Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Robert St. John: Seasons in Mississippi

 “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” –Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Of all the great debates I have held with friends over the years, most have been about music.  Beatles or the Stones? Bonham or Moon? Van Halen or Van Hagar? John or Paul? Paul or George? 1960s rock vs 1970s rock? Or 1980s vs 1990s? Though a topic that is also discussed often in these parts has to do with the seasons. The one I had the other day was, “Which season is best, Mississippi Fall or Mississippi Spring?”


It’s a hard one for me.


Mississippi has unique seasons. Some say our seasons are— almost summer, summer, still summer, and Christmas. Others recall the seasons as dove, deer, duck, and turkey. Still others measure the seasons by football season, basketball season, baseball season, and golf. In my business we are sometimes guilty of only caring about crab season, oyster season, crawfish season, and shrimp season. Though that’s one helluva good calendar in my book.


I once saw a meme that suggested that Mississippi has 11 seasons— winter, fool’s spring, spring of deception, third winter, the pollening, actual spring, summer, hell’s front porch, false fall, second summer, and actual fall. For the purposes of this column, I will stick to my two favorite Mississippi seasons spring and fall. 


Spring and fall are the easy choices for me. Our summers are way too hot. The heat never bothered me as a kid and I was outside all day, every day, during the summer. I’m sure I got hot, but it was never the topic of conversation with my friends. And it never bothered me enough to not go outside. If we were riding bikes in the neighborhood we knew where all the faucets were at every neighborhood house, and which families didn’t mind if you drank from their garden hose. 


Now in my sixth decade, there are brutal summer days in which I choose to go immediately from the house to the truck, from the truck to the office, from the office back into the truck when my work is done, and from the truck back into the house. End of day. End of story. And that is with the luxury of a remote start option on my truck, so the air conditioner is already running when I get in. Older me is a much bigger wimp than younger me.


I don’t mind cold weather at all. Winters are less of a problem for me. Though, again, in my advanced age (seeing a trend here?), I get colder than I used to. It’s mainly feet and hands. But I am the guy who used to sleep with the window open on below-freezing nights. Now I put on furry bedroom slippers as soon as I get home. I have now become a slipper guy. I used to think bedroom slippers, or “house shoes” as my grandmother called them, were also for wimps and they looked stupid. Today I have a pair in my office, in my suitcase, and at several other locations where I might lay my head. 

My wife, however, is still in the leave-the-window-cracked-on-cold-nights-and-turn-down-the-heat phase. For three decades we were temperature compatible. Today we are miles apart and it’s a constant battle over the thermostat.  


That brings us back to spring and fall. It’s probably not fair to hash this argument out in the middle of pollen season because that certainly puts a cloud over the discussion. A literal cloud. A yellow cloud of pollen is swirling around and getting on every surface available including up each nostril as I type. The pollening is happening now. The azaleas are in full bloom, my eyes are watery, my nose is running, and my silver truck is yellow.


In defense of spring, the foods are much better than in the fall. Spring gives us strawberries, soft-shell crab, crawfish, lamb, various lettuces, morels, artichokes, and asparagus. I could have just stopped at the first four, but I’d like the reader to think that I eat green stuff, too. 


In the fall we get beans, mushrooms, cauliflower, chestnuts, duck, figs, fennel, leeks, pheasant, and cabbage. When compared to spring, it’s not even close. 


If we’re talking sports, fall is the clear winner. I know that baseball is big in these parts, but football is king. It’s not even a discussion. A Friday night in small town Mississippi is magical. I love the atmosphere at local high school football games. Not just because they take me back to some of the fondest memories of my youth, but because they tend to bring the entire community together. We take pride in our local football teams. Saturdays are even better when college teams kick off.


When we boil it down, we’re really talking about April and October. Both months average around 75-degree highs during the day and 52-degree lows in the evenings in Mississippi. In my opinion, it’s a tie when it comes to which month has the best weather. I prefer spring mornings and fall evenings. Again, football on fall evenings— when the air is cool and crisp— is hard to beat.


Spring wins easily in the foliage category, at least in my part of the state. By April the pollen is gone. Everything has greened up and is blooming. Fall may be prettier in the northern part of the state where the hardwoods are more prevalent. But down here there isn’t a lot of fall color in the woods as we are in the middle of the Pine Belt, so it’s mostly straw and cones.


Again, no disrespect to winter and spring. Spring owes its beauty to winter, and we wouldn’t appreciate the cool crisp evenings of fall without the shoe-sole melting heat of summer. We need them all. San Diegans might have world-class temps year-round. But that’s like being a fan of Alabama football. You’re a constant winner. It gets boring. The teams we follow require endurance, patience, and practice at dealing with continual frustration and loss. We endure. 


OK, winning constantly is not boring. It’s awesome. I’d love to be a fan of a team that was a constant winner, but I am a lifelong fan of programs that require constant patience and continual hope. My teams build character.


In my book spring is the winner based on the foods available and the feelings of new life and new beginnings. Though it’s very, very close because fall has football. But as much as I love football— and I truly love football— I love food even more.


And to make sure we don’t have any loose ends, the correct answers are Beatles, Bonham, Van Halen, John (a close one though), Paul, 1970s, and 1980s.




Asparagus Bread Pudding


1 cup asparagus, cut into one-inch long pieces


1 Tbl                   Olive Oil

1/2 cup       White Onion, diced

1/2 cup       Red Pepper, diced

1 tsp           Salt

1 tsp           Black Pepper, freshly ground

1 /2 cup      Riesling Wine


12 Tbl                 Fresh Basil, chopped

1 tsp           Dry Mustard

1 cup                   Sour Cream

1 cup                   Half and Half

1 /2 cup      Whole Milk

4                 Egg Yolks

2                 Eggs

6 cups                French bread, crust removed and small diced


Preheat oven to 325.


Place three cups of water into a small saucepot and bring to a boil. Place the asparagus pieces in the boiling water and cook for 45 seconds Strain the asparagus and run it under cold water until cooled completely. Drain and dry the asparagus pieces and set aside.


In a medium-sized sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Sauté the onions and peppers for two-three minutes. Add the cooked asparagus, salt and pepper and cook for one more minute. Add the wine and allow it to reduce by half. Remove this mixture from the heat and set aside.


In a large mixing bowl, combine the basil, dry mustard, sour cream, half and half, milk and eggs. Blend them together and fold in the cooked vegetables and French bread. Cover and allow the mixture to set for one hour before baking.


Place the pudding mixture into a lightly buttered 2 quart Pyrex baking dish. Cover the pudding with a piece of parchment paper, and cover the parchment paper with a piece of aluminum foil. Bake for 35 minutes covered. Remove the foil and paper and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Allow pudding to rest for 10 minutes before serving.


Yields: 8-10 servings


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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS