Many passages in the Bible serve as a guide for my life.
And one of the dearest to my heart is Luke 12:19, “And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’
I’ve been on the scene in the Millington/South Tipton area for almost 11 years now. And many fabulous dishes, meals, creations, beverages, desserts and snacks have passed through my lips.
The 2013-14 TSSAA sports calendar was good to my stomach. The great food I’ve encountered from August to May have kept me at ease to do my job. And like a choir at a Southern church, it’s time to sing some praises to the best of 2013-14, The Greats of Grub.
Best Foreign Food
Part of the job involves traveling. Tournaments and games are held across the Mid-South for Millington Star area teams. Millington, Munford, Brighton and Tipton-Rosemark Academy taking on top notch competition means this reporter gets to sample great food. I have to mention the Cordova Wrestling Regional spread and the choices at the Arlington High School concession stand. But the winner this year is a familiar foe to Millington, Bolton High School.
Influenced by Bo Griffin and other Millington connections, BHS always has a delicious treat. Whether it’s basketball season or time on the diamond, Bolton satisfies a stomach.
Great barbecue nachos at baseball games and barbecue bologna is the star at a softball game. And the spread at the Regional Basketball Tournament made me miss a couple of quarters of action.
All softball season at Munford High School, I requested the trademark barbecue bologna. The Lady Cougar BBQ sandwich is the ideal thick cut featuring a tangy, sweet sauce and a light dusting of rub. The smoked bologna allows the buns to caress it on both sides for the perfect bite. Just ask the team from Illinois that enjoyed the sandwich…because I didn’t. I missed out on the barbecue bologna sandwich twice this past season. Although I was heartbroken, the other wonderful items at the Munford Concession Stand kept me from crying. And the hidden star of the stand is the freshly brewed sweet tea. Coming in a white styrofoam cup for an more authentic Southern feel, the tea is just sweet enough with intense tea flavor. But it tastes even better when it accompanies that BBQ Sandwich.
To win Best Variety takes two key elements. The first is consistency, being in the same location with great cooks. The second is having fresh ideas and providing a platform for them.
The Rex Waits End Zone Grill at Millington Football games is at least five chances to taste a piece of Heaven. There are so many contributors to name from the Waits family, the Hearns, the Molders and the list continues.
One night deer chili or taco soup might be the featured item and the next game, the men on the grill have the star of the night like deer steaks or juicy smoked sausages. The Millington Booster Club makes sure there is plenty of meat and community leaders contribute to the grill with donations. Those generous men and women are in the corner enjoying some of their charity on a plate.
Great desserts like Coca Cola Brownies and Peanut Butter Rice Crispy treats challenge your diet. I’ve learned that after a night at the End Zone Grill, my Saturday workout will go an hour longer.
Sometimes it takes years to appreciate true genius. The name of Betty “Mama” Hale has graced the pages of The Millington Star. And within her family several great cooks have emerged. Those women came into the family with skills but added some of Mama Hale’s tricks to become Goddess of Grub. One young lady I would like to celebrate this year is Nina Hale. The lovely wife of Brian and mother of Brandi and Kelsey, Ms. Nina has managed to share some of her delicious recipes with my family and me.
I’ve known for years her desserts are great but at this past year’s Region 7-3A Volleyball Tournament at Munford, Ms. Nina stole the show with her buffet spread and sweets.
Ms. Nina is a proud MHS alum and mother of two MHS graduates. She gives back to her school whenever she can and the entire guest list that day in the hospitality room had a chance to experience Ms. Nina’s hospitality, friendly smile and great food. She made Munford proud.
Best Tournament or Special Spread
A spread fit for a TSSAA Hall of Famer…and I was in the right place at the right time to take advantage of it. Brighton High School Athletic Director Cetrice Bounds wanted to make the day special for recent TSSAA inductee Chic Nute. That day was the Munford vs. Brighton baseball game at BHS. With Nute being a longtime contributor to all Tipton County Schools, Bounds knew that night would be ideal to honor Nute for his years of service and recent Hall of Fame status.
Whenever you have a special occasion at Brighton food will be a part of the festivities. Bounds and the faculty at BHS wanted to make sure there would be enough food for Nute and his guests. Underneath the blue tent was enough food to feed an army of Thomases.
I enjoyed fabulous chicken salad from Sam’s, a colorful robust fruit tray was the perfect set up for my dessert of strawberry cake.
Sandwiches, cheeses, a meat tray and much more made it hard to head back to the dugout for the game. But I am a professional, I only missed the first two innings of the contest.
The 2014 Waits Family Award will NOT go to the Waits Family. There are many wonderful grillers in the area. But there is one moment around the fire that stands out this year. I have to show some love to my boy Coach Andrew Womack. As an administrator at TRA Womack can be a busy man. But he makes sure I get notices on athletes signing, the latest statistics from all sports, updates on standings and good story ideas to showcase the talented student/athletes at TRA.
From soccer to softball Womack is a man who puts his heart and spirit into TRA Athletics. So it wasn’t a surprise when TRA was hosting both softball and baseball Regionals that Womack was on the grill in his shirt and tie. He was as sharp at Millington native Justin Timberlake flipping over burgers. He managed the trademark Rebel Dogs for the dozens and dozens of spectators. Womack isn’t affraid to role up his sleeves for TRA, the fans, the love of sports and most importantly the students.
