This past weekend I made my second trip of 2013 to Alabama. Up until now, I'd really only spent time in western AL, specifically Tuscaloosa, plus a few jaunts to Montgomery and Birmingham. This was my first foray to northern AL and the towns of Florence, Tuscumbia, and Muscle Shoals. I hope it won't be my last.
My relationship with Alabama, like many relationships, is complicated. I first went down there for grad school, but realized that, since I wasn't interested in teaching, the program I was in wasn't a good fit. By the time I left, 10 months after arriving, I had developed a lasting interest in southern folk art, a passion for barbecue, and a deep, abiding love of greens: collards, mustard, etc. I'd also gained a deeper understanding of Southern attitudes, culture, and history. Complicated. Conflicted. Compelling.
I travelled to Florence specifically to take a one-day workshop at The Factory, the home base of Alabama Chanin. I have been a fan of Natalie Chanin's work for years, having first seen her years ago at an annual art festival in Northport, AL. This spring, I took a two-hour workshop with her at the Southern Makers inaugural event. After that teaser, I was eager for more, and I signed up for the workshop at the studio. (I would love to do the weekend workshop that is, coincidentally, happening on my birthday weekend. Hmmmm...) The Factory was what I hoped it would be: brimming with beautiful things, inspirational, and fun. The day flew. I want to make all. the. things.
I didn't have a lot of time for sightseeing, but I did get to do a bit of shopping in Florence. I quite liked the town's yarn store, Unraveled, and The Wine Seller was a great find. I got some sale t-shirts at Billy Reid to cut up for some Alabama Chanin-inspired projects. I drove by the legendary Fame Recording Studio in Muscle Shoals, and W.C. Handy's and Helen Keller's birthplaces. I fell in love with the pulled pork sandwich topped with hot slaw at Bunyan's Bar-b-que, and paid my respects to the departed canine souls at the Coon Dog Cemetery.
If you're curious about hot slaw (which is the spicier, sassier Southern sister of Pennsylvania Dutch Pepper Cabbage), try this one: http://amccutch.home.mindspring.com/recipes/AlmostBunyansHotSlaw.html
I am headed out to the grocery store for the ingredients this afternoon!
A lesson I learn repeatedly on my travels is that there are interesting things everywhere you care to look. I love the quirky, odd, off-beat, unique, one-of-a-kind things you find if you wander far enough.