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Stamp honors state’s bicentennial

Alabama’s statehood will be recognized with its own stamp this month. The U.S. Postal Service will issue the Alabama bicentennial stamp on Feb. 23 in Constitution Hall Park in Huntsville.

The stamp is of a photo by Alabama photographer Joe Miller of a sunset at Cheaha State Park, on Pulpit Rock Trail. “With Pulpit Rock in the foreground, most of the area in the valley below the overlook is part of the Talladega National Forest, which surrounds the state park,” says the USPS website. “The name of the state and the year of statehood are included in the stamp art. The art director is William J. Gicker. Greg Breeding designed the stamp with Miller’s existing photograph.”

Details about the Feb. 23 event will be available at the state’s bicentennial website,

Rural Alabama paying the price of tobacco use

While several other rural health issues have been receiving greater attention, deaths due to chronic lower respiratory diseases (CLRD) have been increasing dramatically in Alabama’s rural areas.  CLRD includes bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, and other respiratory diseases.   

Between 2000 and 2017, Alabama’s age-adjusted death or mortality rate from CLRD increased by more than 27 percent, the second highest increase among all 50 states.  This rate actually decreased in 35 states.  Alabama lost nearly 49,100 residents to CLRD during 2000 through 2017.  This loss is greater than the total current populations in Greene, Perry, Lowndes, Bullock, and Wilcox counties combined.

While this dramatic statewide increase is concerning, the highly disproportionate increase in our rural areas and the tremendous increase among rural females demands attention.  The death rate from CLRD among Alabama’s rural residents increased by over 54 percent between 2000 and 2017 while the rate for our urban residents increased by nearly 9 percent.  

This rate tends to be significantly higher among white Alabamians than among African Alabamians.  It is also significantly higher among males than females.  However, the rate for rural females increased by nearly 97 percent between 2000 and 2017.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking accounts for about 80 percent of all CLRD cases. Exposure to air pollutants in the home and workplace, genetic factors, and respiratory infections also play a role in the development of CLRD.


Dale Quinney is the founder of Operation Save Rural Alabama,, and a past director of the Alabama Rural Health Association

Theatrical work weaves stories of love from Alabama’s history

Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Jones portrait during the time she was growing to love Byron Chew Yarbrough during their WWII pen pal romance.

By M.J. Ellington

As Valentine’s Day approaches, a theatrical work is taking shape, one that will explore the theme of love by drawing from the real-life stories found in 200 years of correspondence at the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

The production will use letters, poems, music and acting to highlight many kinds of love in Alabama – including love of family, justice and country, as well as the love between romantic partners. While not attempting to chronicle 200 years of love in the state, it will instead “collage archival pieces together to show different views of a particular moment in Alabama history, and use stories of love as the vehicle,” says Auburn University theater professor Tessa Carr.

She has written and will direct “Alabama Love Stories,” which will be a broad sweep of many different kinds of love across 200 years. The stories are real, and trace not only the love people shared, but also give a sense of the era in which they lived.

“These were ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances,” Carr says.

Byron Chew Yarbrough in his Navy uniform.

One example comes from the letters written during the Civil War between a slave imprisoned in Georgia and his owner’s wife. He was concerned that his family might be split up and sold, making it impossible for him to ever find them.

But one of the production’s love stories – which has a captivating modern-day tie – began innocently enough with friendly pen pal letters from November 1944 to March 1945.

This love story developed between Auburn University graduate and Auburn native Byron Chew Yarbrough, a Navy lieutenant junior grade, and his pen pal, Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Jones of Cordele, Ga. The letters ended soon after Yarbrough’s death on Navy Landing Craft 449, during bitter conflict leading up to the battle of Iwo Jima.

Yarbrough died near the end of the war, three months before he was due to come home and finally see the woman who had agreed, through their pen pal “dates,” to share the future with him. Details of their letters show how the friendly correspondence between a sailor at war and a woman doing her part to encourage a sailor with stories about life back home gradually grew into love, though they knew each other only through the letters and photos.

Discovering a love story

A birthday card Brown sent to Yarbrough. The envelope is stamped returned and unclaimed from the War Department; Yarbrough had been killed before he received the card.

Alabama genealogist and ADAH research coordinator Nancy Dupree, who is Jones’ niece, uncovered the story from a bundle of letters tied with blue ribbon in a trunk in her parents’ attic. The pen pal romance had lifelong impact on the rest of Jones’ life and puzzled the two families for more than half a century.

“We always wondered what happened to Betty,” a Yarbrough relative in Texas told Dupree when she finally tracked him down.

