Monday, October 20, 2014

Taking on Tennessee

We say farewell to the faces of four phenomenal Presidents that make up Mount Rushmore and head to the state that was home to the King this week.  That’s right, we’re off to Tennessee!  I can’t wait to share the state that brought us everything from Piggly Wiggly to Justin Timberlake this week!  So whether you’re a fan of the beautiful mountain scenery in Gatlinburg, would like to take in some blues on Beale Street in Memphis or a little bit of country at the Grand Ole Opry, or want to see the Parthenon without leaving the country, Tennessee has something for you.  I know the Dynamic Duo is excited (they keep reminding me that they’ve been there and remember it!) so let’s get started on our trek through the Volunteer State!

Tennessee is made up of three very distinct regions or Grand DivisionsThe East is characterized by its mountainous terrain as the entire area lies in the Appalachian MountainsKnoxville and Chattanooga are the largest cities in the East, which is also home to attractions such as DollywoodRipleys Aquarium of the Smokies, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  (More on this later).  Bristol, located in the East is also known as “The Birthplace of Country Music” where in 1927 recordings by the Carter Family captured the local ‘folk’ sound that eventually launched country music.  Middle Tennessee is known for its valleys.  The capital of Nashville is in the middle, as well as many of the colleges and universities of Tennessee.  Plus, my very favorite city in Tennessee, Clarksville, is in the middle!  (Yes, Monkees shout out in the blog!)  The smallest and least populated of the three, West Tennessee lies between the Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers.  Memphis is by far the largest city in the region (and is also the largest city in the State) and is well known for its riverfront.  The three Grand Divisions are so important they are represented by three stars on the state flag and a Tennessean, when asked where they’re from, will often respond with “East, Middle, or West” 

Since I already alluded to it being part of East Tennessee, a little more information on the Great Smoky Mountains couldn’t hurt.  Running between Tennessee and North Carolina, The Smokies are actually a subrange of the Appalachians.  The 522,419 acres that make up the Great Smoky Mountain National Park are the most visited of all the country’s national parks.  In fact, annually the park plays host to nearly twice the number of visitors as the Grand Canyon!  Visitors come to camp, hike, fish, view wildlife and ride horses within the boundaries of the park.

Not “born on a mountaintop in Tennessee” but instead along the banks of the Nolichucky River in the East, among the Blue Ridge Mountains was arguably one of the most notable Tennesseans in history; Davy Crockett.  The “King of the Wild Frontier” was a 19th century folk hero, frontiersman, soldier and even a politician.  A natural leader, Crockett was a soldier, a justice of the peace, and eventually served two terms in the Tennessee legislature.  Tall tales of his adventures all the frontier are what he is most remembered for, as well as his eventual death at the Alamo.  Noah loved when we talked about Paul Bunyan back in Minnesota, so I know he’ll be on board for Davy Crockett!

Though not born in Tennessee, (you may remember that Mississippi can claim that one!) the state’s most famous resident was a King.  Purchased in 1957 for his parents, Graceland was the home to Elvis Presley for twenty years.  (He’s also buried there).  At the time of its purchase by the Presley family, Graceland was made up of 13.8 acres and housed 10,266 of liveable space.  As of 2010, it had nearly doubled to 19,552  (with the racquetball court, of course!)  Fans flock to Graceland annually (over 600,00 every year in fact) to tour the mansion and pay homage to the legend. 

It’s not all Rock and Roll in Tennessee, though.  In fact, Tennessee, as I mentioned above is actually the birthplace of country music.   The city of Nashville is known for its numerous ties to the country music industry, including being the home of the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Country Music Association.  Billed as “Music City”, Nashville hosts the largest songwriter’s festival in the world (Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival) and has over 120 live music venues.  (Check out a whole lot more cool music related facts about Nashville here)  While I’m not a huge country music fan, I can definitely respect the impact Nashville has on the nation’s music industry and definitely think it earns a spot on this week’s ‘famous for’ list!

One of my favorite contributions from Tennessee for the long-term effects it had on the nation was made by Clarence Saunders when he opened his first Piggly Wiggly location in Memphis.  Not only is Piggly Wiggly just one of the most fun names every for a grocery store in my humble opinion, but the 1916 opening marked the first true self-service grocery store, an idea patented by Saunders a year later.  Piggly Wiggly was the first grocery store to provide check-out stands, price mark each item in the store, and the first to use shopping carts (back in Oklahoma, remember?).  Currently Piggly Wiggly has over 600 independently owned stores across the country, though they are based mainly in the southeast and headquartered in New Hampshire.

Bigger than Piggly Wiggly on Tennessee’s bottom line, though, is the fact that FedEx Corporation, though the company’s original roots an be traced back to New York in 1913, it moved its base of operations to Memphis in 1973.  FedEx Express is based out of the Memphis International Airport and is the world's largest airline in terms of freight tons flown and the world's fourth largest in terms of fleet size.  The world's largest express transportation company, FedEx Express delivers packages and freight to more than 375 destinations in nearly every country each day.  The airport itself has nearly a $29 billion dollar impact on the surrounding community, a large chunk of that due to the fact that Memphis is the “Super Hub” for FedEx operations.

You know I can’t make it through a state without a sports shout-out!  So here’s a note that the Tennessee Titans play professional football in Nashville, and the most well-recognized collegiate team are the Volunteers from the University of Tennessee. (They’re kind of hard to miss in that orange, you know what I mean?)  And not sports related, but my husband would never let me live it down if I failed to mention that one of his favorite actors, Morgan Freeman, was born in Memphis.  Also of note, Dolly Parton, Kenny Chesney, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, and another Grant favorite, Quentin Tarantino, hail from the Volunteer State.

I started us off on our culinary adventure with a salute to the King with one of his favorites, The Fried Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich.  Not only did I know the kids would LOVE this tonight, but it was another easy to make recipe for a Monday when Noah has to get to religious ed classes early and eat as soon as he gets off the bus.  (Yep, still complaining about it.  Probably will every week.)  Anyway, they all officially “Love Me Tender” after this one tonight.  With it I made Sweet Potato Salad with a Bacon Vinaigrette.  I found the recipe on the website for The Loveless Café, which is based in Nashville since 1951.  The café serves more than 450,000 guests a year and makes between 4,000 to 7,000 biscuits a day.  I’ve got a few recipes coming from this Tennessee institution this week, including what is rumored to be the best mac & cheese in the South.  Goo Goo Clusters reigned supreme here for dessert tonight.   The Standard Candy Company at Clark & First Avenue in Nashville, invented the Goo Goo Cluster which is the world’s first combination candy bar.  (Plus it has a really cool name!)  No surprise that these didn’t last long around here tonight.

You know what is going to last, though?  My enthusiasm for Tennessee week!  If I didn’t make enough of a case for it already, stick around this week as we check out all the East, Middle and West have to offer when it comes to Tennessee!  NJ’s got a delayed start tomorrow, Kayla and I have a playdate planned, parent/teacher conferences tomorrow night (oh boy!) and my kitchen gets taken over by Jack (Daniels, that is)!  So until then…

Tennessee Fun Fact of the Day:  “The Volunteer State” nickname originated during the War of 1812, in which the volunteer soldiers from Tennessee serving under Gen. Andrew Jackson displayed marked valor in the Battle of New Orleans.

Tennessee wall is up!

Look at these awesome cookies Amber found for us!

They're so neat - and tasty!

Ready to make some goo goo clusters

She's such a pro

Ready for the fridge

Time to cut

Nom nom nom

Frying up for the King

Grant said "Elvis may have been on to something here..."

Sweet Potato Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette

Our first foray into Tennessee's culinary adventure

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