Alabama Marble…

What do these three handsome men have in common? The man in the middle is Giuseppe Moretti , the sculptor of Birmingham’s Vulcan and the ‘Head of Christ’ which is on display at Vulcan Park after residing at the Alabama Archives and History Building in Montgomery for many years. While Moretti, an Italian immigrant, was working on Vulcan he discovered a treasure trove of marble in Sylacauga, Alabama and sculpted the Head of Christ.Alabama Marble is said to be the whitest marble in the world. Moretti loved working with it more than his native Italian Carrera Marble. The first recorded industry in Alabama was in 1834, which was to quarry marble from Sylacauga, which continues to produce the highly prized marble to this day. m-5120-marble-in-the-1930sMany historic places in Alabama and the United States use this beautiful marble.

  • Courthouses all across the state, the Alabama Capitol Building
  • The Brown Marx Building, Birmingham Trust National Bank
  • The interior of the John Hand Building and countless city halls, privately owned homes and even cemeteries used Alabama Marble.
  • The beautiful Louisiana Supreme Court, the Somerset County Courthouse in New Jersey, the United States Supreme Court interior
  • The Old Chicago Main Post Office, the Alexander Hamilton Custom House in Manhattan, the Dime Savings Bank in Brooklyn, an the Historic City Hall in Philadelphia-

All have Alabama Marble -and that’s not all! Look at the beautiful translucent ceiling in the Lincoln Memorial. What you are looking at is Alabama Marble, glowingly beautiful at night.

Look at Gutzan Borghum’s bust of Lincoln found in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol- Borgham said the texture of Alabama Marble allowed him to portray the kindness of Lincoln’s face- something he had never been able to achieve with other types of marble. In the early part of the 21st century, Alabama Marble made a comeback in home interiors-especially kitchens. kitchen-with-alabama-marble

When we began renovation of the kitchen here at Camellia’s Cottage- a large portion of the budget went toward the kitchen. The old kitchen had very little counter space- the new plan was a U shaped countertop- in place of the L shape- with the refrigerators on the opposite wall along with a marble topped sink and coffee station– I had increased the square footage of the countertops by over 25 square feet! Now, the budget could stand only so much stretching- I wanted Alabama Marble, however the cost had gone up.  Alabama Marble was over $120 per sq.ft. as opposed to Italian Carerra Marble which was $90 per sq.ft.- and that was before adding in the cost of countertop removal, installation and taxes!  I made the hard choice to go with Italian Carerra Marble- as representative of the Marble Industry in Alabama. Nothing beats marble for elegance and tradition– it’s also heat resistant and stays cool – a big bonus in a Southern Kitchen!

As you can see, Italian Carerra is not as white as Alabama Marble- however the pale gray went with my overall neutral color scheme. Now, I have to tell you-  the contractors, kitchen designer and others tried to talk me out of getting marble countertops; it is softer than granite- it can stain and the biggest problem is etching. I have to admit that I wanted to keep it showroom perfect at first! It’s sort of like aging folks- when you find that first wrinkle, you sort of panic. I know I did. Marble countertops are not for everyone.

As mine slowly etched, I tried to avoid it, then- I read articles by interior designers who had installed marble countertops in their own kitchens- one said he couldn’t wait until his got some age on it- others said to embrace the etching as part of the patina of age. Another had purposely bought old marble and another said she wanted hers to age so it would look like her grandmother’s kitchen in Italy. So, here I am four years since it has been installed and I have to say- it is like aging, you can either fight it every single day or you can embrace the natural beauty of stages of real life. My kitchen can’t compare with those you see in magazines, but everyday I think of this house which holds so many good memories and the food I prepare for the people I love– none of us are perfect, some of us have aged- Marble is a daily reminder to embrace life’s best moments, to stay true to my roots and love it- to embrace the patina of age.

Love y’all, Camellia

Check out- for more information about Alabama Marble. Images for photographs of Vulcan, Head of Christ, and Giusseppe Moretti and other vintage photographs are from Sylacauga Marble in Wikipedia. The Kitchen photograph is one I saved for my own renovation and is from Birmingham Home and Garden Magazine, I believe. Some may be subject to copyright and if so I will gladly credit these photographs or remove them.