In 2005, Dupree was at her parents’ house in Cordele, Ga., cleaning out the attic in preparation for a move. She was heading back downstairs when she noticed an unfamiliar trunk.

Dupree opened the trunk and found a stack of letters tied with blue ribbon. The letters were between Jones, who was her father’s sister, and Yarbrough, who grew up at Pebble Hill in Auburn, the son of a doctor. Some of the letters to Yarbrough had been stamped “undelivered” and returned by the War Department unopened.

Dupree took the letters downstairs and asked her mother about them. Her mother knew nothing about trunk or the letters. She said the trunk likely came after Jones’ parents, who lived next door, died. Betty was their daughter and had moved home to help care for them in their old age.

Dupree brought the letters back to Alabama when she returned home, opened them in chronological order at her dining room table, read them and cried. She said her beautiful aunt, whom she described as “stunning,” never married, became an alcoholic and lived a sad, often lonely life until she died.

“Their plans were to have a future together, but the ship was bombed and he died,” Dupree says. Betty Jones didn’t hear right away that Yarbrough was killed, so she kept writing

Navy Lt. Byron Yarbrough at Pebble Hill in Auburn, his childhood home.

letters to him daily, even after she stopped getting any in return.

After Dupree located a Yarbrough relative in Texas, the two families pieced the pen pal story together, sharing information along the way. The Yarbrough family, long interested in the untold story of the Iwo Jima battle, contacted Pulitzer Prize-winning author Mitch Weiss about Landing Craft 449 and the bravery of the men aboard the ship.

Weiss’ book, The Heart of Hell, about Landing Craft 449 and the sacrifices surrounding the Battle of Iwo Jima, included correspondence between the men on the ship and people back home, including the Jones-Yarbrough romance. Betty Jones is acknowledged at the front of the book.

“It really ought to be a movie,” Dupree says.


What: “Alabama Love Stories,” a collaged original work that draws its inspiration primarily from archival materials found at the Alabama Department of Archives and History, is part of the Alabama Bicentennial celebration.

When: April 11-20, 2019

Where: Telfair Peet Black Box Theatre, 350 W. Samford Ave., Auburn


Sites preserve, interpret black history in Alabama

We are not makers of history, we are made by history.

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
National Memorial for Peace and Justice and The Legacy Museum. Photos courtesy Montgomery Chamber of Commerce

By Marilyn Jones | Photos by Marilyn Jones except where noted

“With February designated as Black History Month, Alabamians have the unique opportunity to visit many important civil rights sites that are just a short drive away, or maybe just around the corner,” says Dorothy Walker, site director of the Freedom Rides Museum. “Come experience this history as you walk in the footsteps of the foot soldiers – and visit the unique sites where history took shape.”

Throughout Alabama are museums and memorials honoring the accomplishments and struggles of African Americans. Here is a sampling of sites illustrating this important part of Alabama and national history.

National Memorial for Peace and Justice and The Legacy Museum, Montgomery

Chronicling the dark history of the slave trade, racial terrorism, the Jim Crow South and the world’s largest prison system, the Legacy Museum helps investigate America’s history of racial injustice. The nearby memorial pays tribute to the more than 4,400 African American men, women and children who were murdered by white mobs between 1877 and 1950. It is the first of its kind to acknowledge the victims of racial terror lynching.

For more information:; (334) 386-9100.

Negro Southern League Museum, Birmingham

The museum tells the story of African-American baseball in America through the eyes of Birmingham. The museum features the largest collection of original Negro League baseball artifacts in the country and features a Negro League and Southern League baseball history research center.

For more information:; (205) 581-3040.

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Birmingham

Educating and enlightening each generation about civil and human rights is the underlying principle of the institute. Part of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument and an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, it helps further the understanding for the significance of civil rights developments in Birmingham.

For more information:; (866) 328-9696.

National Voting Rights Museum, Selma

The museum addresses the contemporary struggle for voting rights and human dignity. Exhibits help explain events such as the struggle leading up to the Selma to Montgomery March and the civil rights movement throughout the South.

For more information:; (334) 526-4340.

Freedom Rides Museum, Montgomery

In 1961 volunteers made history by challenging the practice of segregated travel through the South. They called themselves Freedom Riders as they crossed racial barriers in depots and onboard buses. The museum tells the story of the non-violent protest that helped end racial segregation in public transportation.

For more information:; (334) 242-3184.

Rosa Parks Library and Museum, Montgomery

The museum chronicles Rosa Parks and her refusal to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in 1955. When she refused she was arrested. This led to the bus boycott, which eventually led to changes in the law. Exhibits detail the setbacks and ultimate success of the boycott.

For more information:; (334) 241-8615.

Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail

Until 1965, some counties in Alabama used measures to prevent African Americans from registering to vote. Protests against this injustice were met with violence including death. On March 25 nearly 25,000 people began to walk from Selma to Montgomery. Five months later, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in voting practices or procedures because of race and color.

The Selma Interpretive Center and the Lowndes Interpretive Center, located along the original march route on U.S. Highway 80 in White Hall, both offer insight into the struggle. There are signs with an official national trail logo that mark the path the foot soldiers took in 1965.

For more information:; (334) 727-3200.

Civil Rights Memorial, Montgomery

The memorial is located across the street from the Southern Poverty Law Center. Designed by Vietnam Veterans Memorial designer Maya Lin, the circular black granite table is engraved with the names of civil rights martyrs and the movement’s history. Behind the table is the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s well-known paraphrase of Amos 5:24: We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.

For more information:; (888) 414-7752.

The George Washington Carver Museum, Tuskegee

Operated by the National Park Service, the museum honors Carver for his many accomplishments.  The head of the Tuskegee Institute Agriculture Department, he is best known for his work with the peanut, but he also invented commercial byproducts from all sorts of other vegetables. Carver’s life work was to create and invent in order to help the poor people of his black community. Exhibits chronicle his life from boyhood until his death by using photography and artifacts, including equipment he used.

For more information:; (334) 727-3200.

Dexter Parsonage Museum, Montgomery

The parsonage, on the National Register of Historic Places, was the residence of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his young family between 1954 and 1960. The nine-room parsonage, built in 1912, has been restored to its appearance when King and his family lived there. Much of the furniture presently in the living room, dining room, bedroom and study was actually used by King.

A permanent exhibit in the Interpretive Center includes a timeline of photographs of the 12 Dexter pastors who lived in the parsonage and other historic events associated with the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church.

For more information:; (334) 261-3270.

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, Tuskegee

The historic site was the training center of the first-ever African American military pilots, known as the Red Tails. Excellent exhibits housed in original buildings help explain the struggle for the right to fight for their country during WWII, and their success as pilots.

For more information:; (334) 724-0922.

Asparagus tips: Commitment, patience, care

Need some gardening love this month? Start a new long-term relationship with an adored early-season garden delicacy, the asparagus!

Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is a cool-season, perennial vegetable, native to Europe and Asia, that’s been an adored source of food and medicine for thousands of years. This fern-like plant produces tender shoots (spears) that emerge early each spring, making them one of the first vegetables of the year. And even better, asparagus is a long-lived plant that will produce those delicious, nutritious spears for years to come — 10 or more years if you treat them well.

As with most happy, healthy long-term romances, success with asparagus requires commitment and patience, especially in the early stages of the relationship. But it’s a plant well worth wooing, and now through March is the prime time to plant the seeds — or, more commonly, the crowns — of that relationship.

Let’s begin with the patience part, which is mostly needed as you await that first taste. Newly planted asparagus takes several years to become established, so even though spears typically emerge the first year, they shouldn’t be cut for two to three years after planting. One way to speed this up is to plant asparagus from one-, two-, or three-year-old crowns rather than seed. (The older crowns are usually more expensive but produce harvestable spears sooner.)

And as for commitment, that’s mostly about dedicating — and preparing — a happy home where this newfound love can take up residence in your garden. Once established, asparagus doesn’t transplant well, so it needs a permanent bed in a sunny (asparagus plants need 8-10 hours of sunlight a day), well-drained, weed-free spot. The area should also be large enough so you can space the plants (10-20 plants is usually enough for a family) at least a foot apart.

To plant crowns, prepare the bed lovingly by digging a trench at least a foot wide and about a foot deep. Amend the removed soil with compost and/or a balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 formulation. (Running a soil test can help determine your soil’s specific nutritional needs.) Make piles of the amended soil along the trench base and lay each crown, bud-top up, on the mounded soil, spreading the roots out evenly.

Some experts recommend gradually adding the amended soil back into the trench at intervals during the first growing season until the crowns are fully covered. Others say you can add it all at once. Whichever method you choose, make sure to water the crowns well after planting and continue applying an inch of water each week (more during hot, dry periods) for the first year. Mulching the bed after planting (straw is ideal for this) helps retain moisture near the roots and suppress weeds.

Though asparagus is a low-maintenance garden companion, it does need some attention. Keep the area well weeded, watch out for signs of pests and cut back the foliage in late fall (after it has all turned brown) before applying a protective winter mulch.

