By Elizabeth McClure
Oxford doesn’t have a lot of things. You won’t find any health food stores, shopping malls, or Sunday barhops around here. (Until last month, we didn’t even have cold beer.) But two things Oxford does provide are great chefs and great writers. On October 1, these two groups collided, as they have again and again. This time, however, over twenty handles of Four Roses bourbon were also in attendance.
The award-winning local bookstore, Square Books, hosted Tilted and Pickled and celebrated the shared publication date of hometown heroes Chef John Currence and authors Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly. James Beard Award-winner Currence released his first book, Pickles, Pigs, & Whiskey: Recipes from My Three Favorite Food Groups and Then Some, which features 150 recipes collected along Currence’s culinary journey across the South. Husband-wife co-authors Franklin and Fennelly released their first novel written together, The Tilted World, which follows the lives of a federal revenue agent and a female bootlegger in the days leading up to the Flood of 1927.
Before the reading, the three honored guests signed copies of their respective works while the crowd enjoyed crackers topped with spicy pimento cheese and sipped on “Floodwater Punch.” Currence based this boozy concoction off of his co-readers’ novel. With ingredients including Cathead Pecan Vodka, Four Roses, sweet vermouth, bitters, a ginger and orange shrub, and a splash ginger ale, just one glass of this punch will tilt your world.
With newly-signed books in hand, the audience filtered into the auditorium space. After an introduction by Square Books owner Richard Howorth and Chancellor Dan Jones, Currence joked that he wasn’t going to stand there and read a chicken salad recipe. Instead he delivered a kind of acceptance speech in which he thanked the small town and the friendships he has made here, noting, “Oxford gave me the opportunity to stand out.”
Before reading an excerpt from their novel, Franklin and Fennelly thanked Currence for “all the meals, and all the restaurants, and most importantly – that amazing upstairs bar.” Currence served his famous whole-hog barbecue alongside macaroni and cheese, slaw, baked beans, and a tiered cake covered with miniature pigs and Jack Daniels bottles. Attendees ate, drank, mingled with artists, authors, and chefs, and danced to a live blues band.
Square Books called the Tilted and Pickled event “a communal celebration,” and the people of Oxford supported that claim, packing the house in support of their favorite chef and author duo. What would we be known for without our food and books? Certainly not our football…at least not quite yet.