Dyin’ in the South…



The late great Pat Conroy, wrote a cookbook that is one of my all time favorites- he has one chapter called ‘Why Dying Down South is More Fun’. In my collection of local, state and regional cookbooks- they don’t come right out and have chapters devoted to funeral food– but if you’re from the South- well…let’s just say we know that the cooks who offer the submissions have gotten a whole lot of compliments on the dishes they took to comfort those who mourn. We also know which ones don’t comfort- they afflict. You don’t take hot spicy foods like Pit Barbeque- which might conjure up the image of ‘hellfire and damnation’-though the grieving family will graciously accept any and all offerings in the spirit in which they are given. Pat Conroy makes note that when anyone dies in the South, ‘the pigs get nervous’– I would add – ‘the chickens get nervous and stop layin’. Fried chicken shows how much you care, stuffed eggs are always welcome and a baked ham feeds a crowd. Stuffed Eggs are the appropriate term for funeral food– no one in his right mind would dare called them ‘Devilled Eggs’. We prize stuffed eggs so much we have plates with little egg shaped indentions passed down from one generation to the next, I have my grandmother’s white egg plate. 2016-03-23 11.07.00Women have Pyrex dishes with their names inked on masking tape for Dinner on the Ground, Memorial Day and holidays but mostly for funeral food. These glass dishes might be ensconced in a silver holder with little legs or just plain glass- but all are filled with concoctions to die for- they’re so divine. You can count on hearing- ‘Has anyone seen my 9×12 Pyrex dish?’ in the days and weeks to follow a funeral.

In the South, when you don’t know what to say- taking comfort food is the very best thing to do. We hope after the funeral, folks will eat as good or better than at Thanksgiving or Christmas- we don’t want anyone to worry about what to eat, when they are struggling.casseroles-campbells

I try to keep a Bereavement Pound Cake in the freezer- my pound cakes freeze very well due to the high fat content and being wrapped tightly. I’ve never kept one frozen for very long-to have a Pound Cake on hand has truly been a lifesaver…well, a life might have been lost but a ham, a casserole or a pound cake- is comforting, goes a long way and can feed the multitudes.2015-12-21 11.08.39

Mostly teetotalers-we don’t talk about it very much, but we do value the medicinal numbing qualities of strong drink– we might nurse it, we just don’t advertise it. The South has produced the finest beverages in the world- Sweet Tea, Co-Cola, Bourbon, Jack Daniels, Muscadine Wine; even Rum, all of which do bring a nip of comfort to afflicted mourners.

We once attended a memorial service for a local Historian whose specialty was the War between the States. This man wanted his service to be authentic-held in a historic home he knew was being restored. The Committee decided unanimously not to restore the bullet-riddled transom over the door from a little skirmish during the war-ah. The house was opened to honor this man. The Honor Guard was in full regalia worn for ‘re-enactments’which to be honest, are exercises in futility since we’re never gonna pull this thing out, but the men seem to enjoy it. The revered Historian wanted to be cremated and his ashes strewn on the closest battlefield- which caused a bit of an rippit from some of the older set, who still think six feet under Alabama Marble is the most dignified way to go.old tombstone- aol images  The Historian’s service was planned down to a tee, the house was spruced up and the wide foyer was set with folding chairs facing a flag draped altar with the urn on top– all ready for the next day. One of the men brought in the big punch bowl to sit on the sideboard- he had obtained the old recipe from 1786 for Chatham Artillery Punch. It has to preserve for two days!  The night before, he offered some of it as solace for the men who had to get things ready for the Historian. The ladies had bought ginger ale to substitute for that whole case of champagne.  It was hot and humid- some of the men thought they would have a toast to their fallen. No one thought the bugle playin’ brother was in such bad shape- he got punch drunk. The day of the service, the ladies like to have died when they found out Brother wasn’t able to playTaps’– some even fumed  they were going to kill the whole regiment! vintage silver punch bowl

One of the revelers brought in a boom box instead of the bugle; the Honor Guard decided that despite the events of the night before- the Historian rightly deserved the whole case of champagne instead of the ginger ale-and unapologetically handed the widow an icy cup of punch to settle her nerves. During the service the widow slowly slid off the horsehair sofa onto the oriental rug. The Chaplin finished up his rather long eulogy. The Honor Guard stood at attention as the static-y ‘Taps’ blared; they filed somberly out of the foyer onto the grounds, while someone discreetly re-seated the grieving widow. Outside, instead of a synchronized 21 gun salute- it sounded like a bunch of firecrackers going off as the antique guns fired away. The mourners were glad they stayed inside and actually lived to die another day.

Now, like all good Southern stories, this one is part myth, part truth and part outright lies– however, to show good faith…If you will be careful when and how you use it- here is the recipe for Chatham Artillery Punch, from the Savannah River House which will no doubt resurface again.ChathamArtilleryPunchRecipe.jpg

However, I would like to make this perfectly clear- Southern Ladies are taught it is coarse and common to drink, chug or slurp. A true lady sips. Coffee, water, tea or something to numb the pain…a lady always holds cups, glasses or plates in a delicate hand with the elbow at  the waistline; and honestly sliding off a sofa is just not done under normal circumstances.

Oh Law, I hope you don’t die laughing, but if you do? Please come South, we’ll take care of you.

Love y’all, Camellia

Find Pat Conroy’s Cookbook on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other major booksellers!

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Casket photo is from Other images are either mine or from AOL images, please advise if any copyright applies.


