Barry Smith: Irrelativity
Editor’s note: Barry is on vacation this week. Here’s a classic Irrelativity.
When you think “tourist destination,” how quickly does Mississippi come to mind?Exactly. Falls down on the list somewhere around The Proctology Museum, right?Well, if the Mississippi Tourism Association (really, such a thing exists) is smart and takes my suggestion, that could change very soon.First, a little back story …During my recent visit to my old homeland of Mississippi, I stayed at a place called the Shack Up Inn (www.shackupinn.com). Seems a Mississippi Delta native bought himself an old cotton gin and decided to turn it into a B&B (bed and beer.) He constructed little hotel-esque rooms in the old gin building and began collecting shotgun shacks from around the area, plopping them down on his newly purchased plantation.Though a few modern, tourist-like conveniences have been added to these shacks – like heat, A/C , plumbing, electricity and the benefit of not having to work sunup to sundown in the cotton fields with a shotgun in your back – they’re pretty much in their original condition. When I first heard about the Shack Up Inn a few years ago, I thought the potential for cheesiness was quite high, but after a two-night stay, I have to say that I was beyond impressed. Where shack restoration was necessary, the attention to detail was amazing, right down to the vintage refrigerators, church-pew shelving and mini-Moon Pies left on the pillows.Now why, you might ask, would someone want to stay in an old shotgun shack?Well, some people, like me, are fascinated with the blues, and these shacks are literally smack dab in the middle of where the blues began. So if you are of such a mind, you can sit on the back porch (on a ratty old couch included) of one of these shacks as the sun goes down and think, “Yeah, this is what it must have felt like to be Son House or Charley Patton or Robert Johnson. This is what they must have seen and heard and smelled. Now I feel a little bit closer to this music and culture.”Also, there’s wireless Internet.A few days after returning home I pick up a paper and see that New York City has banned trans fats from all of its restaurants.Bingo!Trans fats also are known as the “bad” fats, the ones that make their way into your arteries, look around and decide this would be the perfect place to settle down and start raising a family.It also happens to be the stuff that makes food taste so good. Why? Because God is a cruel and vengeful God.Trans fat is a dietary staple of Southern cuisine – I’m pretty sure that I consumed the annual per-capita average of trans fat in every meal I ate during my brief stay down there. You know that song “Mammy’s little baby loves shortening bread?” Well, there’s a reason the lyrics aren’t, “Mammy’s little baby loves omega-3 bread rich in alpha-linoleic acid,” and it’s not just because it totally messes up the song’s meter. It’s because it’s deee-licious.So here’s my plan:This trans-fat ban will certainly spread throughout the major cities and states of America like a spilled skillet of that hot Crisco, but I’m here to tell you Mississippi will not be in compliance, at least not voluntarily. (You might remember what happened the last time some Yankees tried to make Southerners give something up. Well, OK – you might not remember, but they sure do.)As I see it, Mississippi is poised to become the trans-fat tourist destination for the country if not the world. Trans-fat Airlines will fly you to the Nachez airport, where you’ll board a Transhound Bus and begin your restaurant crawl. Just as people go to Amsterdam to sit in coffee shops and smoke hash legally, they will soon flock to Mississippi to indulge in delicious deep-fried you-name-it that they can’t get anywhere else. Mississippians won’t have to do a single thing differently except maybe build bigger parking lots in front of their restaurants. The economy of Mississippi will swell, and everyone will be livin’ high on the hog, partying like it’s 1849.You’re welcome, Mississippi. Glad I could give something back. And yes, this native son loves him some shortening bread, though he has been experiencing slight chest discomfort since his return.
Barry Smith’s column appears Mondays in The Aspen Times.
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The past sneaks up on us in the strangest of ways, and I don’t mean bounty hunters flashing those “Wanted: Dead or Alive” posters in our faces.