The corner of North Jefferson and Manship

Photo © Robert Chapman

Living in the suburbs of Mississippi’s Capital City, it’s easy to make the argument that there’s just nothing to do. And as true as that can be, that grievance is tired.

There are things to do in any city, town, suburb, borough, hamlet, nook or cranny. But if an individual subscribes to the notion that the world is going to give you the good things, then that individual is lying to said individual’s self.

I found two such places at the corner of North Jefferson and Manship. But first, some existential ramblings.

It’s All up to You

Hidden gems are just that: hidden. Unique and crafty venues exist all over the nation. It’s just up to the individual to seek out and know his or her surroundings.

Go find the good things. Actively search on your daily commute to work or when you make that special trek to wherever. I’m willing to bet hidden gems aren’t so hidden if you seek to uncover them. In fact, I bet they’re dying to be recognized.

Photo © Robert Chapman

Or, you could live the passive lifestyle, letting the fickle whims of today put you in a square box that doesn’t allow for any natural growth or development. Human beings—read that, our psyche—are exceptionally malleable. The mind, the beliefs, the inner person will fit into whatever box it’s placed, and most of the time that box is very precise and exact.

The box has corners—perfect corners—almost like the container was built with machine precision. Laser exactness allows for each block to be stacked one atop another, building a tower to some commercial paradise. You know the shape—heck, most of us either are or have been the shape. And as Roger Waters warned us, we’ll become just another brick in the wall, unable to think for ourselves, following a narrative set in place the powers that be.

If we try to rebel, we don’t know what we’re rebelling against or what our end goal really is. We become a product, instead, of a growing creation. The good news is, there’s freedom in pursuing the world outside the brick wall.

Discovering the Organic Material

Disclaimer: pursuit of an organic life is not neat or pretty.

When we hear organic we tend to jump on the food marketing scheme allowing companies to charge an extra 15% to 25% for milk or produce. And as much as I do believe that foods that have not be genetically modified may be better for you, jumping on the organic foods bandwagon is a cheap try at trying to purge your body of filth.

Photo © Robert Chapman

The organic life theory I’m talking about is ages old.

Remember Pythagoras? Maybe you don’t, but I bet you remember his mathematical theorem: a² + b² = c²

This algebraic equation says that the two short sides of a triangle “squared” will equal the length of the longest side of a triangle (the hypotenuse) “squared.” The hypotenuse is always across from the 90 degree angle.

We could get deep into the weeds with this, but I won’t. But I’d like to point out Pythagoras acknowledged that his theorem depended on the perfect right angle. The ironic thing is, the perfect right angle isn’t a naturally occurring shape. It’s not organic. But it didn’t stop him from pursuing the mathematics behind it nor did it stop him from pursuing a holier life. That’s right, he was a theologian too. There’s no chance a flawed person will achieve real holiness, but the pursuit of holiness was the main focus.

The precisely, mathematically cut individual is a product of the outside forces seeking to enforce their wills upon a person.

Breaking free means corners are not perfectly square.
Breaking free means your life won’t fit in a magazine.
Breaking free means you’re not part of it, (whatever it is).
Breaking free allows for agency, but it disassembles autopilot.
Breaking free can be uncomfortable. At first.

Elvie’s Restaurant—Jackson, MS

I know. I’ve strayed. But let’s get back to what I found in a city where there’s nothing to do.

Photo © Robert Chapman

Tuesday night, my wife and I went to dinner with some close friends at a place I’ve been wanting to try for a while: Elvie’s Restaurant.

There’s a great back story to it that has been covered by media outlets across the region. But the exterior mirrors what the plates possess: organic authenticity.

A old house on Manship Street in Jackson was purchased, gutted, overhauled and transitioned into a unique restaurant.

I describe the aesthetics to friends like this: An old restaurant from New Orleans was jimmied out of it’s spot in the French Quarter and gently placed between Fortification and State Street.

It was open and clean. The natural light coming in from the windows allowed for the richness in everything to shine through. Care was obviously taken putting the floor in, coupling it with the wood trim and the brass at the bar and server’s station. The porch out front is welcoming, and the circular sign with the script “Elvie’s” is simple.

As we dined, we were blown away by the care taken to each dish. I had a sandwich. Well, calling the Croque Madame a sandwich is an understatement. It was fantastic. The ham was locally sourced from West Point, MS and the creole mustard was made in-house (as was pretty much everything).

Photo © Robert Chapman

My wife and my buddy both ordered the Poulette Chassuer. My wife doesn’t typically do baked chicken, but she said she was impressed with it. Throwing proper manners out the window, I stuck my fork in her chicken and snagged a piece for myself.

If you’ve ever had dry chicken that allowed you to experience various textures of the bird as you eat, then you understand why most people are disappointed in baked chicken. The chicken in the Poulette Chassuer possessed none of the previously mentioned characteristics. It was thoroughly moist, with every bite having a consistent texture. Pretentious words aside: it was dang good.

My buddy’s wife got a salad. I love saying that, because what she got was far from simply a salad. Her Remoulade Salad was crisp, showing the same care to its preparation as the chicken. The shrimp on her salad was eye catching and delicious as well.

Campbell’s Craft Donuts

Photo © Robert Chapman

Right next door to Elvie’s is Campbell’s Craft Donuts. Owned and operated by the same people who have brought you Campbell’s Bakery in Fondren, their donut place is more than simply a donut place.

In similar fashion to Elvie’s, it appears to be a former commercial space that has been overhauled and transformed. Inside is a wide open dining area flooded with natural light. If you enter from Manship Street, the donut treasure trove is to the right, just behind the counter. They’re fresh and they’re spectacular.

My son and I love to take breakfast runs on Saturday mornings, so I knew I could enlist the kid in trekking with me to the Belhaven neighborhood.

The selection at Campbell’s was good. They had just enough to choose from that allowed me to make a choice and feel that I truly had options without overwhelming me with dozens of flavors.

Photo © Robert Chapman

This Saturday, they had traditional glaze, chocolate, cinnamon, lemon zinger, banoffee, Mississippi mud pie, maple bacon and a classic cinnamon roll.

There are donuts and then there are donuts. These were the latter.

The care taken towards mixing he dough and the process for baking them show up in each bite. Don’t inhale these. Savor each one.

Their menu goes beyond craft donuts. They have breakfast tacos made to order. We’ll certainly be back to try the rest of the menu.

Holes in the Wall

Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and flinging of all political poo, the simple discovery and experience of something new in my own region allowed me to rest naturally in the idea that there was something to do.

What made it even better is that the two separate events allowed me to rest in a moment with people I love.

My happiness is not determined by the outside forces attempting to put me in a box. They want me to be precise, to be square, to fit in properly.

I’d rather have my crooked corners. The organic space is where we should attempt to exist. We all fit in the organic space. If you don’t fit in the box, that’s ok.

After all, we’re just another missing brick in the wall.

Photo Gallery by Robert Chapman

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