The morning I left the Alluvian and the Viking Cooking School for home, I said to one of the people I had met the night before, "Back to reality." I'm not exactly sure what I meant when I said, "Back to reality," because it could have had a thousand nuanced meanings. I could have meant that my life isn't great and the weekend was a diversion from misery, but I didn't mean that. I love my life and can only think of a few things that I would change. I could have meant that the lull in regular activity was a diversion from reality. I could have meant that the surroundings and activities were so structured that they provided a break from reality. I could have meant that the surroundings were so spectacular that they seemed out of place.
Whatever I meant when those words escaped from my lips, I had a fabulous diversion in Greenwood, MS. My fantastic mother-in-law gave me and my sister-in-law a weekend cooking retreat for Christmas. We attended the Viking Cooking School, which is not so much a cooking school, as a place for you to use and fall in love with Viking equipment and socialize. I have been to a professional cooking school and this is nothing like that. This was just fun. By the time I left, I felt as if I knew people who hours before were perfect strangers. By the time I left, I had eaten well over any one's calorie allotment for a day, but had done so by eating well made and delicious food, not a bag of Robin Eggs. By the time I left, I felt relaxed, lucky, and just plain happy.
We stayed across the street at the Alluvian Hotel and Spa. Accommodations are unbelievably spacious, luscious, and just astounding. Go to their web site and have a look. The complimentary Southern breakfast is the final touch - the little extra that all true Southerners feel the need to add. All this and I haven't even mentioned what wonderful companionship my sister-in-law is. She even suggested we go to a bookstore. She suggested it. I promise.
Turnrow Books is a new independent bookstore in Mississippi. We have a wonderful literary tradition here and independence is our mantra. The entire first floor of this wonderful store focuses on the South, particularly Mississippi. Many of you are thinking it must be tiny. But, Mississippians are verbose. We cook, we date, we marry, we divorce, we read, we write, we grow flowers, we arrange flowers, we decorate houses, we take pictures and we want to talk about it. All these beautiful books are here. I bought a book because I have a passion to support independent book stores. I also have a passion for Southern writers. Plus, I needed a memento of my excursion. My husband understood.
Let's talk about my sister-in-law (I don't think she reads here so I can talk about her). My sister-in-law is one of those rare people for whom I can think of absolutely nothing negative to say. She is kind, happy, never meets a stranger, remembers names, cares about others, sets boundaries(and keeps them), and is honest even with herself. She has fantastic college age children (I hope my children turn out so well). She is together. I loved watching her interact with people across the enormous work table. I loved watching her explore the room. I loved watching her turn perfect strangers into friends. She is the Old South.
She also knew the way to the Alluvian. I never called for directions before I left home. I just pulled off Highway 82 at the first Greenwood sign. I saw the parts of Greenwood that Viking and the Alluvian and the investors behind the four or five block downtown restoration would prefer you not to see. It is a different world. Reality. Not to say that the well read, well polished public face of Greenwood is not reality, too. It is just a different reality. If the South ever comes to terms with the dual realities, it may not need to write.