And as for finding your soul-mate asparagus, the pool of candidates includes many choices — ranging in spear color from green to pink and purple — suitable for home garden production. (Purple varieties usually produce more tender spears,
perfect for salads, but they do turn green when cooked. White asparagus, which you may see in produce departments, is not a variety but is produced by restricting sunlight as it emerges.)

In addition to traditional and heirloom varieties, new improved options are also available, including all-male hybrids, which tend to live longer and produce larger spears. And, unlike female asparagus plants, male plants don’t produce seed, which can spread and create a bit of a weed problem in the garden.

This is just the tip of the spear when it comes to learning about asparagus, but if you want to learn more before making a commitment, read up on asparagus production (lots of great information is available online) or ask a local expert for advice. If you’re willing to take the leap, I’m willing to bet you’ll find an asparagus to love.


Katie Jackson is a freelance writer and editor based in Opelika, Alabama. Contact her at

State taking steps to bring back wild quail

Northern bobwhite quail range across most of eastern North America from the Midwest to the Southeast but wild quail became hard to find in the past few decades. Photos by John N. Felsher

For centuries, sportsmen pursued bobwhite quail across the South, but in the past few decades, populations of these wild birds plunged. Today, people mostly hunt pen-raised quail on commercial preserves.

“The wild quail population in Alabama and across the Southeast has been going down since the 1960s,” says Steve Mitchell, an Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources biologist. “The population probably declined 80 percent across the Southeast, but there are pockets on private land and some wildlife management areas that still hold wild quail populations.”

Multiple problems beset wild quail, including flourishing predator populations, but habitat loss probably contributed more to plummeting quail numbers than anything else. Vast pine plantations with trees all planted in rows largely replaced huge strands of the virgin longleaf pine savannas. In addition, giant agricultural corporations plowing every inch of available ground replaced small farms separated by thick fencerows.

Bobwhites prefer grassy fields, brushy rangeland and longleaf pine savannas that provide them seeds and bugs to eat. The birds also require open ground beneath the cover for rearing their young and canopies overhead to hide them from avian predators like hawks.

“Quail habitat is all about cover,” Mitchell says. “If the birds can hide from predators, some quail will survive to breed. Brood rearing cover is the most limiting factor to a quail population. When young birds hatch, the parents take them to a place with early successional growth like a fallow field. It needs to be something that creates a canopy overhead, but open at ground level. It also needs to attract insects.”

On most properties, good management starts with prescribed burning. Fire clears out undesirable growth and eliminates ground debris. Fires also stimulate new plant growth by allowing more sunlight to hit the ground and adding nutrients to the soil. Some seeds only sprout after a fire. On forested property, owners can selectively cut trees to open the canopy. A dense canopy blocks sunlight, which inhibits plant growth at ground level.

“To manage property for quail, I put it on a three-year burning rotation,” says Andy Edwards, a Quail Forever biologist. “Burning removes undesirable species, woody species, thins the grasses and stimulates the seeds already in the seedbank if done at the right time of year. Many plant species require periodic burning to survive.”

Most of the best quail habitat in Alabama exists on private property, but the state began initiatives to increase and enhance quail habitat on public lands. In cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, the state opened Boggy Hollow Wildlife Management Area in 2017. Managed specifically for bobwhite quail, the WMA covers 7,000 acres of the Conecuh National Forest in Covington County.

“Across Alabama, we’re trying all we can to improve quail habitat on our WMAs with marginal or suitable habitat,” Mitchell says. “Hopefully, we’ll see some increases in quail populations on these areas. In the right habitat and right weather conditions, the quail population can rebound pretty well.”

Like most of the surrounding national forest, Boggy Hollow consists mainly of mature longleaf pine forests and open parklike savannas. Land managers periodically burn selective sections and thin forest canopies to create more openings and encourage beneficial successional plants to grow.

“Quail are an early successional species, as are deer, songbirds, rabbits and other kinds of wildlife,” says Griff Johnson, the state biologist over the area. “The focus on Boggy Hollow is bobwhite quail, but what benefits quail also benefits many other species. Quail numbers should increase as we continue doing the habitat work.”

Not far from Boggy Hollow, sportsmen might also spot some wild quail on Blue Springs WMA, which includes 24,783 acres of Covington County. In addition, Geneva State Forest holds wild quail. The largest state forest in Alabama, Geneva covers 16,093 acres of mostly longleaf pine forests in Geneva County near Florala southeast of Andalusia.

Barbour WMA covers 28,214 acres of Barbour and Bullock counties near Clayton. In northern Alabama, quail hunters might also visit Freedom Hills WMA in Colbert County near Cherokee or Lauderdale WMA in Lauderdale County near Waterloo. One of the largest WMAs in Alabama, James D. Martin-Skyline includes 60,732 acres of Jackson County near Scottsboro and holds some wild quail.

