August 21 '99
Herman's Wake Golden Eagle Update
The following selection is an excerpt from an article on Golden Eagle Syrup that first appeared in a November '97 issue of RRN. It is worth repeating as an introductory statement for the rest of this article. I trust those who have read it before won't mind reading it again, and of those who've never seen it, I fully expect most will enjoy
"At some point during our first year back in Pontotoc , we were introduced to a different and delicious table syrup. I have tried, unsuccessfully, to remember the name of the salesman who stopped by Dad's store each week to pickup the grocery order for Malone and Hyde of Tupelo. The name "Willis" sounds like it could have been his last name, but I cannot be certain. I can remember his face and slightly overweight appearance.
I am reasonably certain that Mr. Willis is responsible for our introduction to Golden Eagle syrup, since he represented the company that supplied our store with grocery products, and I vaguely recall my folks mentioning his name in connection with the syrup. I had eaten Blackburn table syrup for years, along with the rest of our family. My last childhood memory of eating Blackburn syrup was during the time we lived in Okolona. Blackburn was sweet, but dark syrup with the appearance of thin molasses. The transparent Golden Eagle syrup was quite a visual contrast to the Blackburn brand, and the addition of honey to the other ingredients made it even more appealing to our family. The folks that bottled the syrup also declared it to be "The Pride of Alabama." Through the years, our family members have enjoyed many a quart of this tasty syrup.
After Barbara and I married and began a family, my older brother, who made a career of the Air Force, moved to central Minnesota. Whenever we vacationed there, we were asked to take Fred a supply of Golden Eagle syrup. Minnesota is famous for many things, but Deep-South food is not among them. Grits and Golden Eagle are not found in Minnesota homes that do not have strong ties to the South. Yet, even my brother has discovered that Golden Eagle is not stocked on all grocery shelves in the South. Fred now lives near Orlando, FL, but has to drive to Alabama or Mississippi to find what is also his family's favorite table syrup.
Table syrup is probably less popular today than fifty years ago, primarily because many families do not take the time to prepare homemade biscuits. Table syrup of any variety is enjoyed best when consumed with hot, buttered, hand-made biscuits. Various techniques are employed by members of my family, who eat Golden Eagle syrup, from ladling the syrup over the biscuits to knifing the syrup on the biscuits, one bite at a time. Regardless of the eating method, one rule must be adhered to at the Carter home, 'always pour the syrup away from the label of the syrup jar.' This assures the next person, who uses the jar, a clean, non-sticky surface to grip. It takes a bit of practice to cut off the syrup at the mouth of the jar without it rendering a gooey rim that makes the jar lid hard to remove the next time your family wants to have syrup and biscuits.
Once the syrup is poured onto the plate, I recommend a smidgen of butter (a smidgen is slightly less than a fourth of a pat of butter) be added by stirring it into the syrup. Though not a necessity, this adds a bit of color and flavor, plus the biscuits usually are not buttered edge to edge. I do not recommend using as much butter as Lillie Belle slaps on her syrup, since the end result looks more like whipped honey than Golden Eagle syrup. Neither do I recommend you eat your syrup by cutting up the biscuits in a sea of syrup or drizzling syrup over broken or cut biscuits. Either of these results in a different taste sensation than simply spooning the syrup on the biscuit, one bite at a time. I don't think I have cornered the market on the best technique, I am just sharing my years of experiencing the various ways to eat biscuits and Golden Eagle syrup.
Actually, I do not use a spoon to transfer the syrup from the plate to the biscuit, I use a table knife. Of course I know that proper etiquette states to avoid eating with a knife, but that's the way my dad ate his [syrup and biscuits] and his father before him. The knife method has also been passed down to my children both of whom find this to be preferable to other techniques. It's pretty handy when you think about it, especially since you just used the knife to cut off the syrup and maybe the same knife to stir the butter into the syrup. And yes, if I ever have to pour more syrup to make it come out even with the biscuits, I lick the knife blade clean before cutting extra syrup. (Make it come out even is an expression establishing the fact that the proportion of syrup to biscuits exists in a one to one ratioone portion of syrup for each one bite of biscuit.)
It does not matter to me how you enjoy your biscuits and syrup or even whether you ever eat such as this. I do hope that if you have never tried the combination, you will at least try it. And, if I have flung a craving on you for some hot biscuits and syrup, then go and fix yourself some. If you cannot purchase Golden Eagle in you supermarket, let me know, and I will ship some to you."
Herman Gaillard died in the early hours of Friday, August 6, at the age of eighty-six. To me he was known simply as Uncle Herman, the carpenter/ painter husband of my dad's only sister, Nettie Mae.
