Cooking + Caring

January 2019, I made a commitment to myself. I never said I was on “a diet” but I drastically changed my eating habits using Keto basics. Of course, I plateaued and many friends recommended exercise. The encouragement of our sweet Cousin Susan led me to join a Jazzercise Studio. It was a 35 minute drive from the farm but I made it the second chapter of my commitment…

and sure enough…it worked.

January 19-September 23, 2019

While I enjoyed the Jazzercise class what I really looked forward to were the podcasts I listened to on the way there and back. I often sat in the carport at the farm to hear the end of my favorite racy British comedy. A friend suggested Deep South Dining. One episode and it was like finding family member’s you thought lost at sea.

The really bizarre corollary was me driving to Jazzercise listening to Carol Puckett who I met in 1984 taking Jill Connor Brown’s step aerobics class at the Y in Jackson, MS. Additionally, Malcolm White and I both graduated from Booneville (MS) High School. Also in the early 80’s I ate A LOT of Fried Mushrooms and Red Beans & Rice at George Street Grocery. Seriously, hearing them was such a great motivational boost. I looked forward to driving to the studio and driving home afterward…it really made the workout like a “station break”.

I didn’t listen live as I had over a year of podcast’s to catch up on. Then…Covid. Jazzercise shut down. Brandt and I began a very restricted quarantine. By this time I was caught up but Monday morning’s at 9 never seemed to fit my schedule and honestly I loved listening in the car which horrifies Brandt because he knows I’m much more focused on the podcast than I am driving. Nevertheless, my listening was up to date and out of the blue a Malcolm says, “Carol tell us about the new Facebook page”.

What??? I didn’t really think of myself as coping just yet. Brandt and I really love each other and don’t mind it being just us most of the time. We are fortunate to have two homes to enjoy and both have great kitchens.

We didn’t have the stress so many were going through. However, it wasn’t long before I realized Interior Design was fast becoming DIY!!! Coping quickly became very real. My creative energy had no outlet. As soon as Carol mentioned Cooking and Coping I joined…I may or maynot have been driving. A couple of years prior I had created a FB page called Something You Can Eat which came from Mom setting a table with enough food for an Army and as she took her seat would say, “I hope I’ve got something ya’ll can eat”. I thought I would post our meals and friends could posts theirs. Unfortunately, it seems friends loved seeing our meals but wouldn’t post theirs. I received lots of likes and sooooo many “you should open a restaurant” and “when are you going to write a cookbook” but very few friends posted their food.

I knew I had found my tribe when I saw LeAnne’s food. It wasn’t long before Brandt knew dinner wasn’t ready until he heard the camera clicking. I had nothing else to do so I took LeAnne’s advice and created menus a week at a time. I actually started looking at recipe’s which I had never done. As she suggested I made a grocery list…again a new thing for me. Brandt will tell you I’ve always shopped by “whatever looks good”. It was a relief to only go to the market once a week. Being around unmasked strangers did and still does give me disabling anxiety. Since I couldn’t listen to the podcast everyday I followed C&C…maybe a bit obsessively. If this wasn’t the first it was certainly one of my early posts.

Grilled Redfish and Guacamole on Corn Fritter with Black Beans, Mango Coleslaw and Salsa Verde

I really want to share images of all the amazing culinary creations we’ve shared with each other. Carol says we’re now over 5000 followers. I want to tell you all the wonderful advice and tips that have been shared.

One breakfast…

One lunch…

One supper…

One late night snack…

And copious word’s of encouragement but the one thing I really want to share is that Cooking and Coping is also…Cooking and Caring! It’s amazing to feel so close to people you may never see face to face.

November, 2021 LeAnne shared a link to an ArtPlace Mississippi auction where she had donated a dinner party. Admittedly, I did zero research. I thought it was an art gallery in Jackson. I clicked on the link made the opening bid and actually forgot about it. Several days later I received a letter saying my card had been charged and I was the winner of LeAnne’s dinner for up to eight. I was stunned AND thrilled. Then I did my research and found ArtPlace is actually an arts education venture in Greenwood. I was even more thrilled. Most of my philanthropic efforts have an education focus and most usually Arts related. I was so excited to finally get to meet LeAnne. Through cooking and coping not only have Carol and I renewed our friendship but I realized Joe Sherman was THE Joe Sherman, president of McRae’s Department Store when I was a Visual Merchandise Manager in the early days of my design career. I decided to bring the past into the present, gather our dear friends Robert and Delia along with Carol, Mary Pryor and Joe to enjoy LeAnne’s highly touted culinary talent’s. Carol suggested we add the effervescence and captivating energy of Nashville’s Thomas Williams and of course Brandt and I were delighted to have him complete our service for eight on South Main.

