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- [Speaker] Tennessee Crossroads is made possible in part by-- - I'm Tennessee Tech President Phil Oldham. Here in Cookeville, Tennessee's college town. We are bold, fearless, confident, and kind. Tech prepares students for careers by making everyone's experience personal. We call that living wings up. Learn more at tntech.edu. - [Speaker] Averitt's Tennessee roots run deep. They've been delivering logistics solutions here for over 50 years. And though Averitt's reach now circles the globe, the volunteer state will always be home, more at averitt.com. Discover Tennessee Trails and Byways. Discover Tennessee's adventure, cuisine, history, and more made in Tennessee experiences showcased among these 16 driving trails. More at tntrailsandbyways.com. - This time on Tennessee Crossroads, we travel to Memphis to meet a baker with a passion for making a classic holiday treat. We'll meet some Maury County guys who turned their passion for brew into a popular gathering spot. Then in Nashville, we'll profile an award-winning artist, Michael McBride. Finally, discover how the Belmont Mansion was decorated for a 19th century Christmas. Hi everybody and happy holidays, I'm Joe Elmore. Welcome to Tennessee Crossroads. Nothing says the holidays like the smell of fresh pine and of course the aroma of gingerbread. In our first story, Miranda Cohen travels to Memphis where a woman's passion for baking that classic Christmas treat is more than a hobby to her, it's an inspiration. relaxed music - [Miranda] Christmas is coming a little early in Memphis, Tennessee. The Pink Palace Museum is already decked out with an enchanted gingerbread forest. You will find magical houses, castles, and much more, all entirely edible and mostly made of decadent gingerbread. - Looks like a candy wonderland. - The colors are so pretty, I love them so much. They remind me of like the candy land. - [Miranda] August and Evan Smith are certainly enchanted by all of these creations, but they are particularly happy to see one. - [Speaker] Look, it's moms. Oh my gosh, like the reindeers are my favorite part. I love them so much. - [Speaker] Same, and I can't believe she got first place. - [Miranda] Their mom is Mollie Curlin Smith, and she is somewhat of a celebrity in the world of gingerbread making. With a love of baking and a gift for creativity, Mollie Curlin Smith started out as Mollie the Cookie Smith, baking elaborate beautiful sugar cookies. A successful business and a beautiful family, then suddenly a dark cloud came in the form of a cancer diagnosis. But in that dark cloud, she found a silver lining. - During all this stage two breast cancer treatments, there was a lot of downtime and I would watch all kinds of baking shows and I thought, oh, that's what I can do. I can do gingerbread. I can use my cookie skills, make gingerbread houses. I have the creative control. While I was recovering from cancer, I would draw out gingerbread houses and look at all kinds of different gingerbread models. My very first house, I made about six months after my cancer treatments ended and I entered it at the Pink Palace Le Bonheur's Enchanted Forest Gingerbread Village and I won first place. First thing I ever entered, I won first place so that was a massive ego boost and it propelled me to pursue gingerbread as a full-time hobby. Upbeat music - [Miranda] Her hobby became a successful business and Mollie had to create the perfect gingerbread recipe, one that would be load bearing and stand the test of time and these halls have to be decked out for the holidays in grand style with glass windows, working lights, wallpaper, swimming pools, you name it. - Played around, failed miserably, and it was not easy. But once I figured out how to get the icing, the right consistency, all bets were off. Recently I turned to isomalt as my cement, and that has been priceless. The challenge with isomalt is that it dries very quickly. It's basically boiled sugar. It's a sugar substitute, and so it's hot. The piece is sealed into place within about four seconds so you have to get them exactly where they need to be. - Now you might wonder how Mollie manages not to take a little nibble of her beautiful work. It also smells incredible, but this gingerbread is baked without baking powder, baking soda or eggs, which makes it very tough and great to build with. In fact, it is construction-grade gingerbread. - You want what's called construction-grade gingerbread so that it's really sturdy, almost as hard as wood. And that way if humidity hits it, it doesn't have a tendency to warp. It can withstand two and three years of standing up straight. - [Miranda] Well on the road to recovery and on the highway to holiday baking fame, Mollie started creating bigger and more luxurious structures, homes, castles, and even commissioned commercial real estate buildings. You can always spot one of Mollie's masterpieces by some of her signature details. - I have found that I'm extremely strong at piping, and so a lot of times you can recognize my pieces just by the piping alone. I love to have a reindeer on the roof looking down at the other reindeer in the yard, and I love to have a reindeer in the yard looking up at the reindeer on the roof. Sometimes Santa's on the roof, sometimes Santa's on the sleigh, sometimes Santa's on the ground, sometimes Santa is going down the