Tag Archives: TN

You Have HOW Many Salt & Pepper Shakers?

13 Mar

Just 20,000 or so sets. Is that unusual?

Vegetable Salt & Pepper Shakers

Vegetable Salt & Pepper Shakers Photo Courtesy of the Museum Website

The Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum in Gatlinburg, TN is must-see. Why, exactly?

  1. Because everything else in Gatlinburg in woefully touristy, neon-y, and kitschy.
  2. Because you had no idea that salt and pepper shakers were made in so many styles.
  3. Because there are walls dedicated to themes: fruits, bears, birds, & basic pillars.
  4. Because when someone takes the time to collect 20,000 of something, you should stop in and take a gander. I mean, seriously.
Southern Belle Salt & Pepper Shakers

Southern Belle Salt & Pepper Shakers Photo Courtesy of the Museum Website

One of a Kind
This is the only S&P museum in the world (no surprise, there).

The woman who owns the collection started it because she was amused by how something so simple garners so much attention and personality. Good point.

Many sets were collected by the owner, but once word got out, even more were given as gifts and sent from people around the world. The kindness of strangers: Red Cross aid and Salt & Pepper contributions…

Bee Salt & Pepper Shakers

Bee Salt & Pepper Shakers Photo Courtesy of the Museum Website

Musings on Collecting
A collection says something about the collector; and the culture that inspires it.

Interested in other quirky collections I’ve found on my travels? Check out

What do you collect? Where do you find your pieces? What started the collection?


Now Wait Just One Cotton Pickin Minute

7 Sep

Cotton tshirtsWhile driving through the Mississippi Delta I discovered that cotton fields are worth pulling over to the side of the road. And getting your feet so stuck in the mud that you truly can’t move your feet. I mean, they weren’t going ANYWHERE. Finally after a great slurping sound there was freedom. And then stuck again. Sigh.

Back to cotton—it’s even so inspiring that you opt to leave Mississippi (can you believe it?) and drive over the state line to Memphis to go to the Cotton Museum, which is fascinating.

Cotton is first a flower, then the boll, then ball. The cycle of life takes 14 weeks. Seeds: large. Cotton: stringy and coarse. The boll holds it like a bloom in a nutshell.

A bale is 500 pounds; it also translates to 681,000 cotton balls or 215 pairs of jeans. The book The Jungle wrote about how everything was used of the pig but the squeal. The same holds true for cotton: medicine, oil, cleanser, oh, and fabrics.

Cotton and the Blues go together because of sharecropping and its undelivered promise of independence. It also bred the middle class: mechanizing farm machinery created an even bigger gap between plantation owner and laborer.

Which crop has inspired you to pull over to get a closer look?

Can’t see the slideshow? Click here.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Cotton, posted with vodpod

Cornbread Festival

3 Jul

Cornbread Festival sign
The NATIONAL Cornbread Festival celebrated its 15th year when I visited in May 2011. Way to go  South Pittsburg, TN to have a national presence! And a presence it did have: thousands upon thousands of people and even a newspaper printed just for the occasion. Personally I don’t think that was necessary, nor did they need live web-streaming, but they had all media platforms covered and gosh dernit they were gonna use em!

It’s a truly glorious festival with giveaways from Martha White, carnival rides, greasy food, and spectacular people watching.

The true gifts were hidden away at the poorly attended bluegrass tent where men who had worked hard their whole lives found joy in music and happened upon a young boy who could play and sing with a soul much older than he. How do you harmonize when you’ve only just met?

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Bluegrass, posted with vodpod

Plate of Cornbread Samples

Of course there’s a cornbread bake-off. They do it with a twist: add variety to the traditional recipe. I wasn’t a fan. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it and I just wanted heaping servings of warm decadent cornbread. Instead there were sampler sizes of chicken chive cornbread flaps, Hawaiian cornbread fritters, and Tooti Fruity cornbread balls, among others. I sat in the corner of the eating tent, curled myself into a cornbread ball and wept.

And then the eating contests. A race for freezing cold ice cream, and to see who can force down “cornbread” minus sugar, liquid, and other ingredients that make it palatable. The things we’ll do for a t-shirt!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Eating Contests, posted with vodpod

Ever Been to a Bordello? Me Neither.

8 May

I’ve also never been to a brothel or whorehouse (my mother must be beaming). But since I’m neither a man nor a cowboy/miner my, um, lack of experience isn’t surprising.

Turns out the ladies knew more than just how to show a good time, they also knew how to secure payment in advance. Guests had to buy tokens upon entry to the “house” – before they could spend all their money gambling or drinking. The tokens explicitly spelled out what explicit acts they payed for: click on the pictures for examples.

Bordello Coins

Good for all night bordello coin

The men also were required to take bath before spending time in the bedroom. Smart move, gals!

Jack Daniels’ Bar Miztvah Project

1 May

Jack Daniels TourWhile just a wee thing, Jack Daniels learned about distilling whiskey. When he turned 13 his teachers found the error of their ways and took to the Spirit, instead of spirits, and left Jack to fend for himself. And fend he did, making a product, brand, and a successful business. Indeed, he became a man at 13. (For those keeping score at home, no, he wasn’t Jewish; I just liked the poetry of it!)

The Distillery tour in Lynchburg, TN is spectacularly more interesting than expected. And for a woman who only recently graduated to lager (from cider), their marketing videos made me THIRSTY for a shot of Jack.

Prohibition of course played a major part in the company’s history. When Tennessee went dry, Jack sold whiskey in Alabama to soldiers in the Civil War. When the whole country went dry the company later got permission to produce alcohol in the county even though it can’t be sold. And just recently the county was convinced of the benefits to sell Jack Daniels to tourists – tax dollars at work! Now the municipality is well-staffed, -sidewalked, and -maintained.

So how is it made? Wood is quite important. They make their own barrels (and sell the used ones to Scotland for Scotch and New Orleans for Tabasco). And the wood burned to make coal is expensive – I think he said $1 a plank. That coal is mixed with crushed maple sugar and distills impurities…one drip at a time. A rig dispenses the whiskey through plumbing over 4-5 feet of charcoal and it takes five days for a drop to make its way to the bottom.  Mellow.

Jack Daniels Very Special Coal

Very Special Coal

Jack Daniels Distillery

Making the Very Special Coal

Shovels for the Jack Daniels Very Special Coal

Shovels for the Very Special Coal

This is the only place in the world to make Jack Daniels whiskey – it’s all shipped from here. 20,000 barrels are stored per building, with 77 on the property. 1 million gallons of whiskey. I suspect they have good security.

Want a barrel of your own? They’ll raise a black flag when you come to buy it, and put your name on a plaque. The wall where I stood included such prestigious buyers as Costco of Mexico and Kevin Spacey’s 50th birthday. Continue reading