Saturday, July 30, 2011

Belle Fontaine and Isle Mon Louis

Heading South from Mobile along the western shore of Mobile Bay there are several small communities whose origins date back to French Colonial times.  Among these are Belle Fontaine and Mon Louis Island.  Mon Louis Island was the setting for the book Gulf Stream, one of the best novels written about Mobile.

View from Belle Fontaine Bridge looking east towards Mobile Bay

St. Philip Neri Catholic Church, Belle Fontaine

Creole School, Mon Louis Island

Hiram Austin Bay House C. 1834, Mon Louis Island

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Charles Smith's Blues

Charles Smith's career as an artist began in the mid-1970's. As a student at Jackson State University, he studied under Marcus Douyon, a haitian artist who was encouraged to come to America by Glen Lukens and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. In Charles' early work the influence of Douyon and the Caribbean can be seen, however, he quickly developed his own unique forms and style that have continued to evolve over the years. My favorite period of Charles’ work is called his “Blues” period which consists of the pottery that he made roughly between 1980 and 1985. As you might expect, the glaze most often used during this period was the deepest cobalt blue and the sgraffito consisted of some of the most elaborate and precise incising of his career.

Me and Charles outside his studio

Green Pot with Douyon Glaze, mid-1970's
Blue Vase, 1984
Blue Face Jar, 1982 (Photo courtesy of Charles Smith)

Blue Footed Vase, 1984 (Photo courtesy of Charles Smith)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Our Gulf Coast Cottage

When my husband and I found the McGraw Cottage while home searching in 2004, we knew it was the right home for us. It perfectly blended the local vernacular architecture with the national trend for the greek revival. The home was built sometime before 1859 by Thomas McGraw, a steamboat engineer from Philadelphia, and his wife, a french creole named Marie Verneuille, whose family had fled France at the turn of the nineteenth century. We have furnished our home with family heirlooms and local pieces that we find while antique shopping or at estate sales.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Life is like a box of chocolates...

Forrest Gump's momma surely had a box of chocolates from Three George's Candy Shop. It's been around since 1917 and is an excellent place to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Jam Bolaya!!!!!

According to an essay written by Andrew Sigal (, the first reference to the word "Jambalaya" in the english language was in a recipe published in the American Agriculturalist in 1849.  The recipe was written by Solon Robinson while in Mobile during a tour of the American South. The first cookbook to publish a recipe for "Jam Bolaya" was the Gulf City Cookbook that was published in Mobile in 1878. Perhaps not coincidentally, the second reference to "Jambalaya" in a cookbook was in What Mrs. Fisher Knows about Old Southern Cooking. Though published in San Francisco in 1881, Mrs. Fisher had moved to California from Mobile.

Of course I love cooking the food I grew up with in Italy, but, I also love cooking the traditional gulf coast fare and one of my favorites is Mobile's own Jam Bolaya!  

Friday, July 1, 2011

Saving a little piece of history, a Savannah Street Shotgun

My husband and I love Mobile's historic architecture. After several fires early this year in the Oakleigh Garden District, we decided it was time to do our part and try to save one of the old houses. We purchased the Verneuille Cottage built in 1888. Although slightly damaged by one of the fires, it was not nearly as bad as it looked. We managed to save a good bit of the original fabric of the house and only replaced the old parts with new where absolutely necessary. The work has gone a good bit faster than we ever imagined thanks to an excellent contractor. 

Project complete...