By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The coronavirus has taken a lot away from us since March.
Several people have either died with or from COVID-19. The jobless rate is at record highs and the way of life we grew accustomed to is gone forever. From funerals to no more handshakes, the global pandemic has taken away a lot from us.
The magnitude of each departure or adjustment is up to the individual. For me personally, the lack of sports is more than just entertainment on TV. Being the sports editor for a group of newspapers, I missed out on some traditional work opportunities I cherish.
There was no trip to Murfreesboro for Spring Fling 2020. The State basketball championships came to a sudden halt. And the absence of spring sports meant no Rebel Dogs at Tipton-Rosemark Academy, no Brighton Softball Senior Night Spread. Gone was the traditional cake after the viewing of the Munford Softball Senior Video.
And the barbecue that normally accompanies the Senior Day activities for Millington Trojan Baseball was just a memory. Are you starting to get the picture?
On a smaller scale, COVID-19 robbed me of so much delicious food. Grub I count on to be a part of my annual Best Food column. But I thank God for the fall and winter sports. Plenty of great food moments came from the coverage of football, volleyball, basketball and wrestling.
And squeeze in a couple of signing parties held at homes, we are finally ready to recognize my seven awards for Best Food.
Best Foreign Food
In a preview of things to come, Munford Softball standout Kayla Reed held her signing ceremony off campus. She held it at a local venue in Atoka to house more family and friends.
Celebrating her inking a letter of intent to Bethel, the purple and gold gave it a feel of a party for the rival Covington Lady Chargers.
The ironic atmosphere didn’t escape the guest of honor. Reed told me some of her opposition/friends would be in attendance. Sprinkle in a little Brighton, all of Tipton County was in the house to salute one of the best players in the area.
After all the proper photos were taken and papers signed, it was time to enjoy the spread. I saw then having a signing ceremony away from a gym or library created more opportunities for savory treats.
The Reed family went all out with a top-notch spread and snacks to take home.
Attending a signing ceremony at Tipton-Rosemark Academy can be an emotional affair. You can count on proud family members, teammates joking with the star of the hour, a reflective speech from the coach and the Rebel Punch.
Always to the right of the table and rows of chairs is the blue table with a cake and the punch bowl. Going into that bowl normally is a mixture of ginger ale and Hawaiian Punch. Sounds simple, but with the right amount of ice it is perfect for a signing in November, February, March or May.
Whether a student is inking a letter of intent for performing arts or the gridiron, that punch is the perfect way to hold back tears of joy or wash down a slice of cake.
The best part of the punch is the service of the baristas. Normally it’s a rotation of student/athletes who will be the honoree on day. Between fill-ups, those students soak in the moment and take notes.
Back in May, Millington Football mom Marie Thomas reached out to me to set up a signing party for her son Remiello Thomas. She asked for pointers and tips on how to do a proper signing.
Thanks to the coronavirus, we’re doing a lot of stuff on the fly. I figured out the basics of a traditional signing like needing a table, the paper to sign, school colors nearby and good lighting.
Marie said, ‘Great! And don’t worry about the food. We’re going to have plenty of food since it will be a graduation party as well.”
Walking into the home that day, all the items for a traditional signing was there. And the smell of delicious food was expected also. But one pan features something I have never seen before.
It was a baked potato just hanging out in a pan. You had tender chunks of potatoes covered with cheese, bacon and sour cream. Instead of having your plate intruded by a large spud, the casserole type concoction was the perfect compliment.
Majority of Friday nights in the fall, I have the pleasure of covering the Millington Trojans. This past season was special for two reasons, Millington Football went 8-2 in capturing the Region 8-4A title. And it seemed like the Trojans played at Mooney Boswell Field all 10 games.
With so many home games, it was a challenge for the crew in charge of the Trojan grills to come up with food, supplies and creative dishes.
But the masters of the grills, deep fryers and dessert table at Millington Central High School kept it simple.
You could depend on sweet treats like brownies and chocolate chip cookies. Coming out of the grease on occasion would be some chicken wings. And the grill was fired up for burgers, pull pork, smoked sausages and those chicken wings.
Toss in some homemade baked beans or a special dish from one of the teachers at MCHS, you had a wonderful meal before a great game.
Let’s no bury the lead in this category. The winner is a chocolate chip cookie. But his is no ordinary cookie. I was introduced to Celia’s Cookies during a softball signing at Brighton High School for Karlee Haley.
The box full of baked goods made by Celia Ortiz had everybody eating me in a trance. I can normally pass on cookies at these events but I as so intrigued by all the hoopla surrounding this cookie.
Melissa Haley told me the cookies were a must-try. She was correct. I ended up eating two cookies at the school and carried two more for the road.
Those cookies were so most and had that fresh-baked favor to the last bite. The chocolate was sweet and not over powering. The right ratio of chips just made those cookies some of the best I have ever eaten.
A cookie so good, it deserves a free plug: Celia’s cookies of Munford (Home baked just for you!) can be reached at 901-679-9631 and firstname.lastname@example.org
Best Food Moment
Back in May I was also welcomed to the Brighton home of William and Inita Jones. The couple wasn’t going to miss on the chance to make a huge deal of a rare occurrence for a Brighton Lady Cardinal Basketball player.
Their daughter Sylvia “Bugg” Jones was going to the next level for hoops. She became the second Lady Cardinal in as many years to accomplish that feat. Family and friends showed up in shifts to help with social distancing.
And staying a part was no problem until William started to take the meat off the grill. Once those pans of smoked main courses hit the table, we all flocked to one area. Inita wasn’t going to be outdone with the sides and fixings coming out of the kitchen.
All Ms. Inita had to tell me, “While you are here today, you are family. Help yourself.”
Three plates later, I was good and full with the smoked sausage winning my MVP award. But the sweetest part of the meal was watching a proud father see his daughter be the center of attention. A loving mother who is known for her loud cheering being humbled to meekness by the moment. And the rest of the family, friends and coaches signing the praises of the girl known as Bugg.
The chicken fajitas could have easily won Special Item. The tamales wrapped in a corn husk could have taken home the 2020 Creative Genius award. And Best Food Moment had two nomination from Chasity Perez’s Fiesta Wagon.
There to support her son Abrahan and the rest of the Millington Trojan Wrestling team, Perez and her husband loaded up the hospitality of the Trojans Wars and Trojan Invitational with some excellent features from the Fiesta Wagon food truck.
From the Fiesta Burger to do-it-yourself tacos and burritos, I fell in love with the selections from Fiesta Wagon. The favor is amazing and zesty. It’s not overwhelming but packed with savory favor in each bite.
The perfect compliment to the food from Perez was the barbecue, fresh fruit, array of desserts and traditional snacks.
All those items attached themselves to the wagon to make things festive. And that’s why the Fiesta Wagon is the Best Overall for 2020. Hoping it will defend it’s title in 2021.