Having grown up in one of our nation's most beautiful cities — historic Natchez, Mississippi — I’m forever captivated by the South’s splendid houses and gardens, vibrant parties, eccentric storytellers, and "peculiar" history and culture that has shaped us all.
The large Victorian house where my mother, grandmother (“Nannie,” aka “Freddie Bailey”) and I lived near downtown was anchored by our family business: Tot, Teen & Mom clothing boutique. And there, Nannie’s homemade jellies and preserves took pride of place — especially once she added the word “Famous” to her
“Aunt Freddie’s Pantry” product line after such celebrities as Bob Hope and Lucille Ball began ordering cases of
it for holiday gift-giving.
Above our small living space adjacent
to the store, we rented apartments to
a cast of characters who ambled in
and out with the customers – from
the town’s leading garden club maven to the its chief, well, madam.
Needless to say, our corner of Commerce and Orleans Streets was always buzzing — especially ’round sunset on our front wrap-around porch, where a meandering mix of Natchezians and tourists could always be found, drink in hand, nibble or
two within reach. (I, too, was there, practicing the art of not being seen
– a skill allowing me to stealthily absorb witty remarks or loudly whispered gossip.)
Deciding early on to be a writer, my
first chance to help document Natchez’s rich flavor and culture came as a teen, when Nannie nervously needed my help. She’d been talked into producing a major canning-focused cookbook by
her biggest fan — renowned designer
Lee Bailey (aka her nephew/my cousin).
Ultimately Lee became so smitten with Natchez that he produced the James Beard Award-winning Lee Bailey's Southern Food & Plantation Houses. Lee’s“don't gild the lily” style became not only a design-for-living compass for me, but also for a generation of others, including the late writer-extraordinaire Nora Ephron (her touching tribute can be read here).
Fast forward a few decades and the record will show I’ve built a career focused on living the good life, both inside and out — from highlighting
great home and party style for Better Homes and Gardens, Southern Living and Coastal Living to helping Southern Methodist University’s public relations team turn the spotlight on dynamic young “World Changers.” Along the way, my journalism training has been buoyed by my study of human and
civil rights and early Southern history. The goal? To avoid saying what a professor-friend calls “the most dangerous phrase in the English language”: “I didn’t know ...”
Currently I’m cooking up more books with my husband, photographer
Robert M. Peacock (also a Natchez native), helping nonprofits with publicity and media relations endeavors, and relishing the chance to connect us all – to each other and the world around us.