DeSoto Magazine February 2021

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February CONTENTS 2021 • VOLUME 18 • NO. 2


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LeAnn Rimes and Her ​Journey to Health & Wholeness

A Guide for Getting ​Fit at Any Age

Ancient Labyrinths: ​Tools of Healing

departments 16 Living Well ​Modern Vascular of Southaven ​ 20 Notables Miss USA Asya Branch

40 On the Road Again Seaside, Florida 42 Greater Goods 62 Homegrown ​Lilah’s King Cakes

24 Exploring Art ​Cathy Talbot 28 Exploring Books ​Say Yes to What’s Next

66 Southern Gentleman ​A New Way to Salsa 70 Southern Harmony Memphis Slim Collaboratory

30 Southern Roots Mark LaSalle

72 In Good Spirits ​King Cake Punch

34 Table Talk ​Sugar’s Ribs 36 Exploring Destinations ​Beech Mountain, N.C.


74 Reflections ​Always Hope



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editor’s note | FEBRUARY

A Fresh Resolve

Facing 2021 in Good Health Celebrating good health takes on new meaning this year as we continue to fight a deadline pandemic. In addition to changing our physical and culinary routines to recharge our bodies, the new year could require looking within to discover the necessary changes to improve our souls. Recording star and Mississippi native LeAnn Rimes, who rose to stardom at an early age, performed such a reflective journey when she hit age 30 and her current recordings mirror this insight. Writer Pam Windsor offers a peek into her new projects. And yes, Rimes was revealed to be this year’s Masked Singer! One centuries-old way to reach deep inside the human psyche for healing is walking the labyrinth. Michele D. Baker explains how it works and where to find these ancient paths — there are many — in the Deep South. And for those who dread beginning an exercise routine — I’m guilty! — Tracy Morin breaks it down by age group. After reading what experts suggest, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to return to prime health. My usual exercise of choice this time of year is reaching for beads at Mardi Gras parades. That’s me riding in Shreveport’s Highland Parade, one of many forced to be cancelled due to the pandemic. I offer ways to celebrate Carnival in my monthly In Good Spirits

FEBRUARY 2021 • Vol. 18 No.2


column, but to be honest, I’ll be ignoring “Fat Tuesday” this year and taking some of our suggestions to eliminate the “COVID 10” — as in pounds — I have accumulated. In other stories, we travel to Beech Mountain, N.C., where snow lovers tackle one of the highest mountains on the East Coast; we forage for edibles in the wild with naturalist Mark LaSalle on the Mississippi Coast; and we sit down with Asya Branch, the first Miss Mississippi USA to win the national title of Miss USA. And there’s so much more. Take time to be healthy and please stay safe. But also, Happy Carnival!

Cheré Coen

CONTRIBUTORS Tom Atkinson Michele D. Baker Cheré Coen Mary Ann DeSantis Jackie Sheckler Finch Jason Frye Pamela A. Keene Karen Ott Mayer Tracy Morin Karon Warren Kevin Wierzbicki Pam Windsor PUBLISHED BY DeSoto Media 2375 Memphis St. Ste 208 Hernando, MS 38632 662.429.4617 ADVERTISING INFO: Paula Mitchell 901-262-9887 SUBSCRIBE:

on the cover

Recording star and Mississippi native LeAnn Rimes. Photo by Sara Hertel.

©2021 DeSoto Media Co. DeSoto Magazine must give permission for any material contained herein t o b e re p ro d u c e d i n a n y m a n n e r. Any advertisements published in DeSoto Magazine do not constitute an endorsement of the advertiser’s services or products. DeSoto Magazine is published monthly by DeSoto Media Co. Parties interested in advertising should email or call 901-262-9887. Visit us online at

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living well | MODERN VASCULAR

Modern Vascular: Fighting an Elusive Disease By Karen Ott Mayer Photography courtesy of Modern Vascular of Southaven

New specialty practice offers patients in the Tri-State region more options when treating circulatory problems due to artery blockages. How do your legs and feet feel? Unless obviously injured, we do not typically attribute daily aches or pains in our lower extremities to anything other than strenuous work, too much walking, weight gain, or not enough rest. But could it be a sign of something more serious? For Drs. Stephen Leschak and Wande Pratt of Modern Vascular of Southaven in north Mississippi, those subtle symptoms may indicate a deeper condition called peripheral artery disease or what is commonly referred to as PAD. If left untreated, PAD can develop into critical limb ischemia which 18 DeSoto

means the patient’s arteries are severely diseased to the point that an amputation may be necessary. Leschak has more than 20 years of experience and training with fellowships from both Duke University and the University of Pittsburgh. Pratt received his undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago, and his Doctor of Medicine and Master of Public Health from Harvard Medical School. Pratt completed a clinical fellowship in vascular and endovascular surgery at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.

Dr. Pratt

Since opening Modern Vascular in July 2020, the pair has brought much needed diagnoses and interventions for those who currently suffer from peripheral artery disease. Pratt offers a clear explanation of what happens in the circulatory system. “Think of veins and arteries as the highways within our bodies,” Pratt explains. “The arteries carry blood flow away from the heart. The larger arteries act like Interstate 55. The smaller arteries, like those in your feet, function like side streets and back roads. Veins carry blood towards the heart and are smaller. Arteries have much higher pressure than veins and are most important for causing leg pain and wounds.” Essentially, what happens over time is these highways of the body become narrowed and obstructed and the blood flow lessens, especially to the feet and lower legs. While both physicians are originally from the Northeast, each has trained and delivered care from Texas to the Midwest, settling in the South where they believe care is greatly needed. Since their arrival, they have offered patients options for treatment, especially in those cases where amputation seems the only alternative. While those extreme cases make up only a small percentage of their patients, identifying the disease early and treating it is key to maintaining good health. “We see a lack of understanding when it comes to saving a limb,” Pratt says. “Our role and mission is to save limbs.”

Dr. Leschak

The doctors acknowledge their field of vascular surgery and interventional radiology is still evolving and diagnoses rely on patient history and routine scheduled screenings each year. “Ultrasound is the best screening tool we have,” Pratt explains. “It’s non-invasive, comfortable for the patient and gives us a preliminary view of the larger and medium-sized arteries.” Just like the symptoms which can be subtle, vague or intermittent, a diagnosis isn’t always straightforward. “This affects all genders, ages, and races,” he adds. “It’s not as if we can say one individual group is more at risk than another, so we view PAD as being part of a spectrum.” Certain risk factors exist that increase the condition. Diabetes, smoking, family history of PAD, poor diet, and lack of exercise all may contribute not only to PAD but to other serious health conditions like strokes or heart attacks. Unfortunately, Southerners rank higher than other regional populations when it comes to chronic disease like diabetes. Leschak’s practice sees a lot of critical ischemic patients (CLI), which can lead to limb loss. “We do see a difference in this geography with a higher diabetic population,” says Leschak. “Diabetics have a higher incidence of critical limb ischemia and therefore should be screened regularly, especially as they get older.” At Modern Vascular, treatments focus on the DeSoto 19

revascularization of arteries, or in simpler terms, the intent to open up a blockage similar to the way a heart doctor performs a bypass or stent. Experts in their fields with board certifications in vascular and endovascular surgery, the doctors help restore blood flow through minimally invasive procedures that include stents and angioplasty. “We can help these patients without having long hospital stays or making painful incisions,” says Pratt. “Our patients go home the same day.” Leschak and Pratt stress the importance of maintaining good cardiovascular health to prevent future problems. “If diabetic, maintain healthy blood glucose levels because of the high morbidity and limb loss for diabetics,” says Leschak. “We encourage patients who are high risk and facing limb loss to get a second opinion. We are focused on alternative therapies that are an alternative to amputation. We are working to save limbs.” Is it my veins or arteries giving me pain?

At Modern Vascular, a simple consultation and diagnostics can help determine the source and severity of pain. Things to consider: 1) Do you have resting pain at night like sudden, severe cramps in the toes, calves or legs? 2) Do you experience swelling or burning pain? 3) Do you have sores or ulcers on your lower limbs or feet? 4) Do your feet or toes feel numb? 5) Do your feet or toes feel cold? Visit and take a free and easy online quiz to assess your personal risk level.

With healthcare as one of her specialty areas, Karen Ott Mayer has interviewed hundreds of doctors during her writing career, helping readers gain greater insight to better health.

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notables | ASYA BRANCH

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Branching Out By Karon Warren Photography courtesy of Jessielyn and Benjamin Askinas

Booneville’s Asya Branch made history when she became the first Miss Mississippi USA to win the national title of Miss USA. She’s now headed to the Miss Universe pageant. ​ Asya Branch didn’t grow up competing in pageants. In fact, she didn’t participate in her first pageant until she was a senior in high school. However, she did take part in a school beauty review in first grade, at which time she told her mother she wanted to be Miss Mississippi one day. ​ Originally from Detroit, Branch, now 22, moved to Booneville, Miss., in 2003 with her family, where she fell in love with being on stage while growing up. ​“As a child, I loved being in the spotlight,” she says. “I would make my family come down to the living room, and I’d put on a concert. My family would tell you I’ve been singing since I could talk.” ​However, when she actually had her first live performance for others — singing “Holly Jolly Christmas” at age 11 during a Christmas concert — Branch experienced a slight setback. ​“I forgot the words,” she says. “I blanked and froze up. I’ll never forget, my mom was on the front row and tried to mouth me the words, but she was on the wrong part of the song and so I just stood there smiling out at the audience. I think I came in on the very last verse of the song. That kind of haunted me for about a year or so, but I got back up there later and tried again and was a bit more confident.” ​That confidence would bloom and grow through the years as Branch competed in pageants as a teenager.

​ “I saw pageants as an outlet for me because I felt comfortable on stage, but it also pulled me out of my shell and helped me improve on different skill sets and become more confident in front of an audience,” she says. “After my first one, I actually really enjoyed it, and I was learning so much.” ​It’s a path Branch doesn’t think she would have traveled had her family remained in Detroit. ​“I probably would never have discovered pageants in Michigan because they’re not as big a deal as they are in the South,” she says. “I do think the trajectory of my future would have turned out completely different if we hadn’t moved to the South. I’m grateful for that big move.” ​When she was named Miss USA last November, Branch made history: She became the first Miss Mississippi USA contestant to win the national title. But making history was nothing new for her. Two years earlier, she was the first African American woman to become Miss Mississippi USA. ​ Breaking barriers as both Miss Mississippi USA and Miss USA was not something Branch ever expected, either, but it’s an experience she wouldn’t trade for anything. ​“It’s been amazing,” she says. “I never thought I’d be able to break barriers like this. It’s truly an honor, and it’s humbling. I love it because it gives me an opportunity to show so many young people that it doesn’t matter where you come from, it doesn’t matter your background, it doesn’t matter DeSoto 23

what you look like. If you have a goal or dream, you should fight for it. You should go for it, because you can be that ‘first.’ People see there are still barriers to knock down, and they should break them down. ​“It’s so exciting to me to be able to have done that and to make history for the state of Mississippi, while also being an example to someone else who also wants to make history or be a ‘first’ in some way.” ​A senior at the University of Mississippi studying integrated marketing communications, Branch is using her time as Miss USA to reach out and help the children of incarcerated parents, something she experienced firsthand. When she was 10, her father was arrested on kidnapping and armed robbery charges, for which he would serve 12 years. Branch’s life changed drastically, as she watched her mother struggle to support Branch and her eight siblings. ​“It’s something many people don’t think about,” she says. “You watch the news, and you see people being arrested every day, but how often do you think about the family being left behind who are struggling and may have lost their main source of income like my family did? I think awareness is one of the biggest challenges there, but I’m hoping to be able to work with various organizations [to do that].” ​ As she moves temporarily to New York to perform her Miss USA duties and prepare for the Miss Universe pageant, Branch continues to hold her Mississippi roots close to her heart. “Being in the South has been great,” she says. “I love the Southern hospitality, I love how supportive people in Mississippi have been, even people who haven’t actually met me and are still in my corner and just so supportive every step of the way. It’s truly encouraging and humbling and makes the experience all the more fun.” A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Karon Warren loves to share stories about the people, places and culture from her native state and beyond. Follow her on Instagram (@karonwarren) to see what’s next on her journey.

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exploring art | CATHY TALBOT

SOUTHERN LADIES by Cathy Talbot, Tupelo. As a Mississippi native, I fondly remember hats worn by the Southern Ladies in my hometown of Tupelo. Whether it was that special hat for church on Sunday or the tattered favorite hat worn in the garden, Southern Ladies have always loved their hats. Vitreous/Glass Enamel on hand cut and raised copper, fine silver, mounted on wood.

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Heart of Glass By Tracy Morin | Photography courtesy of Cathy Talbot

Cathy Talbot of Empty Nest Studio channels an ancient art, coating hand-cut metalwork in finely powdered glass, to create one-of-a-kind jewelry and sculptures. ​ Cathy Talbot is the first to admit that she doesn’t have a lengthy or illustrious art education background. But what she lacks in formal training, she makes up for in pure passion and enthusiasm. ​“I was in banking for 36 years; I don’t have any art training,” she says with a laugh. “But my husband and I were volunteering with the Metal Museum in Memphis, and in 2008, I took a class in enameling. I just fell in love with it, and I’ve been going down that rabbit hole ever since.” ​Talbot clarifies that her work involves vitreous enamel (not enamel paint), which is finely powdered glass that is sifted onto metal. The materials are fused through firing in a kiln that reaches about 1,500 degrees — a centuries-old art, she says, that dates back to ancient Egyptian times. ​ “What attracted me to this art is, it’s instant,” Talbot explains. “Fused glass or pottery has to cook in the kiln for 12 hours or so. With enameling on metal, you put it straight into the kiln, and it comes out three minutes later. So, though it may

take multiple firings, you know instantly if you’re happy or not with the result.” ​ Though Talbot initially had no experience working with metal, she leaped into learning about her newfound passion. She notes that, when enameling, all metal work must be completed first, before the glass is applied, so it can be challenging to craft the perfect metal piece that will act as the best “canvas” for the enamel on top. ​ “Structure is the hardest part; once the glass is on, it’s done, so you have to think about how the glass will show or set into the piece of jewelry,” Talbot says. “I do mainly jewelry, but I enjoy sculptures, too — you’re just limited on what you can create by the size of your kiln.” ​In addition to kiln firing, Talbot also performs torch firing of the powdered glass, which offers up a different effect, as acetylene gas from the torch manipulates the colors of the enamel and allows the artist to see the glass melting and fusing in real time. She embraces both methods in her backyard DeSoto 27

studio. ​ “Every lady needs at least one torch!” Talbot asserts. “My studio has a kiln and torch by my workstation. And every piece I make is one-of-a-kind, because each time you put a piece into that 1,500-degree kiln, the look depends on how it sits and where it sits. With the torch, it’ll be a little different, too. Everything is created by hand, even cutting the metal.” ​Though it’s possible to utilize metals like silver and gold, Talbot works mainly on copper pieces and has lately begun experimenting with steel, which she calls “a whole new adventure.” Steel, she finds, is lighter but stronger, offering her more versatility, especially for sculpture work. ​Talbot is a fellow juried member of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi, and a member of Tennessee Craft and The Enamelist Society. And the artist who embraced a do-it-yourself kind of education is now passing on her knowledge to eager students. ​“Since I took my first class at the Metal Museum in Memphis, for the last few years I’ve been a guest instructor, teaching a weekend class annually,” Talbot explains. “It’s a lot of fun, and we do a lot of work. Students get to take home many pieces of their own. And the Caron Gallery in Tupelo (which also carries my work) occasionally offers classes, too.” ​However, this teacher still considers herself a student. Every year, Talbot treks to the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tenn., for further education that she can bring back to her own classes. Even better, aspiring students can join her at the Metal Museum regardless of experience or background. ​“We take students at all levels,” Talbot says. “It’s amazing when people come in and don’t know anything about the art form, yet by the end they’re producing so much!” ​ Talbot’s work, in addition to being featured at the Caron Gallery and the Metal Museum, is available throughout Mississippi, including in the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi gallery in Ridgeland, as well as the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi. She’s currently developing a website on the crafts-oriented e-commerce platform Etsy for her Empty Nest Studio. Talbot’s necklaces, bangles, and earrings are also regular fan favorites in the yearly regional artist showcase called WinterArts in Germantown, Tenn. ​“I do a few area art festivals, which I love, because I get to interact with customers,” Talbot explains. “It’s so rewarding when they love my pieces and come back for more.” ​ But, when asked to describe her work for those who have never seen it, Talbot can sum it up in a single word. ​“Color!” she says. “Maybe the clothes I wear are normally black, but I am not afraid of color in my jewelry, and that’s normally what people say they notice most.” Based in Oxford, Miss., Tracy Morin is an award-winning freelance writer and editor with a passion for covering food, beverage, beauty, and boxing.

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exploring books | SAY YES TO WHAT’S NEXT

Looking Forward after 50 By Karon Warren Photography courtesy of Andy Baxter Photography

In her new book, Lori Allen, star of TLC’s ‘Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta,’ encourages all women to find joy as they age. Like many women celebrating their 60th birthday, Lori Allen’s birthday was a defining moment, one where she realized many thought her life — and the lives of other women age 50 and older — was over. And, as is typical for this strongwilled Southern woman, she was having none of it. ​“I turned 60 and suddenly everyone was asking, ‘So, when are you going to retire’,” says the co-star of “Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta.” “I was flabbergasted. Then it started making 30 DeSoto

me mad because I don’t think you would ask a man that. And why does my turning 60 mean anyone would automatically expect me to retire? I still have a lot of life left to live.” ​ Allen wasted no time calling her daughter, Mollie Surratt, and saying she wanted to write a book to inspire women over 50 to not give up, to live their best life. They spent three days putting together the book’s outline, with topics ranging from caring for aging parents to handling finances to

self-care. In July 2020, “Say Yes to What’s Next: How to Age with Elegance and Class While Never Losing Your Beauty and Sass!” was released. ​ “I think the book is a real reflection of my life and where I am right now,” Allen says. “So, I wrote out topics that were interesting to me. I also talked to moms in the shop every day to get their feedback on topics.” ​ For instance, Allen says the self-care chapter came about from her experience of helping mothers of the bride for the last 40 years. ​“They just put themselves down constantly, and I’m constantly uplifting women,” she says. “I wanted to carry that through the book. I want us to start caring about ourselves again, because we care about others for years.” ​ Another important topic for Allen was talking about finances. ​“I’m constantly amazed at how many women do not know their finances, do not know what their property taxes are, do not know if their mortgage is paid, do not know if they have a 401K or how much is in it, or what they would do insurancewise if their husband was no longer with them,” she says. ​ Allen says she knows these are not fun topics to chat about, but they are necessary. Although there are many women who do regularly handle these topics and situations, she wants to reach those women who don’t routinely think about them. ​“I just wanted to make women stop and think about [these things],” she says. “If you’re not there yet, there will come a day when you’re 55 and older, and you need to start thinking about these things. It’s just the utmost importance to think about your finances, take care of yourself — spiritually and mentally — and to look forward.” ​ Surprisingly, after 40 years, switching from giving advice on how to choose the right neckline or silhouette for a

wedding dress to addressing life issues was a natural evolution for Allen. ​ “If you watch ‘Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta,’ it’s not about the dress,” she says. “You’re helping the family get to the next level with their daughter. She wants them to say yes to what she’s doing next. It’s not about the dress, the fabric or the neckline. It’s about them all agreeing she can take this next step and they are all behind her. I know it sounds crazy, but there’s a lot of psychology in selling a bridal gown.” ​ Although Allen worked with writer Kay Diehl to put the book together, she was adamant that the words came across as authentic and in her own voice. She even insisted on doing the audio version so it, too, would be in her own voice. In fact, there are moments when she gets choked up as she shares her stories. ​“These are my words, this is my voice, and I believe strongly in this,” Allen says. “I didn’t want any fake book that life is perfect. I wanted to make women think and hopefully get them off their hiney and moving forward, because there’s a lot of life left. I don’t want to ever look back at my life and think, ‘I left something on the table.’” ​ For Allen, the bottom line is living her best life and inspiring other women age 50 and older to do the same. ​“You do the very best you can do every day, and I can go to bed knowing I’ve done my very best,” she says. “That’s how we should live.” A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Karon Warren turned 50 last fall and can’t wait to see what she says yes to next in 2021. Follow her on Instagram (@karonwarren) to see where her journey takes her.

