A Sweet Valentine’s Day

I love my husband. I love endless chocolate. I love Valentine’s Day, road Valentine's dessertstrips and the great state of Tennessee. Not to mention literacy and newspapers. So you know where husband JP and I had our Valentine’s Day date this year: at the “For the Love of Literacy” dessert tasting in Selmer, Tenn., where all of these favorite things converge into one can’t-miss extravaganza. The Independent Appeal newspaper, in Selmer, hosts this wildly popular annual Valentine’s event to benefit the McNairy County Literacy Council. It’s sugar & chocolate & all-things-yummy beyond your wildest high-fat-content Valentine's cakedreams. Businesses, churches, book clubs, other non-profits and both professional and amateur bakers bring out their best recipes to woo the judges for best-of titles and sway the crowd for people’s choice votes. It’s all chocolate, all evening and you’d better start slow or you’ll regret it later. JP and I have learned to be discriminating — Valentine cookiestwo cake pops instead of three, three pieces of fudge instead of four and only one trip back for more Strawberry Surprise or double-mocha espresso brownies. But it’s all for a good cause. I mean, that’s the ONLY reason I ate all those mini peanut-butter cupcakes and had to sample the tiramisu twice. I’m passionate about literacy like that. Also, I did pick up on some dessert trends, because I had to have some excuse for circling the room eight times I always am on the food-reporting beat for you. For example, classics such as the no-bake chocolate-oatmeal cookies seem to be making a comeback, items with organic and natural ingredients are on the rise and, as always, appearance and decorations are key. The things I do just to keep you all updated …

Rockabilly, Highways and Slugburgers

Selmer, Tenn., is a small town near the Mississippi border where former-major-highways U.S. 45 and  64 (a once-popular east-coast-to-west-coast route known as Lee Highway) intersect. This brought more than traffic to Selmer — in the 1940s and ’50s, it helped meld the meeting of country, rock, swing and bluegrass into  what’s known as rockabilly music.  In fact, Selmer folks probably would much rather you think “rockabilly” when you think of their town instead of thinking, for example, “Buford Pusser.” And who wouldn’t want that? Downtown Selmer is a great spot for wandering around and poking around and discovering treasures such as the Rockabilly Highway Murals by Tennessee artist Brian Tull. Tull’s second mural was dedicated this past Saturday during the annual Rockabilly Highway Festival, held downtown and featuring music, art and Selmer’s version of the deep-fried doughburger called a slugburger. Go ahead — you know you want to try it.

Shopping … Or, Why is there a Fire Hydrant in the Middle of this Store?

Folks in my area of northwest Alabama-northeast Mississippi-southwest Tennessee will recognize Henco Furniture in Selmer, Tenn. This mecca of furniture and home-decor is known for its slogan, “It’s worth the drive!”, and for its creative layout: The whole store is arranged like a downtown’s Main Street, with Americana storefronts, trees, parks and even a fire hydrant. You really feel as if Andy and Barney are going to be around the next corner. (Note the famous “barber” painted on the barbershop window.) Staff is friendly and helpful, and customers include everybody from bargain-hunters to those with unlimited budgets. There’s even a fun family restaurant and old-fashioned ice-cream parlor, the Whistle Stop Cafe. Oh, and the furniture? It’s there, too. You stroll along and go into one “store” for bedding, another for office furniture, another for kitchen tables and so on. Husband and I were there in our continuing quest to figure out our married-together style so we can fill up the empty spaces in our new house. His style got sort of stuck in 1980s bachelorhood. My style has stagnated, too, after years of marriage to a woodworker who specialized in country-Shaker furniture and then after years of being a financially challenged single mom. So Husband and I have some work to do. At Henco, we walked along and I said, “Oh, I like that” and then we kept walking and a few minutes later he said, “Oh, I like that” and sometimes it worked out that we said it at the same time. But not so often. Sigh. This is going to take a while. More shopping needed!