With good habitat and proper management, quail numbers can recover rapidly. Private landowners can receive technical assistance from state biologists. For more information, contact the nearest Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division office.


John N. Felsher lives in Semmes, Ala. Contact him through Facebook.

Pasta Passion

Pasta’s simplicity doesn’t deter the many devoted fans of this versatile food.

Mexican Lasagna


On its own, pasta is a very uncomplicated food: It consists of just a few ingredients and requires nothing but a pot of boiling water and a few minutes to be cooked and ready to eat. But plenty of people are passionate about pasta, their affection proving how something quite basic — humble even — can stand out not in spite of, but because of, its simplicity. It’s a blank canvas that lets its partner elements shine and despite often being in the background, it’s the cornerstone of countless tasty dishes.

For many, spaghetti is the best-known pasta, but it’s only one type of this versatile foodstuff. It comes dried or fresh and in a puzzle box of shapes: tubes, ribbons, strands, curly-cues, half-moons and charming bow ties. It can be enjoyed warm: smothered in sauce, baked in a casserole or swimming in a soup. It’s equally appealing drenched in a dressing and served cold as a salad.

It also transcends geographic and cultural boundaries. While it’s Italian in origin, we’ve Americanized pasta and the dishes it stars in, thoroughly mixing another country’s cuisine into our great big melting pot. We’ve made it perfectly at home in multiple “non-Italian” dishes too. The Southern comfort-food favorite macaroni and cheese is a delicious example, one that becomes even more soothing this time of year. A hearty helping of rich, gooey mac and cheese straight from the oven is a good way to keep cozy in February, when it’s often cold (as well as damp) in much of Alabama.

But February is also the month of Valentine’s Day, and for this holiday, another pasta dish is more apropos. If you’ve got a romantic rendezvous planned for the 14th, consider classic spaghetti and meatballs, a la “Lady and the Tramp.” That’s, as the song says, amore! And, to keep the pasta love going all year long, try out each of these reader-submitted recipes.

Cook of the Month

Marsha S. Gardner, Baldwin EMC

There are multiple reasons Marsha Gardner loves her Angel Hair Pasta with Tomatoes & Parmesan. “It’s easy and quick to make. It’s nice and light but also so flavorful. And it  can be used as a side or a main dish,” she said. She’s been making it for years and uses it different ways, often depending on the season. “In summer, we often make a meal out of it, but in the winter, I like to pair with fish or chicken,” she said. And while fresh, fragrant basil makes the dish shine in warmer months, Gardner will substitute rosemary or thyme on occasion too. “I have an herb garden, so whatever looks good out there, I’ll use.”


Angel Hair Pasta with Tomatoes & Parmesan

8 ounces angel hair pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large fresh tomato, chopped or 1/2

(14.5 ounce) can chopped tomatoes

1/2 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 tablespoons basil

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 minutes or until al dente; drain. Add olive oil in a large deep skillet over high heat. Sauté onions and garlic until lightly browned. Reduce heat to medium-high and add tomatoes and chicken broth; simmer for about 8 minutes. Top with crushed red pepper, basil and parmesan cheese.

Ultimate Pasta Salad

4 cups water

1 pound rotini pasta

2 tomatoes, diced

2 cucumbers, diced

1/2 purple onion, diced

1 cup pitted black olives, sliced

1/2 cup bell peppers diced

1 cup chopped ham

1/2 bacon bits

1 package mini pepperoni

1/2 cup shredded cheese

1 1/2 cup Italian dressing

1 stick butter

*If you like more meat, chicken or shrimp may be added.

In a pot, bring water to boil; add 1/2 stick of butter and reserve remaining half to the side for later. Sprinkle salt in water. Once water has come to boil, add pasta and cook for 12-15 minutes. While pasta is cooking, dice the onions, tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers and pour into a mixing bowl. Once pasta is done, strain water off and pour into another bowl. Add other half-stick of butter to the cooked pasta and season according to taste. Stir in all ingredients and top with shredded cheese. Let chill in refrigerator and serve.

