The 1980s brought about many memorable things (one of those things being me) and countless movies that will live on in Pop Culture history. One of those movies was Pee Wee’s Big Adventure where we find Pee Wee journeying across America to find his prized bike. The one place that always stuck out to me was the scene in which Pee Wee climbed inside and sat in the mouth of these huge concrete dinosaurs. These dinosaurs weren’t actually props built for the movie (director Tim Burton claims everyone swore that they thought they were); but are actually part of a real roadside attraction. The dinosaurs were used in countless music videos and even in the 1989 movie The Wizard (which had a star studded cast of a young Fred Savage, Christian Slater, Tobey Maguire, and Beau Bridges). These dinosaurs were actually the brainchild of sculptor, portrait artist, and theme park artist (Knott’s Berry Farm) to help draw people to his Wheel House Inn Restaurant (coincidentally the Restaurant was also used in the infamous “Large Marge” scene in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure). They broke ground on Dinny, the first Cabazon dinosaur, in 1964 and he was finished 11 years later. The 45-foot-high, 150-foot-long was not along for long and in 1981, Rex was built. Sadly Bell died in 1988 and the property was sold. The facility is now owned by young earth creationist who believe that the Earth and the dinosaurs were created about 6,000 years ago. So now just outside of Palm Springs, you’ll find the naturalist paintings of Cro-Magnon and Java Man that Bell did presented along side the creationist information.


 

Images – 

Featured Image: Panoramic view of Carhenge image by User:Ammodramus (original photo), cropped by User:Eco84 – Derived from File:Carhenge from NW 2.JPG, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32622691

They Also Ran Gallery image accredited to They Also Ran Museum in Norton, Kansas, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, http://www.theyalsoran.com/pix/GalleryImage.jpg

Beer Can House photo accredited to NZ Russ from Texas, USA / Auckland, NZ – Flickr, Fair Use, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=680606

Carhenge photo accredited to Brian W. Schaller – Own work, FAL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55630050

Fountain of Youth Postcard image attributed to Tichnor Brothers, Publisher – Boston Public Library Tichnor Brothers collection #69182, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50320932

The Front of the Castle with view of the Towers image By User: Hell in a Bucket – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25750457

World’s Largest Chest of Drawers photo accredited to NCpedia.org – CC By-NC-SA 4.0, http://www.ncpedia.org/sites/default/files//styles/anchor_images/public/guilfordcodreser.jpg?itok=B13xAOfa

Ten Commandments, Fields of the Wood, Murphy Cherokee County, North Carolina accredited to John Foxe – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64602159

Cabazon Dinosaur Rex image by CityMorgue – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35373076

Cabazon Dinosaur Dinny image by CityMorgue – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35373077

 

A Culture of Food: Billy’s Pork and Beef

Most people have a love-hate relationship with the big-box stores. We hate going to the them; but even I can’t deny the ease of being able to buy potting soil, the new Deadpool DVD on Blu-Ray, some new underwear and bananas all in the same convenient store. Grocery stores 640px-Garvey,_Rosemead,_CA,_USA_-_panoramio_(185)(like Food Lion, Kroger, Harris Teeter, IGA) and even super centers or megastores (like Walmart, Target, Costco, etc) have become prevalent in the American and now global landscape. Walmart itself has 11,718 stores (as of January 31, 2018) that are operating in over 28 countries; which has allowed it to become the world’s largest company according to the 2018 Fortune 500 Global list. The Waltons are known for employing over 2.3 million people around the world and selling over $500 million in sales; but studies have proven that Walmart is slowly killing off small, locally owned businesses.

One of those businesses that have felt the sting of the increasing popularity of supermarkets is the local butcher shop. Sadly, butcher shops and meat markets are becoming less common because supermarkets or big box stores are either employing butchers for re-packaging or what is now called ‘secondary butchery’. Employers who  essentially act as meat department managers or ‘meat department associates’ at these locations; display and/or package, for retail sale, meat from a packinghouse or specialized central processing plant (a technique that most chain grocery stores utilize: Food Lion and Walmart specifically).