Best Hot Dog
The Rebel Dog at Tipton-Rosemark Academy was about to walk away with the award it inspired. I’ve enjoyed Rebel Dogs with sweet relish, mustard, mayo, barbecue sauce and even natural.
Then comes the annual Shelby County Baseball All-Star Game at USA Stadium the day after Memorial Day. I made plans to try to avoid the concession stand that night because of my diet. But a powerful storm transformed the beautiful diamond at the historic venue into a large slip-n-slide. Watching the players enjoy Mother Nature and chatting with the dry TRA Rebel legends underneath the bleachers built my appetite.
The concession stand was out of hamburgers because nothing sells great food like a rain delay. USA Stadium Director Tommy Rogers pulled me in from the pouring rain into the concession area and offered me a hot dog very similar to the Rebel Dog.
Safe and dry, I dressed the large plump frank with mustard and took a bite. It was nirvana. It made my heart smile and the sun came out for a second. Then when reality hit, I needed a ride from TRA Head Coach Brad Smith to avoid swimming to my car.
Rain is a year around thing in the Memphis area. So back on Sept. 20 in Bartlett the rain never stopped limiting my photo chances for the Millington vs. Bartlett football game. Among all the rain drops I could see smoke in the air. That smoke had a sweet aroma and as a native Memphian I knew that was barbecue. Kevin Gideon, of Bad Pig BBQ, was on the grill cooking for administration and staff at the game. Of course they invited Millington officials over and I worked my way into the area thanks to Ms. Mardi. After an introduction to Gideon, I met his skills on the grill. It was an OMG moment. The rib was tender with the right amount of sticky with the sauce. And his special rub is magic herbs and seasonings. I guess on a wet night, a wet rib is the ideal food.
We have another winner in this category coming from Millington Baseball senior night this past April. There was an absolutely beautiful creation on the dessert table. Oh yes, there was so much food that night the Trojan Baseball Booster Club had to set up a separate area for sweets. The star of that table was a homemade turtle cheesecake. You read that right, homemade…turtle and cheesecake.
That sinful dish tasted better than it looked. You have a mountain of caramel, nuts and chocolate over a soft but firm platform of perfect cheesecake. The Lady who made it is the mom of the player known as “J Bird.” Eating two pieces of that wonderful cheesecake gave me wings.
Best Food Moment
Before I embarrass myself and Blackberry phone, first let me declare I wouldn’t have endured this moment if the Memphis area had a Hardee’s. We need a Hardee’s here!
With that in mind, I was looking forward to the Oct. 11 Millington Trojan Football game at Liberty. Traveling to Jackson I knew there would be a Hardee’s near the school.
For this road trip I was going to be joined by MCHS alumni Christi Lucas and Colin Murray. We all agreed to leave Millington a little earlier to have time to grab a burger from Hardee’s.
I plugged the address into my phone (yes I still use a Blackberry) and we were on our way toward those great thickburgers. All was going smoothly as we took Exit 87 like my GPS said. But here is where things go wrong. My GPS told me to take a left instead of right.
And according to my GPS we had about 9 miles to go. As we traveled through a new county and past large field surrounding beautiful homes, I could taste that burger.
Then my GPS said my destination was to my right. But all I saw was large grass.
There was a voice of reason, Christi. As we cruised up and down the two-lane road, she questioned my GPS and me.
With her up-to-date iPhone, Christi popped in the same address and told me lets head back to the I-40. Halfway back I knew we should have made a right.
Praying that the car would stay silent, Christi was letting me and my phone have it. “You drove 10 miles out of the way…for a burger!”
Fighting back tears, I told her, ‘Once you taste one of these burgers, you’ll understand.”
Of course the Hardee’s was located right off Exit 87 attached to the Love’s gas station. And it took love to drive that far out of the way for Hardee’s.
Colin treated me to a Frank’s Red Hot thickburger. Both Colin and Christi got a combo and enjoyed every bite.
“It is good,” Christi acknowledged. “But I’m never gonna let you forget you drove 10 miles the wrong way.”
We still had time to get to the game before kickoff and yes, we used Christi’s phone to guide us the rest of the way.
Legends like Rex Waits, Trina Newsome, “Mama” Tena Alexander and Betty Hale are just some who have set the bar high for Best Overall. Those greats all have several things in common like great recipes, cooking with love and making sure you have plenty.
With that in mind, I picked TRA Concessions for this year’s honor. I guess when you have a playoff football team, top notch basketball team, State finalist baseball team and championship softball squad, you cook with love.
The TRA Concession crew had plenty of chances to feed spectators with all the winning. Volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball all hosted postseason games this past TSSAA sports year.
And several great treats were on the menu for fans. But the heart and soul of the TRA Concession Stand are the Rebel Dog and barbecue nachos. I’ve already expressed my love for the Rebel Dog but let me shine the spotlight on the TRA barbecue nachos.
I’ll keep it short and sweet. Those nachos are PACKED!
I gave the nice lady at the concession stand $5 for a plate of nachos. After a few minute of eating the tender pulled pork covered in seasoned cheese and barbecue sauce over a bed of chips, I wanted to walk back up to the concession stand and ask the lady, ‘Don’t I still owe you money?’
You get your money’s worth with those nachos at TRA. And please grab a fork. Once all your chips are gone, you’ll need it to finish off the pork.