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southern roots | FORAGING FOR FOOD

Chef Austin Sumrall and Mark LaSalle

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Benny McCoy and Mark LaSalle

Food Foraging: A Culinary Revival

By Pamela A. Keene | Photography courtesy of Mark LaSalle and Anna Roy

Coastal Mississippi terrain offers a host of edible plants, and naturalist Mark LaSalle carries on the foraging tradition that hails back to the original inhabitants. Mark LaSalle forages for food, but don’t worry. It’s a good thing. He certainly won’t go hungry as an advocate of turning to nature for edibles that grow in the Southern swamps and marshes. ​“You’d be surprised about the many things that you can eat that grow in your backyard, the swamps and the marshes,” says LaSalle, naturalist and wetlands ecologist in Coastal Mississippi. “The secret is knowing what to look for and how to prepare things from elderberry flowers and greenbrier to kudzu and prickly pears.” ​ As a former extension agent, LaSalle cut his teeth in the world of agriculture and wetlands. His reputation drew him to the Pascagoula River Audubon Center in Moss Point, Miss., where he served as the center’s director for 14 years.

​ “One of the things we do there is to promote the history and culture of food, particularly that of the Pascagoula Native Americans, some of the earliest inhabitants of this part of the Americas,” he says. “Literally, they were known as bread makers or bread eaters. Translated, Pasca means bread and goula means either makers or eaters. But you may wonder how in the world they found flour in the swamps and marshes.” ​LaSalle says that flour can be made from just about anything, but for the Native Americans, they looked to their area flora. “There’s so much starch here, it really wasn’t hard,” he says. “From yucca roots and arrow arum to cattail, the resources are abundant.” ​In the past several years, LaSalle has taken his passion farther. In addition to foraging, he’s enlisted several chefs and DeSoto 33

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Elderberry Flowers

hoteliers in his mission to expand eating off the land. ​“We’ve been promoting fresh markets — not farmer’s markets — to provide residents with locally grown or produced items,” he says. “All due respect, but we don’t allow a single Georgia peach or Alabama pecan in. Everything is local. that’s why we’re not a farmer’s market.” ​ For example, the Ocean Springs Fresh Market is open every Saturday morning downtown, rain or shine. Regional producers bring flowers, plants, vegetables, and fruits in season, plus pies, jellies, and crafts. “The state actually certifies it as such, and Diane Claughton, who founded the market, has visited every single farm and producer to learn about their growing and preparation processes,” LaSalle explains. Claughton is a former chef who also founded the non-profit Real Food Gulf Coast whose mission is to increase local food production and promote sustainable agriculture. ​“To support Real Food Gulf Coast, we’ve done several Buffet on the Bayou events over the years to showcase locally available seafood, vegetables, and fruits,” LaSalle says. “We always include foraged foods and people are amazed at the edibles.” ​ Chef Alex Perry and his wife, Kumi Omori, run Vestige restaurant in downtown Ocean Springs and their new establishment, Apple Pear, will be part of “The Collective,” a growing consortium in Ocean Springs of locally owned hotels, restaurants, businesses, and artists. In 2019, Perry was recognized as a Best Chef South semi-finalist by the James Beard Foundation. Omori grew up in Japan. The food at Vestige uses many techniques of her native country. ​“Alex and Kumi have been amazing at incorporating plants that grow locally into their menus, which feature seasonal, sustainably grown food,” LaSalle says. “He’s used red bay, wax myrtle, greenbrier, and kudzu flowers in his dishes.” ​ LaSalle is also partnering with Ted and Roxy Condrey, owners of Rain Residential, which has been instrumental in creating The Collective along Porter Avenue in Ocean 34 DeSoto

Elderberry Fruit

Springs. The Condrey’s Beatnik Hotel gives guests a chance to wind down with experiences like a plunge pool, a contemplative garden, a fire pit, and suites finely appointed with natural wood furnishings and private outdoor showers. ​“Mark has been instrumental in helping us with our concept and design,” Roxy Condrey says. “In our landscape, we’ve incorporated a number of local edibles, including blueberry bushes, citrus and wax myrtle plants.” ​ Across Porter Avenue from the Beatnik, a large garden area meticulously tended to by Omori includes fresh greens, flowers, more citrus and blueberry bushes and, in season, features squash, strawberries, and other edibles that will be provided to local restaurants. With a redwood greenhouse, raised beds, and an orchard, the gardens are a preview of resourcefulness and agricultural diversity that provides a vital heart of The Collective. ​ LaSalle takes his foraging seriously and enlists others to support his habit. He writes a weekly column for the OurMSHome website, highlighting foraged foods and recipes such as kudzu, including jelly and cooked kudzu greens. He and a group of Mississippi chefs recently took to the swamp with McCoy’s River and Marsh Tour to forage for edibles. ​“People can find food in so many places,” he insists. “For instance, that red bay tree in your back yard provides bay leaves for cooking that are every bit as good as the expensive European bay leaves from the grocery. Add the leaves of daylilies to salads or sauté them. Elderberry flowers make a great cordial or turn the berries into jelly. ​“I love to eat off the land,” LaSalle says. “But even more than that, I really enjoy helping people learn and understand the diversity and ecology of our swamps and marshes.” Atlanta-based journalist Pamela A. Keene is an avid gardener who sticks to more traditional fare, such as home-grown heirloom tomatoes and blueberries. This summer, she harvested more than 100 pounds of blueberries from her dozen plants.

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table talk | SUGAR’S RIBS

A Little Sass with that Barbecue Story and photography by Tom Adkinson

Sugar’s Ribs offers notable barbecue, a smart attitude, a great view of Chattanooga… and several kudzu-eating goats. Sauces are a big deal at barbecue joints, but Sugar’s Ribs in Chattanooga, Tenn., combines sauce with a little bit of sass to create a local dining favorite and an easy target for interstate highway travelers. You should expect a little zip to your dining experience when you see the back of a server’s shirt that proclaims, “Take My Butt Home.” After all, it’s a barbecue joint so you know exactly what she means. Sugar’s hugs the side of Missionary Ridge at Exit 181A on Interstate 24 and overlooks downtown Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain, and the Tennessee River Valley. It’s a stunning sight any time of day, but especially at sunset. That explains another server’s shirt: “Q with a View.” Owners Lawton and Karen Haygood opened a popular and fancier place in 2001 — the Boathouse Rotisserie & Raw Bar directly along the Tennessee River — but you get the sense that Lawton in particular thrives on the casual vibe at Sugar’s, which opened in 2007. Haygood had a challenge on his hands when he 36 DeSoto

started Sugar’s. The building had begun as the Pancake Man Restaurant that was affiliated with a motor lodge higher up the ridge. In addition to transforming locals’ perception of the place, he had to deal with the Southern curse of kudzu that was swallowing the hillside. That explains the goats. Yes, Sugar’s has a corps of goats that amuse guests and keep the kudzu at bay. Haygood even built some ramps and structures for the goats to climb on and a platform where guests can feed cabbage leaves to the hooved entertainers. The goats (“really four-legged lawnmowers,” Haygood says) are a sideshow to the real attraction — good barbecue. Haygood has had more than one career, including flipping houses in Texas in the 1970s, but he can trace his interest in food back to childhood. “My mother had a little country store on Lookout Mountain near Cloudland Canyon,” he says. “As a boy, I made bologna sandwiches and pumped gas, too.” Decades later and armed with a business degree, he

Lawton Haygood and a goat

bought a seafood restaurant in Port Aransas, Texas, on a whim. He had dropped in for a meal and ended up owning the place. At another point in his career, he invented a wood-fired grill for restaurant use and did quite well selling them to high-end chefs, including Wolfgang Puck. “I’ve always been a backyard barbecue cook, but barbecue is tricky. I was absolutely shocked by the intricacies of running a barbecue restaurant,” he says, reflecting on the startup of Sugar’s. Ribs and pulled pork, of course, are mainstays, but brisket — the smoked meat that Texans love so much — is a hit here, too, and it comes with an interesting heritage. Haygood explains that he learned how to prepare brisket from Sonny Bryan, a barbecue legend in Dallas. Texas author Caleb Pirtle III puts that in perspective. “Sonny Bryan’s was a place you’d see people from all cultures and positions — judges, executives, laborers, it didn’t matter who you were,” Pirtle says. “All were the same at Sonny Bryan’s. They just came for the meat.” The same feeling exists at Sugar’s. Everyone’s treated the same. You walk in the door, study the wall-mounted menu, order, pay, take your number and admire the view. Soon enough, a server wearing a “Take My Butt Home” shirt will deliver ribs, pulled pork, brisket, chicken or house-made sausage (half-price sausage on Tuesday). Perhaps because of Haygood’s time in Texas, barbecue tacos in house-made tortillas are a hit. There’s catfish, too, and even a fancy-sounding spinach and cabbage salad, but who goes to a barbecue joint for those?

The ribs are spareribs, not baby back ribs, and Haygood’s goal is delivering them moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside. Pause before you choose a sauce. They start with a classic that’s mild and tangy and go all the way to “Hot Lips,” described as “very, very hot, with roasted jalapeños, habaneros, onions and garlic. Don’t look for French fries and baked beans, the traditional plate fillers at barbecue joints. Regular side items at Sugar’s include Texas pinto beans, fire-roasted jalapeños, woodgrilled onions and Mo’ Rock’n Stew, a variation on Brunswick stew. Premium side items that cost a dollar more include spicy okra chips, fire-roasted corn on the cob, and a filling mac-ncheese. All of the sides, plus the jalapeño corn muffins and a killer banana pudding, are made right here. After chowing down, you can hustle back onto the interstate and zoom off to Atlanta, Knoxville or Nashville . . . or you can feed the goats and enjoy Sugar’s panoramic view just a little longer.