11-alimenti,carni_ovine,Taccuino_Sanitatis,_Casanatense_4182In our convenience ridden society, we forget about the local butcher, fish monger, or meat market. What we forget is that butchery is an ancient trade, who can trace the roots of their profession to that of the early domestication of livestock. The first guild of butchers has been dated back to 1270 in England. This long tradition of hard working men and women (who could also be called ‘meat cutters’ in some parts of the world and country) cut the meat and prepare the carcass in different ways. There is a good chance that your local butcher sells their goods in specialized stores (known as a butchery, butcher’s shop in other parts of the world, or a meat market) and prepare fresh cuts of meat for sale. Most of the time time these shops serve related products (fresh produce, grocery items, baked goods, etc) while some also serve hot food (using their own products) or may include a small delicatessen.

IMG_6343I have been blessed to have been able to go to a local meat market and butcher shop for as long as I can remember. Billy’s Pork and Beef has been a staple in our community since 1989 and many years before that as it operated under different names. Some of my earliest memories are venturing to Billy’s at lunch when I would go hunting with my dad and we would get BBQ sandwiches and delicious sides from the hot bar. That night my mom would stop by and get freshly cut pork chops to cook for us. Sadly “Mr. Billy” passed away in 2017, a few months after the business was purchased by some amazing local folks; who have kept the spirit of this local meat market while tastefully modernizing the selection of food and items being sold. Their hot bar still serves hot meals all day (breakfast staples, filling billys 2lunch and delightful dinner). They serve a variety and ever changing menu of delicious and comforting Southern classics like fried chicken, stew beef, BBQ, butter beans, or collard greens; or their soul warming dishes like their homemade spaghetti, soup or clam chowder. You can buy fresh produce and locally sourced products (from local vendors and growers). They still hang the air dried sausage and country hams for all to see while you can hear the buzzing of the saw cutting meat fresh to order. If you’re ever in Duplin County, get on Hwy 41 and come to Tin City (just outside of Wallace, NC and conveniently located a couple of miles from the Pink Supper House). So come join me at the picnic tables; where you’ll find me eating a juicy BBQ sandwich.

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Images:

Book scan from “A Butcher’s, Tacuinum sanitatis casanatensis (14th century) by unknown master – book scan, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1638811

Walmart in Garvey, Rosemead, CA, USA by peter boy12qq12, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59274824

Billy’s images by and accredited to Billy’s Pork and Beef official Facebook page, Public Domain, Fair Use.

A Culture of Food: The Pink Supper House

Thanksgiving_Dinner_for_30Food is important for survival. Though my wife has told me many times that you should eat to live and not live to eat; my gluttony has gotten the best of me from time to time.  All in all I just love food. Food is important to humanity, not just because it keeps us alive; but because food is at the center of most of our happiest moments. First thought of Thanksgiving Dinner? Happiness while sitting around the table with family or friends. Thoughts after thinking about Sunday lunch with grandma? Happiness. Feeling loved. Good food. All of these qualities have made food not just the necessity for us to exist but eating has became a social activity. It brings people together. Over the years, the culinary arts and chefs alike have risen from being the unspoken savior in the kitchen to celebrity status. After the creation of the Food Network and TV shows showcasing chefs (like Julia Child, Justin Wilson, and Wolfgang Puck); the art of creating delicious dishes is on everyone’s mind.

Being a foodie is a common thing in today’s society. Terms like foodie, gastronome or gourmand have become commonplace. These people have so much love for a specific style of food or enjoy the experience so much that the search for better tasting item or just eating in general; that it seems to become more of a hobby than just something to keep hunger at bay. These people enjoy food for the pleasurable experience as well as enjoying the food itself. I myself don’t think that I am a foodie but I do love to eat, don’t get me wrong. My point is that enjoying a new BBQ joint in the town over or trying a new type of fish at my favorite sushi place does not constitute being a foodie. I enjoy knowing the little nuances about food. Like the history of a certain type of food or what it is made of. I like knowing what foie gras or duck confit is. Heck…maybe I am a foodie. So getting back to BBQ…I love BBQ!

