Tag Archives: Fried Okra

Annie Mae Turnes Justice, the primary inspiration behind DixieDining.com, dies at age 101

26 Aug

“Living a century on Earth is pretty remarkable — even in this modern age of medical miracles. But Annie Mae was a truly remarkable lady in many ways. I may be more than a little biased, but I believe this with all my heart. Many people today measure a successful life in terms of fame and fortune. Sad, but true. I can honestly say that Annie Mae never got caught up in any of that. She lived a simple, graceful life — and always seemed more than content with life’s simpler pleasures. In her long lifetime, she rarely left her home state of Virginia. Here favorite place to be was at home — surrounded by her friends and family. She first worked at Tubize Artificial Silk Company and, later, along with her husband Phillip, ran Justice Grocery in Hopewell, VA. She preferred home cooked meals to ritzy restaurants. She loved farm markets and yard sales. She could cook up a mess of greens with the best of ‘em. Her crispy fried okra was an inspiration. Her red velvet cake and chess pie were other worldly. When I recently asked her to name her favorite food, she surprised me by saying: “Potatoes.” Think about it: “Potatoes!” Not steak. Not lobster. I think that says a lot. The woman lacked pretension of any kind.”

“Annie Mae was indeed a woman of simple needs and tastes. And she possessed the unique God-given gift of turning simple, everyday things into something rather exceptional. I always admired that trait in her. As she aged, the world around her became increasingly busy, materialistic, and complex. But Annie Mae chose to keep it simple. She never seemed to long for material things. Never appeared to worry about what she didn’t have. She was too busy being thankful for what she did have — and placing other people’s needs ahead of her own. Annie Mae was always a giver — not a taker. She was ever positive — rarely complaining. She gave enormous hugs — and had an unforgettable, infectious laugh. And she was always perfectly comfortable in her own skin. What a rare quality that is these days. I can only hope a little bit of that has rubbed off on me.”

“I recall visiting Annie Mae & Phillip during my college years. As soon as I pulled in their Petersburg driveway, Annie Mae was quickly out the door to the grocery store. She wanted to whip up something extra special. I told her that wouldn’t be necessary, but she wouldn’t hear it. So she was off in a flash. She backed her sedan out of the carport — and slammed right into the front of my car.  I was so mad at myself for not reminding her that my vehicle was parked there. Just hadn’t thought about it. Didn’t have time. And, of course, I was concerned that she might have hurt herself. But all she could talk about was how sorry SHE was — and how she still needed to get groceries. That story speaks volumes about Annie Mae’s outlook on life. It was NEVER about her — ALWAYS about someone else. But in living out her life in that fashion, she forged a lasting legacy of love that few can match.”

A picture of me & Granny – taken at her 100th birthday party 

“We were all so blessed to have had Annie Mae Turnes Justice in our lives. Her quiet, selfless, Christian way of moving through this world made a massive impression on me. We were separated my many miles in recent years, yet I always felt a special bond with that wonderful Southern lady I called “Granny Justice.” Or, sometimes, “Granny Mae.” She would often tell me: “You were always my boy.” It never failed to put a smile on my face. During our last family trip to visit Granny, we arrived at Imperial Plaza cradling white cardboard box lunches from Sally Bell’s Kitchen in Richmond, VA. And by Granny’s reaction, you would have thought we were toting jewel boxes. She made such a big fuss about how tasty everything was – and how nice it was to see us all. Her smile lit up the room. Meanwhile, our youngest son Travis was growing more anxious by the minute — stomping back and forth — constantly asking when we would be leaving. Eileen and I were so embarrassed. But Granny, true to form, was simply “tickled” and that uncomfortable feeling of embarrassment soon disappeared. She had worked her special magic once again.” 

“I know the final few months were very hard on her. A loss of independence and energy, no more cooking, bland hospital meals, a bad fall, and a broken hip. She slowly lost her healthy appetite for good food — and for life. She was ready to go. She said that more than once during our last phone conversation. The Lord knew this, sensed her pain, and promptly carried her to Glory. God, as she often reminded us, is SO good! In our time of sorrow, I take comfort in knowing that Granny is no longer suffering, she is in a far better place, she sees clearly, she walks without pain, and she is at last (after 26 long years) reunited with her beloved Phillip Hendry Justice. They have an awful lot of catching up to do. And lots fish to catch too. That was always their thing. Rest in Peace, my sweet Granny. I love you so much and feel blessed to have had you in my life for so many wonderful years. I will see you again on the other side — and I will be fully expecting one of your famous bear hugs.”

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Government Street Grocery Burger’s True Greatness May Require Beer Goggles

11 Jun

The internet buzz about the burgers at Ocean Springs, Mississippi’s Government Street Grocery is quite impressive. Lots of glowing commentary about the Grocery Burger’s deliciousness. It eventually peaked my interest — I must admit. I don’t eat a lot of burgers … especially the red meat variety. But a really well made hamburger is a hard thing to resist.

The Government Street Grocery is perhaps best known as a bar and a live music venue. It’s located in a quaint neighborhood in Ocean Springs, which is one of our favorite little Gulf Coast towns. This is a very arsty, fartsy community. World renowned artist Walter Anderson played a major role in putting Ocean Springs on the map. In fact, the Anderson Museum is a must-see attraction when you’re in this part of the world.

Where there’s cold beer, there is normally a good hamburger lurking on a nearby grill. Burgers are classic American pub food. And it is no different here on the Gulf Coast, even though the region’s fresh seafood overshadows just about everything else on local menues. With good reason, too!

I sat down with my good friend and Coastal Mississippi native Lloyd Hebert for a Friday afternoon lunch. I ordered the Grocery Burger and a side of fried okra. Lloyd opted for a Roast Beef po-boy with a steaming hot bowl of brown dipping gravy. Our waitress applauded my decision to go for the burger. She even recommended the okra. The burger was so-so … the okra was more like medi-0kra. The burger wasn’t bad. And I did finish it. But it was not unlike hundreds of burgers I have eaten before. Not a thing special or unique about it. Edible but forgettable, you might say.

The okra, to my shock and horror, was the pre-breaded, frozen junk. Now I am an okra-holic and this is JUST — NOT — ACCEPTABLE. Restaurants in the Deep South serving frozen, pre-breaded okra should be required by law to post a warning in LARGE TYPE on their menues. It’s just wrong on every level. So doggone wrong.

Summation: Government Grocery = cool, funky bar. Memorable dining it is not.

“Persian” made with potato flour from the Tato-Nut Cafe

So just when I thought we were looking at a missed opportunity, Lloyd steered me to a very cool little doughnut shop just a few doors down Government Street. It seems Tato-Nut is a remnant from the old SpudNut franchises of the 1960s. SpudNut was all over the U.S. map back in the day, but pretty much all of those stores are now a distant memory.

Tato-Nut somehow hung on — changing its name along the way, but not its special dough made with potato flour. Lloyd suggested the “Persian” (sort of a cross between a cinnamon roll and a honey bun). It was fresh, packed with cinnamon flavor, and pretty darn dee-lish. So we ended our dining adventure on a positive note after all. Good work, Lloydster!

Government Street Grocery – 1210 Government St., Ocean Springs, MS

www.myspace.com/govtstreetgrocery

Tato-Nut Cafe – 1114 Government St., Ocean Springs, MS

228 872-2076

www.facebook.com/pages/Tato-Nut-Cafe/67854397723