Silver Queens…

I don ‘t understand retail therapy, it could be that I worked in retail most of my life; so  let me share some real therapy for real Southern ladies –

  • Taking care of the cast iron
  • Checking the baseboards to make sure they’re clean
  • Polishing silver is especially rewarding
  • Buying Silver Queen corn– the crowning staple of Southern cuisine

If there is ever an upset in the home or community- Southern women of my era have reliably turned to these activities for therapy– we calm our nerves this way, we settle down into these rhythmic, meditative, even ancient practices.IMG_1387

Cast iron is inherited- it must be taken care of…and the bonus is when something unsettling happens, you can always clean it out with salt, then fry some bacon in the pan to re-season it…a little spat with a husband can be cured just by frying some bacon…trust me on this one! He’s irritated, you’re unsettled and start thinking about your inheritance…you grab your grandmother’s cast iron skillet and start frying bacon…before you know it, he comes up behind you, tugs on your apron strings or eases his arms around your waist and says, ‘hey good lookin’ whatcha got cookin’?‘ You sort of give him the cold shoulder and just say ‘Get on out of here now, I’m just seasoning this skillet…‘ He keeps on hanging around…looking sort of sheepish…bacon will do this to man, he forgets why he’s irritated, hoping he’ll be the one who gets the crumbled bacon, instead of humble pie. white baseboardSouthern women have a great affection for their Baseboards…I have never heard women of other cultures quite so fascinated with whether or not their baseboards are clean. A friend told me recently that she wasn’t sure her housecleaning service was doing a good enough job. She shares the same cleaning service with another friend, who had called and said, ‘I’m not sure they’ve been cleaning these baseboards!’ My friend said, ‘Well I have to tell them to clean mine, they don’t think of it on their own, but Lord knows I asked them when I hired them if they clean windowsills, crown molding and baseboards, though I never asked about the chair rails.’ Now, if weeds are God’s invitation to pray in the garden, checking baseboards will get you on your knees in the home. It’s upsetting to be paying someone to do this – however, when life isn’t going all that well…get on your knees and get those baseboards clean– cleanliness is next to godliness, you know.

Polishing Silver is often group therapy in the South, we Silver Queens are sensitive about our silver, after all, we barely had it buried in the ground before the Yankees ran through all those years ago. Polishing ancestral silver is almost as sacred as putting Alabama Marble Monuments on the graves of our loved ones. It’s a little known fact that women start polishing silver the minute they hear anyone is getting married, christening a child, or Lord forgive, someone has died- women just start in polishing silver- you can hear the silver chests opening, the pleasant clink of silver and the distinct smell of silver polish. The most humble foods are elevated by silver trays; and one must be careful to make sure fine paper doilies are always on hand in several sizes to fit the silver trays. The high holidays call for silver trays, flatware, chafing dishes, candlesticks and even mint julep cups. Instead of fretting over the guest list, the menu or even the guests- start polishing silver; the mind sharpens and before you know it- all the ‘I’s’ will be dotted and all of the ‘T’s’ will be crossed off your lists.

Buying Silver Queen Corn is a summer infatuation- folks will say ‘We’re going to stop on the way to the beach and get some Silver Queen Corn’ or ‘I’m going to fry some chicken Sunday and if I can find some Silver Queen Corn- I’ll fry that to go with it.’

  • Fried Chicken.
  • Fresh sliced Tomatoes.
  • Biscuits.
  • Gravy.
  • Fresh Pole Beans.
  • Fried Silver Queen Corn.

If there is a more perfect summer meal on earth I do not know what it is. Yes, you read that right, fried corn. And it must be white Silver Queen Corn. Do not try to pull a fast one over on us on this… I have seen southern women make big corn fed farmers cry over this.

  • ‘Now is this field corn or Silver Queen?
  • You know when I start cutting it from the cob, I’ll be able to tell the difference right away.’
  • ‘Who do you think you are labelling this Silver Queen when you know full well it’s that new hybrid Silver King, I’m not having it, I’ll tell you.’
  • Then she insists on the farmer pulling back the shuck so she can make sure it’s not wormy!

You can tell a Deep South pedigree quicker from who buys Silver Queen Corn than you can on Ancestry. Com or that TV show ‘Who Do You Think You Are?‘. We prefer white cornmeal, white grits and blinding white Silver Queen Corn. If you don’t know what real fried corn is? Well, I might not be able to help you. This picture is the best one I could find and to tell you the truth? This Silver Queen doesn’t think the corn is cut as fine as it should be or cooked down quite enough!fried white corn

 Seasoning a cast iron pan, cleaning baseboards, polishing silver and cooking something fit to eat, are just a few of our Southern therapies- I know, I know- Southern people can get irrational and over emotional about some things…just thought you’d like to know how we make it through…

Love y’all, Camellia