Thursday, September 29, 2011
Egg Custard Pie and Pan Fried Chicken.
How about a couple that had seven kids just over a year after they got married -- and then went on to have 14 more? No, it’s not some sensational crazy multiples story. It’s the story of the Jefferys out of tiny Casscoe, AR. George and Girstine Jeffery started off shortly after their marriage as surrogate parents to seven children. They then went on to build their own family, having ten girls and four boys along the way. Girstine was known as “Dew-Baby,” and it’s after her this little restaurant in Stuttgart is named.
I went on a Friday to seek out something fantastical -- an egg custard pie of some renown. I was very happy to see it on the menu. Egg custard is one of those great cultural pies that doesn’t seem to ever have caught on with the frou-frou set. It’s very pedestrian, very rural… and very comforting. A good egg custard pie is filling, too.
We pulled up to the well-used building on Michigan Street (next door to, of all things, a gyro shack) and went on in. Dew-Baby’s is two separate dining rooms… the one you walk into with the counter and the buffet bar, and the one on the side where the restrooms are. It was 11 o’clock dead on and we were apparently the first customers of the day.
Thing is, even though I was planning to dine somewhere else (I had a busy day planned) I couldn’t resist the scent that struck me when I walked through the door. Fried chicken. Pan fried chicken at that, the sort that comes from a cast iron skillet. Oh, I was having lunch.
My photographer and I had a seat while we waited for the plate to be made up. We sipped briefly on iced tea before one of the sisters brought the plate to the table. It smelled heavenly.
AQ Chicken House in Springdale or at the Monte Ne Inn Chicken Restaurant. This chicken… wait for the blasphemy here… was BETTER. It had the tenderness and flavor of being buttermilk-soaked, a very light bit of spicing that I felt had to have included some lemon pepper, it was juicy, it was flavorful, it was tender and it was golden. And yet still it was nothing in comparison to the pie I was about to receive.
Turns out there’s a book on the matter called “Ten Sisters” by Rose Stovall, one of the sisters, a collection of stories from each of the sisters about their mom and dad and growing up in Casscoe. I’m going to seek this book out and read it. I think it might give me more insight into life in the Delta.
You’ll find Dew-Baby’s at 813 E. Michigan in Stuttgart. It’s open 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday. (870) 672-7333 or check out the Facebook page.