Sunday, April 12, 2009

Culinary Tourism in St. Joe, Arkansas?

An enjoyable aspect of the recent visit my son made back to the Ozarks after living "off" for several years (us locals know that if you don't live here, you're from "off") was seeing the way he was taking photographs of scenery I had grown accustomed to. It was scenery that was almost invisible to me, because it was ever-present. One such occasion was the stop at the Coursey's Smoked Meat establishment in St. Joe, Arkansas. Ever since I was old enough to remember, the Coursey's Store had been a landmark in making the trip between Harrison, Arkansas, and all points South. My son had a bit stronger ties to the store because one of his friends since preschool, had been a member of the extended family of the owners of Courseys, so he had more interaction with them than I had. They were friends through elementary school, jr. high, and high school. When my son was in high school, however, he made a choice (with no prompting from his dietitian mother) to be a vegetarian. As long as he was making wise choices to get adequate protein in his diet through legumes and nuts and such, I supported his decision. When he went away to college and was eating regularly in the dining hall of the college, there was plenty of variety to satisfy his hunger, as well as nutritional needs. The vegetarian phase of his maturing process, however, was put to a severe test when he moved out of a dormitory at college, and started sharing an apartment with the friend whose family was involved with Coursey's Smoked Meats. Neither of the guys were big on cooking or grocery shopping, so the only food that was consistently in their refrigerator or pantry was Coursey's Meat Products. Needless to say, he was no longer a vegetarian when he left that living arrangement. So I was not surprised when he wanted to stop at Coursey's on his trip home, to renew his relationship with their great tasting meats. They fixed us a delicious ham sandwich and my son also bought some jerky that was displayed in a big glass canister by the cash register. I am not a jerky aficionado, but I can say without a doubt, that it was absolutely the best jerky I have ever tasted! Likewise, the ham was fantastic! I guess when your family has made a product for the last sixty years or so, you get pretty good at it. Such is the case for this business: The story of its beginning is told in a great review written on the website ; The story indicates that Mr. Coursey began smoking hams in an old dirt-floored log cabin, just after World War II. The cabin (although no longer in use) is still on the property, and my son and I are pictured above, standing in front of it. (Coursey's meats now are smoked in stainless steel facilities). The photos also show that there are picnic tables outside for enjoying your meal. And good news----although "out houses" may have been all that was available when the business started, there are now modern, clean restrooms for the customers to use (complete with indoor plumbing!) The store can be reached by phoning 870-439-2503, but they have yet to launch their products through Internet marketing on a website. Why not use that as an excuse to treat yourself to a road trip in the Ozarks?!! Coursey's Smoked Meats would also make a great stop for any expeditions you have planned in the area of the Buffalo National River, as the Tyler Bend Visitor's Center for the river is just a "hop, skip, and a jump" away, along Highway 65. Miles of smiles! TriciaPosted by Picasa