Beyoncé, Misogyny and God

I sneezed on the beat and the beat got sicker. "What's the big deal about Beyonce, other than her butt?" my mother asked yesterday via face-time.

"Are you kidding? She's amazing!"

"I couldn't name one of her songs."

"Yes you could. You know... all the single ladies, all the single ladies." I flipped my left hand back and forth at the screen, showing the signature move for the 2009 smash hit that just so happened to drop during my senior year in college, when I was a single lady and he definitely should have put a ring on it.

"And that song inspires you?" my mom said with a smirk.

"Absolutely," I laughed.

The truth is that her most recent album, Lemonade, is even more of an inspiration (though I wouldn't dare recommend my mom watch it from start to finish, unless I were there to help her translate things like Becky with the good hair, etc.). There's enough on the internet about the anger, redemption and artistry of that album, so I won't wax poetic about it here. But suffice it to say, it's an album that makes me uncomfortable. It's an album that made me feel what she must have felt like during one of the roughest parts of her life. It's an album that puts words to some of the ups and downs in my own marriage.

What's worse looking jealous or crazy, jealous or crazy?

img_8214I've never been one for big arena shows because tickets are expensive, and even if you bite the bullet and shell out, chances are it won't be enough to really see the person you've paid to see. From the "J" section seat on the floor of the Titans Football Stadium (that seats 70,000 during a sold-out game), the best view I got of Beyoncé  was through a sea of cell phones held up by other spectators zooming in to prove that they, too, were here.

And yet, the show was incredible. I won't downplay it. Beyoncé sampled everything in her repertoire from Crazy in Love, Drunk in Love, and Halo to Partition, Charlies Angels, Survivor... the list goes on and on. She played portions of most of her songs on Lemonade, augmented by a massive three-dimensional rotating screen that alternated from projecting large images of her (so people could see) and video clips from the opus. Decrepit buildings, swinging lights, stills of strong African-American women; the ultimate survivors. Halfway through the show, two cannons shot off confetti into the air. There were fireworks, huge flames, a pool where her back-up dancers kicked up water as they moved to the beat. Countless costume changes. Acrobatics. The production was epic—a picture of what happens when you have millions to spend on every  possible theatric to make people feel.

Here are a few things I felt:

One:  I felt a desire to live with more passion and confidenceBeyoncé is a powerhouse. I've heard that she taps into an inner diva before getting on stage, and even has her alter-ego Sasha Fierce to combat any feelings of insecurity. To see that kind of confidence in another woman is contagious. How would my experience of the world change if I could wake up in the morning with that kind of confidence? To walk with the kind of chin-up assuredness of a person living out their dream, their calling—with all of their God-given talent on display?

Two: I felt a desire to be more freeThe booty is real. I mean. I don't know if she was wearing leggings or some sort of industrial spray-paint to keep it looking flawless all night, but the girl can move it. Again, there's something jaw-droppingly incredible about a woman embracing her body and dancing and allowing herself to be free. Even the way she moved her hair—head-banging with the best of the 90s grunge kids—speaks to a kind of reckless freedom. I want more of that in my life.

Three: I felt convinced that I'm a different kind of feminist than mostFeminists walk a fine line between embracing femininity, sexuality and pleasure and reinforcing misogyny and sexual objectification. There were times that I felt uncomfortable last night at the overtness of it all. At one point, the singer climbed across a large three-dimensional phallic sculpture and most video clips included snapshots of an orchid in bloom—a clear reference to the female anatomy. Some of the costumes and dance moves, veered from making me feel free to making me feel like I was watching a person in bondage—something that didn't make me feel empowered, but isolated.

Last night, I felt convinced that true feminist authors, writers, musicians... must work to show that sexuality isn't the only weapon in a woman's arsenal of power.

Four: I felt surprised by my desire for God Even an over-the-top, crazy experience like a Beyoncé concert leaves you wanting more. She could only sing a verse and a chorus of most songs. For example, Beyonce's song Freedom from the album Lemonade is my absolute favorite. It's an incredible anthem, and despite the fact that she and her dancers gave a jaw-dropping performance using a similar water-stage to this year's Grammy Awards—she didn't have time to sing the whole song, and even if she did, it just isn't complete without Kendrick Lamar. All the theatrics in the world still come up short from what we really want.