chimney. - [Miranda] Her edible mansions and high rises caught the eye of the Food Network's Holiday Gingerbread championship. She competed on the show and no surprise, she brought the first place prize back home to Memphis. Winning the show to the delight of her family and friends was the icing on the cake, but it was also much more. To her, it signified the end of one journey and the beginning of a new adventure and a sense of hope for all good things to come. - Four years to the day that I got the call that I had breast cancer, I shot day one of the show. So that was a full circle moment for me. It was just unbelievable how four years before, I was at the darkest moment of my life and then four years later, I was at one of the highest moments in my life. My favorite part of all of this is seeing the looks on other people's faces when they see my creations, they just smile. It brings a smile to everyone's face and the kids are the best. [upbeat music ends] - Thanks Miranda, it started as a home brew club back in 2013, consisting of six friends in Summertown, Tennessee. Well before long, they were opening their own craft brewery and taproom. Laura Faber takes us to a place in Maury County where that brew club has become quite popular. [rock music] - We bought a home brew kit and we made it together and we kept on doing that. - [Laura] Craft beer lovers will do almost anything for a local interesting flavor brew. At this local taproom in Maury County, that couldn't be more true for six guys who were friends first and now businessmen. - So we are in Mount Pleasant, Tennessee at Twisted Copper Brewing Company. - [Laura] Co-owner and taproom manager Forest Cheney says it started as a home brew club in 2013 out on the farm in Summertown where most of them still live. - We would bottle it and mostly drink it for ourselves. Sometimes we would serve it at at parties. Being home brewers, we couldn't actually sell our beer, so that was off the table. But we were making it just 'cause we wanted it and we wanted to be able to share it with people and like I said, have a good beer. - [Laura] Of those six, one actually had some experience. Jonathan Hatcher, also a co-owner of Twisted Copper, started making his own beer in college. - Yeah, I mean that was terrible beer, but I was making it and some people drank it. - [Laura] Once in Summertown, the beer got better and better and people would show up whenever the light was on in the brew shed. - So we started making the beer we wanted and that quickly evolved 'cause we found ourselves making beer for more than just ourselves 'cause everybody else liked to drink it too and the community supported us in that aspect and we ended up accruing a lot more equipment than we had really thought we would do as home brewers until the point where there was not another step except to be commercial. At that time, it brought people together. It was a good time when we were making it. It was a good time when we were processing it and it was a good time when we were drinking it. So it was kind of a no-brainer in that aspect. [rock guitar riff] - You get malted grain, you mill it and then you mash it in hot water, extract the sugars and whatnot from it, boil that in a kettle and add flavoring hops and things to it and then put it in a fermentor and add yeast to it and that yeast creates alcohol. Pretty much all of 'em are important for each style of beer. Different things with the water and the grain and the hops you tweak in each different style of beer. - [Laura] Dave Weaverling, co-owner and head brewer, says today they make beer and seltzers at Twisted Copper. In fact, some of the beers he originally made back on the farm still exist. - That sweet potato ale that's on there, we've made that for a long time. I wanted to create my own IPA, so that double IPA that we have on tap, that's several steps beyond what I was making back then, but that's the result of it. - [Laura] Dave is also responsible for the name of the room, Twisted Copper. It had to do with the piece of equipment he felt they needed and couldn't afford so he made one. - Twisted Copper came from that first mangled wort chiller that I made and they made fun of me for it, but it made better beer. - It was hideous. I mean, it was physically like looking at it, it was just kind of revolting. It was a work of modern art. It somehow leaked, even though it was metal. It got oxidized immediately, so it was green. It hardly worked. And so we named the the business after it. - Here at Twisted Copper, they don't serve their beer flights in a traditional flight paddle, a beer flight is a selection of beers. Instead they use vintage lunchboxes and there's a whole story behind that. Here's mine, thank you Forest, what do we have? - So I got you a Helles, an amber ale, sweet potato ale, cherry sour, pistachio nut brown, and a double IPA. - And what is the lunchbox today? - The Grateful Dead. - Grateful Dead, thank you. - Enjoy, we ran out of time before we opened. So the day we opened, I ran out to an antique store and I found four lunchboxes. I said, we can serve flights in this for tonight. And we were doing that that night and people fell in love with it immediately and we're kind of stuck doing the lunchbox flight now. We've only ever bought four lunchboxes and the rest have just been given to us 'cause people love the idea so much. [acoustic rock music] - [Laura] People love