Cosmos realigns aright as Back Porch reopens 7/26/2013

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 26, 2013

Cosmos realigns aright as Back Porch reopens

By John Howell

Down but not out, and not even out very long, Dean Harrison has reopened Pope’s Back Porch Restaurant.

I learned on Saturday morning, June 8, that the restaurant had caught fire when I saw Ray Rikard’s Facebook post, “The Pope Country Club has burned down.”

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It took Dean Harrison around six weeks. She’s reopened in a new location just north of the old one. Now they are next to Sayle Oil Company and across Highway 51 from Pope School.

“All my customers were calling me wanting me to open back up,” Dean said after the fire.
As time went on, “People were having a fit, wanting me to get back open,” she said.

“People” includes her core of regular diners, liars and listeners — all of whose roles are interchangeable, Dean’s husband of 61 years, Amos Harrison among them.

 They are from Panola County, of course, but also from Quitman, Tallahatchie, and Yalobusha counties  surrounding.

Robert Mills, a Back Porch Round Table regular, said that he has been displaced ever since the fire:
“I went up to Batesville, to Hardee’s and sat down at their round table,” Mills said. “One of ‘em asked me, ‘What makes you think can come up in here and just sit down?’”

“I said, ‘Well, I don’t have a job and I’m on my way to a doctor’s appointment, what more do I need?’”

Batesville just thinks it is the crossroads of the world. The regular cadre at the Back Porch know better.

 At some point in years past, I’ve described Dean as a dynamo. Petite, pretty, always ready with a comeback. Now that she’s reached age 81, it all still fits, including dynamo. The restaurant offers three meals a day, six days a week, from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m.

She is joined in the restaurant by her sister, Pat Powell, her “right hand,” she said on introduction.

The evening menu includes fried catfish and homemade hushpuppies, an offering that caught a Baltimore, MD restaurateur’s attention back in April. Dean was attending a family wedding where two nieces who work at The Grill, a Baltimore area restaurant, introduced her to their boss, the restaurant owner and also a wedding guest. He immediately focused on Dean, questioning her about her menu, her recipes — two restaurateurs who could not help but talk shop at the social gathering.

Their conversation concluded with an invitation from the restaurant owner for Dean to come back to Baltimore in August to show his staff how to prepare fried catfish and homemade hushpuppies like she does. And coconut cake.

“He said he doesn’t want me to do it, he wants me to show them,” Dean said.

He told her to send him a shopping list with everything she needs and he’ll have it ready when she arrives there on August 21.

“Hushpuppies are not supposed to go to the bottom,” she said, revealing one of her criteria.
“They’re supposed to float.”

Dean Harrison: Traveling octogenarian celebrity chef!