Y'all Come: A Few of My Favorite Things in Tennessee
In our travels abroad, my husband and I sometimes meet people who do not know Tennessee. To help them out, we begin naming things we think Tennessee is noted for and often get no recognition until we say, “Jack Daniels?” Everyone knows Jack.
The Jack Daniels distillery is located in the small town of Lynchburg in the rolling hills of Tennessee about 75 miles southeast of Nashville. Tours of the distillery are free, and they are open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. You’ll be unable to sample Jack, however, during your tour because Moore County where it is located has been a dry county since Prohibition.
The distillery also hosts a popular barbecue competition each October, which draws visitors worldwide.
My favorite place to eat in Lynchburg is Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House just off the town square. That’s where Jack ate. In fact, the proprietress, Lynne Tolley, is a great-grand niece of Jack Daniels. Miss Mary Bobo ran the place as a boarding house and restaurant until her death in 1983 one month prior to her 102nd birthday.
The noontime dinner is served at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm each day. Each meal accommodates only 65 people, so reservations are required. A 3:00 pm dinner is served on Saturdays during the busy season. The meal is served family-style, which means all the dishes being served that day are placed in the middle of a large table and passed around to diners. Each table also has a hostess who tells of the history of the boarding house and answers questions during the meal.
When we visited recently we were seated at a large round table with a lazy Susan in the middle. The hit of the day was the candied apples seasoned with Jack. The lazy Susan made several turns that day to give guests access to these. I plan to grace our Thanksgiving table with these apples this Thanksgiving. Here’s the recipe:
LYNCHBURG CANDIED APPLES
3 tablespoons butter
6 cups peeled and sliced green apples
¼ to ½ cup sugar
1/3 cup Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey
Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Cook apples in butter until just tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in sugar and Jack Daniels. Continue to cook until juice has thickened, about 5 minutes. Serve warm. Yield: 6 servings.
Cooking with Jack
In 1880, Thomas Hughes, British author and social reformer, came to the Cumberland Plateau in East Tennessee to establish an agricultural community for younger sons of English gentry. His utopian community eventually failed, but twenty of its original buildings still stand. In 1966 these buildings were restored and opened to the public. Today, tours of the buildings, dining, lodging, and shopping are all available at this historic site.
Surrounding this site is the Rugby State Natural Area and nearby is the Big South Fork National Park and Recreation Area for camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities. Some of the natural beauty of Tennessee can be found here without the crowds of the Smoky Mountains.
PICKETT AND STANDING STONE STATE PARKS
This beautiful, historic area of Tennessee is also home to two of my favorite state parks, both constructed during the Franklin Roosevelt New Deal era by either the Civilian Conservation Corps or the Works Projects Administration.
Pickett State Park, adjacent to Big South Fork National Park in a remote section of the upper Cumberland Plateau, is known for its geological, botanical, and scenic beauty. It offers lodging, boating, hiking, and camping. The Civilian Conservation Corps constructed many of its original buildings of the locally quarried sandstone.
The quaint, rustic Standing Stone State Park, about 50 miles west, was also developed during the New Deal era with the assistance of the Work Project Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. It takes its name from an eight-foot rock standing upright on a sandstone ledge once used as a boundary line between two Indian nations.
This park has an Olympic-sized pool, a 69-acre lake for boating and fishing, hiking trails, and campgrounds. The lodging consists of four group lodges and 21 cabins, ranging from rustic to modern. My favorite has always been the rustic cabins built during WPA days of chestnut logs. These rustic cabins and some of the lodges can be rented from April through October only because they have air conditioning but no heat except for the large fireplaces. There are no televisions, microwaves, or telephones in any of the lodgings.
CONFERENCE ON SOUTHERN LITERATURE
This final favorite in Tennessee is not a place but an event.
Almost 30 years ago, two professors in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in conjunction with the local Arts and Education Council, organized the Conference on Southern Literature. Since I was living in Chattanooga at the time, was Southern, and enjoyed good literature, I decided to attend. The panelists that first year were Eudora Welty, Cleanth Brooks, Walker Percy, Andrew Lytle, and Margaret Alexander. I was hooked.
This Conference has been held biennially since its inception and attracts about 1000 readers and writers from all over the United States each time. I have attended all these events except one since 1981, and have marked my calendar for April 14-16, 2011 for the upcoming one.
Several years after this initial Conference, the Fellowship of Southern Literature was founded by great literary figures like Eudora Welty, Cleanth Brooks, Walker Percy, and Robert Penn Warren to recognize and encourage literature in the South. Because the Chattanooga Conference had been so well organized, well promoted, and well received in the Chattanooga community, the Fellowship decided to make Chattanooga its headquarters and meet in conjunction with the Conference to bestow awards and induct new members.
What makes this Conference so enjoyable for me is not only being able to hear authors whose works I admire read, speak, and answer questions, but also discovering new talent. The writers are always approachable, friendly, and available to sign books during the three-day event. And being able to spend three days with a roomful of other appreciative readers is also a plus.
You don’t have to be Southern to enjoy this Conference—just appreciate good writing.
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