the tap room itself, built by these six friends who did everything from putting in the lights and walk-in freezer to tearing down an old house to get the wood for the bar and tables and blackened it by blowtorch. Customers also love the beer. What is the most popular today like from Twisted Copper from your brewery here? - Well, that'd be the Helles. People come in sometimes, they ask, do you have anything that tastes like beer? And in my head I say, I don't know what you're talking about, but on the outside I say, yes, we have a Helles. - [Laura] Twisted Copper has become a gathering place on Main Street in Mount Pleasant, a small but growing town. Even the mayor of Mount Pleasant will pay a visit now and again. So your favorite part of all this, John, is what? - Probably when I get to walk up to the taps and choose which beer, like that's real nice. And remembering to drink a beer that I haven't had in a long time 'cause I mean, we have 18 taps up there. - We still think it's a crazy idea. Every day it feels like we're falling through space, but we're persevering. We really do love doing this. It drives us crazy sometimes, but we're working towards something that's gonna hopefully better ourselves and the community. [acoustic guitar riffs] - Thanks Laura, they say if you can find a job you love, you'll never work a day in your life. Cindy Carter met an award-winning artist recently who found his calling all right. You can tell by how much Michael McBride enjoys creating his breathtaking paintings. Alright [Jazz Music] - [Cindy] Step into Nashville visual artist Michael McBride's studio, and you instantly pick up on his vibe. Jazz plays in the background. His artwork is proudly displayed on the walls and the man just can't seem to talk for too long without laughing a lot. - Oh, enjoy all of them immensely. I mean, I enjoy art. At the age of eight, I told my parents I was gonna be an artist, and so that feeling that I had at age of eight, I still have it now at the age of 64. It has never left me, I never deviated from that. - [Cindy] Michael's varied background includes design, illustration, watercolor painting, printmaking, ceramics. He's an art professor, a muralist, oh, and a keen observer of the human condition. - Most of my work is figurative, people and faces and things because I find them fascinating. I do people watch. As an artist, man, you look at everything, people, insects, you just look at everything. Whatever affects you, you'll be surprised at the things if you are open as an artist to the nuances around you and your environment. - Michael says much of his art depicts African-Americans because that is his experience, but he doesn't shy away from any subject matter or theme. There are a few common threads in Michael's work, perhaps most notably, his use of color, rich and saturated, a reflection of both his aesthetic and his positive outlook. - Good Trouble, yes. - [Cindy] Good Trouble is the title of perhaps Michael's most notable Nashville mural to date. - Wow, that's the biggest one I've done. - [Cindy] He was commissioned to paint civil rights activist and Congressman John Lewis, appropriately along downtown Nashville's John Lewis Way and to do so in a way that highlights Lewis's many historic ties to Music City. - It's such an honor because he was a great man, and to be able to do something of that promise, 'cause it's big, it's like 54 by 54 feet, so it's pretty big. - [Cindy] Michael has created more than 20 murals in Nashville. His first one went up in the 1980s on Church Street. He says he has a lot of gratitude for how far he's come since then, what he's been able to accomplish and what might happen next. - I'm living my dream of what I want to do. - [Cindy] A dream that took root in rural Tennessee just outside of Jackson. - So I was a PK, a preacher's kid, so my mother would let me, these old bibles they used to have had, they had these wonderful engravings in them, and my mother would let me take blank paper, typing paper and a pencil, and she know they would keep me quiet in church for two or three hours. - [Cindy] From those humble beginnings, Michael went on to study art and illustration in college and graduate school, just soaking in everything he learned by studying great artists. Eventually, he was able to develop his own technique and style, which is on full display in his artwork today. - I call it kaleidoscope painting and when I was in graduate school, that's when it evolved. Combination of looking at Picasso's cubist painting and then merging Aaron Douglas with his geometric designs, which is African base in that, and merging those two together. - [Cindy] Michael really enjoys creating series or collections of paintings that carry the same theme, but also standalone in their individuality. - [Michael] My iconic pieces, I came up with that series, and when you look at iconic pieces, it's not really about any skin color, it's just about color shaping these images, and it becomes very interesting. Dolly Parton doesn't have black eyes, but all of these images have black eyes and you don't even think about it when you see it. - [Cindy] He has a series devoted to African-American writers and another that depicts 25 of his father's sermons. - [Michael] Each painting would be the title of the sermon. - A series both contemporary and deeply personal, but you could argue all of Michael McBride's work is personal, also