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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Class of ’64..50 Years Later..SERIOUSLY??



OMG—it’s hard to BELIEVE that all these old people were in my class at Trousdale County High School/Hartsville, TN. But time cares for no man (and even LESS for a woman) and here we were, gathered after 50 years of livin’, lovin’ fussin’, fightin’, marryin’, unmarryin’, procreatin’, grand-procreatin’ and puttin’ on airs.
Class of '64! We are a great lookin' group! Can you find The Elf?
 
So off Big Solid and I went to the lovely foothills of middle Tennessee. Fortunately, I laid some vegan groundwork prior to our departure so the trip would not only be filled with fun reminiscing but also meet my need to eat. This endeavor only added credence to the theory that if you make plans, call ahead to ascertain vegan options and politely offer to contribute your own food if it’s OK.  Remember that not EVERYONE understands what a vegan is so questions and suggestions should be fielded with aplomb. For example, when talking to a restaurant about the vegan options on their menu, the young woman said, “Well, we have appetizers and some salads. You can have some fried cheese.” It was a teaching moment.

We were most definitely prepared with a cooler FULL of stuffs…vegan pimento cheese, tomato and cucumber salad, avocados, vegan Andouille sausages (for the reunion meal), non-dairy creamer, Boca crumbles (always a good salad topping), vegan Parmesan cheese, and Daiya vegan cheese shreds (for baked potatoes). Of course, the trick to carrying all these wonderful vegan options it to actually REMEMBER to take them with you to the restaurant or eating establishment instead of leaving them in the hotel ‘frig.

We decided to take the lazy route to Nashville and avoid the traffic of the big cities (Memphis/Nashville) or Birmingham and drove up the lovely Natchez Trace Parkway. And it was indeed lovely for about the first 6 hours…neither one of us had ever been on the AL/TN portions of the Trace and the topography, scenery was just beautiful. As was the fauna…we saw lots of deer and a bazillion wild turkeys. HOWSOMEVER, bein’ as we are senior citizens, our rear-ends got increasingly achy so by the time we were approaching Nashville, desperation to get the end point of the trip in Lebanon TN increased exponentially. I’ll spare you the gory details of getting off the Trace at the wrong place and the testy conversations that followed.

Our first dining experience, once we made it thankfully to Lebanon and the Hampton Inn, was a conveniently located Outback Steakhouse within walking distance. Perfect as we were NOT getting back in the car. We met my cousin and her husband there; I had a baked potato with broccoli and my cheese. Was so hungry, I didn’t even THINK to take a picture of it but I suspect you can conjure up an image. Big Solid had grilled salmon and a Manhattan. Sandra Lynn and Jerry split an appetizer (crab stuffed mushrooms) as they’d eaten a while back. It had been several years since we’d seen each other, so we had fun visitin’ and makin’ plans for our big meal together the next night.

Breakfast at the Hampton is doable vegan wise if you choose the oatmeal. Otherwise, it’s very limited. So, I had toast with avocado and tomato/cucumber salad. The non-dairy creamer is a life-saver on the road as almost NOBODY carried non-dairy milks.
From that cooler! Breakfast!


We drove over to my home town of Hartsville TN later that day to just sort of soak up the memories of my grandparents, their lovely home (which was actually a funeral home and they lived upstairs), to visit my Mama’s grave (some of Daddy’s ashes were sprinkled over her years ago so they’d be together).  We naturally plotted the trip to arrive at lunch time so we could visit and eat at Dillehay’s Café…an institution in Hartsville for many many years. If you EVER want a great home cooked country meal, Dillehay’s is about as good as it gets. My brother always makes it his first stop when he visits. That being said, there was nothing on the buffet line that I could have…including the vegetables which were cooked either with meat or with butter. The slaw had salad dressing in it…but you know what, I DIDN’T CARE. It was so nice to be there, see folks I’d not seen in many years and watch Big Solid eat and ENJOY THE HELL OUT OF a piece of friend chicken, cornbread and slaw.  I had a glass of tea—thoroughly fun.
Dillehay's home cooked FOOD!!

Since I was pretty hungry, we found a newly opened Mexican restaurant on the square, Hartsville Taco Factory—what a FIND!! I got them to veganize a Veggie Quesadilla (no cheese and no sour cream) and HOLY JUMPING BEAN BATMAN…it was OUTSTANDING. It was also HUGE!!
Vegan Quesadilla
Hartsville TN is a very small town of about 2000 folks; there is no stoplight in town. It was taken down a few years back when deemed not necessary; a 4-way stop would work just fine. That’s how much traffic in the downtown area has slowed down. As a former tobacco production/auction center, the decline in the growth of tobacco and the economic downturn has had a significant impact on the area. Most of the stores that I knew as a kid are no longer there but the square looks good and the new Mexican place shows that there is still an active dining population. I was going to include a picture of my grandparents’ home (one of my most beloved places EVER) but it is now so run down, I just could not even bring myself to photograph it. It is occupied and the folks who live there have dozens of old/junk cars lining the street and in the yard (at least an old RV in the yard). There are piles of old building materials stacked on the front porch where my cousin and I spent many a night swinging on the porch swing and listening for my Grandfather’s feet shuffling loudly up the walkway from his nightly trip to town to buy some Bull of the Woods chewing tobacco. Instead, I show you a picture of how I remember it as painted by my Daddy several years ago.
'Papa's House OR Throp and Oakley Funeral Home...est. 1852

