When somebody knocks at the door
Someone new walks in
I will smile and shake their hands
But you can’t make old friends.
This could be episodical if I tried to share all the stories told, yet again, this past weekend.
Jimmy Edwards and Weir Kyle met at Ole Miss. They both had natural talent and loved the “smell of the greasepaint and roar of the crowd”. They had both WOW’d the crowds in Byhalia and Durant, respectively. Jimmy had a high tenor voice and moved like Gene Kelly. Weir had leading man looks and a love affair with a the Spotlight. It was destined for them to be roommates in numerous locales as well as share four years of performance opportunities which made headlines from the Gulf Coast to Montreal’s Expo ’67.
There were some classes and a lot of good times but mostly they focused on their next show. They were both given degrees. I’m not sure they earned them as Brandt student taught with a first year teacher. THEN…he and the first year teacher left in the middle of the semester because they received the invitation of a lifetime…a European USO tour. “The Group” was an auditioned song and dance troupe at Ole Miss. I’m really not sure how they ever created an ensemble sound because when they’re all together the room is full of standout STARS!!! Weir always brought the house down with “Gonna Build a Mountain” and Brandt hit the high notes as well as being the choreographer. The travel experience was amazing but many of them found the trip life changing.
After their tour dates were completed Jimmy and Weir remained in Europe the remainder of the summer. I’ve known them both 25 years and still don’t know how they afforded a summer in Europe. They claim they used Frommer’s “Europe on $5 a Day”. Let’s just admit…times have changed. They did buy a car. Yes, I used the word buy…they paid $150 for the car they called “Jolly Olly Opal” (it was an Opal) and $75 for insurance. The story about getting stuck in traffic driving around the Arc de Triomphe puts Saturday Night Live comedians to shame. And yes, every time they’re together they tell the same stories again and again.
We were thrilled to have Weir and Candy in Memphis last week. We’ve visited many times over the years here and in their home in Houston, TX. However, I got to know them when we served as College Uncle’s during their daughter Durham’s undergraduate studies at Rhodes. It was only four years but it felt like she was leaving home when graduation day came even though she never lived with us.
We had a great Welcome visit. Dinner was what Brandt (formerly known as Jimmy) calls… “Just Do Something Simple”.
Mom never finished the sixth grade yet She held a Ph. D. in kindness and another in love for Her family and friends. While she had no training she was very talented. She was a skilled seamstress, an immaculate housekeeper and was extremely creative in the kitchen. Her chicken and dressing as well as coconut cake were legendary at all of our friends and families births, deaths, hysterectomies, sick headaches and often times just because someone was on Her mind. Her grilled hamburgers were one-of-a-kind. We enjoyed them with great regularity. We always had them for Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Weekend revivals when the preachers would come for dinner. They typically came before the evening service and most always came back after the service for another burger and homemade ice cream. I’m confident the entrance at the pearly gates are pavéed with Mom’s burgers. She added Kraft BBQ sauce, salt and pepper to fresh (not frozen) ground beef…only Kraft will do…don’t even think about an “off brand”…even if it’s “on special”. The flavor is incomparable. It puts the extra in extraordinary. And, for a reason we’ll never know she created a slaw just for hamburgers…she grated cabbage, hamburger dills and onion on the box grater. Then, mix in mayonnaise (Mom used Kraft or Blue Plate…this was before the great Hellman’s/Dukes debate as neither was available at Big Star) and yellow mustard…season with salt and black pepper. I ate slaw on every burger I had at home until She left in 2001. Weir tasted the slaw and remarked, “this tastes like home”. My eyes well with tears as I type this. It was the greatest compliment he could offer me.
I had a day out of the kitchen. We had a light lunch at SOB (South of Beale) Friday afternoon and got take out from New Asia for dinner. We enjoyed going to Asian Palace when Durham was at Rhodes but the Woo brother’s split up and we enjoy the authentic menu at New Asia now.
I tried to create an Asian theme with collectibles from my time living in Asia. The raw silk runner is from the night market in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Sitting on top of the runner is a carved wall panel found on the sidewalk which was discarded from a Hong Kong restaurant remodel. The vase is an acquisition from an antique market in Beijing. I hand carried it back to Hong Kong. The Crepe Myrtle and Canna Lily foliage are from the garden at the loft. The votive candle glasses are from Carnevale by John Simmons. I purchased them from his shop on South Main because I had been to the Street Lamp Glass Factory they were made in while on the China mainland. The placemats are my design on hand embroidered silk made in India. The bowls and soup spoons were purchased in the USA but we worked with an agent in Taiwan which just by looking at them could tell me the factory or at least the region where they were manufactured.