A member of the Society of American Travel Writers, Tom Adkinson appreciates proficient pitmasters wherever he finds them and cites several in his travel book, “100 Things to Do in Nashville Before You Die.”

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exploring destinations | BEECH MOUNTAIN

Nighttime Beech Mountain by Beech Mountain TDA

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Snowshoeing by SAM DEAN

Beech Mtn Snowtubing by Kristian Jackson

Winter Fun By Cheré Coen | Photography by Cheré Coen and Beech Mountain tourism

Beech Mountain offers a wide range of winter sports, including 17 ski runs, snowboarding and ice skating at its popular Beech Mountain Resort. To reach Beech Mountain in North Carolina, visitors travel a steep, windy road that stretches 1,400 feet from bottom to top. At the end of the switchback journey lies a quaint mountain town and the highest ski area on the East Coast. “We’re a little more remote and a little steeper,” says Kate Gavenus, director of Tourism and Economic Development for Beech Mountain. Beech Mountain is known for its skiing and other winter activities, but the mountain town drew lots of visitors during all of 2020, drawn to its wide-open spaces and abundant outdoors activities. Visitors may enjoy the mountainous terrain filled with woodsy trails that’s perfect for hiking and biking, the many lakes and streams, and outdoors sports such as fishing and paddling. “It’s been widely popular during the pandemic,” Gavenus says.

But Beech really comes alive this time of year with visitors filling up cabins, lodges, and condos in the town, then hitting the ski slopes of Beech Mountain Resort. North Carolina receives snowfall from November through spring but can fill ski runs with manmade snow when necessary, allowing ski resorts to operate fulltime throughout the season. Beech Mountain Resort offers three beginning runs, seven intermediate runs, and four for the thrill-seekers, with two runs of freestyle terrain. In addition to skiing from a base elevation of 4,675 feet to a peak of 5,506 feet, the resort includes snowboarding, ice skating, and tubing. Dining options for hungry athletes are available on site and Beech Mountain Brewing Co. Taproom and Grill recently opened at the resort with plans for outdoor seating with heaters. Night skiing with LED slope lights begins at 5 p.m. nightly, a nice complement to an evening drink and meal at the brewery. DeSoto 39

Retro ’80s Ski Weekend

For those who need to learn how to ski, Beech Mountain’s ski school includes both private and group lessons. “I recommend the group lessons,” Gavenus says. “It’s only $25 and you learn along with everyone else.” Because of the pandemic, visitors must purchase ski passes on the Beech Mountain Resort website to allow owners to “manage crowds” for safety, Gavenus explains. Limiting the number of ski passes helps visitors practice social distancing. Six-Mile Town Private residences, vacation rentals, and two small hotels make up the six square miles of Beech Mountain, less than a five-hour drive from Atlanta. “Everything is small and everything is more mom and pop,” says Gavenus. “There are no big commercial places here. “It’s a world away but it’s not a far drive,” she adds. “It’s a real sweet place.” The town maintains a sledding hill, the only municipal sledding hill in the Southeast. Visitors 12 years old and younger may bring their own sledding apparatus, purchase a plastic disc popular at most stores (about a $5 cost) or rent a sled for $5 a day from the town’s Buckeye Recreation Center. Two lakes are located close to Beech Mountain, and both are perfect for trout fishing until the season ends on Feb. 28 as well as paddling excursions. Canoes may be rented at no cost at the Buckeye Center. The lakes freeze in winter but not thick or consistent enough for winter sports, Gavenus explains. “It’s an Appalachian winter here, where it freezes and thaws, freezes and thaws,” she says. Hikers may prefer the hundreds of miles of hiking trails located throughout the area, popular all year long but in February offering a breath-taking winter snow experience. Snowshoes may be rented from the Buckeye Center as well. For dining options, a fun place to enjoy drinks, snacks and a spectacular view is the Skybar at the top of 40 DeSoto

Beech Mountain. Visitors can test Beech Mountain Brewing Company’s products but also take a tour of the new brewery. The Alpen Restaurant and Bar in town, part of the Beech Alpen Inn, serves up steaks and seafood in a European-style inn with mountain views and a cozy fireplace. For something more casual, the Famous Brick Oven Pizzeria doubles as an arcade with miniature golf and outdoor fire pits. Retro ’80s Ski Weekend ​ Downhill isn’t the only way to ski at Beech Mountain Resort. Special events happen year-round, including the Retro ’80s Ski Weekend held in late February. The annual event includes live music nightly, retro skiing daily with visitors dressing up in leg warmers and New Wave hair, cosmic tubing, neon Day-Glo rides down the slopes, and a variety of other activities. Named a Southeast Top 20 Event, the retro weekend attracts more than 10,000. Best of all, many of the special events happening during the weekend are free to visitors and participants. How to Reach Beech Mountain The closest airports to Beech Mountain are Charlotte, N.C., and the Tri-Cities Airport in Tennessee. Rental cars are required from airports to reach the ski resort town. For those driving, Beech Mountain is located in the northwest corner of North Carolina, a short drive from surrounding cities and a five-hour drive from Atlanta. DeSoto Co-editor Cheré Coen had a blast skiing Beech Mountain, but she also loved the tubing runs. Read more of her travels in the South on her blog,

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, e d i s SeaFlorida

on the road again | SEASIDE, FLORIDA

8:00 a.m. – If you want to sleep late, getting breakfast is no problem at FOOW because brunch is served from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. But you can sleep on the beach later, so get moving with a Deep South Biscuit filled with fried green tomatoes, country ham, hot pepper jelly and scratch bacon. On the “brunch-ish” menu, you will find the delightful avocado toast or the Watercolor French toast. Located at the WaterColor Inn just west of Seaside, FOOW is the acronym for the restaurant formerly known as Fish Out of Water. 9:00 a.m. – Head over to the WaterColor Bike Barn to rent a bicycle for a ride on the 19-mile Timpoochee Bike Trail that traces the Emerald Coast shoreline along Highway 30A. Enjoy scenic views of the sea, marsh lakes, sandy dunes, and charming coastal neighborhoods along this tree-lined paved path. Located at 533 Western Lake Drive, the WaterColor Bike Barn offers maps and excursion information. 10:30 a.m. – Explore Seaside Central Square, named one of the world’s most beautiful public squares by Business Insider. An eclectic array of boutiques, shops, and art galleries surround this picturesque “town center,” which you may recognize from the 1998 movie, “The Truman Show,” starring Jim Carrey. If you’re into vinyl records, don’t miss Central Square Records, one of Florida’s largest independent record stores. 12:15 p.m. -- No trip to South Walton would be complete without visiting “Airstream Row” for lunch on the beach side of Seaside Central Square. Here, you'll find mouthwatering barbecue, 100-layer donuts, crêpes, gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and more, all served from retro Airstreams. After lunch you can conveniently continue shopping or head to the beach. 1:30 p.m. – The beach is probably what you came for and the Emerald Coast does not disappoint. Named for the clear, emerald-green water, the Emerald Coast beaches are also known for their soft, sugar-white sands, found only in this part of Florida’s upper Gulf shoreline. 3:00 p.m. – Shake off the sand and take a short drive to Eden Gardens State Park, a 161-acre estate once owned by publishing magnate Lois Maxon. Her collection of Louis XVI furniture is the second-largest in the U.S. and is one of the biggest draws to the now-owned Florida state park. Stroll through the rose and camellia gardens and along the shoreline of Choctawhatchee Bay, which is a wildlife refuge. 4:30 p.m. – Return to Seaside Center Square for a snack at Heavenly Shortcakes & Ice Cream, the perfect place for an afternoon treat. Classic American ice cream flavors, gelatos, strawberry shortcakes, and gourmet cookies will satisfy any sweet tooth. Adults, however, may prefer the nearby 45 Central Wine & Sushi Bar, a sophisticated oasis for relaxing with a glass of great wine. 7:00 p.m. – At the Great Southern Café, acclaimed Chef Jim Shirley mixes international cuisines with Southern cooking and local produce and fresh seafood. Start with either the Great or Little Southern Seafood Plateaus for tastes of oysters, shrimp, lobster, and marinated lump crab. Land lovers may prefer the Soul Rolls, made with chicken and collard greens. The highly recommended Grits a Ya Ya feature blackened shrimp, smoked bacon, spinach, portobello mushrooms, and cream on a bed of gouda cheese grits. Sandwiches, salads, steaks and more are available.

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To plan your visit:


Please check websites or call ahead for current information. Operational hours may change due to the pandemic.

Seaside Farmers Market Saturdays and Sundays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. This well-stocked and well-attended farmers market is held at the Seaside Amphitheatre near Central Square. Visit

The Emerald Coast Theatre Company – The Story Teller Series Tuesday, Feb. 9, 7:30 p.m. The world premiere of “Three Palaces at Yalta,” a one-man show written by Bruce Collier, who plays World War II's “Big Three” — Winston Churchill, Josef Stalin, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Ticket information available at

The Emerald Coast Theatre Company – The Story Teller Series Tuesday, Feb. 23 and March 2, 7:30 p.m. Local actress Shirley Simpson embodies wit, charm, and fierce grit as Katherine Hepburn. Simpson gives a humorous and touching portrayal of the fiery and independent Hepburn. Ticket information available at Compiled by Mary Ann DeSantis

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1. Block Art, Southern Traditions, 120 W Bankhead St # A, New Albany, MS 2. Valentine favorites, The Pink Zinnia, 134 West Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 3. Earrings, Saint, 2420 E Parkway St, Hernando, MS 4. Happy Everything Vase, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Road, Marion, AR 5. Mellow Melt dough bowl candles, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 6.Mariana Necklaces, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road, Olive Branch, MS 7. Neckalces, The Speckled Egg, 5100 Interstate 55, Marion, AR 8. Phillip Gavriel Bracelets, Custom Jewelry, 2903 May Blvd Suite #105, Southaven, MS 9. Sweatshirt, SoCo Hernando, 300 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 10. T-shirt, makeup bag and pillow, Mimi’s on Main, 432 Main Street, Senatobia, MS 11. T-shirt, Bon Von, 230 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 12. 1818 Farms products, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS

