November 24, 2013

God Save the Beets


By special request—a Thanksgiving essay written years ago and reprinted more times than any other article I ever published. It’s slightly historic itself now, but still fun.

The only time I ever missed an American Thanksgiving dinner was while I was living in England on a study-abroad term in college. That year my landlady served up sausages and peas as if it were any other Thursday, and her husband sagely observed that if I wanted Yankee holidays, I should have stayed in America.  (more…)

November 8, 2013

A Hole Worth Not Fixing

There’s some really good stuff inside the historic Tennessee state capitol: cast-iron railings and spiral stairs, columns of limestone and marble, elaborate gasolier light fixtures decked with tobacco leaves, cotton blossoms, Indian corn, and elk heads. The elegant upstairs chamber of the House of Representatives is the very spot where American women finally secured the right to vote in 1920 when state representative Harry Burn switched sides unexpectedly—making Tennessee the last state needed to sew up the Nineteenth Amendment—because, among other reasons, his mother wanted him to.

But that’s just my third-favorite detail in the Tennessee statehouse in Nashville, after the tomb of its architect—who is buried right there in the building—and the 1866 bullet hole in the stone rail of the main stairs. (more…)