Sharlene Parker, Baldwin EMC

Simple Freezer Manicotti

1 package manicotti shells, uncooked

1 pint part-skim ricotta cheese

12 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

¾ cup parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 16-ounce can of spaghetti sauce (your flavor choice)

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning


4 ounces ground beef or Italian

sausage (optional)

Cook’s note: Do not pre-cook manicotti shells. Mix ricotta, 8 ounces of mozzarella, parmesan and parsley in a bowl. Fill/stuff manicotti shells completely with  mixture. Set filled tubes into freezer-safe food container and freeze for later use. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown ground beef/Italian sausage, if used. Pour enough sauce in 11×17-inch baking dish to cover bottom (approx. ½ cup.) Pull shells out of freezer. Place in baking dish. If possible, keep from touching side of dish. Sprinkle beef/sausage over shells. Pour remaining sauce over shells, completely covering all the shells with the sauce. Cover dish with aluminum foil and glass baking dish cover. Foil must be tight around edges of dish before covering with baking dish lid. Bake 45 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle 4 ounces of mozzarella cheese over shells. Bake 10 minutes or until cheese is slightly golden brown/bubbly. Remove from oven, let stand 5 minutes.

Sean Cassidy, Dixie EC

Lemon Pasta Salad with Baby Peas

1 pound bow-tie, orecchiette or other small shell pasta

Kosher salt

1 package frozen baby peas

2 lemons, peeled and juiced

2/3 cup milk

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ teaspoon coarsely ground

black pepper

1 cup fresh basil leaves

4 green onions, thinly sliced

In large saucepot, cook pasta in boiling salted water as label directs, adding frozen peas during last 2 minutes of cooking time. Drain pasta and peas; rinse with cold water and drain well. Meanwhile, from lemons, grate 1 tablespoon peel and squeeze 3 tablespoons juice. In a large bowl, with wire whisk, mix lemon peel and juice with milk, mayonnaise, pepper, basil, green onions and 1 teaspoon salt until blended. Add pasta and peas to mayonnaise dressing; toss to coat well. Cover and refrigerate up to two days if not serving right away.

Marsha S Gardner, Baldwin EMC

Veggie Mac & Cheese Cups

1/2 cup bread crumbs

6 ounces small pasta shells

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8t easpoon black pepper

1/2 cup diced tomatoes

1/2 cup broccoli, cooked and chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 6 cups of a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray. Coat inside of each muffin cup with bread crumbs, reserving a few spoonfuls.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and stir while cooking for 10 minutes. Drain pasta, add back to pot. Stir in cheddar cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon pasta mixture into muffin cups, filling almost to the top. Top each cup with tomato and broccoli. Sprinkle remaining bread crumbs on each. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Unmold from muffin pan gently, with a rounded knife.

Robin O’Sullivan, Wiregrass EC

Quick and Easy Manicotti

1 package manicotti

1 pound ricotta cheese

3 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon parsley flakes

¼ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

Cook manicotti as directed on the package. Drain and cool on wax paper. Blend together ricotta and mozzarella cheese, eggs, parsley, salt and pepper. Stuff manicotti with cheese filling and place in a buttered dish.


Tomatoes and artichokes:

3 6-ounce jars marinated artichokes

1 large onion, chopped

1 teaspoon oregano

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon basil

pinch of red pepper flakes

3 8-ounce cans diced tomatoes

¼ cup parmesan cheese

Drain artichoke marinade into a pan. Chop artichoke hearts; set aside. Add garlic, oregano, basil and pepper flakes to marinade and cook until soft. Add tomatoes with juice and cover. Simmer for 35 minutes. Add parmesan cheese and chopped artichokes. Stir and pour over manicotti. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until bubbly.

Lexie Turnipseed, Dixie EC

Cheesy White Chicken Lasagna with Spinach


1/4 cup butter

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 cups milk

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes


9 whole lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 pound ground chicken

16 ounces mushrooms, minced

4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

2 cups ricotta cheese

16 ounces baby spinach

1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese

Parsley, chopped for garnish


In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the softened onions, then stir to combine, cooking for another 1-2 minutes. Whisk the chicken broth and milk into the onion and flour mixture, stir constantly until the sauce simmers and thickens, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in the basil, oregano, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and remove from heat.


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain and lay out in a single layer on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray so they don’t stick. In the same pot, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the spinach and cook for 3-4 minutes until wilted. Drain in a colander, squeezing out as much excess water as possible. In a large pan, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat, then combine the ground chicken and mushrooms and brown together until the chicken is cooked through. Drain off any liquid. To assemble, spread 1/4 of the sauce on the bottom of a large 9×13-inch baking dish. Lay 3 of the cooked lasagna noodles on top. Layer on 1/2 of the chicken and mushroom mixture, then spread 1/2 of the wilted spinach on top. Dollop with half of the ricotta cheese mixture, then spread with another 1/4 of the sauce. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Arrange 3 more of the lasagna noodles over the first layer, then repeat the rest of the layers. Finish the lasagna by arranging the last three noodles on top, then spread with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with the last of the mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes until hot and bubbly, finishing under the broiler just to add a little color to the top, but being careful not to burn the cheese. Let the lasagna stand for at least 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving. Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley, if desired.