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1. Shower burst, Bon Von, 230 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 2. Big Green Egg Accessories, Complete Home Center, 32 E Commerce St, Hernando, MS 3. Black Jack Lotions and Cleanser, Mimi’s on Main, 432 Main Street, Senatobia, MS 4. Brumates, Commerce Street Market, 74 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 5. Bundt Cake, Nothing Bundt Cakes, 5338 Goodman Rd Suite 127, Olive Branch, MS 6. Fieldstone hats and t-shirts, Mimi’s on Main, 432 Main Street, Senatobia, MS 7. Happy Everything Frame, Ultimate Gifts, 2902 May Blvd Suite 102, Southaven, MS 8. Wine Stoppers, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 9. Mudpie napkins, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 10. Journals, Magnolia House, 2903 May Blvd Suite 103, Southaven, MS 11. Men's soap, Buff City Soap, 125 Goodman Rd W Suite E, Southaven, MS 12. Socks, Mimi’s on Main, 432 Main Street, Senatobia, MS 13. Tin Signs, Commerce Street Market, 74 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 14. Wallets, Ultimate Gifts, 2902 May Blvd Suite 102, Southaven, MS

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LeAnn Rimes

& Her Journey to Health & Wholeness

By Pam Windsor Photography courtesy of Sara Hertel and Norman Seeff

Recording star and Mississippi native LeAnn Rimes has found a new way to use her voice to strengthen herself mentally, physically, and spiritually. DeSoto 47

LeAnn Rimes has a lot to look forward to this year. She has several new projects underway, she’s releasing a new album, and she’s getting ready to mark 25 years in the music business. “It’s kind of mind-blowing to be honest, because I’m still so young,” she says with a laugh. “I’m only 38! My whole life has been in this business, and it’s amazing to me that people still care and are still listening to my music.” The acclaimed singer has wowed audiences with her powerful voice since becoming a superstar as a teenager. But as she reflects on her music career, she’s also celebrating her growth and progress on a personal journey that began eight years ago. With success at such an early age, and the challenges that came with it, Rimes found herself struggling with depression and anxiety. So, on her 30th birthday, she 48 DeSoto

made a bold decision to change her life. She checked herself into a treatment facility to work on strengthening herself mentally, physically, and spiritually. “It was the biggest gift I’ve ever given myself,” she explains, “to recognize when enough was enough and to ask for help.” Rimes was just 13 years old when she burst onto the music scene with the song “Blue.” At 14, she took home “Best New Artist,” becoming the youngest person ever to win a Grammy. She was soon living a fast-paced life of touring and traveling with a team of people around her nearly every minute of the day. In the years ahead, she went on to win multiple awards for songs like “How Do I Live,” “I Need You,” and others. Signs that music would be a big part of her life came early, when she was just a toddler growing up in Mississippi. The

family later moved to Texas. “My dad has tapes of me singing when I was 18 months old,” she recalls. “Music has always been a huge part of my soul and my journey. And growing up in Mississippi, there were so many influences from country to blues to gospel to rock ’n’ roll. Growing up in the South, that mishmash of so many different types of music had a big impact.” As her career took off, her gifts stretched beyond her voice, and she discovered a talent for songwriting. Later, she also became an actor and author. But as she grew older and more successful as an artist, there were personal issues left unresolved. Once she entered treatment, she began learning more about some of the issues that had affected her. “I began confronting things I ran away from, from the time I was a child just to survive in the public eye,” she says. “Growing up the way I did, with all eyes on me, it has taken time to really connect with my true self.” Her parents divorced when she was 14, at the height of it all. “I had to shut it off to be able to thrive and contain my work,” she remembers. “So, when I decided I wanted to change the way I was experiencing life, it led me on this journey.” She embraced the opportunity to dig deep inside herself and move forward. She began working with her breathing, doing yoga, and meditating. And as she meditated, she tapped into her creativity and music background and started chanting. She found the chants calming and peaceful, and as they moved through her and evolved, she began recording them. It became a new way to use her voice. “Chanting has been part of my journey in learning to take my own voice back,” she says. “It was like a blessing, to play my instrument for my own healing.” She decided to combine the chants with music, as a way to help others. She got together with friend and collaborator Darrell Brown and co-wrote a record they released in November called “CHANT: The Human & The Holy.” She also launched a podcast called “Wholly Human” on iHeartRadio. It, too, is an effort to share what she’s learned. It features Rimes as host as she shares her own experiences and interviews many of the people who have helped her. DeSoto 49

“Chanting has been part of my journey in learning to take my own voice back. It was like a blessing, to play my instrument for my own healing.” LeAnn Rimes

“I have so many healers, teachers, friends, and wise hearts that will speak to me,” she says. “So, I thought, why not use my platform to be a guide to help others in that way.” Rimes says interviewing others, after being the one interviewed for so many years, is a little outside her comfort zone, but she’s ready to stretch herself in different ways. “It’s been interesting because one piece of my voice has been lived in for so long and now, I’m exploring all these other avenues and ways to communicate. It’s nerve-wracking and terrifying but also exhilarating.” One lesson she’s learned is that “we’re all human.” And she’s discovered one of the greatest ways to embrace that, and truly begin the process of “healing,” is through personal acceptance. “We want to run away from our flaws and our shadows and until we turn and face them, and not just face them, but love them — which is a lifelong journey — we aren’t able to really feel free. And so, I think for me, it’s about freedom.” As a way to demonstrate exactly what she means, Rimes allowed herself to be photographed nude late last year to show her own battle with the skin condition: psoriasis. 50 DeSoto

Though difficult, Rimes says it was an important part of her own healing process, as well as a way to encourage others who might see her simply as a successful woman or celebrity, to realize she, too, struggles with some of the same issues. “We sometimes put people on a pedestal and forget they’re human,” she relates. “For so long, I’ve been this little girl with a big voice and have had all these labels. But the last label anyone has ever put on me is ‘human and at the end of the day, that’s really what I am.’” As she continues her personal journey, Rimes remains committed to creating new music. She recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of the movie “Coyote Ugly,” with a mega mix of four iconic songs. “The way that whole film came together and my involvement was just, I guess divinely guided,” she says. “I was only 17. So, to celebrate that was, of course, a blast because the music was so great. And I have a lot of fond memories of being part of that film.” This year, she’ll release an album of all new music. She spent much of the end of 2020 writing songs and says she’s so proud of it already and can’t wait for people to hear it.

Rimes, who lives in Los Angeles with her husband, actor Eddie Cibrian, says she’s at a point in her life where she is “wonderfully happy” and excited about what lies ahead. As she looks back at all she’s accomplished, and given what she’s learned about herself, she can accept and appreciate it with a new perspective. “It’s interesting that at 25 years, I feel like I’m really starting out on my own journey in this business of really following my heart instead of anything else.”

Pam Windsor is a Nashville-based journalist who writes about travel, music, arts & culture, and extraordinary people.

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West Cancer Center rooftop Photo by Julie Flanery

ancient labyrinths: TOOLS OF HEALING

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By Michele D. Baker Photography Credits: Michele D. Baker, Rev. Warren Lynn,, Lars Howlett,, West Cancer Center, Le Bonheur/BHD Architects, Susan Dimock Photography


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Denny Dyke Circles in the Sand Susan Dimock Photography

Riley Childrens Hospital Indianapolis IN Warren Lynn photography

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In our modern culture of overwork, burnout, and exhaustion, many of us are online and distracted 24/7 from those things that are truly important: our health, our relationships, and our spiritual and emotional well-being. Given these constant demands on our time and energy, how can we tap into our creativity and wisdom, our capacity for wonder, and our ability to heal? The Greek philosopher Diogenes offered a simple answer: solvitur ambulando (“it is solved by walking”). The idea of walking to gain clarity and enlightenment has been part of the human psyche for thousands of years, and the labyrinth takes the practice a step further, offering a kind of “full-body meditation” which parallels the inner journey of prayer and reflection. Within a labyrinth there are places for prayer, meditation, and spiritual healing, and because they are unicursal — there is only a single pathway in and out — one can never get lost.


Labyrinths and labyrinthine symbols have been dated all the way back to the Neolithic Age (12,000 B.C. to 3500 B.C.), characterized by fixed human settlements and agriculture in regions as diverse as modern-day Turkey, Ireland, Greece, and India. In the Tantric texts of India, labyrinths are often depicted in the design of mandalas, while in Britain they are found in the ringand-cup marks of stonework. The famous swirl designs are also found at sites such as Newgrange in Ireland. Taking a labyrinth walk is a modern revival of an ancient spiritual custom — this ancient symbol of transformation and healing can be found in the modern age in churches and gardens, backyards and parks, hospitals and hospices, on beaches and in forests. Look for pathways laid out in stones, pavers, bricks, sand, mowed into grass, and hedges trimmed to create the courses. Labyrinths can also be etched into concrete, taped onto carpeting, carved into trees, painted on columns, or projected onto the floor in a dark room. On the creative side, there are portable canvas or oilcloth versions available for rent, tabletop models made from bottlecaps, handheld and fingertip versions, and even a virtual labyrinth to suit the COVID age.

