Nothing says holiday weekend like moonshine and a Titanic replica

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.

Even bears love Party Pasta Salad
Even bears love Party Pasta Salad

This pasta salad recipe speaks to both my midwestern and fake Italian roots. Perfect for a party.

Party Pasta Salad

Vinaigrette:

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

Salad:

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

#SouthernHomeownerProbz

Fire-Roasted Marinated Red Peppers and Olives
Fire-Roasted Marinated Red Peppers and Olives

Although we have settled in nicely into our new home, there are still a couple of aspects of Southern life that I have yet to get used to. Oh, I’ve mastered yelling “UNSWEET” quickly after I order my iced tea. I’ve figured out what a Meat and Three is and I’ve even learned that rain makes corn and corn makes whiskey, as well as making Tennessee cars slow to .4 mph. But even after all of these Southern life lessons, my biggest conundrum remains: how anything gets done around here.

I’ve said before that someone could make a fortune actually providing services that people want and need down here, and yes, I realize that makes me sound like a Yankee carpetbagger. But then at least YOU’D HAVE SOMEONE INSTALLING CARPETS, SOUTH.

Our homeowner troubles began before we even moved in when the landscaper from the previous owner wanted to charge us $5600 for yard work. On the yard that he had been paid to maintain. And then it was the cable company who installed cable in the house, but if I wanted any “non-covered” services like moving the TV or putting batteries in the remote, I could pay them cash on the side.

We hired a carpenter to build some shelves and install a wine cooler. After months of excuses, on the day he was supposed to deliver it his wife emailed to say the cooler had died in an unfortunate car accident on the way to our house along with the receipt and dental records.

I had a repair man come out to fix our gas grill. Before he even rounded the corner to the back yard, he threw up his hands and declared that “on behalf of myself and Sears, I decline to work on this equipment,” as if he was stating his intentions to a hidden NSA agent. He said I didn’t have a “grill,” I had a “De-luxe Bar-B-Cue System,” that required a specialty repair service from a fire and hearth store, despite having bought the stupid thing at Sears the year before.

We’ve had three different trash companies because they just stop picking up, you know, trash?

I’ve been on the phone getting solicited to sign a service contract with an A/C company that I’m already under contract with. When I reminded them that I was due for a service call, I had to wait 2 1/2 months before they could find an opening. And they even had to reschedule that appointment because “it looked like rain.”

When we decided to get an outdoor fireplace built like many of our neighbors, I started calling the numbers from some of the home magazine advertisements. Only one actually came out and then wouldn’t show us a rendering until we paid a deposit so we wouldn’t use anyone else. I went to a store that had outdoor fireplaces on display at its entrance. I filled out a request form in person for a contractor to contact me. Not only did they never call, but I think they blocked my number and put my picture on the wall warning that I was as dumb as, and therefore not to be sold any boxes of rocks.

So when in a last ditch effort for outdoor warmth a postcard addressed to “Resident” which I was beginning to doubt referred to me, arrived with pictures of fire pits and hardscapes I was not only hesitant and skeptical, but perhaps a bit masochistic when I placed the call.

I left a message knowing full well it would only end in ignored heartbreak, but much to my shock and awe, he returned the call. And he came out that same day to take measurements and give me a brochure. And then he emailed me that very night with an actual price quote.

And then if I heard him right over my screams of joy, he said he could start the work on MONDAY.

When the orchestra of angels quieted, I sent a quick note to my Homeowner’s Association letting them know that s’mores were being served at our house next weekend and instead of offering to bring graham crackers, the woman sent back an architectural modification request form and instructions that it would take 45 days for a response.

45 days? South, have you met you?

Because I assume that a Homeowners Association are owners of homes associated with my geographic area and therefore know that the number of obstacles, natural disasters, suspicious fires, and shiny things that can derail a home maintenance project in the South are only outnumbered by the amount of cowboy boots and aspiring country singers at Tootsies on a Saturday night.

And before you think this is only limited my bad northerner luck, our neighborhood clubhouse holds a support group for grief-ridden residents mourning the loss of their deposits and souls to a driveway sealant company every Tuesday.

At the time of this publication, I face a dilemma. Do I listen to the proverbial angel on my shoulder telling me to submit the required paperwork, wait for the inevitable approval a month and half later and based on nothing in my history, experience or common sense hope that the contractor will still be in business, available and/or not incarcerated? Or does the devil’s advice of submitting the paperwork but going ahead with the project before the actual approval comes and risking nasty letters and possible fines from HOA win out?

I hear official stationary makes the best kindling on cool Southern nights.

 

*******

Fire-roasted, Marinated Red Peppers and Olives

(Adapted from the Viking Cooking School) vikingrange.com

2 large red peppers

3 Tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed

5-6 oz. pitted olives such as kalamata

 

Vinaigrette (Use the extra on a salad or a dip for fresh bread)

 

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 1/2 lemons)

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

!/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)

1/2 teaspoon fennel seed, lightly crushed

1/2 teaspoon sugar

3/4 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

1.) Char the red peppers by placing directly over an open flame such as an illegal outdoor fireplace or your gas stove burner.  Hold with tongs to blacken the entire surface then place into a bowl and tightly wrap with plastic. Let sit in wrapped bowl for 30 minutes or until cool enough to handle.

2.) Peel away all of the skin off the peppers, remove core and seeds, and slice into thin strips. Arrange on small platter.

3.) Mix the first 6 vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl. While whisking, slowly add the olive oil to form a dressing. Season with salt, pepper and sugar to taste. Set aside.

4.) Pour half of the marinade over the peppers, rough chop the olives and mix in the remaining marinade. Layer olives over top peppers and sprinkle on capers. Serve at room temperature.

5.) Serve proudly at the next HOA Disciplinary Hearing.

 

©2013 Tracey Henry