Tuesday, December 19, 2006
We evacuated the Compound and went into hiding this weekend. I planned this little getaway a few weeks ago; my thinking was that everyone would be feeling a little frazzled, and it would be a good idea for the four of us to just get away together and relax a bit before the home stretch.
I rented a cabin at Brown County State Park in Nashville, Indiana. The plan was we'd drive down there Friday afternoon, walk around the woods, go to some antique stores on Saturday, walk around the woods some more, and drive home Sunday. Along the way we'd have some meaningful conversations, and return feeling strengthened and renewed, ready for Christmas and all its joys and challenges.
In brief: the cabin was great, Brown County State Park was great. Our cabin was perched at the top of a ridge, looking down over a little creek. The view was lovely. The woods around the cabin were full of birds, particularly woodpeckers. The cabin also had one of the most wonderful lamps I've ever seen. The lamp was constructed of wood and little glued stones and had a tiny deer head on it, and a little glowing orange lightbulb to simulate the fire in a fireplace. You could find many items like it for sale in Nashville.
The town of Nashville was a touristy waste of time. It was probably fun 20 or 30 years ago, but it's now full of places that spell shop "shoppe" and time "tyme." We found shoppes with "ye" and "olde" but we were disappointed that there was no single shoppe that pulled it all together; something like "Ye Olde Tyme Curiousity Shoppe." The smothering odor of potpourri sachets and scented candles hung over the entire town. Picture Frankenmuth, Michigan, or an overly-themed Long Grove, Illinois. I was thankful that it was off-season, so we didn't have to deal with hordes of well-fed, middle-aged Harley Davidson enthusiasts and bus tour groups.
Being in the woods, though, however briefly, was restorative. Saturday night we walked down the ravine behind our cabin and crossed a little wooden footbridge to sit on a wooden bench. It was lovely, sitting there listening to the creek, the smell of damp earth, leaves and wood smoke finally driving away the cloying tang of fake pumpkin pie spice candles. Brown County, geologically speaking, is a beautiful place, and worth visiting to hike or camp.
On Saturday afternoon we drove up to Jonathan Byrd's Cafeteria, just south of Indianapolis on I-65. We met my mom, brothers and their families, and our oldest family friends, Sam and Thelma, for lunch there. Sam and Thelma live in Louisville, and it seemed like a good place for everyone to meet. My brothers and my mom planned this, and it worked out great that we were going to be in the area anyway that weekend. We spent a couple of hours sitting and talking after lunch, catching up. One of my oldest memories is of "driving" a car on Dixie Highway outside Louisville; in the freewheeling days before we all became so concerned with things like child seats and safety belts, Sam let me sit in his lap and steer while we all drove somewhere. I should've asked where it was we actually ended up that day. Anyway, if you're ever driving on 65 and need to strap on a feedbag, Jonathan Byrd's is a good place to stop.
Speaking of food, I found two regional treats that I'd never eaten before: sugar cream pie and fried biscuits. Mmmm MMM. Sugar cream pie is also known as Hoosier sugar cream pie, or Indiana cream pie. It's a recipe that originates with Shaker communities in southern Indiana. Picture a very rich, buttery but not too sweet custard pie, and you've just about got it. We saw "fried biscuits and apple butter" advertised in a bunch of restaurants around Brown County. On Saturday night we ate dinner at the Abe Martin Lodge, and they served a basket of fried biscuits with dinner. Oh man.
Fried biscuits are basically balls of biscuit dough, deep-fried, dusted in sugar and cinammon, and served with apple butter. Oh lord, were they good. We got a second basket to go, and ate them for breakfast Sunday morning. I'm looking for a good recipe to do this one at home.
As far as antique stores, we didn't find a single one in or around Nashville. Nothing but pukey ducks and scented candles. Oh, and did I mention you could buy potpourri? There was also a place purporting to be a "winery" that was actually selling wine from California for about $10 a bottle more than I'd pay at Binny's. We did find an excellent place on 6th Street in Bloomington, right off Walnut, and spent a couple hours there on Sunday.
Well, it's getting late and it's time to get to bed. It's good to be home.