"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Connecticut Yankee in Mississippi- Miss Bowen, Big Al, Eupora, and Profitt’s Porch

 

Eupora, Mississippi is a small town of 2200 with two features that should get national attention.  The first is the Central Service Grill, a gas station turned into a restaurant with the best ribs on earth.  They are pork ribs so succulent, juicy, and flavorful that each mouthful is pure heaven.  Wood-smoked with a spicy-sweet dry rub, they fall off the bone, and I nitpick every last scrap.  They are served with excellent coleslaw and baked beans.  I travelled fifty miles from Columbus to eat those ribs, and would again at the slightest whim.

The main reason for the short trip to Eupora was to see Miss Bowen, an 80-something antique queen with the most incredible collection of  furniture, mirrors, lamps, and chests - all in excellent taste.  Miss Bowen has two warehouses, two sheds, and her own house filled with antiques, thrown together with no rhyme or reason except known her.  There are wasps, spiders, droppings and leavings; some rooms are used by the finishers and woodworkers who refurbish, polish, and restore pieces that Miss Bowen has spied and bought in New Orleans, Memphis, or Jackson.

I love visiting Miss Bowen, not only for the incredible furniture at reasonable prices – top condition Empire chests can be bought for about $700 – but to spend time with a woman of taste and passion for something which has become a real interest of mine.  I was indifferent to furniture and period piece antiques until we started our Southern trips during which we stayed in at least carefully restored antebellum, Federal, and Colonial homes – homes which were appointed with furniture from the period of the home if not from the home itself.  Based on that interest, I began visiting furniture collections in museums – the vast collection of the Metropolitan American Wing in New York, and the smaller but impressive collection at Yale.   I still am not fully conversant with the variety of periods and styles but am getting to appreciate well-made pieces and forming a clear opinion of what I like and what I don’t.  Visiting Miss Bowen, then is an education as well as an immersion into craftsmanship.

I didn’t buy anything this time, but took a lot of pictures and am awaiting the arrival of Peggy who knows much more about furniture than I.  We have our DC car and something will certainly fit in it!  If not, Miss Bowen ships.

Big Al sells antique furniture in Eutaw, Alabama – some of the most exquisite pieces I have seen, all at reasonable prices with inexpensive home-grown shipping.  Big Al affects a redneck pose – deep, backcountry, red dirt, Southern drawl, boots up on the table, chaw of tobacco in his mouth – but there is nothing redneck about his taste.  Not only is every piece in his shop in this small (2000 pop.) town exquisite, but every piece in his restored home a few miles from the center of town.  Big Al is also one of the best salesmen I have ever met, and we went away from Eutaw with far more furniture than we intended to buy.  No regrets, however, and I look at Big Al’s chests in our living room every day.

Last night I ate at Proffitt’s Porch, a simple restaurant overlooking a lake near Columbus.  I sat outside overlooking the water, drank beer, and ate delicious Cajun gumbo and sausage and beans.  The thunderstorm had just stopped, and everything was cool and wet.

1 comment:

  1. Which of the Eutaw antiques stores was Big Al's?

    ReplyDelete