(Unless otherwise noted, the Kathryn Tucker Windham blog is written by her children, Ben Windham and Dilcy Windham Hilley.)
My great aunt Bet liked her wine.
Before she was bedridden by a broken hip---in those days it was not fixable---Aunt Bet liked to make her own muscadine wine. She generally made the wine on Sunday afternoons in the early fall when the grapes ripen to perfection.
In her first book, Treasured Alabama Recipes, Mother tells the story of one of Aunt Bet’s Sunday afternoon escapades with wine making. She was in the kitchen that Sunday after church preparing a muscadine harvest for fermentation when there came a knock at the front door. Aunt Bet peeped down the long hall and, to her dismay, saw the preacher and a couple of deacons standing at the door. Her hands were stained in the dark, tell-tale berry juice, so, without missing a beat, Aunt Bet hurried to the hall table and slipped on the white gloves she’d worn to church. If her visitors thought it unusual that Aunt Bet answered the door in white gloves and an apron, they were too polite to say so.
Since that time, my family has referred to that recipe as White Gloves Wine.
After Aunt Bet was confined to bed, she still liked to precede her supper with a small glass of red wine. It was inconvenient, however, that Clarke County was a dry county at the time.
What was convenient was that I traveled regularly by bus to spend weekends with Aunt Bet and her sister, my grandmother, Heddie. Now, mind you, this was an era when a mother could, in good conscience, put her six-year-old daughter on a Greyhound bus and know she would arrive safely at her destination. That same mother could also pack my suitcase, carefully wrapping a bottle or two of red wine in my days-of-the-week underwear.
When I arrived in Thomasville from Selma and was otherwise distracted, my grandmother would take my bag to the back bedroom and hastily unload the bootlegged liquor. This young rumrunner had not a clue she was delivering the goods.
It was a satisfactory system and likely the reason Aunt Bet was always so delighted to see me.
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–Wayne Flynt, Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at Auburn University.
Dilcy Windham Hilley
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