Sam Burnham, Curator
A few months ago I stumbled across Jed Portman’s Garden & Gun article on the old breakfast delicacy of scrambled pork brains and eggs. It was not a new concept to me. I had heard of this dish on more than one occasion. Portman’s article stirred something in me. It was like a challenge. This was a piece of Southern culture just waiting to be explored.
Like the prophet Jonah, I walked the other way.
But neither the article nor the dish would leave me be. The article would pop up here and there. And the can of pork brains glared down at me from its high perch above the Spam, the canned chili, the sardines, and the Vienna sausages on Aisle 3 of my local Food Lion. It taunted me. The canned oysters and bulk sausage seemed to snicker in agreement as they flanked my tormentor on the top shelf. On more than one occasion I picked it up and looked at it, much like Frodo gazing at the ring.
How could I continue to serve as the curator of this journal, how could I claim to defend Southern culture, how could I join Birdmane in his quest for “from the rooter to the tooter” if I did not do this thing?
So like Igor before me, I brought home some brains.
So I cracked open the can and suddenly smell a pungent aroma not unlike Vienna sausages, of which I am not particularly fond. But this was important work. So I finished opening the can and raked the contents into my preheated skillet. There was some sizzle and I worked with the spatula to get the cooking started. I added the eggs and worked the two into a mixture until I reached the consistency I like for my eggs.
Plated up it looked pretty simple. The name is quite descriptive. Brains and eggs. That’s what it was. The Vienna smell has either dissipated or I had grown accustomed to it like a diligent paper mill employee. I had an increase in confidence. This was going to be ok. I was going to enjoy it, do a pleasant write up, might even eat it again occasionally. It was another step in my journey toward curmudgeonism.
So with a splash of coffee in the trusty James Longstreet mug I sat down at the table to cap off an ABG Test Kitchen success. I took a bite. It was different. I took another bite. It was certainly unique. I took another bite. I figured I didn’t have to eat it all. I took another bite. That was enough. I had done my duty. I scrapped my plate into a trash-bound container, walked out the door and deposited it all in the outside trash can. I didn’t even want it in the house.
I won’t do or say anything to disparage the hard working folks at Rose but I have no intentions of ever eating canned pork brains again. Check that one off the list.
However, I am now curious about fresh brains and farm fresh eggs. I’ll give that a whirl one day, given the chance.
Now to finish ventilating the Test Kitchen.
Sam Burnham, Curator
The 1954 New York Yankees had five future Hall of Fame players, including Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra. They went 103-51. They finished 2nd in the American League. They lost roughly 33% of their games. Almost 10% of their losses came against one pitcher, a young hurler from southern Floyd County, Georgia. His prowess when facing the Bronx Bombers earned him the nickname “The Yankee Killer.”
Willard Nixon was born in Taylorsville, Georgia but grew up in Silver Creek and Lindale where his parents worked in the Pepperell cotton mill. Nixon played Textile League baseball for Pepperell before starring as a pitcher at Alabama Polytechnic, now known as Auburn. In both the Textile League and in college he was known for his pitching and his hitting.
He was highly successful in both college and the minor leagues. He made it to Boston and eventually secured a role as a starting pitcher. He also saw action as a reliever and as a left handed pinch hitter.
His win-loss record wasn’t as great in the majors as his earlier experience seemed to predict. In fact, he went 11-12 in 1954. Of those 11 wins four came against the Yankees and five came against the Tigers.
Beating the Tigers was not an amazing feat. Despite future Hall of Famer Al Kaline, the Tigers ended 1954 with a 68-86 record. But beating the Yankees four times and then carrying that momentum over into 1955 to give Nixon five straight wins over New York...that’s the stuff of legend in Beantown.
It is well documented that Nixon also had a skill at forgery. He had the ability to mimic the signatures of several Red Sox players, particularly Ted Williams. Attendants would bring a box of balls for Williams to sign and he’d say “Give it to Willard.” So if you have a Ted Williams autographed ball, there’s a good chance it’s really a Willard Nixon autographed ball.
Back in Northwest Georgia, folks don’t remember the 12 losses. They remember the domination of the Yankees. Kids grow up wading in Silver Creek where it flows through Willard Nixon Park. The creek then continues north to Lindale where it goes through the middle of the old cotton mill where his parents worked and where he got his start in baseball. When those kids ask who Willard Nixon was, they learn about The Yankee Killer.
There’s still a rich baseball tradition in these communities. Willard Nixon was a product of that tradition but a lot of other kids have grown up on those diamonds. I myself played two seasons of t-ball in the shadows of the cotton mill’s smokestacks, where The Yankee Killer got his start. My ball playing days ended like the vast majority of the kids that play down there, which is to say not playing professionally on any level. But the legend lives on of one that made it to the show, the Georgia boy that the Yankees couldn’t beat, Willard Nixon, The Yankee Killer.
Sam Burnham, Curator
The opening day of baseball is upon us. I noticed an article online earlier that focused on two concentric feeling about America’s Pastime:
1) Jubilation that the season is here
2) A desire to see games sped up
How are these two responses so easily linked together? I understand to a point. I’ve watched the game myself and thought “if that pitcher steps off one more time I’m gonna scream!” But at the same time, what’s the rush?
This modern mess we’ve built for ourselves has us all in too big of a hurry. We have express lanes in the store AND on the highway. Our highways are expressways because Route 66 and The Dixie Highway just weren’t quite fast enough. We don’t think that the scenic route could be better for us. We don’t realize that taking the train would be better than the plane or that taking a stern wheeler riverboat would be the best of the three.
Haste makes waste.
Calm down. Baseball is like porch sitting or making barbecue. The process is just as important as the outcome. This life isn’t a race, unless you’re in s hurry to see how yours ends. If you’re bored at the game, but another bag of peanuts.
Speaking of baseball, in honor of opening day, here’s a look back at the game in an earlier form. This video was from the Civil War baseball demonstration at Ft. McAllister State Historic Park a few years back. The rules are a bit different but still very similar.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire