Saturday, June 29, 2013
Monday, June 17, 2013
|Williams Tavern Restaurant at Historic|
Washington State Park. (Kat Robinson)
When did restaurants start popping up in Arkansas? For that matter, what qualifies as a restaurant?
The term “restaurant” wasn’t much u
sed in our country, let alone Arkansas, before the 20th century. The word was allegedly created by a soup vendor in France who sold “restoratives,” which taken to one extreme equates restaurant with soup, no? Hrm.
That man was known as Monsieur Boulanger, and in 1765 he had this sign outside his shop in Paris: “VENITE AD ME VOS QUI STOMACHO LABORATIS ET EGO RESTAURABO VOS” (Come to me, all who labour in the stomach, and I will restore you). He gets credit for the word… but the actual concept of a place where you exchange money for food is quite ancient… with both the Chinese and the Romans having some variation.
|Fresh, hot rolls and jalapeno cornbread are brought|
to every table. (Kat Robinson)
The state’s oldest restaurant in its original location could quite possibly be the Oark General Store, out way in the little Oark community near the Mulberry River and far away from just about everything else. It dates back to 1890.
|The tavern in summertime. (Kat Robinson)|
|A lunch of hand breaded chicken fried steak, fried|
zucchini and black-eyed pea salad. (Kat Robinson)
|Black-eyed pea salad has a pickle-like tartness and|
includes purple onion, pimento and green beans -- a
traditional South Arkansas side dish. (Kat Robinson)
|Chicken fried chicken with fried squash and black-eyed|
pea salad. (Kat Robinson)
|Ham steak with cherry sauce, corn nuggets and|
creamed potatoes. (Kat Robinson)
|Dusty Chambers. (Kat Robinson)|
But it is wonderful. The wait staff dress in country outfits -- white shirts, black skirts and aprons. A lot of those aprons are made by Dusty Chambers' mom. She says her mom can make any apron from scratch at the drop of a hat. After seeing so many different aprons attributed to her mom, I believe that statement.
Anyway, I mentioned Earthquake Cake. Here's a recipe.
|Earthquake Cake. (Kat Robinson)|
1 cup coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
1 package German Chocolate Cake Mix
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 stick oleo
1 pound confectioners' sugar
Grease and flour 13 X 9-inch pan. Spread coconut and pecans in bottom of pan.
Prepare cake mix according to package directions. Pour batter over coconut and pecans.
Mix cream cheese, oleo and confectioners sugar. Put mixture on top of batter. (Glob it on by the teaspoonful.)
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Cake will be shaky but will set up.
Rita Purkey, Covington. "Desserts," Daily-News-Record, Harrisonburg [VA], October 17, 1991 (p. 22)
|Strawberry cake. (Kat Robinson)|
While there, I had an ethereal experience. I tasted something that hadn't crossed my tongue since I was a kid -- a south Arkansas delicacy called Cushaw Pie. It's made from a goose-necked squash that's green with white or yellow stripes. What memories that evoked! So, for you pie lovers, here's a recipe.
|Cushaw Pie. (Kat Robinson)|
2 cups prepared cushaw squash puree
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
12 ounces evaporated milk
Single pie crust
Combine cushaw squash puree, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl. Add eggs and vanilla then beat lightly with a whisk. Stir in evaporated milk. Mix well. Pour into a pastry-lined pie plate. Bake on the lowest oven rack at 375-degrees for 50-60 minutes (until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean). Chill before serving.
|Bread pudding. (Kat Robinson)|
This article brought to you by First Security Bank. For more great Arkansas stories on food, travel, sports, music and more, visit onlyinark.com.
Friday, June 14, 2013
Thursday, June 6, 2013
|The Old South, July 2010.|
Time quells a lot of memories – but not all of them. I can quite clearly remember my first week in Russellville as a student at Arkansas Tech University. First time I lived away from home. I learned a lot of things very quickly. I learned that at night you could see stars from the center of campus; that there was little to no insulation on the outside of my room at Roush Hall; that driving up Mount Nebo with its little tight hairpin turns was a lot of fun… and that you really only had two options for sitting down and eating overnight in town – the Waffle House or The Old South.
|I spent way too much time in this booth.|
|Of course, there's pie.|
See, The Old South was about 45 years old about the time I was looking at 20. In my late teens I didn't really comprehend the value of the sleek Art Deco styling, the time capsule that the place had become for the last remnants of the great Route 64… maybe not of cultural importance to the level of Route 66 but certainly a byway of significance in the way this part of the country unfolded in the middle part of the 20th century.
|A postcard from the original Old South in Fort Smith. |
(Fort Smith Historical Society)
|Note the rounded windows, part of the original design.|
|The front of the restaurant has a similar set-up to that of|
a classic Steamliner diner.
|Evening at The Old South in May 2008. Note the neon.|
The Russellville location, though, started quick and has endured for the ages. The last week of March, 1947, Stell delivered on a contract to Woody Mays (owner of Woody’s Classic Inn and Coffee Shop; the motel still operates today, though the coffee shop is long gone) and had the location built in just six days. It opened on April 4th, 1947 on the outskirts of town.
|Lettuce and carrot salad, hot roll and crackers with butter.|
I’m rambling. You can read more about the history over on the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program website.
|The restaurant's "famous" fried chicken.|
But it was. It didn't take me long after graduation and a whirlwind few months that sat me down in Jonesboro at my first TV job in 1995 for me to realize I missed the place. I missed Russellville as a whole. When we’d go back (my ex-husband’s father lived there) I’d wistfully gawk as we drove on by. He wasn't a fan.
Me? It’d take me time to make a real return – and by that point it was May of 2008 and I was pregnant and craving fried chicken… and it was as it always was, crisply and heavily battered, greasy and served with that eponymous salad that wasn't much more than lettuce and carrot shreds. Comfort food.
|Corned beef in a can for breakfast.|
But I digress.
The place nearly ceased to exist altogether this past April, shut down for non-payment of taxes. But Russellville? Well, folks around town have ties to this place, this old section of Americana. And they banded together and held a city-wide yard sale and paid the taxes. And it’s open again.
|Homemade biscuits and cream gravy.|
One more note. Next time I go back I will order the fried pickles and photograph them. The Old South actually holds Austin "Fatman" Burnell's original fried pickle recipe. Burnell created the Arkansas original back in the 1950s at the Duchess Drive-In in nearby Atkins.