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To some people here in the United States and around the world, ‘to barbecue’ refers to a technique of cooking that involves cooking a piece of meat or other items over flame. Most Southerners find it audacious when someone is cooking hot dogs and hamburgers…and call that a ‘barbecue’; but I digress. Technically, the technique referred to as ‘barbecuing’ actually involves cooking meat (mostly whole hog, beef brisket, pork shoulder, etc) in an outdoors environment, over a fire. This cooking takes place in a cooker or in a ‘pit’. This ‘pit’ becomes known as the ‘barbecue pit’. The meat takes on a smoky flavor derived from the choice of wood used to cook the meat and a barbecue sauce is added as an accompaniment (though not required) after cooking. In the United States South, barbecue is more than just a style of cooking. It is a subculture that has people like me spanning the near and distant land in hopes of finding the best bbq.

One of the biggest reasons that I have this love of BBQ is because of being raised in the South; and being raised down the road from the Pink Supper House. Barbecue in the Carolinas is usually in reference to pork. And most of the time that pork is cooked whole hog style and the meat is usually served pulled, shredded, or chopped. Eastern North Carolina barbecue is usually prepared by adding a spice mixture before placing it over the fire and ‘mopping’ sauce on the pig while it is cooking. The sauce is usually vinegar based and has herbs and spices added to it (usually a thin sauce with spices like black pepper, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, etc). <(We’ll have to discuss BBQ sauce regions at a later time.)> The whole hog North Carolina style barbecue is regarded as the oldest form of barbecue in the Americas which the Europeans were influenced heavily by the cooking styles of the African slaves, Native Americans and the cooking styles of their Czech and German ancestors. The term ‘to barbecue’ is said to have derived from the Spanish word “barbacoa” which means ‘to roast over hot coals’ or the French ‘barbe-a-queue’ which means ‘head to tail’. Either narrative could work in the word’s etymology, so what does this have to do with a place called “the Pink Supper House”?

‘The Pink Supper House’ had its origins in 1948 by three ladies from three separate churches, who got together and started raising money to help to ‘rebuild’ a church. My home church of Northeast Pentecostal Free Will Baptist church was just an old wooden building on the edge of the same creek that I live by (Island Creek). The Godly women, (led by Mrs. Sally Rivenbark (from the Northeast church) got out their old pots and pans from their homes, usable silverware, and even the string beans from their garden; and would go down to an old local store one Saturday a month and cook. The meal was made up of Southern staples but satisfyingly simple: bbq, string beans, and slaw. Most of the food was donated to them by the people in the community. Some person would donate the hog (that a man named Robert Cavenaugh would BBQ) while someone else would donate the cabbage the ladies made into the slaw.

It took the ladies about five years to build up enough money to help build the church and by that time they were called the “Northeast Ladies Auxiliary”. They decided to continue on with the meals and ended up helping raise money for for the other two ladies’ churches. That went on for about a decade until the health department stepped in (they were operating out of an old store and it wouldn’t have been approved by the Health Department) and the Ruritan Club (a service club located in many small towns and in rural areas throughout the United States) built them the “Pink Supper House”.

IMG_4256 (1)Over the years a couple of items were added to the menu. Fried chicken was added after the popularity of the item increased. Whenever there was a death in the community, they would fry chicken and hush puppies (along with the other staples: beans, cole slaw and bbq) to take to the families. Though originally ran by three Godly ladies once a month to help raise money for the community is now a nonprofit community group  which serves food every Saturday; almost half a century later, the menu which has only slightly expanded has not deterred the quality of the meals. You can taste the love in every delicious piece of fried chicken, every slice of cake homemade cake, or in the delicious vinegar based pork BBQ. So if you’re ever in Eastern North Carolina on a Saturday, go visit the Pink Supper House located between Chinquapin and Wallace in Duplin County. Save me a seat and go ahead and order me a sweet tea.

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Images:

Thanksgiving Dinner for 30 image accredited to Randolph Caldecott (1846-1886), Public Domain, http://www.reuseableart.com/v/holidays/thanksgiving/thanksgiving-03.jpg.html

A Southern Barbecue image by Horace Bradley – a wood engraving from a sketch by Horace Bradley, published in Harper’s Weekly, July 1887, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20250593

Pink Supper House images credited to me.

Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Stanley Kubrick Movies

I have always loved TV and movies. Maybe its because a lot of us raised in the 80s had so much more to entertain us. I had influences that would become pop culture icons popping up around me like weeds in an unkempt field. Movies were a big part of that. I remember the excitement of the Star Wars movies. I remember the first roundhouse kick that I saw from Jean Claude Van Damme or the first time I saw a Bruce Lee movie. I can vividly remember running to sit in front of the television to watch He-Man hold aloft his magic sword and say “By the power of Grayskull, I have the POWER!” (That part still gives me chill bumps.) All in all, I loved being entertained. And truly don’t we all? So when it comes to a movie, what draws us in? Sometimes less is more. Sometimes the grandiose and unbelievably complex spectacle is what impresses us. Sometimes, when it comes to a powerful scene in a movie; stripping away all of the fluff to reveal the most basic of elements is what truly draws you to a character. My family allowed me to watch whatever movie flew to my fancy (within reason of course), so I was lucky enough to watch some of the best movies and TV produced before my time as well as the movies that were being made as I grew up. Watching Spaghetti Westerns with my dad or watching Road House allowed me to grow up and experience some amazing movies as I aged. Along my schematic journey; I encountered a director, screenwriter and producer who would not only become one of my favorite but will be remembered as one of the most influential directors in cinematic history.

July 26th, 2018 would have been Stanley Kubrick’s 90th birthday. Sadly the director passed away in 1999 while he was completing his 13th and final feature length film, “Eyes Wide Shut.” The director died at 70 years old but his 46-year career of creating movies produced some of the most memorable and influential movies of all time. Despite him only making a baker’s dozen movies; the films that he did create are not your average films. Many of them are quite literally cinematic Masterpieces which have been ranked (USA Today, IMDB.com, Rolling Stones Magazine, etc) among other classics as the greatest movies of all time. So it is an honor for me to present my Top Cat’s Top 10: Stanley Kubrick Movies – 


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10. Spartacus

Though the film is not one of his most influential, Spartacus was the movie that paid a significant monicker in Kubrick’s impressive resume. The movie’s large format cinematography allowed Kubrick to branch out from his stripped down, cinematic shots like in his 1955 movie, “Killer’s Kiss”. He butted heads with script writers and editors, but the movie has many Kubrick-esque elements.

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9. Eyes Wide Shut

In what many consider to be his worst movie, Kubrick’s erotic tale that whimsically mixes together themes of love and the occult is definitely a Kubrick film. Though Kubrick thought the movie was his greatest contribution to the cinematic universe…Tom Cruise’s lackluster performance keeps the movie near the bottom on my list but Kubrick did however show his perfectionism by controlling everything from the color of the walls to the details in the masks used in the movie to the rolling camera shots.

8.  Lolita

Lolita is a creepy movie. The book is even worse but Kubrick did at least work with the numbers to make the movie adaptation a little less creepy. Oh you don’t know why? Well the movie centers around a middle aged man marrying a woman because he is in love with her daughter. Her very YOUNG daughter. The film is however well done, and like many of Kubrick’s movies; tip toes along the line of politically correctness.

7. Barry Lyndon

Another one of Kubrick’s novel adaptations, this time he adapted the 1844 novel called The Luck of Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thacheray.  The story revolves around a conniving, amoral Irish social climber who manipulates his way from an Irish farm to a wealthy entitled life. Roger Ebert labeled the movie as one of the most beautiful films that he had ever seen; Kubrick’s cinematic tricks and camera work (thanks a NASA made lens that could capture images lit only by candlelight) creates a truly spectacular piece of cinematic history that allows everything from the production design to the silverware on the table to tell its own story.

6. Paths of Glory

One of Kubrick’s earlier works, which showcases the aristocracy of leaders and the atrocities of war; Paths of Glory allows us to witness the internal struggle of human beings in what could easily have been just another war story presenting simple war heroes but he instead presented it in such a way that it is truly unforgettable. We cinematically witness the human spirit crack under pressure and realizations of war while feeling every gut-wrenching, senseless death. This movie digs past the trenches and court room scenes to show man at his many weakest but also most beautiful points. The film’s last scene is one of the most emotional scenes of the movie and is remembered as one of the most effective endings in film history. The last scene, like the movie, allows you to see the humanity of an enemy and the tears that fall from the faces of everyone involved evokes emotions in even the hardest of hearts. The move the audience just as much.