We tried to gather in January just as Omicron presented itself. Then somebody had an impromptu wedding but we finally found a date we could all commit to.

We gathered for cocktails on a warm summer Saturday evening. I met the out-of-town guests at our “guest bedroom”…The Arrive Hotel…just 400 feet from our front gate. We joined the spirits of The Lorraine Hotel and the ghost of Elvis while a polyphony of Blues, Rock and Roll and Soul music set a cadence for the short stroll. Our guests were greeted by Brandt…The Sweetest Man in the World, LeAnne…our esteemed Private Chef and Theta…which I can’t have a party without. Pierre Prie Champagne was poured in tall, glistening flutes and nibbles were offered. The greatest honor of the evening is that every guest almost immediately found a seat and “made themselves to home”.

I admit I was taken aback. No one served themselves at my Dad’s white lacquer desk where an assortment of carefully crafted hors d’oeuvres were offered. I literally made plates and served each of the guests as if taking posing as a character from Downton Abbey…and I was soooooo happy. Mary Pryor remarked, “you are the best host”. I immediately reflected on my Mom and how she always wanted her guests to “feel at home.” The evening really could not have started any better.

Initially, I planned to have cocktails in the garden and dinner inside. The temperatures made me nix that idea early in the week. Early on I gave thought to re-visiting The White Party Brandt and I did early in our relationship. I even did a dress rehearsal a few weeks before. It didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel like us and didn’t fit the loft. I decided to do me. I love all things black and white and I’ve loved New Growth Green (chartreuse) since it first trended in 1989.

Cool and Casual + Black | White | Chartreuse

The table is an heirloom treasure passed to me from Mom’s sister who we called Auntie (pronounced Ain’ē). I had it striped and finished in black lacquer. It’s a Duncan Phyfe drop leaf table which I don’t think was built to last forever. Nevertheless, with all it’s creaks and unlevelness it has served us well just as it did Auntie and Uncle. Digital printing has become a major part of my side gig…designing for competitive marching bands. We had a dance floor digitally printed for a wedding in DC. The pieces were used as floor mats for Cocktail Hour and came together for a fabulous dance floor during the Dance Party. Again recently, I used digital printing for placemats and table runners at at Lexington, KY wedding reception. Admittedly, I have waaayyy too many hemstitched linen, dupioni silk, natural fiber, hand beaded and Italian jacquard placemats. But, I saw these printed vinyl placemats and the table instantly came in focus. Our Rialto Black china dinner plates rested beautifully on them and presented the chartreuse French linen napkins as the color of choice. Each place setting featured a jar of Dobson Farms jelly…the women received Tomato Basil Marmalade and the men Caramelized Onion Jam. Our dear friend, Bucky Farnor gave us the Tiffany crystal candlesticks as a wedding gift and our chosen family Shawn and David Brevard gave us the Simon Pearce bowls which held the white cabbage roses. Mother Pearl’s depression glass sherbet bowls held Fugi Mum floating islands. The flatware and stemware are market finds from Mark Roberts, Abigails and Zodax.

I may or may not be predictable. In my defense I had a relatively new audience. These cocktail nibbles are some of my favorites. They were easy to do ahead and didn’t require me to take any of LeAnne’s kitchen space.

Watermelon Gazpacho | Tuna Tartare | Firecracker with Signature Pimento Cheese and Cowboy Jam

The dinner menu was derived from several options presented by LeAnne.

LeAnne joined me Saturday morning for my weekly visit to Memphis Farmers Market. I introduced her to all my favorite vendors and we found several items she used in our delicious dinner.