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Finger labyrinth Photo by Michele D. Baker

Modern Use in Hospitals and Treatment Centers

In recent years, the medical community has turned its attention to health design, environment, and patientcentered care, recognizing that the subjective qualities of inner healing such as attitude, state of mind, and beliefs have an enormous effect on the outcome of a patient’s treatment and recovery. Labyrinths represent a step forward — they are interactive, promoting well-being not just for patients, but also for staff, health providers, doctors, visitors, and even the local community. Labyrinth walking — or using a tabletop or finger labyrinth — has been shown to assist in the overall treatment plans for cancer patients, people in psychiatric hospitals, in hospice settings to aid the grieving process, and as an effective method of stress reduction for nurses and other health care professionals. At Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, labyrinth consultant Brenda Wiseman and senior arts designer Linda Hill are working on Le Bonheur Green. The lawn facing Adams Avenue will be transformed into an outdoor park featuring a series of serene garden rooms, a long expanse of grassy berms, and a labyrinth, all surrounding a heart shaped grassy open space. Le Bonheur Green opens this summer. “The new labyrinth will be open to the community,” says Wiseman. “There is a universal appeal to the labyrinth. It is often used as a place for walking meditation, to reduce stress, or for reflection. Children love the interactive experience 56 DeSoto

of the labyrinth, and [ours] will be slightly modified to be child friendly. We envision that the Le Bonheur labyrinth will be another expression of the heart of Le Bonheur.” West Cancer Center & Research Institute’s campus on Wolf River Boulevard in Germantown, Tenn., also features a rooftop labyrinth intended for staff, cancer patients, and their families, giving them a place to retreat, regroup and renew. Family and friends can walk the labyrinth to calm and focus themselves before meeting with doctors or as an alternative to sitting in the emergency room for hours. Staff also benefit from the experience, as the open-air oasis provides a quiet haven to prepare mentally and emotionally for surgery or other procedures, or as a place to relieve stress. Research has shown that walking a labyrinth often gives cancer patients a sense of confidence and control over their treatments. ​For over 30 years, Dr. Herbert Benson, Mind/ Body Medicine professor at Harvard Medical School, has championed the physiological benefits of meditation which he calls the “relaxation response.” Benson recognizes that meditation slows breathing, heart, and metabolic rates, and lowers blood pressure. As a form of walking meditation, the labyrinth produces these same results. “Labyrinths offer an accessible, cost-effective, proactive spiritual technology that does what science cannot do,” Benson explains. “Even in cases where outer healing fails, inner healing can still take place. Working in concert, medicine, design, environment, and labyrinths offer a whole that greatly exceeds the sum of its parts.”

Finding and Walking a Labyrinth

The database housed at lists over 6,000 labyrinths (including a few mazes) in more than 80 countries around the world; 62 are in Tennessee, and 26 are located within a 90-minute drive of Memphis. Mississippi houses 20 labyrinths, including one on the campus of Ole Miss. February is Cancer Survivor’s Awareness Month, the perfect time to walk a labyrinth in memory or in honor of a loved one. Visit the large Chartres-style labyrinth at Cancer Survivors Park on Perkins Extension (between Southern Avenue and Perkins Road) in Memphis, one of a family of 24 such parks funded by the Richard and Annette Bloch Family Foundation. Walking a Labyrinth with the ‘3Rs’ Adapted from material written by Christiana Brinton, board president of The Labyrinth Society. First time labyrinth walkers may find the “3 R’s” to be helpful as they focus on getting the most out of the experience. RELEASE: The path into the center is an opportunity to let go of what is burdening you or causing confusion, anxiety, or lack of clarity. Pray or ask that all things that no longer serve your highest good be brought up and out. RECEIVE: The center is the place to be receptive and open to spirit. Imagine your mind and heart as an empty crystal bowl, ready to be filled with pure intentions. RECONNECT: The path out is the time to coalesce and integrate what was received or learned. This often produces a renewed sense of purpose or a reinvigorated sense of self as old ideas, habits, and thoughtforms fall away. Release, reflection, and reconnection can happen for days, weeks, and months afterward. Walking a labyrinth with others is a dance; quietly move around those in front of you who are walking more slowly or have stopped to meditate or pray. When two people meet going in opposite directions, each person steps aside and then back onto the path. Gently weaving in and out, the labyrinth is a metaphor for our lives, and what comes up for us as we meet and pass others often mirrors our experiences in the outside world. Michele D. Baker is a freelance travel writer and blues music lover in Jackson, Miss. She has three cats, too many books, and she owns a silver fingertip labyrinth.

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Staying Fit Through the Ages By Tracy Morin Photography courtesy of Envision Fitness and Shutterstock

Learn how to make your workouts work for you at any age, and you’ll reap a literal lifetime of health benefits.

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Regardless of age or current fitness level, there’s an exercise regimen that’s right for you. But in order to make the most of your efforts, it’s a good idea to take your life stage into consideration. Yes, a teenager’s capabilities and needs are going to differ greatly from a senior citizen’s, but that’s only part of the picture. The optimal approach is based on more than straightforward human biology or even the habits we may have practiced so diligently in our childhood years. ​“On the journey of fitness in life, you want to look at not only what you’re capable of and what your needs are, but at your mental and emotional state in each decade,” explains Mark Akin, co-owner of Envision Fitness and Downtown Yoga in Memphis, Tenn. “Just because we’re good at something or invested a lot of time into it when we were younger, doesn’t mean we’ll like it for the rest of our lives, or like it in the same way.” ​ Feeling mystified when it comes to the facts of fitness? Fear not — Akin takes us through general guidelines that we can keep in mind while staying active at any age. ​

Teens. For teenagers, a physical activity routine establishes the importance of movement at a young and impressionable age, setting the tone for a lifetime of healthier habits. Also, on the positive side, this age group recovers more easily from injuries, so it’s a good time to experiment with different types of workouts, which can offer many benefits. ​“With teens, you introduce the idea of movement and how fun it is, as well as use fitness to build confidence in themselves, and understand how the body moves and works,” Akin says. “Teenage bodies are changing so much, and they get to know how good it feels to set goals and meet them — a skill that will carry them through life.” ​ Though the teen years offer up a wonderful opportunity to get started on the path of fitness, health, and well-being, Akin does share some caveats. Parents or coaches should remain flexible with a teenager, keeping in mind the concept of balance. Pushing them too hard can quickly extract the enjoyment from their practices. Teens also require proper motivation so they’re able to stick with the practice long enough to see results. 60 DeSoto

​ In other words, daily discipline and hard work are musts, but this is also a great time for exploration and discovering what forms of fitness they like best. ​20s. Anyone who’s passed through the decade of their 20s fondly recalls the spryness and boundless energy of that youthful time. So, it’s no surprise that Akin considers this age as the decade to have fun and go “all in” on fitness. ​ Whether that activity takes the form of powerlifting, marathon running, or competing in triathlons, 20-something bodies still recover fairly quickly, so they can push themselves and see what their bodies are capable of. It’s also a great time to find out what practices are most enjoyable, while taking advantage of having a bit more free time in the years before marriage and family obligations. ​ However, as is also true for teens, younger demographics can get mentally stuck on insecurity and the opinions of others. “This is the time to internalize that this is for you,” Akin emphasizes. “It’s not about an Instagram post or looking better than your neighbor. Feeling like you’re not good enough leads to shame and selfloathing, and that’ll sap all of the joy out of your fitness journey. This is the time to decide what success looks like to you.” ​

30s to 40s. With human longevity at an all-time high, these decades are no longer weighed down with the stigma of “middle age,” but they do remain a time for transitioning from the exuberance of youth to habits that will help sustain health over the long haul. ​“You’re still strong enough to push yourself, but you start to become aware that you can’t do what you did in your 20s,” Akin says. “We don’t have to baby our bodies — you can still go hard — but you can’t outrun a bad diet, and this is the age where that starts to show up. Going to the gym two or three times a week may not be enough to maintain anymore.” ​ Therefore, focus on three factors to enhance overall well-being: sleep, flexibility, and nutrition. Because muscle grows during rest, not during exercise, sleep is key for repairing the body and reaping the benefits of fitness routines. Meanwhile, practices like yoga and Pilates can increase flexibility, and low-impact exercises like long walks (done in DeSoto 61

addition to higher-intensity workouts) can calm the central nervous system while not overtaxing the body. ​ Though volumes could be penned on nutrition, Akin offers pared-down, practical advice: Listen to your body — eat when you’re hungry (not because you’re bored or angry) and stop when you’re not. And eat healthy most of the time; out of 15 meals, make 10 or 12 of them healthy. ​ Finally, years of sedentary living can catch up to us at this age, with desk jobs and extended sitting periods leading to atrophy of the gluteal muscles. That leads to pain in areas like the back, knees, and ankles. Counteract this with exercises that engage the glutes! ​

50s to 60s. Recovery time (including sleep), flexibility, and nutrition remain important in the 50s and 60s. And, though it’s slightly more difficult to build muscle during this time period, Akin stresses that it is absolutely possible through proper care of the body. ​“We tend to get less experimental and more settled into a routine when we’re older, but it’s okay to always be curious and maintain that sense of discovery,” Akin notes. “Core strength is also important. Don’t be afraid to lift weights — and, yes, they can be more than three pounds. This is more important than ever, especially for females, because building muscle with resistance training strengthens our bones. It also helps promote better posture.” ​ However, whatever exercises we choose, it’s important to make sure they’re done correctly, because connective tissues may wear a bit at this age. Proper form prevents injuries such as torn ligaments or muscles. ​ 70s and older. Akin admits that giving blanket advice for the 70-and-older age group is a difficult task, as this category can include everyone from lifelong fitness enthusiasts to committed couch potatoes. The good news? For those in the latter category, it’s never too late to start. Aim for exercises that can boost flexibility, and 62 DeSoto

be very mindful of injury prevention, since muscles tighten as we age. ​ “Focusing on exercises that will preserve our balance and agility is very important,” Akin adds. “It’s important to be able to change direction without falling down, because that will prevent the typical accidents that may happen when we’re older.” ​For example, many people might enjoy walking or running at any stage of life, but those exercises require only forward movement. Akin instead recommends agility training to be able to make those directional changes, which enhances our ability to connect movement with our brain. Developing these skills at any age can be literal lifesavers in our later years. Note: Consult with your physician before starting a new fitness regimen. Based in Oxford, Miss., Tracy Morin is an award-winning freelance writer and editor with a passion for covering food, beverage, beauty, and boxing.