Sarah Sue, Barbara, and I traveled to Ripley, early Saturday afternoon, to pay our respects to the Gaillard family. Visitation had begun at eleven that morning and would continue until just prior to the four o'clock funeral service Sunday afternoon. Two of Uncle Herman's three surviving children were at the funeral home when we arrived, Homer Gaillard of Faulkner, MS, and Rebecca "Becky Ann" Franklin of Dallas, GA. After an exchange of condolences, Rebecca introduced us to a friend who had accompanied her from Georgia, Lawrence Reel. Lawrence quickly endeared himself to this writer by stating his enjoyment of the newsletters he had read while visiting Rebecca. If it is true that "the quickest way to a man's heart is through his stomach," then it is equally true that the quickest way to a writer's heart is to compliment his work.
Not long after we had settled into our seats in the funeral home, Rebecca, who is my age, began to have some fun at my expense by quizzing me concerning a recent article in which many readers interpreted my comments on "chicken and biscuits" to be somewhat harshly phrased. I made a mental note that she was the third reader to mention feeling a need to write a letter to the editor concerning the article. I have received quite a lot of flack and more than a little teasing from several readers, and a denial from my sister as to having been a party to the chicken frying escapade I described a few weeks ago. She declares no memory of ever having fried any bone-in chicken at my house, but then there are a number of other things she has forgotten, so I cannot trust her accuracy any more than mine. My wife has taken a vow to cease and desist preparing homemade biscuits, which is probably for the best.
The Golden Eagle topic came up in our conversation when Rebecca wanted to know the name of the syrup my family liked best. She had remembered the "syrup article" but did not remember the brand of syrup. I was all too happy to supply her with the name, and when she wanted the details on how best to enjoy the syrup with hot biscuits, I eagerly supplied the information, much in the same fashion as in the article. She and Lawrence seemed to enjoy discussing the various methods of consuming syrup and biscuits and would during lulls in conversation return to the syrup topic. However, there were few lulls in conversation, since Sarah was with us and she usually kept the conversation rolling along.
Homer asked whether or not someone around Thaxton still made sorghum molasses for he remembered that our granddad, Hayden Carter, made some pretty fair molasses from the sorghum he grew on his farm. Homer believed the soil played a significant role in obtaining good molasses. His discussion of how soil can affect the taste of sugar cane triggered a response from Sarah who maintains that none of our sweet confections that require cane sugar are as good as that of our childhood. She claims that the U.S. boycott of Cuban sugar, initiated by JFK after Fiedel Castro assumed power in Cuba, is the single cause of sweet treats not tasting as good as they did prior to the boycott. If true, I figure that's just one more reason for those of us less than enamored by the Kennedys to dislike the whole bunch.
I don't know what sort of wake you expect to have upon your demise, but I will be delighted if the folks sitting around my urn have as good a time visiting with one another as we had with our family in Ripley a few Saturday's ago. I haven't enjoyed a wake as much since Neal Huskison's mother passed, and that's been quite some time ago.
Since Rebecca, Homer, and Lawrence had shown such an interest in table syrup, I stopped by Jitney Jungle in Ripley before heading back to Pontotoc, and bought four jars of Golden Eagle syrup. I swung back by the funeral home and dropped off the syrup. I explained that there was a jar for each of them with the extra one to go to Kenneth Gaillard when he arrived from New Mexico.
A few days later, as Barbara and I sat down to a simple breakfast of syrup and biscuits (biscuits from the freezer), Barbara asked if I supposed the Gaillards had dipped into their Golden Eagle syrup.
I replied, "I figure if any of them have had a chance to stir up some biscuits, then they have enjoyed some of the syrup with them."
The Icemaker Widow Johnson's Plight
The following is a true story, based on factual information, however, the names have been changed to protect the er'ruh the innocent.
Jed Smith of Pontotoc, owner of a local appliance store, remembers a customer named Mrs. Johnson came into his store several years ago in search of some new appliances. It seems Mrs. Johnson was a recent widow and now in possession of a modest sum of money, having been the beneficiary of her late husband's life insurance policy.
"Mr. Smith," Mrs. Johnson stated, "I want me an air-conditioner for my house, and one of them automatic washing machines. And while I am at it, I want me an electric clothes dryer. I've hung out clothes on a wash line all my life, and now that I can afford a dryer, I aim to get it. On top of that, I want me a new 'frigerator, one that I don't have to defrost all the time."
Jed could have easily sold the "country" woman the most expensive, top-of-the-line appliances, but being a principled man, recommended only those models that his widow/ customer required. However, when he showed Mrs. Johnson the refrigerator, he asked her if she would like to have one with an automatic icemaker.
