47.7 F

On Cooking Southern: the Sporting Life Never Ends in Oxford



If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride: Just thinking about wanting something won’t get you there. If you want to accomplish something, do what it takes… adopted by Southerners most notably from the Collection of Proverbs in Scots by James Carmichael, who died in 1628.

Life is slowly returning to normal (whatever that is) for The Old Bride and family, after a delightful escape to the exotica of Spain and Morocco. Originally, I had planned to focus last week’s column on the many wonders of mint, in homage to that favored herb of Morocco. But in typical ADD fashion, I got sidetracked — too many current sporting events were in play, one of them right here in Oxford.

First, there was the personal preparation needed for the much-anticipated Belmont Stakes horse race. It’s Part Three of the American racing world’s Triple Crown. Anticipation is always sweeter in years like this one, when there’s actually the potential for a Triple Crown winner.

Jeff Bergman
Jeff Bergman

Time to uncork the bubbly and gather a group of friends, is what I always say…what better excuse than a great horse race? It’s a life lesson learned from ritzy horseracing acquaintances during my younger days, and I’m sticking with the philosophy.

But even before the Saturday race in which American Pharoah made Triple Crown history, some of us Oxonians were immersed in our favorite Southern sport. What it wus (to quote Andy Griffith) wus FOOTBALL.

Most locals were unaware, but 12 NFL and 5 SEC refereeing officials were in town to assist with the Fifth Oxford Football Officiating Clinic, held June 5-6. The 17 participating officials volunteered their time and experiences for the event.

The clinic, founded five years ago by Steve Freeman, NFL Back Judge No. 133, himself a former player, and his son Brad Freeman, NFL Field Judge No. 88, is designed to provide case studies of genuine officiating situations for officials seeking to hone their skills.

Steve Freeman
Steve Freeman

“This clinic is not to be confused with audition clinics where aspiring officials hope to get scouted by Division I leagues or the NFL,” Steve Freeman explained. “We have four NFL officials living in Oxford, six total in Mississippi now, and a few years ago we decided that someone needed to put on an officiating clinic that teaches real-life on-field situations. Our goal is to help develop better football officials. There’s nothing political about the clinic, it’s not affiliated with any league or conference, and we do no advertising — it’s all word-of-mouth.”

This year, more than 160 refereeing officials heard the word and came from as far away as Michigan, New Jersey, New York, the Carolinas and Florida. They represented high schools and small college leagues, many of them feeders to the Division I leagues. On Friday, the attendees received real-life instruction based on actual experiences of the seasoned officials. On Saturday, they spent the day on the field assisting with the Ole Miss 7-on-7 camp for high school teams who had come in from across the state.

The NFL officials included both Freemans, Steve Stelljes, Head Linesman No. 22 who moved to Oxford recently from Kansas; fellow Oxonian Jeff Triplette, Referee No. 42; Tom Hill, Side Judge No. 97; Tom Symonette, Line Judge No. 100; Tom Stephan, Line Judge No. 68; Jeff Bergman, Line Judge No. 32; legendary referees Jerry Markbreitt (now a referee trainer for the NFL) and Bernie Kukar, whose 86 is now worn by participating Field Judge Jimmy Buchanan, of Ridgeland, MS; and the NFL’s first regular female official, Sarah Thomas, Line Judge No. 53, of Brandon.

The participating SEC officials included Line Judge Tim Beard, Umpire Russ Pulley, Umpire Tom Quick, Referee Tom Ritter, and Line Judge Mike Taylor.

a serving@CollegeHillIMG_0306The host officials always make sure their volunteer colleagues are well fed while in Oxford. On Friday night the participating instructors and families consumed a delicious family-style dinner at the College Hill Store, complete with homemade chicken and dumplings, pork loin and fried chicken, corn, squash casserole, mashed potatoes, seasoned green beans, marinated tomato salad, cornbread, and six desserts for which the College Hill Store ladies are renowned — banana pudding, pecan pie, chocolate cake, key lime pie, blondies, and brownies.

On Saturday night, Holly and Linda Raney hosted the group in their newly renovated horse barn-turned-wedding venue. Nobody ever turns down Holly’s acclaimed red beans and rice, served with tossed salad, cornbread, brownies and homemade vanilla ice cream.


While the officials met on Friday, several of the spouses convened for a light ladies lunch at the Triplette home. The luncheon was intended to tide us over until the College Hill Store feed. Our gathering was really all about the company, but the food helped.


One of my guests has an allergy to mint, so I omitted it from this rice salad. This rice salad — with or without the mint — combines beautifully with plain chicken salad to create a summer chicken-and-rice salad. Mix together equal parts of each salad.

rice-salad-DSCN07261/4 c minced sweet onion

3 T white wine vinegar

1 T lime zest

2 T fresh lime juice

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp honey

1/2 c extra virgin olive oil

4 c cooked basmati rice, chilled

1-1/2 c thin-sliced English or Kirby cucumbers

1 c diced red or green bell pepper

1/2 c chopped green onion

1/3 c fresh chives

1/3 c chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/2 c chopped fresh mint, OPTIONAL

Salt to taste

Combine the first six ingredients in a non-reactive bowl. Whisk in the olive oil until blended. Combine the rice, cucumbers, bell pepper, onions and herbs in a large bowl and toss to blend. Pour dressing over the rice and toss again until completely blended. Add salt to taste. Cover and chill for 1 to 4 hours. Serve on a lettuce leaf or bed of mixed spring greens, OR combine it with chicken salad.


This is the “starter” recipe for most chicken salad variations. I combined it with the summer rice salad – tossing together equal parts chicken salad and rice salad. Feel free to add roasted, salted pecans or walnuts.

plainchickensalad-DSCN06966 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 T garlic powder

1 T ground thyme

1 T salt

2 tsp black pepper

1-1/2 to 2 c good mayonnaise (I use Duke’s)

1/2 c fine-chopped celery, including some leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

Place the chicken breasts in a stockpot and cover with water (2 inches above the chicken). Add the garlic powder, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, covered, and boil for 45 minutes, until fork-tender. Remove breasts from the broth and chop. Chill.

Combine the chopped chicken with the mayo and celery, using enough mayonnaise to keep the chicken from being “dry.” Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crackers or crusty bread.


This mixed-fruit salad is forgiving and works well as a layered salad. Feel free to add assorted fruits; just make sure to keep the watermelon and honeydew ratio greater than that of all other fruits, and remember that some fruit quickly becomes soggy.

herbymelon-mozzarella-salad-DSCN06992/3 c extra light olive oil

1/2 c white granulated sugar

1/3 c fresh lemon juice

1-1/2 tsp poppyseeds

2 tsp fine-minced sweet onion

1 tsp Dijon mustard

3 T fresh, fine-chopped basil

1/2 tsp table salt

4 c cubed watermelon

4 c cubed honeydew melon

2 c cubed cantaloupe

herbymelon-mozzarella-salad-closeupDSCN07212 c sliced, cubed peaches or mango

2 c sliced strawberries

1/2 c blueberries

8 to 12 oz mozzarella balls (about 1 c), cut in half

Fresh mint for garnish

Combine first 8 ingredients together in a medium non-reactive bowl and whisk to blend. Combine fruit in a large bowl. Add the mozzarella and drizzle with the freshly made Lemon-Poppyseed Dressing. Toss gently to coat fruit and cheese completely. Chill up to 4 hours. Garnish with fresh mint.


These are yet another iteration of quick biscuits-turned-rolls, but they work every time. They even stay moist and taste great the next day, so are excellent make-ahead items.

quicktinycheeserolls-DSCN07022 c biscuit mix such as Bisquick

1 c sour cream or crème fraiche

1 stick salted butter, melted and cooled to lukewarm

3/4 c grated Colby/jack cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease two 12-cup mini-muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine the biscuit mix and sour cream in a large bowl. Add the melted butter and fold until completely blended. Stir in the cheese. The dough will be sticky. Using a teaspoon, fill each cup; the cups will be very full.

Bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before removing from the tins.


Here’s a “healthful” ladies luncheon cocktail. Let’s all toast the first Triple Crown racing winner since 1978!

AmericanPharoahJewel-DSCN07061/4 c chilled star ruby or ruby red grapefruit juice

1/4 c chilled pomegranate juice

1/4 c chilled watermelon juice

1-1/2 to 2 oz vodka

1 oz simple syrup

10-oz chilled bottle of club soda

Watermelon wedges and blackberries for garnish

Combine first 5 ingredients in cocktail shaker and shake well. Strain into pitcher and add the club soda. Stir and serve immediately with garnish of watermelon and blackberries. Yields 4 to 6 cocktails.

Laurie Triplette is a writer, historian and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Association of Food Journalists, Southern Foodways Alliance and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Check out the GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’ website and follow Laurie’s food adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Recent Comments

scamasdscamith on News Watch Ole Miss
Frances Phillips on A Bigger, Better Student Union
Grace Hudditon on A Bigger, Better Student Union
Millie Johnston on A Bigger, Better Student Union
Binary options + Bitcoin = $ 1643 per week: https://8000-usd-per-day.blogspot.com.tr?b=46 on Beta Upsilon Chi: A Christian Brotherhood
Jay Mitchell on Reflections: The Square
Terry Wilcox SFCV USA RET on Oxford's Five Guys Announces Opening Date
Stephanie on Throwback Summer
organized religion is mans downfall on VP of Palmer Home Devotes Life to Finding Homes for Children
Paige Williams on Boyer: Best 10 Books of 2018
Keith mansel on Cleveland On Medgar Evans