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homegrown |

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Lilah’s Bakery is family owned by Lisa and Sopan Tike with their children Lila and Suneil. Photo by Sharron Foster

A Royal Tradition By Jackie Sheckler Finch | Photography courtesy of Lisa Tike and Sharron Foster

Lilah’s Bakery in Shreveport is busy this time of year, making king cakes to bring a taste of Carnival season to both the community and the country. Making a king cake from scratch at Lilah’s Bakery requires eight hours. Eating one takes far less time. “My husband’s recipe makes a soft, light dough that tastes fresh for days, just in case you don’t gobble it up quickly,” Lilah’s co-owner Lisa Tike says. “My husband, Sopan Tike, is a European-trained pastry chef and really understands the science behind the ingredients.” However, when the Tikes first started creating king cake, they didn’t realize how popular the cakes would become. Nor did they have a recipe. “My husband didn’t even know how to make a king

cake,” Tike says. “He tested many different variations over the course of nine months before he settled on the recipe we use now.” The family-owned bakery in Shreveport, La., opened in 2007 as Lila’s Bakery. “We named it after our daughter Lila,” Tike says, adding that the family name became a problem because another bakery in Florida had the same moniker. “So, we added the ‘h’ to the end of Lila’s name.” A photo of four-year-old Lila with a king cake graces promotions for the family business. “She’s 16 now and proud of how popular the bakery is,” Tike says. “She has been asked DeSoto 65

many times, ‘Are you the king cake baby?’” Lilah’s Bakery is open only during the Carnival season, which begins on Jan. 6 and ends at Mardi Gras, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which is Feb. 16 this year. “We will have king cakes starting Jan. 2 and running through the Thursday after Fat Tuesday,” Tike says. “We made nearly 22,000 king cakes in 2020 and are cautiously optimistic about the upcoming season.” Although Lilah’s Bakery at 1718 Centenary Blvd. will close after Feb. 18, the Tikes recently opened another site in Shreveport’s Broadmoor Shopping Center. Lilah’s Broadmoor Bunnery will be open year-round as a cinnamon bun bar and a place for customers to order and pick up king cakes. This year, the Tikes will offer 24 king cake flavors on their regular menu, including gluten-free king cakes. They will also feature several new Flavors of the Week. “There is one flavor that I’m especially excited about and it was the favorite among our testers,” Tike says. “But you will have to wait to find out what that is.” The most popular king cake flavor offered by the Tikes is cinnamon and cream cheese. “We sold over 2,500 of that flavor alone last year,” she says. “We ship over 1,000 king cakes every year all over the country.” As for the history of the popular cakes, Tike says king cakes are believed to have originated in France around the 12th century. Early Europeans celebrated the coming of the three wise men bearing gifts 12 days after Christmas, calling Jan. 6 the Feast of the Epiphany, Twelfth Night, or King’s Day. “The main part of the celebration was the baking of a king cake to honor the three kings,” Tike says. “The cakes were made circular to portray the circular route used by the kings to get to the Christ Child, which was taken to confuse King Herod who was trying to follow the wise men so he could kill the Christ Child.” In early king cakes, a bean, pea, or coin was hidden inside the cake. The person who got the hidden piece was declared king for the day or was said to have 66 DeSoto

good luck in the coming year. “In Louisiana, Twelfth Night also signifies the beginning of the Carnival season which ends with Mardi Gras Day,” Tike says. “The bean, pea, and coin have been replaced by a small plastic baby to symbolize the Christ Child. The person who gets the baby is expected to carry on the Carnival festivities by hosting the next king cake party.” The Tikes’ king cakes are baked fresh daily and filled with real fruit filling, fresh cream filling, or a combination of both. “King cakes are decorated in the traditional Mardi Gras colors – gold for power, green for faith, and purple for justice,” Tike says. Although the Tikes’ hands-on king cake cooking classes won’t be offered this year because of COVID-19, the couple does plan to continue the classes in the future. The classes are open to children and adults. “The most exciting part of the classes and parties was getting to take a tour behind the scenes and see where the magic happens,” she says. As a small family-owned business, Tike says the bakery is grateful for community and visitor support. “My husband is the head baker while I run the business side of things and our children pitch in where they can,” Tike says. “Our son Suneil is nine so both of our children have grown up with it.” This year more than ever, the tradition of the annual king cake is good to remember and honor. “It’s the sweet taste of Mardi Gras,” Tike says. “King cakes make people smile because they’re associated with the happiest time of year in Louisiana.” The pandemic-tarnished 2020 was “an incredibly hard year for many of our customers,” Tike concludes. “So, it feels good to bring them a little taste of the joy of Carnival, a sweet treat to take their minds off things.”

An award-winning journalist, Jackie Sheckler Finch loves to take to the road to see what lies beyond the next bend.

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southern gentleman | COOKING SCHOOL

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Chicken Thighs with Herb Salsa

Jason Frye's version of Chicken Thighs with Herb Salsa

The Southern Gent’s Cooking School: A New Way to Salsa

By Jason Frye | Photography corrtesy Andrea Behrends and Helene DuJardin

Southern Gents, you probably want to be sitting down for this one: the next killer weeknight meal you make, it’s going to be chicken. Not the burnt skin, so raw it might cluck when you cut it chicken breasts your granddad (if he’s anything like mine) cooked on summer weekends. Not the simultaneously dry and bland-even-though-you-marinated-them-in-Italiandressing-for-two-hours chicken kebabs you saw on Instagram. I’m talking thighs. Thicc thighs. Thicc chicken thighs so juicy and flavor-packed you’ll want to make them three nights a week. ​ And they’re simple. ​ Matt Moore, cookbook author and Southern Gent in his own right, dropped his fourth cookbook, “Serial Griller: Grillmaster Secrets for Flame-Cooked Perfection,” in April

2020, and since I got my copy I’ve damn near cooked the book. One of the recipes I’m obsessed with is the Chicken Thighs with Herb Salsa. ​ Wait. Herb salsa? ​ Yes, herb salsa. ​But not that kind of salsa. And not that kind of herb. ​ Salsa, the food, not the dance, stretches beyond the jar of tomatoes, onions, chilies, and lime juice that we break out for nachos. In reality, salsa is just a sauce that we’ve painted into a culinary corner by relegating it to tiny carafes in TexMex restaurants and jars on grocery store shelves labeled mild, medium, and picante. This salsa is fresh, flavor packed, and will turn the way you serve chicken (or fish, pork chops, pork tenderloin or even cauliflower steaks) on its head. DeSoto 69

Matt Moore

​ Before we get to the salsa, though, let’s talk chicken thighs. ​ Show of hands, who’s nervous to cook chicken thighs? I know I was. Until I learned how. ​“[Thighs] are perfect for grilling,” Moore says. “They love high heat, they’re always juicy, and the simpler you keep things, the better they are.” ​Keeping it simple is one of Moore’s cardinal rules of cooking. That’s why he skips the marinade — “you can’t marinade meat for an hour or two and expect it to absorb any flavor,” he says — and opts instead for a generous seasoning of salt and pepper — “think of it almost like a dry brine” — before dropping them on an oiled grill. This simple preparation — plus about 10 minutes at 400 to 450 degrees, 5 minutes per side — makes for perfectly cooked, juicy thighs that are the perfect vehicle for the flavor bomb you’re about to make: a cutting board salsa. ​ You might say that the marinade and cutting board salsa are cousins, after all they achieve the same goal of big flavor delivery, they just go about it differently. Rather than letting the chicken thighs sit for a while in a combination of salt, acid (from vinegar or citrus), and oil prior to cooking, for a cutting board salsa, you let the cooked thighs rest on something that lies between a marinade and a chimichurri. ​“This board salsa brings together the idea of a marinade: olive oil, a bold salty-umami flavor, and all those herbs and aromatics,” Moore says. “Chop everything up, spread it out on your cutting board, hit it with a little oil, then take your thighs straight off the grill and let them rest on top of the salsa. Before you serve, slice the thighs and give everything a little toss.” ​What he didn’t say was this: it’s perfection. ​In Moore’s herb salsa, he finely chops parsley, mint, basil, thyme, shallot, garlic, capers, and anchovy filets (or paste), adds oil, and lets it rest. “You can use any herbs you have on hand,” he says, “and there’s a lot you can do to change up the flavor profile of the salsa.” 70 DeSoto

​ One thing you cannot change is the anchovies. ​I know what some of you are thinking, and my wife made the same face you’re making at the very idea of anchovies. But you’re wrong, they’re not too fishy or too icky or too whatever – they are exactly what this dish calls for. As Moore puts it, “Do you like Caesar Salad? Yeah? That’s because the anchovies in the dressing give it an unmistakable salty-umami-funky flavor that you just can’t recreate any other way.” ​(Moore also added that a killer pasta dish is crazy simple: a bit of anchovy paste added to buttered pasta lifts that dish out of the “almost too lazy to cook” category and into the realm of “daaaaamn, this is goooood,” so take note.) ​When you’re chopping all your board salsa ingredients, you can add a bit of heat — think jalapeño, habanero, Thai bird’s eye chilies. Or incorporate color — go with a mild pepper like a red or yellow bell. You can steer it in a Mediterranean direction with the subtle sweetness of sundried tomatoes and the briny goodness of Kalamata olives. Add a little more olive oil to thin out and stretch a salsa that’s become too thick. And think creatively about what else to serve with this simple salsa. ​“A steaky fish is great over this board salsa, so are pork chops and pork tenderloin,” says Moore. ​ You could even make a smaller batch and use it to flavor side dishes like veggies, or make a hearty vegetable — cauliflower steak, roasted carrots — into a star. ​But the real star of this dish is you, Southern Gents, because with this recipe and others from “Serial Grillers, The South’s Best Butts, A Southern Gentleman’s Kitchen,” or Moore’s debut cookbook, “Have Her Over for Dinner: A Gentleman’s Guide to Classic, Simple Meals,” you’re mastering new techniques, seeding or opening your culinary repertoire, and remembering one key lesson: The best way to a person’s heart is through their stomach.

Jason Frye writes about food and travel from his home base on the coast of North Carolina. You can follow him on Instagram where he’s @beardewriter.

