Plus, my next-door neighbors Bern and Franke Keating wrote a took pictures for National Geographic. I cover everything from Scotch whiskey to the lowly possum and a lot of stuff in between: our food, our music, our fun-loving proclivities, our tendency toward committing a whole lot of mayhem in the name of the Lord. Julia raced to the scene of the crime and, at 19, garnered her first byline. Plus, there’s just a lot of stuff down here that’s flat out funny. '” We almost fell over we started laughing so hard. Willie was born in Yazoo City, not far from where I grew up, so of course I knew of him, even as a kid. We love each other and we love to laugh and yack with each other. Eden Brent has a terrific song about that road called “Mississippi Number One.”. I was introduced to the Southern Gothic of her New Orleans world of artists, musicians, antiquaires, and fellow bon vivants one memorable Mardi Gras weekend in the 90s. But we should not allow ourselves to get complacent on that subject, ever. Special to the Clarion-Ledger Sunday print edition (August 5). As for how far we have to go, Mississippi has done a pretty good job lately at facing down some our more shameful and horrific ghosts. As dusk fell, I was practically comatose from the endless delicious food, and the endless drink, and hardly noticed that at one point the courtly waiters, who knew Julia well, discreetly lifted her chair – with her still on it – and gingerly lifted them both out through the kitchen and the back of the restaurant so that fellow patrons would not see how cruelly over-served she had been. âWe call it the literary-culinary mash-up,â says Reed. One could be assured that here, as in all the places that Julia made her home, a rollicking good time was to be had by all. The hot tamaleâseasoned ground meat wrapped in cornmeal or masa dough and simmered in a corn shuckâwas first brought to the area by migrant farm workers in the early twentieth century. Of course, I’ve already planned a kajillion parties. When I was a kid, Iâd think, âIf we leave right now, we can be in Memphis in time to eat dinner at Justineâs.â Or, âWe can get to New Orleans in time for a late lunch at Galatoireâs.â Iâve always had that kind of road-trip mentality. Dave and I have done events like this a couple of times before. This article appears in our Fall/Winter 2018Â issue ofÂ Southbound. One of the things I hope people take away from the book–and one of the things we might should teach the rest of the country, especially in these increasingly fraught times–is the crucial importance of being able to laugh at oneself. The writer Julia Reed, who died this weekend at 59 following a long battle with cancer, joined Vogue as a Features Editor in 1988. âWeâre used to going long distances for some fun. Perhaps in homage, Julia built a house for herself near her parents in Greenville that she named “The Folly,” and transformed the city’s Mississippi Delta Hot Tamale Festival into a literary, food, and design showcase that raised funds for affordable local housing, the local library, and arts. Snag a seat at the counter of this tiny diner, open since 1924, and treat yourself to made-from-scratch chicken and dumplings, turnip greens, and fried dill pickles, a Delta classic. All rights reserved. Now that I’m going to be a homeowner in Greenville, I look forward to getting more deeply involved in the community and its many needs. The photo of her dead self, living it up, made the front page of the Advocate. It’s a slice of Delta heaven–I’m calling it my Delta Folly–and I’ve long had the dream of building a place on that spot. At 42, Julia married the lawyer John Pearce and the couple bought an exceptionally pretty house in the city’s Garden District. They figured out he was alive when they saw movement in his leg just as they were about to pump him with embalming fluid. Greenville native Julia Reed, who now lives in New Orleans, has enjoyed a long and successful career as a journalist and author since graduating from American University in the 1970s. I swear it was like heaven. Our conversation onstage is not unlike the conversations we’ve had in various bars around the South. There’s another essay about the Mississippi coroner who declared one poor man dead–except that he wasn’t. Ad Choices. Her time at Madeira became the basis for two essays in South Toward Home, subtly named “Grace Under Pressure” and “Good Country, Bad Behavior.” Those essays, she explains, are about her high school years at the school and “and about how my murderous (true story) headmistress inadvertently kick-started my journalist career.” Other essays tend more toward the familiar, and cover such Southern topics as alligator hunting, summer camp, and the Delta Hot Tamale Festival. You literally can’t make this stuff up. Seize the moment. It’s across a country road from the pasture where I used to keep my horse. The best new culture, style, and beauty stories from Vogue, delivered to you daily. Julia’s passion for the arcana of Southern food, and indeed food in general, led her to write But Mama Always Put Vodka in the Sangria! The first day set the tone when I arrived from the airport to a midday lunch at the storied restaurant Galatoire’s. In one of the essays in the book, I make reference to our abysmal record in nutrition and education by saying