Ah, Labor Day weekend. It’s either the last hurrah of summer or, as we’ve determined earlier, a mid-semester break.
However you refer to it, I hope it means fun, food, friends and family. For us, it means all of those things in a cabin in Galtinburg, Tennessee.
This is a favorite destination of ours for long holiday weekends. If you’ve never been to this eastern Tennessee tourist mecca, it’s a must see attraction if Branson or the TLC network ever close.
I am by no means a historian, but after many trips to this particular fun spot, I’ve pieced together what I think can only be a logical history and a list of things not to miss during your visit.
Robert Ripley–of Ripley’s Believe it or Not Fame–was probably an original settler of the Smoky Mountains. He discovered wax relics of pop culture celebrities as he navigated the foothills in a Go-Kart and airbrushed t-shirt. He also discovered an enormous saltwater aquarium which can still be seen today. (For $38 per adult admission.)
Adding to the unique period architecture of the region which includes a staggering amount of Elvis, King Kong and Marilyn Monroe sculpture, there is an upside down museum next to the curiously beached, landlocked Titanic wreckage complete with a fiberglass iceberg and show tunes. Lest you think that is the extent of the arts in Pigeon Forge, please don’t miss dueling lumberjacks or Hatfield and McCoy dinner theatre.
The original cuisine for East Tennessee natives is pancakes, fudge and chain restaurant food. I assume. You’ll have no trouble finding any. Make sure to wash down your (again, curiously landlocked) Bubba Gump shrimp with some local moonshine, or as I like to call it, “Disqualification from the liver or esophagus transplant donor list.” See if your palate can distinguish the subtle differences between a corn mash and a corn cob pipe accidentally dropped into the still.
And just when you think you can’t stand to see another miniature golf course or a pan for your own gold and gem mine trough, you find the real treasure. Tubing down a crystal clear river with your good friends. Watching a bear (from a safe distance of course) walk through your backyard for a marshmallow leftover from a roast the night before. Playing “Guess What Left That Scat,” on your cabin balcony. Wine and a sunset on freshly swept said balcony. Stars, lots of them. A place to celebrate something. Or nothing at all.
So I hope this weekend finds you in a spot you can rewrite history. Even if it’s standing alongside of the General Lee at Cooter’s Museum and Fun Park.
This pasta salad recipe speaks to both my midwestern and fake Italian roots. Perfect for a party.
Party Pasta Salad
3 Tablespoons capers (use the rest of the jar for the salad)
3 garlic cloves
1 T. tomato paste
1/4 c. kalamata olives, pitted and sliced (use the rest of the jar for the salad)
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
Pepper to taste
1/3 c. red wine vinegar
3/4 c. olive oil
2 boxes rotelle or spiral pasta cooked al dente
1 12 oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and rough chopped
1 6 oz. jar kalamata olives, sliced and drained
1 12 oz. jar roasted red peppers, sliced and drained
1 8 oz block mozzarella cheese, cubed
1 8 oz. block of cheddar, cubed
8 oz. salami, cubed
1 small red onion
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
1.) Pulse first 5 ingredients of vinaigrette in food processor. Add pepper and vinegar, pulse again to blend. With processor running, drizzle in olive oil. (It will seem very salty and vinegary at this stage, but it will mellow out.
2.) Cook pasta al dente, drain and place in large bowl. Add dressing to warm pasta, and add the rest of the ingredients and anything else that sounds good. Lots of different flavors and textures makes this salad different but good.
3.) Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours but better if overnight.
©2013 Tracey Henry