Crispy harissa Delta Wild cakes with smoked salmon and preserved lemon creme fraiche

Our first course had a base of Sable rice from C&C friend Mike Wagner. The discovery of Two Brooks Farm has elevated our meals and enlightened us in the world of unique rice cultivation. LeAnne and I also visited South Point Grocery, our new full-service grocer on South Main. After twenty years we finally have a real grocery store…and it’s fabulous. LeAnne found Smoked Salmon Loin. I’d never seen it anywhere else. It’s a thicker cut and was perfect for the rosettes LeAnne created to top the rice cake. South Point didn’t have Creme Fraiche but I’ve always made my own. I contributed the Creme Fraiche and LeAnne flavored it with Preserved Lemon. She finished the dish with micro greens from MFM and a magic sprinkle out of her box of tricks. The first course was paired with a 91 Point Coteaux d’Aix en Provence Rosé 2021 Claire-Voie. The dish came to the table in a black 10″ round handcrafted Portuguese porcelain shallow bowl. It was so good everyone talked with their mouth full…WOW! Oh My God! Delicious! Fabulous!!!

Lusco’s style broiled shrimp over seared steak with summer squash and lemon risotto and roasted green beans and tomatoes

Did I mention Thomas Williams? Carol and Malcolm often speak of him on the DSD. To actually meet him, get to know and experience his intellect and generosity elevated the entire weekend. He called LeAnne to ask what he could do to help. Speaking of magic…with a couple of phone calls he brought steak from Bear Creek Farm,Thompson Station, TN. He called famed Memphis chef Kelly English who provided shrimp. Once again, Mike Wagner’s hard work gave the plate a scrumptious base by way of LeAnne’s Lemon Risotto which began with Two Brooks Mississushi Rice and finished with 48 month old Parmesan Reggiano…the host gift from Carol, Mary Pryor and Joe which arrived from “Parma, Italy, Europe” just in time. All afternoon long LeAnne nursed a potion reminiscent of famed Greenwood restaurant Lusco’s Broiled Shrimp Sauce. The spicy, buttery concoction really is reflective of all the cultures which melded to give the Mississippi Delta it’s one-of-a-kind identity. Thomas and Bear Creek introduced us to the Denver Cut of beef. I actually had to Google to know what it was. The marbling was beautiful. LeAnne honored me by using my Signature Seasoning and with just a quick sear the meat along with the shrimp and all-day simmered sauce made for a decadent bite. As Joe and I discussed on DSD, just like every beautiful dress needs the perfect accessories so it goes with the perfect plate. LeAnne chose verdant green pumps and a scarlet lip AKA roasted green beans and cherry tomatoes. The dish was paired with Poggio ai Santi Single Vineyard Le Guardie Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOP 2019 and came to the table on a white 8″ square Hotel Porcelain plate. Conversations ensued which prompted LeAnne to share some of her culinary secrets.

Peaches Foster with cinnamon scented Mexican vanilla ice cream

Finally, we enjoyed summers sweetest treasure accompanied by a Memphis star. LeAnne prepared fresh peaches in the fashion of Bananas Foster. The peaches were set afloat in a pool of luscious, buttery, rummy, “foster” sauce which found a multicultural marriage with cinnamon ice cream from notable Memphis creamery, La Michoacana. The dish came to the table on an Alex Marshall urban side plate. I know Brandt kept pouring wine but I’m not sure what it was or if at that point; anyone cared.

Saturday morning I did a casual brunch buffet for our out-of-town guests. It was fun to recap the previous evening and talk about more wonderful times ahead. I did the labor but it was actually a Cooking and Coping collaborative effort. Carol introduced us to Cheese Crisp from her visit to El Minuto in Tucson. And, what’s a meal without Two Brooks Farm who provided the Rice Grits which I added my Signature Pimento Cheese to. Thomas surprised us all with gifts of Benton’s bacon, ham and prosciutto. I oven fried a pound of bacon and poached the country ham in a bath of my version of Red-eye gravy…Diet Coke, Coffee, Bacon Grease, Brown Sugar and Soy Sauce. I wanted everything LeAnne had on her dinner suggestions especially the pickled shrimp. Of course, she was sweet enough to bring said shrimp and I joyfully added them to a watermelon, Ripley tomato salad. Add Sweet Potato Biscuits and the Red-eye gravy and well…

Cooking and Coping produces really memorable culinary experiences.

It was a weekend provided by the brainchild of Carol Puckett and generous spirit of LeAnne Doss Gault. We’ve all benefited greatly from her Carol’s forward thinking and LeAnne’s ability to make things happen. Hopefully, Covid will get to a place that it doesn’t interfere with our lives on a regular basis. However, we will all continue to cope with various issues on a daily basis. The number of followers continues to grow and expand across the globe. Thankfully we are dependant on the pandemic to continue to enjoy sharing and caring with our Cooking and Coping friends. We are looking forward to the next time…

The house is lovely and good time is had by all!!!

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