Thank you to Mississippi State University for the write-up

Mississippi State University recently published a story about our Deep South trilogy of Hidden History books (HH Jackson, HH Mississippi Sound, HH New Orleans). You can read the story here. We would like to thank them for the support. Several people have contacted us since the story ran to express their interest in our books.

As a Mississippi State graduate and instructor, I would also like to say Hail State — wrap this one in maroon and white!

Work has officially begun on “Classic Restaurants of Jackson”

Ah, the struggles of a food writer. Ryan and I spent a grueling weekend tasting and photographing food at some of Jackson’s best restaurants. We have officially begun work on “Classic Restaurants of Jackson.”

We would like to extend an enormous thank you to David Conn, a partner in the group that owns Amerigo, Char, and several other restaurants, and Bill Prisock, president of the Cock of the Walk restaurants. The men were our hosts over the weekend. David dazzled us with plates at Amerigo and Char on Saturday, and Bill told us stories about Cock of the Walk’s legendary founder, Ken Jackson, as the sun rose over the reservoir Sunday morning.

David described Jackson as a “foodie town.” Ryan and I are trying hard to do Jackson’s food scene justice with our work. We were able to get some great photos of beautiful plates at Amerigo, Char, and Cock of the Walk. We plan to visit another 15 of Jackson’s best restaurants in the next few months, and have our manuscript to the History Press around the turn of the new year.

Here’s a sneak peek of some of the photos we got:

Flame-grilled salmon fillet with black bean salsa and green beans ($13) at Amerigo
Chicken and waffle ($12) at Char
Grilled catfish “Keelboat Special” with onion rings and fried pickles ($22) at Cock of the Walk

HHNO Cover Reveal

The History Press just finished designing the cover for Hidden History of New Orleans, and as usual they did a fantastic job. The cover features a photo of a dockworker on the Mississippi River waterfront in the 1880s. The image was graciously provided by our friends at the Rijksmuseum, one of the Netherlands’ premier art and history museums.

The official release date for HHNO is Feb. 3, 2020, just in time for Mardi Gras.

Thank You to the Great Katy Simpson Smith

Ryan and I are thrilled to announce that the great Katy Simpson Smith, author of The Story of Land and Sea and Free Men, has written the forward for our upcoming book, Hidden History of New Orleans. Ms. Smith is a Jackson native who currently lives, writes, and teaches in New Orleans.

Ms. Smith’s third novel, The Everlasting, will be published by Harper next year. You can buy her other books at Lemuria in Jackson, on Amazon, and at many other bookstores and online retailers.

The Worst Shrimp Harvest in 50 Years

Shrimp boat hull and cabin on blocks near Lakeshore in Hancock County, Mississippi. Library of Congress

Christine Blank reported earlier this month that the Mississippi Gulf Coast just experienced its worst shrimp harvest since the 1970s. The decline in catch is due to the months-long opening of the Bonnet Carre spillway over the summer, which essentially diverted much of the Mississippi River into the Mississippi Sound and flooded the normally salty sound with freshwater. Here are a few of the disturbing statistics from Blank’s article:

  • The shrimp catch was down 60 percent.
  • The blue crab catch was down 40 percent.
  • Oyster mortality was 95-98 percent.

Blank reported that it will take three to four years for the crab population to recover, and up to a decade for the oysters to recover.

The crabs and oysters will recover. But what if the Bonnet Carre spillway is opened again next year, or in two years? If 98 percent of oysters died this year, how many of the remaining oysters would survive another opening next year? How long would the recovery take then?

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman has put forth one idea that could lessen harm to the Mississippi Sound’s ecosystem in the future: open the Morganza Spillaway — which would divert Mississippi River water to the Atchafalaya Basin — in conjunction with or instead of opening Bonnet Carre. Hoseman is correct — something must be done, whether it is opening a different spillway or some other solution that has not been thought of yet. The Bonnet Carre spillway cannot be opened every year, or every couple years.

I was chatting with my father over the weekend, and he mentioned a new oyster restaurant is opening in Bay St. Louis. That’s fantastic — but how long will people be willing to travel to the Gulf Coast to eat its oysters if it doesn’t have any oysters?

1900 Years for Fame

On a trip to Belgium over the summer I wandered into the town square of Tongeren, an ancient city. The square is dominated by an imposing statue of a Celtic chieftain named Ambiorix. The warrior looks fearsome with his heavy axe, fur cloak, bare torso and long mustaches. His hand rests on his heart, and his foot on a Roman eagle sigil.

photo by enneafive

Ambiorix was a terror to Caesar’s legions in 54 BC. Caesar was wintering in Gaul that year. The summer had been dry, and his legions were forced to fan out across the country to find provisions. One means of securing those provisions was to ask the Celtic tribes — who had endured the same dry summer as the Romans — for tribute. Ambiorix, who had been on friendly terms with Caesar, decided to prey on the Romans at their time of need. He tricked a Roman column into leaving the safety of their fortifications, then directed an ambush against the men. The Romans, totally surprised, were slaughtered. Ambiorix had visions of a full-on regional rebellion, and set out to recruit other Celtic leaders.

Caesar retaliated, though, crushing the rebellion and punishing the civilians affiliated with Ambiorix. Ambiorix himself was never caught. His fate remains unknown, but he lives on in bronze grandeur, overlooking the Tongeren town square.

Ambiorix was not an instant celebrity during his lifetime, even though historians (including Caesar himself) wrote about the man in ancient times. It wasn’t until the 1840s, when Belgians, whose country had recently become an independent state, began searching historical records for potential national heroes. They found Ambiorix, and recognized his bravery in the face of the conquering legions. A long poem was written about the man, and the statue in Tongeren crafted. Ambiorix had become famous, just 1900 years after his run-in with the Romans.

Now think, “What have I done in my lifetime that might earn me the adoration of my countrymen… in a couple millennia?”

Burning Hot Thank You from the 5th Mississippi Book Festival

Thank you to everyone who came out to see us and the other authors participating in the Mississippi Book Festival over the weekend. It was a huge honor to sit beside Marshall Ramsey and the other authors on our panel and talk about Hidden History of the Mississippi Sound in front of a standing-room-only crowd of hundreds. We about melted, but we’d do it every day if we could!