Friday evening, we went to a lovely restaurant in Lebanon TN that is housed on the grounds once occupied by the famous Castle Heights Military Academy (1902-1986).  The restaurant was Sonny’s on Castle Heights and was in an old home. The city of Lebanon has done a marvelous job of preserving that whole campus and many/most of the beautiful old buildings that housed staff and students (including Duane and Greg Allman of you-know-who). 
 
Great Old Castle Heights Main Building
 
Sonny's On Castle Heights
Serving primarily Italian food, I called them a week in advance to discuss vegan options and to arrange for a little birthday surprise for Big Solid. They were MOST accommodating and also included advice to be sure to meet James, the most famous bartender in the area. Apparently James has a following all his own, garnered from the past 44 years of mixology. So, six of us (my cousin and her husband, their older son and his wife and Big Solid and the Elf) were seated on a sun porch with views of the campus. That in itself brought back memories of seeing the cadets marching and parading back in the day.
James and The Elf

My meal was lovely…a regular small salad with a nice blood orange vinaigrette. I DID remember to bring my Vegan Parmesan. My entrée was a grilled vegetable pasta with a very light olive oil and balsamic sauce. The pasta was gluten-free (they had assured me that all their pastas were egg free, so I thought I’d try the GF) and it was a bit on the tough side. But the flavors of the vegetables and sauce was lovely.

 
Big Solid’s chicken piccata was not particularly to his liking but he soldiered on (pun intended).  The wait between courses was a bit long as the restaurant began to fill up and it appeared that our server was over-whelmed (we sat down at 5:30 and left at 8:20) Everyone else seemed to love their meals. Big Solid was served their signature Italian Almond Cake for his birthday surprise while others had another signature Italian dessert, Tiramisu. I enjoyed the desserts vicariously.

REUNION DAY!!
The big day was on us before we knew it. Spent some time in the exercise room (had to look slim and trim) and visited Sandra Lynn and Jerry (my cousin and husband) for a while. It was so nice to sit out on their front porch with a cool breeze blowing and just talking about everything—that’s an always connection, isn’t it? Got back to the room, gussied up and headed out. Along the way, we visited some more old friends in Cottontown TN and gradually made our way to the Cherokee Steak House for the BIG DO!!
I had talked with the staff at the restaurant and was cleared to bring my own vegan stuffs (Andouille sausages/plant-based of course). The turnout was great and I saw people I had not seen in, well, 50 years. I told Big Solid, who was a SAINT for coming with me in lieu of the fact that he was missing the MS STATE/LSU game AND it was his BIRTHDAY, he would just have to introduce himself in case I found myself staring at a fellow classmate like they had two noses. The meals were served and I got my sausages (after a slight snafu that was quickly remedied) along with a nice BIG pile of steamed broccoli. The baked potato that I ordered never made it to the table but that was fine…I had plenty to eat. We watched some slides of ourselves at a much younger time in our lives; laughed, giggled, winced, and groaned through it. After all was done, we excused ourselves and returned to the hotel…did catch the last quarter of the MSU/LSU game and HOLY COW what an ending.

So thanks for the attention to this modestly vegan focused and heavily reunion/old times centered blog. I wish someone with some real energy and drive would do to Hartsville what the B.T. C. Grocery has done for Water Valley MS (see blog post of 8/6/14 “You CAN Go Home Again"). Hartsville has some great people and a great history. Wouldn’t it be awesome to generate that into growth and prosperity?
The 1964 Yellow Jacket women's basketball team. We were awesome!
OTHER IMPORTANT STUFFS

SPIDEY-NURSE
Spidey-Nurse is knee deep in IMPORTANT NURSE WORK and will get back to us next go ‘round.

NEW FEATURE
I am working on a new feature we are calling “The Venerable Vegan” and I am soliciting your participation, if you please.  It would be fun to see/read the stories of old farts like me who did not become vegan until later in life. So, IF you did not jump into the VEGAN lifestyle until you were eligible for AARP (50 years young) AND would like to share how you came to that decision, it would be SO COOL!! Would love to hear not only how you decided but the impact it has made on your life/health, the challenges you’ve face, your go-to places/recipes/resources and any other pertinent information as well as a picture. Before and after pics are also encouraged, if you have them. It is NOT a forum for selling anything, for advancing a political agenda, for railing at the universe about a cause or issue, or personal gain. It is strictly sharing how becoming vegan rather late in life has made a difference for you. Let’s have fun with this. Please contact me at jswearen@gmail.com if you are interested.

Til next week, y’all, breathe deep, eat plants and love life.
The Elf

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