Most people who live outside of Mississippi's the Water Valley first heard of Alexe Van Beuren in this New York Times article about four women who moved to a little town in Mississippi and revived downtown. The biggest change in downtown came from Van Beuren's B.T.C. grocery. B.T.C. comes from a Gandhi quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Rumor has it the towns folks thought it stood for Beans, Tomatoes, and Corn.
Now we all know gals who fix up dusty old building and say, "Let's start a galley!" Or theater, music venue, boutique, card shop, even bookstore! But who opens a grocery store in the middle of nowhere? Well, Alexe Van Beuren did. The good news is, she had actually shopped in a grocery store. But other than shopping in one, she knew very little, if anything about running a grocery.
It became clear that what B.T.C needed was a lunch crowd. The town needed a place for soup and sandwiches. B.T.C. went through five cooks in six months and then, Dixie Grimes walked in, literally walked in off the street one morning. Here is her job interview:
Dixie: "Heard you were looking for a cook."
Alexe: "Know how to slice?"
Dixie: "Yes, ma'am."
Alexe: "Can you start right now?"
Dixie walked to the lunch counter, and the rest, as they say, is history. This is the kind of story one sees on the Hallmark channel. The kind of story that makes you think it IS a story and not real life. But there you have it. Well, now here you have it as Alexe and Dixie wrote a cookbook. The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook.
The book is true to its name, it is an old-fashioned grocery store cookbook. There is pimiento cheese, tomato soup, meatloaf, catfish, fried pies, and lane cake. There are several recipes for squash casserole. We just took the last bag of last summer's squash out of the freezer to make squash casserole. Here is B.T.C.'s recipe.
Southern Yellow Squash Casserole2 pound(s) yellow squash, chopped1 medium yellow onions, finely chopped (1 1/2 cups)2 tablespoons chopped green bell pepper1/4 pound Cheddar cheese, shredded (1 cup)1/4 pound pepper jack cheese, shredded (1 cup)1 (4 ounces) jar diced pimientos, drained2 eggs, beaten1/3 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise1 tablespoon dry vermouth1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauceDash of Tabasco sauce1 teaspoon dried basil1 teaspoon granulated onion1 teaspoon granulated garlic1/8 teaspoon sugarSalt and freshly ground black pepper1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbsPreheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9- by 13-inch casserole dishes with non-stick cooking.In an 8-quart stockpot set over medium heat, combine the squash, onion, and bell pepper. Cover with water, bring to a boil, and cook until squash is just soft, 10 minutes. Drain the mixture, discarding the liquid, and return to the pot. Add the cheeses, pimentos, eggs, mayonnaise, vermouth, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, basil, granulated onion, granulated garlic, and sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well, scoop into prepared casserole dish, and sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top.Bake until golden brown, 30 to 45 minutes.
While you might think there are no groundbreaking recipes in this cookbook, you will find one groundbreaking (or shall we say, universal) concept -- people want to eat good food. Not hot dogs and chips, not nachos with liquid cheese, not ding dongs, not 7-11.
There are millions of people, many elderly that live in food deserts. Food deserts exist in metropolitan areas and rural areas. A rural food desert is a county where residents must drive more than 10 miles to the nearest supermarket chain. (For example, we drive 15 miles to the nearest small grocery and 34 miles to the nearest Kroger. We are ambulatory and have a car.) So the next time you are looking for a small business to start, skip the gallery and go with the grocery. Buy the The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook and you will have a fine blueprint, not to mention a fine squash casserole recipe!