"Well, why do I need that?" Mrs. Johnson quizzed.
"Why, so you don't ever again have to fill up an ice tray with water and set it in the freezer in order to have ice for your tea," Jed responded. "When I get it hooked up, you'll have all the ice you'll ever want."
"Then, get me a 'frigerator with an automatic icemaker ," stated Mrs. Johnson.
"Yes, ma'am," replied Mr. Smith, happily, "I'll have my helper get this loaded, and we'll soon have you fixed up."
Jed Smith had already determined that his customer had not always benefited from the conveniences that most of us take for granted, but he was not fully prepared for all that lay ahead. The Johnson house was not wired for 220 voltage required for heavy-duty, room air-conditioners, nor was there a drain line for the discharge from the washer. Yet, the enterprising appliance dealer soon overcame both obstacles.
Once the air-conditioner was cooling "real good," Jed brought Mrs. Johnson in the room and sat her down to enjoy her new possession, and soon afterwards had the rest of the appliances installed and working properly. Before leaving that afternoon, Jed explained all the how-tos to Mrs. Johnson.
"Now, when you get ready to wash some clothes, I have everything preset for you to wash in warm water then rinse in cold water," Jed explained. "To dry your wash, all you have to do is turn this knob on the dryer to forty, and it will take care of the rest. Don't worry about your refrigerator's ice maker; it's gonna take about a day for the first batch of ice cubes to get made, but from then on you'll have all the ice you want."
Jed remembers that it was about a week later that Mrs. Johnson phoned him and demanded that he come down to her house right away, and, without describing the problem, she hung up. Jed made haste in getting down to Mrs. Johnson's house, and found a very distraught widow.
"Jed Smith," demanded Mrs. Johnson, "you're gonna have to take back this here icemaker."
"What's wrong with it? Is it not making ice yet?" Jed asked.
"Land sakes alive, that ain't my problem; just you look here," railed Mrs. Johnson as she opened the freezer compartment of the refrigerator. "I've got every bucket and every piece of Tupperware I can find, full of ice and either in here or in my deep freeze. The last thing I do before going to bed every night is empty that icemaker. I can't use all this ice, and I can't stand to waste it, so youve got to take back this icemaker you sold me."
Jed wanted to laugh at poor Mrs. Johnson's plight, but chose not to.
After explaining to Mrs. Johnson that the automatic icemaker would shut itself off once the ice bin was filled, she felt more satisfied with her purchase and decided to keep it.
When she realized how dumb she had been regarding the new icemaker, she made Jed swear to never reveal her name or else, as she put, "I'll kill you!"
There is a brief footnote of humor to this story in that Jed claims that a few days following his "icemaker emergency," a neighbor of Mrs. Johnson stopped by his business and told him she had come by his place and offered his family some of her extra ice. The poor woman had all she could store up and had resorted to sharing of her abundance with her neighbors.
Bodock Beau Blondes And Planes
Beau asked that I share the following blonde jokes with you in hopes everyone has not already heard them. If you've grown tired of blonde jokes, look for some relief next week.
A blonde went to a flight school insisting she wanted to learn to fly that day. As all the planes were currently in use, the owner agreed to instruct her on how to pilot the helicopter solo by radio. He took her out, showed her how to start it and gave her the basics, and sent her on her way.
After she climbed 1000 feet, she radioed in. "I'm doing great! I love it! The view is so beautiful, and I'm starting to get the hang of this."
After 2000 feet, she radioed again, saying how easy it was to fly. The instructor watched her climb over 3000 feet, and was beginning to worry that she hadn't radioed in. A few minutes later, he watched in horror as she crashed about half a mile away. He ran over and pulled her from the wreckage.
When he asked what happened, she said: "I don't know! Everything was going fine, but as I got higher, I was starting to get cold. I can't remember anything after I turned off the big fan."
A stewardess encountered a blonde sitting in the first class section with a business class ticket. She told her she would not be able to sit in that section, and the blonde refused to move.
She said, "I'm blonde, I'm beautiful, I'm going to New York and you can't make me move."
The stewardess went to the head steward who went to the lady and again asked her to move because she was sitting in the first class section and didn't belong there.
Again the lady said, "I'm blonde, I'm beautiful, I'm going to New York and you can't make me move."
Finally, in exasperation they went to the pilot and explained the situation.
He replied, "Oh, I can take care of that. My wife is a blonde."
He went back and whispered to the lady and she immediately got up and walked back to the business section. The others were curious as to why she responded so quickly for him and asked for an explanation.
The pilot said, "Oh, it was simple. I just told her that the first class section wasn't going to New York.
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