Michael Rich, Sand Mountain EC

Mexican Lasagna

1 pound hamburger, browned and drained

1 package taco seasoning with 2/3 cup water

1 can refried beans

1 package lasagna noodles, uncooked

2 1/2 cups water

24 ounces picante salsa

16 ounces sour cream

2 cups cheese, grated (Mexican blend, finely grated)

1 can black olives, sliced

Green onions sliced, tops only

Brown and drain hamburger. Add taco seasoning mix with required water on package and refried beans. In greased 9×13-inch pan, layer 1/3 uncooked lasagna noodles, 1/2 of meat mixture, another 1/3 of uncooked lasagna noodles, remaining meat mixture and final layer of uncooked lasagna noodles. Mix 21/2 cups water with salsa. Pour over top of noodles. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 1.5 hours. Remove from oven and remove foil. Add sour cream, grated cheese, green onions and black olives. Bake about 5 minutes until cheese is melted and toppings are heated through. Serve with nacho chips or salad.

Marjorie Sullivan, Sand Mountain EC

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Laissez les bons temps rouler*, Bubba

*Translated from the Cajun French, “Let the good times roll.”

Growing up in the 1950s in South Alabama, I dreaded this time of year. The dark of winter was still upon us and spring seemed a long time coming. To make our situation all the worse, while we slogged through the cold and damp, 100 miles down the road they were celebrating.

Mardi Gras in Mobile.

I naturally wanted to go, wanted to join the fun and festivities, the parades and parties and such. Unfortunately, I couldn’t.

Not just because the celebrating took place when my upcountry school was in session.  I had played hooky for less attractive things.

The real reason I could not join the fun was that to really enjoy Mardi Gras you had to be on the inside, socially and economically.  I wasn’t.

Mardi Gras in Mobile had always been a confirmation of class.  To be in one of the Mystic Societies, ride on the floats and go to the parties, you had to have connections, status, and money.

If you didn’t, all you could do was watch the parade pass you by.

Which is what people from up my way did, if they bothered to go at all.

What I did not know at the time was that despite the best efforts of the upper classes to keep Carnival exclusive and elitist, a revolution of sorts was under way.

It started during World War II.

When America went to war, what one old Mobilian described as “the lowest type of poor whites” flocked in to work in the shipyards.  Mobilians tolerated them as a wartime necessity but that was all. “I only hope,” one local wrote, that when victory is won, “we can get rid of them.”

Only they couldn’t.

Instead of leaving, many stayed to become part of the rising postwar middle class.

And there is nothing a rising middle class enjoys more than displaying the evidence of their rise.

And there was no better way for the nouveau Mobilians, the bourgeois Bubbas from the “backwoods,” to certify their arrival and assimilation than to become part of the city’s most celebrated show of status – Mardi Gras.

But they couldn’t. Most mystic societies had a waiting list loaded with the better-bred.

So, the up-and-coming created their own.

Years later a founder of one of the new associations recalled how his mystic society met in a pool hall, only charged $35 a year in dues, and “never heard of waiting lists.”

And as the barriers came down, Mardi Gras spread.

In outlying communities, folks organized their own mystic societies and let the good times roll in their own backyards.

One year the town of Chatom hosted a parade that included floats sponsored by S&S Cleaners and the Post Office. Daphne had a family-focused celebration complete with floats from Publix, the Humane Society and Chick-Fil-A (since the event wasn’t on Sunday). Prichard, Fairhope, Foley, Gulf Shores, and Orange Beach also celebrated.

Which, as far as I am concerned, is just great.

For folks looking for a break from the winter doldrums, Mardi Gras comes along at the right time.

Meanwhile, in Mobile where it all began, as the sun sets on Fat Tuesday, the Order of Myths march. And on the last float of this last parade there will be Folly chasing Death around the broken Column of Life.

A reminder that the next day is Ash Wednesday and we are mortal after all.


Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist for Alabama Living. He can be reached at

Snapshots: Father-Daughter Dance

Rhett and Phoebe Pilkington’s first father-daughter dance. SUBMITTED BY Rachel Pilkington, Thomasville.

Kady (8 years old) and stepdad Tyler Melton. SUBMITTED BY Sandy Kiplinger, Union Grove.

Brooks, Hallie, Quinn and Maryn-Brooke Bennett at Slocomb Elementary’s daddy-daughter dance. SUBMITTED BY Whitney Bennett, Hartford.