that at this point we should just print up bumper stickers reading “First in Fatness, Last in Literacy.” That is actually not funny. Julia Reed is a clever, often caustic writer and observer who rarely has a point of view not firmly anchored in her Southern roots. During that heyday of journalism, talented reporters came from all over the country to work for Hodding Carter. Or you could hit the Rendezvous across the street from the Peabody for some barbecue, and youâd be in good shape,â she says. Her book The House on First Street: My New Orleans Story documented the process of revival and rebirth after Katrina. What do you hope readers will take from them? How did you develop your keen sense of humor, and learn to shape it into your writing in the form of personal “life lessons,” often in the face of sobering circumstances? I thought everybody was funny until I left home, and then, sadly, I found out otherwise. Julia also penned tomes about the interior design tastemakers of New Orleans – of which she was a preeminent exemplar – and One Man’s Folly, about the hitherto unsung design alchemist Furlow Gatewood, who built a compound of whimsical houses in Americus, Georgia. The humor in your writing is unmistakable, and it gives a lighthearted nudge to encourage fellow Southerners to laugh at themselves while considering a wide and diverse range of topics in South Toward Home–including the use of grits as a weapon, the mixture of lust and politics, and the merits of taxidermy, to name a few. Although Julia’s passions for food and fashion were enduring, she could turn her stylish pen to a broad swathe of subjects. âItâs fun to go explore that when you get to a new town. Adventures in Eating, Drinking, and Making Merry; Julia Reed’s South: Spirited Entertaining and High-Style Fun All Year Long, and Julia Reed’s New Orleans: Food, Fun and Field Trips for Letting the Good Times Roll, published only last year. Do you have plans to move back Greenville from New Orleans? âOf course, thereâs also Gusâs Fried Chicken. As if to illustrate the point: Sheâs pausing for this interview while on a whirlwind tour promoting her fifth book, South Toward Home, a collection of wry essays chronicling the people, places, and traditions of the South. Anyway, I finally moved back, as did Willie before he left us, so South Toward Home seemed appropriate as a title and an homage of sorts. But as Jon Meacham says in his foreword: “Her canvas is the whole South, stretching from the dives of New Orleans up through her beloved Delta and winding up, naturally, in the northern reaches of Virginia, at the Madeira School for girls.”. And I saws many, many miles of America on various presidential campaign buses and trains. Naturally, Julia soon bounced back into the finest fettle and the weekend proved a roller coaster adventure of hospitality and discovery, as I met many of the local tastemakers and characters who made Julia’s life in the city such enthralling grist to her literary mill. I will still keep my treehouse of an apartment in the Garden District of New Orleans. As my friend Anne McGee said at the time, “That gives some new urgency to the phrase ‘Shake a leg. I was really lucky in my career–I had a blast. But the interview ran into a problem: the whereabouts of Julia Reed. She was 59. It’s like not knowing what real Chinese food tastes like until you finally go to Chinatown–or something like that. In view from her kitchen window: the pasture where her childhood horses grazed. We had a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper, which is still there, thank goodness. The Delta staple is widely available at restaurants and roadside stands up and down the river. What else is there to do? I loved the idea of having a magazine send me around the world to learn stuff and I got a lot that when I was at Vogue. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Condé Nast. King Museum in Indianola,â she says, âand the Grammy Museum is in Cleveland. Vogue may earn a portion of sales from products that are purchased through our site as part of our Affiliate Partnerships with retailers. âItâs very laid-back and a great time of year to be in the Delta.â. It was a convivial setting for the larger-than-life chatelaine, with its walls of books, family antiques, and such antebellum details as ridged glass holders bristling with matches. Whether the topic is food, politics, or fashion she’s so sharp, and so confident of her cultural wisdom, that she might come across as a snarky professor of the Southern arts were it not for her rich humor—which is often directed at herself. She was seated onstage at the Saenger Theater, a cigarette in one hand and champagne in the other while people went up to pay their respects–or just plain ogle. With a foreword by Jon Meacham, the book earns points for Reed’s role as “one of the country’s most astute and insightful chroniclers of the things that matter most.”. Small wonder that the writer Jay McInerney described her as “Mississippi’s answer to Dorothy Parker.”. She proved a marvelous ambassador for the city’s strange, complex magic. âPeople think Southern food is just one big thing, that we just eat fried chicken and cornbread all the time, but itâs all so incredibly, extremely different,â she says.
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