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My Great American Road Trip – Tennessee

October 1, 2020

Tennessee holds a very special place in my heart. I’ve only been there once and it was only for a couple days, but oh what a couple days they were. Was it Nashville, you ask? Memphis? Chattanooga to take the choo choo? Nope, I went to Pigeon Forge and it was AMAZING!

In August of 2017, I found myself unemployed in a coffee shop reading about the upcoming solar ecplise and figured “why not…” I managed to convince my friend Lynn and her two very adventurous daughters to join me and just a couple days later we were Pigeon Forge bound.

You probably know Pigeon Forge because of its most famous native daughter. The one and only Dolly! They’re pretty proud of her – there’s a lot named after her.

There were some yucky things too, like a lot of confederate flags, and a suspicious shop clerk who told us to “go to the island,” (we later found out The Island was a fancy shopping mall, but that didn’t lessen the creepy feel of her directive). We didn’t make it to the mall, but we found the Jesus Saves souvenir shop.

But in general, we loved Pigeon Forge. I pretty town with the kind of walkable center square dotted by coffee shops with gingham curtains, and pottery and craft stores.

The next morning we drove a long winding uphill journey into the Great Smokey Mountains to Cades Cove to join a collection of open hearted adventurers to watch the moon cross in front of the sun.

The park was peopled with rangers handing out special glasses and explaining what to expect, teenage counselors leading eclipse related craft projects, and picnickers. Penelope and I took a little walk about and found an old corn mill, where I picked up corn meal that has lasted me a bit longer than it should have.

Soon it was time for the big moment and holy cow did it not disappoint.

What a great day that was! I knew it would be great, but I had no idea how great it would be.

While we were in Tennessee we ate a lot and it was all so good! There was some bread that we still talk about. But in researching Tennessee for food, I was stumped. I almost made banana pudding, because, well, one, it’s banana pudding, but also they have a festival devoted to that deliciousness.

But ultimately, I decided a little challenge, and a lot of leafy greens were in order and I opted for something I’d never actually heard of but apparently if you’re from the south this will mean something – greens and potlikker.

Greens and potlikker is a traditional New Year’s meal and it was hearty. Comfort food at its comforting best. But it was a long slow cook.

Chop an onion into a large pot or dutch oven and heat it up in olive oil with some garlic and red peppers for a few minutes. Then add in a smoked turkey wing and like 10 cups of water, and a little s&p.

Bring the whole thing to a boil and let it simmer for an hour or so. Then you take the turkey leg out and add the collard greens in and let them simmer. When the turkey is cooled down take the skin off and discard it, and add the meat and bones back in the pot and let the whole thing simmer for like another 30 minutes.

While all that’s underway, you may as well make cornbread. Cornbread is a low effort high reward undertaking. One cup flour, one cup cornmeal, one cup milk, one egg, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup oil, and 4 teaspoons baking powder. Combine the dry and wet separately and then combine them. Drop them into the vessel of your choice, I used a cast iron pan, because it felt authentic, and cook at 425 for about 20 minutes.

By then your greens are done. Serve a nice helping of the greens and turkey, a wedge of cornbread, and a little bowl of the potlikker (the broth) for dipping.

It was a perfect lunch. And even more perfect was lunch the next day, a piping hot mug of the potlikker, which is basically the worlds best bone broth. Seriously, in the East Village you’d pay 10 bucks for that. I will be making this all the time.

Also – the day after we got back from Tennessee, I went to the fair with my niece Ava, where I captured what will always be one of my favorite photos of her, which I found as I was pulling Pigeon Forge pics.

How great is she?

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2 Comments
  1. inacity permalink

    That is the Best picture of Ava! I love it so much!

    And I’ve never seen that picture of me frowning at the Confederate flags! It’s so perfect!

    We’re ready to go back to Pigeon Forge whenever you are. Because that distillery… amazing.

    Another great job!

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