5. Full Metal Jacket

I have watched this movie so many times; but I have to go to the second part most of the time. The movie is split into two distinct parts that beautifully echo each other. The two parts allow you to see the soldier and how being a soldier can create that lack of humanity. Besides the first part housing the infamous real-life drill sergeant turned actor R. Lee Erney (who was brought on to help create authenticity in the dialogue but then was used in the actual part) unleashes a verbal (and sometimes physical) assault on the men. Though Erney’s barrage of dialogue comes at the expense of a young man who clearly won’t make it in the army. You witness the army drill sergeant driving their humanity from them…turning them into cold blooded killers. Which if you haven’t seen the movie, is exactly what happens.

4. Dr. Strangelove or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb 

The term black comedy is very different than that of a Black comedy. Black comedy (also known as dark comedy or gallows comedy) makes light of a subject matter that is generally too taboo. When he wanted to do a Cold War era thriller involving the nuclear-weapons crisis; he produced the masterpiece in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis and on the eve of the Vietnam War. But while doing his research for the film, he decided that instead of a thriller, that the ‘mutual assured distruction’ theory was too absurd. The fact that both sides of the Cold War thought that stockpiling nuclear bombs and planning on doomsday scenarios forced Kubrick to make this comedic masterpiece more than just a comedy piece; but it becomes a political statement that feels relevant over 40 years later.

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3. The Shining

What could arguably be one of the most significant films in filmmaking, The Shining is not just a horror classic but is a cinematic treasure. Kubrick yearned to make a horror film that brought us to see the flaws of man. To see the personality flaws that allow us to see how far you can fall. The film scares you and it makes you uneasy; all while psychologically thrilling the audience. His use of location and his masterful editing and doing take after take created a film that will not only scare you; but will make you question your own psyche by watching Jack Nicholson’s character descend into madness.

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2. A Clockwork Orange 

Kubrick himself describes the film as “a story of the dubious redemption of a teenage delinquent by condition-reflex therapy. It is, at the same time, a running lecture on free-will.” The social satire and the film’s subversive beauty allows the characters to uncomfortably become the protagonist. Alex and his “droogs” rape, beat, and steal unabashedly. The film makes you uncomfortable from the images portrayed but we are forced to confront our own morals and are forced to look deeply into how we view free will.

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  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey 

    Kubrick was definitely ahead of his time. Even 50 years later, 2001: A Space Odyssey is listed as one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time and still revels new space movies. Though this movie may have been the springboard to launch Kubrick to superstardom, Kubrick had us looking to the stars a year before we put a man on the moon. The movie which showcases not only humanity’s relationship with the cosmos; but also shows  the potential negative interactions with technology. The movies technical engineering aside, the movie is cinematically amazing. The story (which he wrote in collaboration with Arthur C. Clarke) could easily be passed off as a movie told this year. (Just watch Interstellar if you don’t believe me.) The sci-fi genre was thrown off its axis thanks to this movie because this genre-altering screenplay will transcend cinematic history as one of the greatest of all time.


Images:

Kubrick directing Kirk Douglas in Spartacus accredited to Studio – ebay, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19971103

Eyes Wide Shut Mask image credited to FaceMePLS from The Hague, The Netherlands – Stanley Kubrick in EYEUploaded by SunOfErat, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30389629

The Shining Door at the Stanley Kubrick Exhibition image credited to Carlos Pacheco from Toronto, Canada – Redrum door – The Shinning, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40387574

Clockwork Orange costume at the Stanley Kubrick Exhibition image credited to Matthew Gallant from Santa Monica, California – Stanley Kubrick Exhibit 008Uploaded by SunOfErat, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30390386

Hal 9000 at the Stanley Kubrick Exhibition image credited to Ben Snooks from Melbourne, Australia – Krakow-Stanley-Kubrick-Exhibition-HAL, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40400228

Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Reasons to Smile More

This top 10 is just to hopefully show everyone that smiling does have a benefit. Oh yeah, did I mention that I have proof? In a 2008 study, as reported by ABC News, two universities researched and found substantial evidence that something as simple as a smiling face, or a picture of a puppy can elevate your mood enough to help you in many avenues of your life. I understand that most of you probably envision me walking around like a goober all day smiling…but sometimes its the act of smiling at someone as you walk by them that goes a long way. That smile may be the only act of kindness that they see or experience all day. So with that being said, I present to you the Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Reasons to Smile More – 


