This piece was originally published in the Winter 2015-2016 issue of Our Jackson Home: The Magazine.
It’s been six years now since I enjoyed a week’s vacation with my family in London, England. Before visiting I had the suspicion that I was a true Brit at heart, between my Beatles addiction, affinity for a hearty breakfast, and wardrobe of heavy layers and muted colors, but upon landing at the Nashville airport, Styrofoam cup empty from a poor rendition of the real Earl Grey in which I had indulged myself for the last week at every opportunity, I knew I would forever miss that place. I remember pointing to a quaint (but undoubtedly pricey) apartment of a pale blue overlooking Hyde Park—uncanny in its similarity to Roger’s apartment in the watercolor animation of 101 Dalmatians—and claiming it as mine.
I still think of that apartment often, along with the thick sausages that nearly made my vegetarian sister sick and the hip boutiques squished up next to unapologetically gritty pubs, and long to recreate the emotions and sensations I felt those thousands of miles away here in my small duplex in midtown Jackson. Steeping a cup of Twinings on a rainy day helps, but it’s pretty clear I’m not such an impressive imposter. As ignorant a tourist as I may have been, my memories there are genuine, and they continue to stain my mind like the moist tea bag against my pure, white spoon rest.
My sister introduced me to the Guthrie family my first year in college, where I was surviving the emotional mountains and valleys of newfound adulthood by distracting myself with over-perfected assignments and tagging along with my sister to social events. Dr. George Guthrie was a professor of hers at Union University—his son Joshua a student, his daughter Anna a high-schooler, and his wife Pat a mother to the Union community. It wasn’t long before the Guthries invited me to join them in their tradition of hosting dinner for Union students they had befriended.
Over my few years of joining in on student dinners at the Guthries’, I was only able to attend probably a maximum of four times a semester. Most of my entrances were awkward and ten minutes late as I had set myself on finishing some homework and underestimated the lengthy drive to their home in Milan. My mind wading deep in a thousand responsibilities and my car traveling at seventy miles an hour, something in me slowed as I drove. My eyes caught the view of an open pasture for the first time in weeks, and for a second I could hear myself breathe. Perhaps I got the chance to listen to a new album or simply receive the silence surrounding me.
The Guthries have a certain charm about them, and it’s reflected in every corner of their home. They are as quirky as they are classy, and it came as no surprise to me when I discovered that they spent every few years in England. I could spend hours just listening to the recollections of their travels and eyeballing every trinket lining their mantle. Even the location of the house, hidden among some West Tennessee woods, made me feel entirely elsewhere. All at once I was journeying far off and coming home.
Around the table gathered students of all walks—some internationals, some intensive musicians, some dedicated R.A.s. We didn’t all know each other, and we sure weren’t having the same college experience. We didn’t even always engage in common conversation. But one thing united us: We were students. We were weary, we were far from home, and we were hungry to be filled with the warmth of the Guthries’ provisions and presence.
I’m guessing each of us would recall these nights very differently. Some would recall the drink spills and laughs, others the lingering spice of the chili. But I think above all I’ll recall the soft reflection of their home in the pond, and the rich contrast of the cold, grey sky and the warm, lamp-lit living room opened to me. I’ll recall the photos of lands and times far from here and now and the constant kind invitation for a cup of tea (in the real china cups and everything). I’ll recall that far-away-right-at-home feeling created by the sweet merging of a lovely home, a delicious meal, and a caring family.
So I raise my glass to the Guthries, my home away from home that I never saw coming. And I raise my glass to all you other Jacksonians opening your doors and your lives to strangers like myself who have little to give back other than our gratitude and our presence. Maybe I’ll never have that apartment overlooking Hyde Park, but I will have your stories, your open door, and your English trifle recipe!
Chocolate Raspberry Trifle
Courtesy of Pat Guthrie | Makes 8-10 servings | Altered from Victoria Magazine
Chocolate Cake (If in a hurry, substitute with a basic chocolate fudge cake mix and skip to step 7.)
4 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate, broken into pieces
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups raspberry preserves
- Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 13 × 9 cake pan.
- In a bowl, combine the chocolate, butter, and boiling water and stir until smooth.
- With an electric mixer, set on low speed and add the remaining ingredients until just combined. Do not overheat.
- Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake for 40 to 50 minutes.
- Let cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto the rack and let it cool completely.
- Cut the cake into cubes and let dry at room temperature for a few hours.
- In a saucepan set over low heat, combine all the fudge ingredients and whisk until smooth. Keep warm.
- In a large bowl, arrange a third of the cake cubes in a layer, spread a third of the raspberry preserves over the cake in a thin layer, and drizzle with a third of the fudge. Repeat with two more layers of cake, raspberry preserves, and fudge, decoratively swirling fudge over the final layer. Chill for 4 to 6 hours.
- Before serving, decorate the top of the trifle with fresh raspberries. Drizzle each serving with heavy cream.
Originally from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Katie Howerton moved to Jackson in 2011 to study Graphic Design and Drawing at Union University. She discovered Our Jackson Home in January 2015 and used it as a guinea pig for her senior design project, creating the first issue of Our Jackson Home: The Magazine. After graduating she was given leadership over Our Jackson Home at theCO, where she now runs the blog, designs the magazine, and coordinates events. She and her husband Jordan live in Midtown and are active members of City Fellowship Baptist Church.
Photography by Katie Howerton.