Savannah: A Love Story (Part 2)

 

Lest you think we went to Savannah thinking only of the food (well maybe we did, a little), or that there’s nothing else to recommend it, we also were interested in learning more about its history. If Savannah isn’t the most beautiful city in the United States, it’s certainly a contender. During the Civil War, General Sherman’s March to the Sea consisted of burning the cities of Georgia, starting with Atlanta and meant to end with Savannah. The mayor and several quick-thinking businessmen met the general at the gates of the city, offering to hand it over “with not a single shot fired”, if he would only spare the place. Sherman readily agreed. Theories abound as to what might have figured into Sherman’s decision, including his having a lady friend in town. But rumor has it that he couldn’t bring himself to torch Savannah because he was so taken by its beauty. Now that I’ve seen it in person, I’m inclined to believe it was more than a rumor. The stately houses overlooking the squares and parks, the walled gardens, the tranquil boulevards, the overarching canopies of the live oaks draped with gently undulating Spanish moss: Savannah is all this and more. Bonaventure Cemetery on its scenic bluff of the Wilmington River is the final resting place of many local notables, including the novelist Conrad Aiken, Civil War general Hugh W. Mercer, singer and songwriter Johnny Mercer (General Hugh’s great grandson), and Senator, General, and Georgia Governor Josiah Tattnall. The Second African Baptist Church on Greene Square is where Dr. King first delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, the very one he delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Savannah is the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts. It is home to East Jones Street, voted the prettiest city in the United States. It is music and laughter floating out of the karaoke bars on River Street. It is a feast for the senses. It is living history.

I’ll end on a word about the people. It is little wonder that Savannah is referred to as the Hostess City. Her sons and daughters are some of the loveliest, most gracious people on the face of the earth. You only need eyes to see the gorgeousness of the place. But sing its praises to a resident and watch them glow with pleasure. Everywhere we went we were treated to generous helpings of that fabled Southern hospitality served up with the food as well as in every encounter. John and I strive always to be polite and warm to others and to us, it felt unforced, instinctual, and genuine. No matter how polite we may be, though, Southern hospitality is in a class by itself. It is a gentle reprieve from the coldness and indifference that have become all too commonplace in our complicated world today. It is good manners and conduct for sure; coupled with, I think, the desire to make others feel welcome and at home. It is a goal handily met and wonderful to experience.

Thank you, Savannah. We will be back.

Love

Terry xo

 

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Savannah: A Love Story

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The beautiful fountain in Forsyth Park.

I wish to thank my friend James Dennard for inspiring and encouraging this post. Thank you, Jim! ❤

Last week my husband John and I traveled to the beautiful city of Savannah, Georgia. It was our first visit to that part of the country, but it won’t be our last.

You have your pick of virtually any cuisine you could want right here in New York City. But during our trip I intended to try those dishes with a provenance down South. I already knew going in that we were in for a gastronomic treat and sure enough, everything we ate exceeded even our lofty expectations. On our first night I ate shrimp and grits.  The shrimp tasted clean and of the sea, and the grits were buttery and luscious. The next night we drove out to pretty Tybee Island, where we had some of the sweetest deviled crab and shrimp I’ve ever eaten.

 

Another night we ate at a tiny old family-run place called Wall’s Bar-Be-Que. The dining area consisted of I think four tables, if that. One lady did all the cooking and sang along beautifully to gospel music playing on the radio as she did so. Her mother and her son tended the cash register. The food was to die for, down-home family cooking. The ribs were flavorful and so tender the meat literally fell off the bone. Black-eyed peas were firm to the bite, not mushy. Okra (which, if not cooked right, can be slimy. This wasn’t a bit slimy.) and tomatoes were perfectly seasoned with a bit of vinegar and a little heat. Homemade lemonade accompanied, icy cold, perfectly sweet and tangy. A wedge of sweet potato pie brought actual tears to my eyes. The bread pudding was a dense, firm rectangle of comfort food heaven.