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10. Smiling helps people trust you more and brings people closer to you – Let’s do a quick test…you meet two new people of similar age, sex, socio-economic status. One of these people is smiling and one is not. I want you to honestly think about who would be the person that you would trust. The appearance of the Duchenne marker (which is the smile involving the contraction of both the zygomatic major muscle which raises the corner of the mouth and the orbicularis oculi which raises the cheeks and forms the beautiful crow’s feet around the eyes) and an overall increased intensity of expression have been successfully partnered with positive judgments of trustworthiness. But ultimately smiling brings you closer to people. You seem to be a more open person when you smile. You receive more positive responses when you smile. Just saying.

9. Smiling could help you make better decisions – According to the study which was published in the Journal of Consumer Research, thinking abstractly can help us to think clearer, and in turn make better decisions. This better mood, which is impacted by smiling, allows us to focus on the why, not the how; according to Aparna Labroo of the University of Chicago and Vanessa Patrick of the University of Georgia. “We argue that by signaling that a situation is benign (think happy face,) a positive mood allows people to distance themselves psychologically from the situation,” they said in their 2008 study. “Psychological distancing results in taking a broader perspective, or seeing the big picture,” leading to ‘higher level thinking’.

8. Smiling makes you happier – As I’ll speak about little later, happiness can be caused by smiling. Essentially smiling can boost your mood when you are feeling blue, and may be beneficial for people struggling with anxiety and depression. A 2010 study found that when you make yourself or are caused to smile when you’re feeling down, that your mood improves and it increases positive thoughts.

7. Smiling is contagious – I’ve always heard that you should smile because it is contagious. How many times have you seen someone smile and little or no reaction from the other person involved? Not a lot right? The reason why is because people smile, even if its just to be polite. Subconsciously when you smile, you are asking the other party involved to join in the happiness that you have. For that millisecond of time, you two are involved in an outpouring of joy. A spreading of love if you will.

6. Smiling makes us appear younger and more attractive – A study where the participants were shown a series of 45 photos of women with varying intensity in their smile were rated on how beautiful they were. Across the board, the women with the most intense smiles were rated as the most beautiful. EVEN THOUGH the 45 pictures were of the same 6 women. Another study presented ‘in the book Psychology and Aging found that facial expressions had a substantial impact on the accuracy and bias of someone’s age estimation. They based this information off of the findings of the study, which asked a diverse group of adults who judged the age of 171 faces of a similarly diverse group of adults. Even older men and women’s faces, which displayed happy expressions had their age well underestimated.

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5. Smiling actually can help you become more successful – People who smile more, statistically think better, tackle new goals, and have more opportunities than those who do not. In the same study as I mentioned in number 9, the researchers said that “chronically happy people are, in general, more successful across the many life domains than less happy people, and their happiness is, in large part, a consequence of their positive emotions, rather than vice versa.” Author Sonja Lyubomirksy from the University of California, Riverside, said that “our review provides strong support that happiness, in many cases, leads to successful outcomes, rather than merely following from them.”

4 .Smiling elevates our mood and encourages mental health – I’ve talked a lot about putting on a smile when you’re feeling down. Smiling helps boost your mood, can increase your happiness, and as I’ve mentioned before can lower stress. Studies have proven that smiling activates certain areas of the brain that are associated with reward and triggers the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This neurotransmitter controls the brain’s reward and pleasure center. This regulates movement and helps with our emotional responses.

3. Smiling boosts your immune system and lowers your blood pressure– Okay, so lets get technical. When you are smiling, your body releases more white blood cells than it usually does. What does that mean? The prime purposes of white blood cells are to protect the body against infectious diseases and anything that could invade the body. So smiling actually makes your body more immune to diseases, which keeps you healthier. Now as for your blood pressure, a 2015 study published in the Psychological Science magazine found that smiling results in a lower heart rate during stressful tasks.

