Southern comfort: Special luncheons invite Tennessee Williams fans to eat well in the famed writer's hometown

August 25, 2010 12:20:00 PM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


A Southern devotion to good food surfaces in several of Tennessee Williams works, scholar Kenneth Holditch has noted. Not unduly surprising, since the late playwright and poet spent his early childhood in Mississippi, in Columbus and Clarksdale. 


Like any genial host, the Tennessee Williams Tribute Committee knows a gracious table is part and parcel of the storied hospitality the South is known for. So the upcoming Tribute Sept. 6-12 offers special opportunities to dine, here in the city where Williams was born in 1911.  


In addition to a free reception and free continental breakfasts with scholars, several ticketed luncheons are available. Tickets range from $15-$25, and may be purchased in advance at the Rosenzweig Arts Center at 501 Main St., in downtown Columbus. For additional ticket information, contact the Arts Center at 662-328-2787.  


What''s cooking? Let''s take a look. 




Lunch at Franklin Square 


After an extended absence, Franklin Square, that grand antebellum lady of Third Avenue North, returns to the public eye for at least one afternoon. William (Bill) H. Rosamond and his wife, Lynne, will be your hosts in the circa 1835 dwelling that was once a mainstay on the Columbus Pilgrimage tour. It was hosted then by Bill''s parents, William I. and Lilla Rosamond. 


The stately red brick home across Fifth Street North from Franklin Academy will be the site of a seated luncheon Friday, Sept. 10, at noon. Lucky patrons who purchase tickets will be treated to a mid-day repast by Marty Wages, proprietor of Table of Plenty in Columbus. They''ll also enjoy music by the Suzuki Strings Quartet, directed by Diane Ford, and light-hearted poetry from Columbian John Dorroh. 


"Homemade" is the key word for Marty, starting with homemade chicken salad and pimento cheese. His plated lunch will also include Greek pasta, fresh, seasonal fruit and croissant. Top all this off with made-from-scratch caramel apple cake. 


"This is the first time I''ve been involved in the Tribute, and I''m proud to be doing this, especially at Franklin Square," said Marty. "And for Tennessee Williams ... Mississippi in general has had a lot of people do well, but Columbus ought to be very proud to be his home." 


Marty praised Tribute founder and chair, Brenda Carradine. "She should be patted on the back -- she breathes, eats, drinks and sleeps this every year, and then, when it''s over, she''s working on the next year." 


Seating is limited for this entertaining event. Reservations and tickets ($25) are required. 




Doors open 


Appetizingly scheduled Saturday, Sept. 11, between an enlightening morning session with Williams scholars and a not-to-be-missed 2 p.m. screening of the movie, "Loss of a Teardrop Diamond" -- complete with a Q&A with director Jodie Markel -- comes lunch at one of downtown Columbus'' charming eateries, Front Door/Back Door. 


In this restored 1890s dry goods store the Williams'' family may well have visited, Chef Sarah Labensky and her staff will serve up their chicken salad trio, which includes pasta salad and fresh fruit.  


The restaurant has a reputation for desserts to satisfy any sweet tooth. "We''ll offer homemade desserts including our bread pudding, fudge pie and caramel almond delight," said Sarah. "All are made here." Her bread pudding with bourbon sauce recipe is shared in today''s food pages. 


The Front Door will also provide box lunches for theatre-goers attending the play, "The Case of the Crushed Petunias" at the Rosenzweig Arts Center Sept. 7-9. 


Sarah is the author of cooking reference books and the former director of the Culinary Arts Institute at Mississippi University for Women. She complimented the Tribute: "This brings a lot of out-of-towners to Columbus, to see our community and what we have to offer." 


Reservations and tickets ($15) are required for this seated lunch. 




Sunday dinner, anyone? 


The week-long Tribute will conclude with flair Sunday, Sept. 12, with a unique sermon at St. Paul''s Episcopal Church, where Williams'' grandfather served as rector, followed by a seated meal in the Parish Hall. 


Beth Proffitt will cater the flavorful luncheon of curried spinach salad with chicken, homemade tomato aspic and a grape and mint taboulleh, made with bulghar wheat. 


"It''s similar to couscous .. and will have some different herbs and spices. And we can''t do Tennessee Williams without a traditional Southern dish like tomato aspic," she said. Lunch will also include herbed biscuits and an assortment of desserts. In today''s pages, Beth shares the curried spinach salad and herbed biscuit recipes she will use. 


The former professional caterer remarked, "From the very first year when I catered the Moon Lake party, I can''t believe how the Tribute has grown. You get to meet so many people from all over the place ... I love to visit, and that''s part of what''s so much fun -- to see people sit down and share a meal together and enjoy themselves. What a great job all the people who have worked on this have done. ... And who can say ''no'' to Brenda?" she smiled.  


Reservations and tickets ($20) are required for Sunday lunch. (Spend the rest of the afternoon soaking up readings of Williams'' poetry at the Welcome Center at 1:30 p.m., and a tour of three Victorian homes from 2-5 p.m.) 


For a complete schedule of Tribute events, both free and ticketed, visit, visit the Arts Center at 501 Main St., or contact the Welcome Center at 662-328-0222 or 800-327-2686. 






(Makes eight-10 servings) 




For the salad: 


2 pounds fresh spinach leaves 


2 red delicious apples, diced 


2/3 cup dry roasted Spanish peanuts 


1/2 cup raisins 


1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions 


2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted 


1 cup grilled chicken, diced, optional 




For the dressing: 


1/2 cup white vinegar 


2/3 cup olive oil 


1 tablespoon finely chopped chutney 


1 teaspoon curry powder 


1 teaspoon salt 


1 teaspoon dry mustard 


1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce 




(Source: "Square Table: a Collection of Recipes from Oxford, Mississippi) 








1 tablespoon chopped parsley 


1 tablespoon chopped chives 


2 cup all purpose flour 


1 tablespoon sugar 


2 teaspoon salt 


2 teaspoon baking powder 


1 teaspoon garlic powder 


1 1/2 cups heavy cream 




(Source: The Food Network) 








4 tablespoons butter, melted 


24 ounces day-old bread 


2 quarts heavy cream 


Six eggs 


3 1/2 cups sugar 


2 cups raisins, plumped in brandy 


5 tablespoons vanilla 




For the bourbon sauce: 


1 cup butter 


2 cups sugar 


1 cup bourbon 


Two eggs 




(Source: Courtesy of Sarah Labensky, Front Door/Back Door Restaurant, Columbus)

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.