colorful and distinctive, created by an artist who likes his jazz and loves to laugh almost as much as he likes to paint. - I can create any kinda world I want as an artist on campus. I can make myself happy no matter what's going on around me. That's the beauty of that. [Jazz Music Ends] - Nashville's Belmont Mansion is a worthwhile destination anytime of the year, yet even more so during December. That's when the elegant home is decorated, just like it was during the mid 1800s. We took a tour a couple of years ago and discovered it's definitely worth the trip. [Acoustic Christmas Music] Adelicia and Joseph Acklen's Italian style mansion was completed in 1853. Here they entertained visitors, raised a family, and of course, once a year celebrated Christmas. [Bluegrass Style Christmas Music] A Victorian Christmas tour not only offers a resemblance of a 19th century Christmas at Belmont, thanks to volunteer guides, you discover a lot about the whole history of the holiday's customs and traditions beginning in Europe during the early 1800s. - Queen Victoria was the ultimate influencer in the 19th century. And so when she married Albert and ascended the throne in 1837, he erected the first Christmas tree at Windsor Palace in 1841. Several years later, it was published in the Illustrated London News with that new invention of the steel engraving and it spread across England and then in 1850, Godey's Lady's magazine, a national magazine here in America, published the same engraving of the Christmas tree, and it really caught America's attention. - [Joe] There are no actual records of Christmas trees at the Mansion during Adelicia's lifetime. However, by the middle of the century, trees did begin to sprout up around the city of Nashville. - The earliest one I have found was 1855. Christ's Episcopal Church erected a Christmas tree at the Masonic Hall for the Sunday School children, and they seemed to be pretty common by the 1870s here in the cities, not in the rural south. - [Joe] Mark and his staff studied drawings and engravings from the period to replicate all the decorations. Obviously, greenery was a very popular embellishment. - The use of the garland going from the corners of the room to the center chandelier or other direction, very, very typical of the period, mainly in public buildings, but you do see it in private homes as well. Greenery, of course, was the most common thing used because that's what they had available in this area. - [Joe] And the berries are pretty indeed. - The berries, yes, they always would put berries in it. As one writer of the period said, you don't want it to look funerary. The same greenery also used for funerals as well. So he said, you put some berries in it to lighten it up so it doesn't look orbit or funerary. - You can pick up a lot of fun holiday facts on the Christmas tour. Well, like this guy, it's a replica of the first artificial Christmas tree made in Germany around 1840. Now they call it a feather tree because yep, the branches are made out of dyed feather. Strangely enough, celebrating Christmas was not on the agenda for the first settlers at Plymouth Rock. In fact, it was banned. - It was outlawed in Massachusetts. Those Puritans wanting nothing to do with any of the feast days of the church, and it was against the law to sing Christmas carols or Christmas songs or anything like that, but the Anglicans that were settling in the south in Jamestown, they brought the Christmas traditions with them, and the Christmas traditions really spread faster throughout the south. - [Joe] Alabama was the first state to make Christmas a legal holiday in 1836. It finally became a national holiday in 1870. Fortunately today, all Americans are free to share and celebrate the joys of the holiday season. And while the decorations today are brighter and more dazzling, this Victorian tour is a pleasant reminder of what Christmas was like inside this timeless Tennessee pressure. - That's what we do. It's a slow relaxing time to enjoy, in many ways the quiet of the holiday season. - With that, we have to say goodbye, but not before a word about our website, Tennesseecrossroads.org. When you're there, you can download that PBS app and you can join us next week and we'll see you then. - [Speaker] Tennessee Crossroads is made possible in part by-- - I'm Tennessee Tech President Phil Oldham. Here in Cookeville Tennessee's college town, we are bold, fearless, confident, and kind. Tech prepares students for careers by making everyone's experience personal. We call that living wings up. Learn more at tntech.edu. - [Speaker] Averitt's Tennessee roots run deep. They've been delivering logistics solutions here for over 50 years. And though Averitt's reach now circles the globe, the volunteer state will always be home. More at averitt.com. Discover Tennessee Trails and Byways. Discover Tennessee's adventure, cuisine, history, and more made in Tennessee experiences showcased among these 16 driving trails. More at tntrailsandbyways.com.
December 14, 2023
Season 37 | Episode 19
Miranda Cohen travels to Memphis to meet a baker with a passion for making a classic holiday treats. Laura Faber meets some Maury County guys who turned their passion for brewing into a popular gathering spot. Cindy Carter profiles award-winning artist Michael McBride. And Joe Elmore discovers how Belmont Mansion was decorated for a 19th century Christmas.