One afternoon, after a leisurely wander through Forsyth Park, we ate lunch at the Olde Pink House. It is so named because its brick façade of red Georgia clay would eventually show through no matter how many coats of white paint were applied. John had fried chicken that was done to a turn: crisp on the outside, juicy on the inside. Collard greens with a little side meat and swimming in pot liquor. Baked macaroni and cheese – molten gold topped by a crunchy dark crust – that ran circles around my own. It was here that I first encountered and drank Cheerwine. In case you are wondering, a Cheerwine is like a cherry Coke, only a million times better. Like all the soft drinks down there, Cheerwine is made with cane sugar, not high fructose corn syrup. The result is a superior product, no comparison. It went perfectly with my excellent fried quail, the meat satisfyingly rich and only slightly gamey, and sweet, buttery, crisp-tender succotash.

cheerwine

Yes, drink Cheerwine!

Then there were those incredible breakfasts at Clary’s Cafe. The coffee was good and strong. The beaten biscuits, to which I added a pat of butter and a drizzle of good Georgia cane syrup, were feather-light, the grits creamy. The corned beef hash was intensely complex, relying on spices, not salt, for its rich aroma and savor. I’m pretty sure I tasted coriander and fennel in the seasoning. One morning John had hotcakes the size of dinner plates with pit ham. You can get Virginia-style baked ham up here, but not true pit ham. The taste, the texture is incomparable. Instead of hotcakes, I opted for an ostensibly simple bowl of oatmeal with fruit. It was ambrosial, studded with berries, sliced bananas, and dried apricots. It also was enough to feed three people.

Our memorable repasts left us well-fueled for the daily taking in of the local sights and sounds.

(Tomorrow: Part 2)

Valentine

klimt-love

No greater sound was ever made
Than when your lips upon me played
Nor silence broken so complete
Than when you held me close and sweet.

Does earth a greater force contain?
The answer, love, is ever plain:
Unbridled power such as this
Is mastered only by your kiss.

– Theresa DeMeo

The Kiss

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…lips, tremulously parting
hearts, thrashing wings of panic
eyes closed against the onslaught
every nerve a thrumming wire

holding back, a sweeter torture
heed the pull or be destroyed
words trail away to murmurs,
to the lover’s ardent sighs

earth falls away, unconscious
time shuns her stately cadence
years fill a breathless moment
moves like lightning, feels like dying…

kiss.

Theresa DeMeo

Pastoral

  Let me lavish upon you A shower of roses, A kiss of the honeycomb Concealed in each blossom. Let me fully indulge you In sylvan abundance, Beneath cool, green shadows Of cypress and balsam. Let me fashion around you … Continue reading

Make A Wish

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If I have regrets, it's not over anything I did
But all I might have done differently.
I'm not sure I listened to you long or well enough
If I always gave you what you needed. What you wished for.

I regret there were times I rushed you off the phone.
Times the conversation threatened to run aground
In hostile territory. Capsize in treacherous waters.
When I saw it turning fruitless, fractious and bitter.

I loved those glimmers of you that were funny or wise
Or that empathized with tough situations
But they hurt, too. They tantalized with what might have been.
They underscored the rarity of those lucid intervals.

It would have been your birthday today. Are you happy?
Do you still get to make a wish? Close your eyes.
Take a deep breath.
Blow out the candles.

-Theresa DeMeo

Perfect

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I am not easy to live with. I’ll be the first to say it.
I can be insecure, immature, impatient.
I forget the shopping list, don’t always balance the checkbook,
And lose my temper more often than I care to admit.

And you. You can be unyielding in your thinking.
Work has an intrusive way of following you home.
You can’t find the keys that are exactly where you left them,
And you turn dogged persistence into an art form.

But I cry at “our” song, the one you make a point to request.
You say a certain word and we dissolve together in laughter.
My eyes find yours and you become the only person in the room. And that’s why,
Though we may be far from perfect, we are perfect for each other.

Theresa DeMeo