Laura Stanton Strickler and dad, Sean, at the Capital City Club Daddy-Daughter Dance in 2013. SUBMITTED BY Sean Strickler, Montgomery.

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WTD: Vintage dining and shopping under one roof

By Lenore Vickrey

Fort Payne, Alabama, is known by many as the home of the supergroup Alabama, and for many years as the “sock capital of the world.” But travelers and residents alike know it as the home of a popular restaurant, Vintage 1889 Café, which operates right next to an equally popular antique mall.

Owner Lynn Brewer’s involvement with Vintage 1889 actually began in October 2011 with the opening of the Big Mill Antique Mall. Her husband, Fort Payne dentist Dr. Stephen Brewer, had owned the 1889 National Historic Registry building, formerly the home of the W.B. Davis Hosiery Mill, since the 1990s.

Owner Lynn Brewer with a trio of Vintage 1889 entrees: BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger with kettle chips, Vintage Style Shrimp & Grits, and Grown-up Grilled Cheese with Roasted Red Pepper Smoked Gouda Soup.

(Some history: The building had been constructed in 1889 by Alabama Builders Hardware Manufacturing Co. to make ornate bronze and iron designs for new homes being built by northern investors who’d moved south in the “boom days” of coal and iron. As that era declined, the hosiery industry began to take off, and the Davis Hosiery Mill was one of more than 100 mills in the area that employed more than 7,000 people for decades, making more than half the socks in the United States. But the trade agreements of the 1990s that lowered tariffs on textile imports essentially put many of the sock mills, including Davis, out of business.)

The Davis Mill building “had been opened as an antique mall before, but closed earlier that year (2011),” says Lynn, who is also a member of the Fort Payne City Council.  “There was also a restaurant area that had been open as a deli, but was also closed. The plan was to rent the restaurant out, but after two failed attempts, my husband and I decided I should also open the restaurant.” So in September 2013, Vintage 1889 was born.

A bowl of House-Roasted Red Pepper Gouda Soup is a popular warm-up on a cold day.

For Lynn, it wasn’t totally unfamiliar territory. Her father had opened the first fast food restaurant in Fort Payne in 1963 and was known for his famous “Bonanza Burger.”  Fittingly, burgers are a staple on the Vintage 1889’s menu. Diners can choose from the Vintage Burger, lean ground beef served on a pretzel bun with house sauce, spring mix, tomato, onion and pickle, or a Black & Blue Burger, with added blue cheese crumbles, or the Goat Cheese Pesto Burger with goat cheese crumbles and house pesto. There’s even the Jessy Burger, a ground beef patty squeezed between three donuts, topped with cheese, bacon, sauce and balsamic reduction.

“We were voted the best burger in town,” says Lynn. “That would have made my Dad proud.”

Servers Heather Wooten and Carrie Keef clown with chef Jon Nickelson.

The original menu, which is now the lunch menu, “was built around the premise of my grandmother’s sandwiches she made me as a child,” she says. “Most sandwiches have a family connection. My nana was always trying something new, so I took those sandwiches and put a new twist on them.”

Accordingly, Nana’s Roast Beef sandwich is a popular lunch entrée, with fork-tender roast beef, grilled red onion, gruyere and blue cheeses, topped with horseradish sauce on a ciabatta roll. The Vintage Cuban (smoked pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and homemade Cuban sauce on a telera roll) and Brittany’s Club (white meat chicken, ham, bacon, cheddar and swiss cheeses, special sauce, spring mix and tomato on ciabatta) are two other favorites. There is also an assortment of salads.

The dinner entrees include more crowd-pleasers, from Vintage Style Shrimp & Grits made with local sausage in the tasso gravy, to the 8-oz. filet mignon. Dinner is also when the bar business gets hopping, as the restaurant is committed to supporting as many local breweries as possible.

“We sell a lot of Back Forty Beer (made in Gadsden), Rocket Republic (Huntsville) and Straight to Ale (Huntsville), both bottle and draft,” says Lynn. “There are more, but it depends on the season and what beers are selling in the area.” She also likes to spotlight local and visiting musicians to provide live music.

The décor of the restaurant, with its old brick and vintage photographs and artwork, add to the rustic charm and echo the bounty of antique and artisan wares awaiting perusal next door at the Big Mill. Weather permitting, diners also can sit outside in the courtyard, underneath the old water tower, and there is a large special event venue, the Boarding Room, available for large groups and parties.

For more info, visit or the Facebook pages for the restaurant and the Big Mill Co.

Vintage Café and Big Mill Artisans & Antiques

151 8th Street NE

Fort Payne, AL 35967



Monday-Wednesday 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Thursday-Saturday 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.

Sunday Closed