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D'Monet Left to right Angie P. Holmes, Steve Bethany, Tres Hinds, Johnathan Rayborn

Kid Maestro and Mononeon

Nurturing the New Memphis Sound: The Memphis Slim Collaboratory

By Kevin Wierzbicki Photography courtesy of D’Monet – 10:15 Take the Shot Studios and Courtesy of Slim House

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DJ Superman

A new Memphis sound is being created at the former home of famed bluesman Memphis Slim in an incubator for developing talent. Every year countless music fans come to Memphis to visit The Stax Museum of American Soul Music, a place that honors the artists that recorded for Stax Records, formerly located on the site of the museum. With a string of smash hits by artists like Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, Booker T. & the MGs, Sam & Dave, Albert King, and the Staples Singers, to name but a few, Stax Records created music that defined what came to be known as the Memphis Sound. What few visitors to the museum realize is that a new Memphis Sound is being crafted right across the street at the Memphis Slim Collaboratory. Familiarly referred to as Slim House, the Memphis Slim Collaboratory takes its name from the fact that it sits on the site of the former home of famed bluesman Memphis Slim, with Collaboratory being a mash-up of collaboration and laboratory. It is an incubator for developing talent, and according to Executive Director Tonya Dyson, Slim House currently has over 250 members. ​“Since members can join as a band, that 250 quickly translates to over 600 musicians who have access to our space because of their connection to those bands,” Dyson explains. ​Among them are up-and-comers like Kid Maestro, Mononeon, Angie P. Holmes, DJ Superman, and Chinese Connection Dub Embassy, a duo that’s putting a Memphis spin on reggae music. Says the group’s David Higgins, “Slim House has been a necessity for the Memphis arts and small business community. It’s a true diamond in the rough that gives not only our band but also the community a friendly resource center to grow in our vocation.” Slim House has basically everything that musicians need to work on their material: rehearsal space and a backline that consists of a drum kit, piano, keyboard, bass rig and guitar amps, along with a full PA system, microphones, and production software. Dyson says that anyone can join the Collaboratory for a very modest annual fee. A Memphis residence is not requisite to be a member. ​“Any musician can join; however, most of our members either live here or have a band that lives here,” Dyson says. “We also rent the rehearsal space on an hourly basis during larger events like the International Blues Challenge that draw artists to the city.” One artist that’s fully availed herself of all that Slim House has to offer while also making Dyson and company proud is D’Monet, a singer, songwriter, arranger, and vocal coach who recently released her debut album, “D’Monet Live at the Green Room, Memphis.” D’Monet was classically trained at LeMoyne-Owen College and has a bachelor’s degree in vocal music performance. She makes a comment that is particularly germane to how artists affiliated with Slim House are creating the new Memphis Sound: “My musical style has allowed me to redefine the meaning of the traditional soul artist in what I call ‘alkaline music,’ music that heals.”

​Being a member at Slim House has also allowed D’Monet to advance her career faster than she could have otherwise. ​ “Being a member of Memphis Slim Collaboratory has been very helpful, especially to an independent artist such as myself,” D’Monet says. “Unlike being signed to a record label, independent artists are usually responsible for all of their affairs. Between booking studio time, having a place for your band to rehearse, wanting to further your education or desiring to perfect your craft, the fees for that can add up very quickly. Slim House makes it easier and affordable to do all of that in one place.” ​ Another Slim House member who has made quite a name is blues man Nick Black. “Slim House has been a constant resource for me since its inception,” Black states. “My band meets and rehearses there before every national tour. It’s like a ritual for us and we absolutely love having a place we can work toward being out best.” ​Membership at Slim House is not limited to musicians; also welcome are music industry movers- and-shakers like McKenzii Webster of The Web Management. Numerous Slim House members utilize Webster’s management services, and she says that Slim House has been a boon for her company. ​ “As an artist-manager and individual that works with creatives in general, Slim House has been a vital resource,” says Webster. “Even in these COVID-filled times, Slim House still opens its doors, taking all the necessary precautions, so that filming and recording of a performance can be livestreamed. Slim House is truly a gem and an essential part of the Memphis music ecosystem.” ​Initially the Memphis Slim Collaboratory operated as a program under the Memphis Community LIFT project, a non-profit with the goal of providing financial backing to fund community work in the city’s under-resourced neighborhoods. Slim House, now its own non-profit, is a shining example of what Community LIFT can accomplish. With all the talent being cultivated through Slim House, no doubt someday a nonprofit will build a Stax-like museum to showcase the creators of the new Memphis Sound.

Unable to carry a tune in the proverbial bucket, freelance writer Kevin Wierzbicki says it has been a great consolation to him to write about musicians for the past 20 years.

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in good spirits | KING CAKE MILK PUNCH

WHEN CARNIVAL WAS CANCELLED BEFORE The COVID pandemic is not the first time Carnival has been cancelled in New Orleans. Since 1857, Carnival parades have been cancelled 13 times and limited on two other occasions. Wars, yellow fever outbreaks, and police strikes have all caused the disruption of New Orleans Carnival.

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A Quarantine Carnival Cocktail By Cheré Coen | Photography courtesy of Emeril’s

Mardi Gras may be a quiet, crowd-less affair this year but a fun cocktail brings the revelry home. ​ I’m all about Carnival. I bypass the diet resolutions at New Year’s and wait impatiently for the Epiphany of Jan. 6 when the Carnival season begins. I live for the Carnival balls, the parties, the pet parades, and the weeks of revelry culminating in that gluttony day of Mardi Gras sitting on the threshold of Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. ​Carnival’s all about living it up before giving it up, but for Louisiana natives like me, it’s so much more. It’s our holiday, seeped in centuries-old traditions. We share it with the world but at its base, it’s a local festivity. ​This year, like so many other festivals, Carnival events in Southern Mississippi, New Orleans, and other Carnival hotspots have been cancelled due to the inability to maintain social distancing among millions of people. Rex, king of New Orleans Carnival, announced they will not crown a king and queen, nor hold a ball or parade. ​“It’s going to be so totally different,” says Victor Andrews, who for years covered New Orleans Carnival for the Times-Picayune newspaper. “But Mardi Gras’s organic. It changes and grows.” ​ Because Carnival remains a grass-roots festival at its core, Andrews sees more neighborhood gatherings in the urban centers, more street parties with barbecue pits and cocktails via social distancing. The Cajun courirs will likely continue chasing chickens, a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages where costumed members ride on horseback in the southwestern Louisiana countryside to dance, drink, and act crazy while gathering items for a communal gumbo. ​“I think this year more than anything else it’s going to be about your holiday, whether on the Mississippi Coast or Acadiana or New Orleans,” Andrews says. “There will be a lot more locally-flavored events than ever before.” ​Andrews’s favorite parade spirit has always been vodka and cranberry, “because it’s easy to transport in a plastic jug.” For home parties this year, he suggests any kind of Sazerac

drink or the traditional hurricane of fruit juices and rum accompanied by king cakes. We’re offering a cocktail that’s a combination of spirit and cake from Emeril’s in New Orleans. This creamy delicious milk punch will get you in the spirit, no matter where you live, no matter what gets cancelled. Emeril’s King Cake Milk Punch Makes 2 cocktails 1 1/2 ounces E&J Brandy 1 1/2 ounces Half and Half 3/4 ounce king cake syrup King Cake Syrup 1 cup granulated sugar 1/2 cup light brown sugar 1 1/4 cup water 1 cinnamon stick 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped Zest from 1 orange Directions for syrup: In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a brisk simmer, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat, let cool, remove the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean and transfer to a re-sealable container. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks. ​ irections for cocktail: Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker D with ice, strain into a rocks glass, Collins glass or brandy sniffer. Decorate the rim of the glass with purple, green and gold sugar.

DeSoto Co-editor Cheré Coen is a native of New Orleans and can’t imagine a world without Mardi Gras. But she knows the revelry will return and for now she’ll celebrate Carnival at home.

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reflections | THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE

Things that got Mary Ann through

There is Always Hope Story and photography by Mary Ann DeSantis

February is Cancer Prevention Month and a time for this editor’s reflection on her own cancer journey. Cancer. Stage 4. Words I never thought I would hear. At that point no one in my family had ever had cancer. Other things killed them but not cancer. How did I get so lucky? ​ Feb. 4 is World Cancer Day, a day when I will reflect on my own cancer journey that began in May 2014 with a horrible pain in my left side. A CT scan showed a golf-ball sized tumor on my left kidney. The biopsy said it was stage 4 renal cell carcinoma. ​ I was referred to Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla., for surgery because it was going to be an intricate procedure, not one that my local hospital could do. I came through the surgery and recovery better than anyone expected. Less than a year later, I was traveling and enjoying life. Cancer was behind me… or so I thought. ​ Fast forward to October 2019, five years and three months after my surgery. I had been working very hard on a business project and attributed my chest pains to stress. I almost didn’t mention them to my doctor, but a voice inside my head told me I should. He ruled out heart problems and sent me for a CT scan. ​ And there it was. Another tumor had metastasized in the mediastinum cavity – the area between my lungs and on top of my aorta. This time, however, it wasn’t going to be as simple as cutting that sucker out. ​ Inoperable. That’s another word you never want to hear. When Moffitt oncologists told me surgery wasn’t possible, I was unwilling to accept it so I headed to Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York for a second opinion. Again, ​

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inoperable was the word they used. My husband and amazing caregiver, Tony, said he didn’t worry until he saw the color drain from my face. He was afraid I’d given up. ​I was discouraged so I went to see my family doctor again and asked him why I shouldn’t just accept the inevitable. He looked me squarely in the eyes and said, “Mary Ann, there is always hope. Always!” ​ His words registered with me and I didn’t give up. Oh, there were days I wanted to as I fought the side effects from the cancer drugs my oncologist prescribed. I would be dishonest if I said I didn’t still have those days occasionally. ​ My tumor shrunk by 40 percent in 2020, and I truly believe it will be even smaller by the time you read this. I wish I could tell you why I’m so fortunate and others are not. After my first bout with cancer, my mother succumbed to ovarian cancer less than three months after she was diagnosed. I often think my initial experience was so that I could hold her hand with empathy as she endured tests and scans. ​I am indeed lucky. Friends and family tell me often how much I mean to them, and I make a point of telling them the same. I look at every day as a gift. I meditate. I pray. I try to eat nutritiously. And I hope. ​After all, there is always hope. A native of Laurel, Miss., Mary Ann serves as the co-editor of DeSoto Magazine. She fought like a girl when it came to cancer and on Jan. 6 as we were putting the finishing touches on this issue, she learned she is now in remission.

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