Saturday was a busy day. I started at Memphis Farmers Market and mid-morning the Kyle’s strolled to the loft from one of our Guest Suites…Central Station Hotel. We are so fortunate to have the CSH on one end of our block and The Arrive on the other. Our friend’s have enjoyed both and we enjoy Hustle and Dough, Long Shot and Bishop, as well.
During our first trip to NYC Brandt introduced me to Sarabeth’s. At the time it was a charming Upper West side eatery where everything was handmade with love. She has since branched out and expanded. It’s still delicious but like most of New York…busy and touristy.
One of Brandt’s favorite dishes we now simply call, Sarabeth’s. It’s soft scrambled eggs with cream cheese, smoked salmon, capers, dill and cracked pepper stirred in. It’s actually simple but the flavor profile is addictive. The eggs are hugged up to a Spinach and Artichoke Croissant I buy at Collierville Farmers Market by a French trained baker with a kitchen in Eads, TN. La Belle Bakery is at Collierville on Thursday during market season and at West Clinic in Memphis every Friday; year round. Her pastries are just like what we’ve enjoyed at the patisseries in Paris.
Saturday evening our friend Robert Kyle called to asked about the attire for dinner. Brandt responded we were wearing “Bermuda Shorts” but the table looked “Black Tie”.
I didn’t think of it as formal but suppose the black and white palette with a touch of mirror and a splash of chartreuse could convey something other that “Bermuda Shorts”. Again, the silk placemats embroidered with mirror paillettes are my design created in India. The black French Porcelain dinner bowls were wedding gifts. Our wedding invitation stated “Gifts Encouraged”. We never thought would be allowed to marry so why in the world not create a Wedding Registry. I’ve helped lots of brides do it and it was joy to do our own. The response was heart touching.
Bucky’s silver came to the party, as well as our linen napkins find in the charming Medicino, CA shop…Tangent’s. This time of year is great for flowers from Jill and Keith Forrester and Whitton Farms, in Tyronza, AR. Luckily they were one of the original Memphis Farmers Market vendors which is less than a block from us. But, I’ve also been to the farm to gather my own “bucket of flowers”. Oak Leaf Hydrangea, Zinnia’s and Celosia in white, yellow and green dress the table with a light airy aesthetic. The cut work lace runner also helps to keep things light while offering just a touch of Old South decorum.
We started the evening with Phillipe Prie Champagne and a Summer Layered Dip…Feta Creme Fraiche, Cantaloupe and Cucumber. Brandt poured a White Bordeaux and I served a summer and farmers market inspired first course featuring Ripley Sun Gold Tomatoes, Poached Shrimp, Fried Okra and Refrigerator Pickles with Creamy Green Goddess Dressing accompanied by a Lump Crab Hush Puppy…or 2 or 3!!! Then, as the guest continued to “sip” wine I fried up some Cornmeal crusted Grouper and set it “hot out of the grease” atop a bed of Creamed Corn and Two Brooks Farm Sable Rice. Our sweet friend Delia Parman brought a Tomato, Melted Leek and Blue Cheese Galette to dress up the plate and we married the two with a tangle of steamed fresh green beans. We finished the evening with Mary Woodward’s famous Fig Bundt.
If you are not a member of the Facebook page Cooking and Coping: Gathering Around the Virtual Table you really should consider it. Sweet Mary Woodward innocently posted this cake three years ago during the pandemic. Everyone was looking for a project and that week it became the MW Fig Bundt. There was Fig Bundt all over The Facebook. It’s taken me three years to get it right…but I didn’t give up. Thank goodness it turned out right this time. Otherwise, we would’ve only had wine for dessert.
I looked for photos from 2020 and 2021; but no. The first year I tried I used Mom’s tube pan. I remembered her always turning the tube pan over on a bottle for the cake to cool. It wasn’t until the Fig Bundt was a MESS of chunks and crumbs on the counter that I realized Mom seldom used the tube pan for anything other than Angel Food cake which weighs about 3 ounces opposed to the Fig Bundt which weighs about 5 POUNDS!!! For 2021 I bought a new Bundt pan and was so excited. Not surprisingly, I didn’t follow the instruction to the letter. The cake tasted good but it was more like an English Pudding than a Bundt Cake. This year, I literally read ever instruction twice and measured with more accuracy than I ever have. Yes, there is a science to baking and yes, it works if you follow the instructions.
We enjoyed Sunday Brunch at Lafayette’s where the famous Tom Lonardo was playing in a combo. Tommy was the drummer for “The Group” and yes…made the famous trip to Europe with Jimmy and Weir. It was great to see and hear him. More stories were shared…well, repeated and more memories were dug out of the archives. Every second of the weekend confirmed that…
“You Can’t Make Old Friends”.
It was a wonderful weekend. The house was lovely and a good time was had by all!!!