2. Smiling relieves the negative affects of stress on the body – So I have mentioned stress a couple of times. Well its no secret that these two are side by side. Stress generally causes an increase in heart rate and therefore blood pressure. In the study I mentioned earlier where the participants judges the other participants facial expressions; the participants who were asked to smile or who smiled on their on had a substantially lower heart rate during stress recovery. All in all, these and all findings show that smiling has both physiological and psychological benefits.

  1. Smiling can cause pain relief – You’re probably going to try to call BS on this, but there has been many studies proving that laughter and yes even smiling releases your bodies own natural painkillers. In a 2012 study, the Mayo Clinic found that laughter increases your pain threshold, and thusly creates a higher pain tolerance. By laughing, this extra intake of oxygen-rich air stimulates the heart, lungs and muscles. This of course increases the endorphins that are released by your brain. These endorphins bind to the opioid receptors in your brain and thusly block the perception of pain. That’s exactly what happens when you take a pain medication like oxycodone or morphine. So get addicted to smiling and laughter…not drugs. 🙂

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In closing, we have been smiling all of our lives. As we sat at my best friend’s house last night, we all watched he and his wife’s baby smile her huge smile. We all, of course, tried to make her smile and laugh because that means happiness. To some degree, we know that smiling not only feels good but also it actually is good for us as well. Many of us do shy away from smiling. And that is fine! I know that some of you are waiting for the opportunity to fuss back at me; because I’ve seen the Facebook posts about ‘I hate when people ask me to smile’. When the old man at the restaurant tells you to ‘smile cause you’ll be prettier’…this is not what I am talking about. I don’t blame you for not wanting to smile then. We all have our own individual problems and ordeals to deal with. Just remember that the next time you have the opportunity to share a smile, do it. That’s all I’m suggesting. Remember the words Mother Teresa who once said, “we shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.”


Images: Kashmiri shop keeper at Dilli Haat by and accredited to Koshy Koshy from Faridabad, Haryana, India – HappyUploaded by jkadavoor, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26319125

Family in a Kitchen by Bill Branson (Photographer) – This image was released by the National Cancer Institute, an agency part of the National Institutes of Health, with the ID 2471 (image) (next)., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24047440

Girl in Bareina, (a small Bedouin village in the south of Mauritanie, West Africa) by and accredited to Ferdinand Reus from Arnhem, Holland – It’s a wonderful day!, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3220266

Avraham Fried in 2010 by and accredited to Shmuliphoto – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49032324

 

Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Cheesiest Pick-up Lines

In a recent discussion with my son, I found out that my corny ‘dad-jokes’ are getting even cornier. Well I’m fine with that because it still gets a comedic reaction from people. The reason I remember this is because he said this just after we were talking to him about ‘flirting with girls’. He’s getting to that age where things like that are important and I told him that my extremely successful go-to was to break the ice with a corny pick-up line. I then proceeded to plow through most of my favorites that I used back in the day. So like I do, I thought right then and there that I needed to make a list of my top 10 favorite cheesy pick-up lines. I’m not guaranteeing that you should try these on a potential love interest or at the hot chick at your local bar; but it should get a good laugh. Which in my case was the best ice breaker there was. So here are my Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10:  Cheesiest Pick-Up Lines


 

10. Do you know what my shirt is made of? Boyfriend material. 

9. Are you a Godly person? Because you’re the answer to all of my prayers. 

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8. Is it hot in here, or is it just you?

7. You must be a magician? Because whenever I look at you, everything else just disappears!

6. Are you tired? Because you’ve been running through my mind all day. 

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5. Hey there, so what was the temperature in Heaven like before you left? 

4. Do you believe in love at first sight or do I need to pass by again? 

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3. Hey, are you from Tennessee? Because you’re the only ‘ten I see’! 

2. My buddies bet me $100 that I wouldn’t be able to start a conversation with the hottest girl in the room. So, what are we going to spend the money on. 😉 

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  1. Did it hurt? When you fell from Heaven. 

 


 

Images

Taylor Thermometer by Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47085176

Angel Statue, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=436019

Tennessee State Map by Internet Archive Book Images – https://www.flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages/18157297401/Source book page: https://archive.org/stream/americanmal6719881990amer/#page/n27/mode/1up, No restrictions, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43331442

Angel Statue by Louise Docker from Sydney, Australia – The Shepherds and the Angels- The real meaning of Christmas, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3018254