The book signing and dinner at the Minnis House was a smashing success, thanks to the hard work and creative effort of the Stapleton family. This tiny, beautifully restored inn, across the highway from where my husband has lived his entire life, managed to attract some 50 people for a dinner that sold out about a week after the Morristown paper ran a story about it. The Jefferson City paper also previewed the event, and sent a photographer so they could run a photo afterwards. Finally, I was astonished to open the Knoxville News-Sentinel and find that food writer Mary Constantine had used her story about the event as the section centerpiece, with three recipes from Atlanta Kitchens.
More touching, three good friends from Atlanta came up to help for the weekend to help out and cheer me on. My friend and editor Susan Percy stepped in as hostess with the mostest. Bestie-bud Rich Eldredge posted an item to Atlanta magazine’s dining blog, making this event in New Market, Tenn. (population 1200), by far the biggest publicity-magnet I’ve ever been associated with. Bill and I have decided to start up-selling the place as “Nouveau Marché.”
Despite the inn’s eentsy kitchen and the sheer massiveness of the task she took on, Kim wowed the crowd with her cooking. Fan favorites included beef brisket, Linton Hopkins’ succotash, and the melocoton salad of peaches and tomatoes with ham (pictured, below).
I met so many wonderful people who had known Bill and his family for years, and some who had known my dad. My mom and many of her friends turned out too. I so wish I could have met Bill’s mom — she came from a difficult background (what was then called “a broken home”) to become an accomplished and polished survivor, raising Bill alone after his dad died when he was 12. One of her old friends brought the photo of Bill pictured below, from the Lewiston, Maine, newspaper — the hometown she visited every summer. I love this photo, taken in her family’s back yard, which Bill and I still visit every year, now occupied by his aunt, uncle and cousin, the Lewises. She looks so beautiful and happy, and 5-year-old Bill is beaming as she holds his hand. My favorite memory of this entire event was her friend telling me that “Dotty would have been well pleased.”
As exciting as it all was, you could hardly blame Rich’s friend Charles, who in a charitable post-mortem of the weekend, concluded it was a lot of fun, but allowed that in the future, he didn’t think he would want to stay in New Market “for more than three days.” Oh, come on, Charles — you know you loved your breakfast at Hillbilly’s Cabin!