The glue that holds Natchez together

Do y’all know about kudzu?  It has made itself such a southern presence that to speak of it I had to use the “y’all”.  Nothing else sounded correct. Kudzu has been called “the vine that ate the South”, and that is not far from the truth in Natchez.

I find it interesting that kudzu is another “pest” that was not native to the United States but was imported to solve a problem.  In the case of kudzu, it is very good at holding a hill together, thus preventing erosion.  That’s all good, but if it isn’t constantly, severely disciplined it will swallow up buildings, too.

Natchez is built on a bluff beside the Mississippi River.  St. Catherine’s creek winds through town in deep gullies, headed for the river.  Steep surfaces, water, and a rainy climate are set-ups for erosion damage.  Enter the kudzu:  here it is up close, in a nearly hip-high hedge at the top of a steep hill.Those leaves are as big as grape leaves!  I wonder if you could use them in Greek cooking?  I know, from Iron Chef, that the Japanese have made a thickening powder (like corn starch or tapioca) from Kudzu.

This lawn is at the welcome center, and they trim the kudzu this way as often as they mow the yard.  Beyond the hedge the entire hill is kudzu!  That’s the Mississippi river and Vidalia, LA on the far bank.  The pictures of the river in the last post were taken near that red-roofed building.

Let me show you some more pictures of “Natchez holding it together”.The building in the upper right is a motel overlooking the river.  (A yield sign for the kudzu?  Is that like “Prepare to meet your doom!” ? )

At the river side of the bluff the kudzu is holding up the retaining wall!Most of the green you see beyond the bridge is that retaining wall with its net of kudzu.

I just had to share these pictures with you because every time I hear about Kudzu Natchez comes to mind.  It really is the poster-child for recovery from erosion threat, as they have managed to (mostly) keep the vine in check.  Emerald City, you say?




Looking for good eats

When last I reported, DH and I had planned to eat lunch at Stanton Hall’s restaurant in Natchez, but had the misfortune of arriving on one of their closed days.

On to Plan B:  there’s a fine little sandwich shop and bakery near the former location of my favorite yarn store. In fact, on one yarn store trip we asked for local restaurant recommendations, a la Rachel Ray, and were sent to the bakery.  (Unfortunately, the yarn store closed last year, so there would not be a fiber expedition on this trip.)  Much to my sorrow the sandwich shop had closed, too.  That place was so good that one was torn between diving right in to the excellent sandwich or going straight to dessert!  The obvious conclusion is that the sandwich/bakery shop couldn’t survive in these economic times, but I like to think that it was the lack of yarn patrons that was the final straw.

Plan C involved an Irish restaurant I spotted when we drove through downtown.  Nope – the sign hand-painted on the window glass said “restaurant fixtures for sale”.  Dang!  This town is folding up its tents!

Plan D – head for Vidalia, Louisiana (across the river) where there’s a funny old shack called The Sandbar.  They make great fried catfish, and DH would love that.  It’s certainly not fancy, but the food is pipping hot and generous, and the locals are friendly cotton farmers.  (Three pick-ups in a row in the parking lot had the cotton logo as their front license plates.)

After lunch we drove up onto the levee on the Louisiana side to see the sights.  Natchez is built on the river bluff, but there is an old town, known as “Natchez under the hill” that has always been taverns, gambling, and that sort of establishment. You have to wonder how many times these buildings have been flooded out.  See the road, like the hypotenuse of a right triangle? It’s narrow as well as steep, and can be a bit scary to drive if you meet another car. I think it is best viewed from Vidalia!

DH enjoyed seeing the river again.  (He was an Illinois boy, growing up near the river.)  Yes, we live near the Mississippi now, but it is a bustling port in Baton Rouge, not so much a river to contemplate. We spotted a number of logs floating by, with one coming into view before the last had disappeared downstream.  The water must be  high up north.

Monday I’ll tell you the secret of what really holds Natchez together.



Lunch in the city

Yesterday we left our intrepid reporter counting hawks soaring over the hills, sighing over the sights, then merrily singing “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” as she rolled down into Natchez.  The plan was to go to a plantation house’s restaurant for lunch, then stop in its gift shop.

Stanton Hall occupies a full block in the heart of Natchez.  Here is the description featured on the Natchez website:

“When you first get a glimpse of Stanton Hall, it will boggle your mind to know that builder, Dr. Frederick Stanton, paid a mere $83,000 to build this opulent, Greek Revival style mansion, which occupies an entire city block.  Dr. Stanton was an Irish immigrant and he’d originally named the house Belfast, for obvious reasons.  In addition to being a family physician, Stanton was a wealthy planter and cotton merchant.  The house was built in 1857 and is noted for its scale, outstanding marble mantles, and large pier mirrors that give the double parlors infinite appeal.”

We had toured the house on previous visits, and believe me, it lived up to the PR prose.  Ever after, when I see large, fancy mirrors on the HGTV show “If Walls Could Talk”   Stanton Hall’s mirrors  come to mind.  This trip, hunger trumped culture, and the Carriage House Restaurant was our first destination.  Even the side entrance to the yard was elaborate.

See the sign proclaiming the Carriage House hours? 

We didn’t.  It says “OPEN” in large letters.  Read the bottom line…that’s right, “closed Tuesday and Wednesday”.  (It was Wednesday!)

On we went, happily anticipating our lunch adventure.  As you top the steps the house and its magnificent live oak greet you.  (I just love a house that sits on its own hill.  After all, hills were the theme of the road trip.)

Up a short walk, and located behind the house is the Carriage House Restaurant.  Unlike the sometimes fanciful names that are given to eating establishments, this one truly is located in the former carriage house of the home, thus its position at the rear of the block.

It took us just a few short steps to find the place closed.  We were confused at first because people were leaving as we arrived.  However, it was the Rotary’s scheduled lunch, and no general seating happens on Wednesday.

Never mind, only steps away was the gift shop!  This was to be a focused stop, too.  You see, on that former trip to Stanton Hall I had purchased a blue and white Staffordshire plate.  It hung on the kitchen wall in a grouping with plates from two other homes. Then, one day a guest accidentally brushed the Stanton Hall plate as she passed, and it crashed on the floor.  As I told the gift shop lady on Wednesday, I’m just glad it was the Stanton Hall plate that broke, and not the one from Washington’s headquarters in Morristown, NJ.  Now that would be a road trip!

Replacement plate purchased, we returned to the car to find an alternate lunch spot.  I just couldn’t resist one more picture.  We were parked across the street, in front of a simple cottage home.  It was their sidewalk, however, that caught my eye.  Knitters see patterns everywhere!

Next post:  more adventures in Natchez.