And what we really want, we'll never get out of Beyoncé. Standing there, looking at a woman on the stage that is just as human as every woman in the crowd, it reminded me that all of our efforts on this side of heaven—even when we are  confident, passionate and free—pale in comparison to the glory we desire. We were made to see God in his splendor, not humans.

And for that reason, I am even more thankful for Beyoncé. A great artist points viewers to a greater creator. She did.

When you love me, you love yourself. Love God herself.



What to do in Nashville: 2015 Edition

About once every few weeks, I get an e-mail from a friend asking the age-old question about the place we call home. I've answered the question before, but it seems like is Nashville changing constantly. There's always new restaurants to explore and  things to see—and some are better than others. Nothing is worse than traveling to a fun city, and ending up in a restaurant that all the locals secretly loathe. Nashville What to do in NashvilleSo if you're headed to Nashville anytime soon, here's the skinny on where to eat, drink and be merry. I've separated all my favorites into categories, narrowed (gulp!) them down, and included the neighborhood. I also went ahead and put these gems on a Google Map, so you can take these suggestions with you on the go!

HINT: If I'm listing the restaurant or venue, that means I've been more than three times, and have had a good experience (ie., great meal, great service, great value) every. single. time. There are plenty of places in Nashville that are worth a visit if you're a local and able to risk it. But not you, dear traveler. Not you. 

BREAKFAST/COFFEE:What to do in Nashville: Crema Coffee

  • Marche Artisan Foods (East Nashville) — This is the best place in Nashville, in my opinion. Arrive early (doors open at 8:30) and order, order and order some more. The daily tartine is always perfect, and I'm a huge fan of the croissant french toast, too (just get a half-order so you have room for the rest)!
  • Crema (Downtown) — If you live in Nashville, you'll know why this goes at the top of my list. Perfect, smooth coffee every time (the latte is my go-to). On Fridays/Saturdays, Utterly brings by delicious macarons to sell. And don't miss out on the avocado toast.
  • Barista Parlor (East Nashville or the Gulch)—not my personal favorite (plan to pay $5 for a slow-drip coffee), but it's a great atmosphere and good hipster-gawking, and the sausage biscuit is pretty awesome, too.


  • Percy Warner (Beyond Sylvan Park/West Nashville)— Drive to Bellemeade Blvd and park by the steps. Walk to the top of the stone steps and you'll see a little trailhead for a 2.5-mile round trip hike! It's gorgeous, and full of friendly hikers.
  • Radnor Park (South of Nashville)
  • Shelby Bottoms Park (East Nashville)
  • Centennial Park (Midtown)


  • Shops on Fatherland/Idea Hatchery (East Nashville)—these cute shops are the best of local, all in two little shopping areas. LITTLE is the point. These small "incubator" shops have helped launch some of the best local retailers.
  • Peter Nappi — if you have $300+ to blow, do it on a pair of these boots.
  • Imogene + Willie — Imogene (eye-moh-jean) + Willie makes custom jeans that will make you want to throw out all your other jeans. (Check out White's Mercantile) down the road as well.
  • Gas Lamp Antiques I + II (100 Oaks) — antiques for miles. And miles. Love it every time. Arrive fed and caffeinated.

LUNCH:What to do in Nashville Hattie B's Chicken

  • Hattie B's Hot Chicken (Sylvan Park)—Choose Mild, Medium, Hot, Damn Hot, or Shut the Cluck Up!-- no matter what, your taste buds will be jumping. This is the best hot fried chicken joint in Nashville. We love our hot chicken so much that every summer, we even have a hot chicken festival! So if you ask me, skip the barbecue and go straight for Hattie B's.
  • Silly Goose (East Nashville) — cous cous and delicious sandwiches. Try the T-bird and the King Kong cous cous. Closed on Mondays.
  • Germantown Cafe (Germantown)—love the miso salmon salad!
  • Local Taco (East Nashville) — right across from the Idea Hatchery, love the fried avocado taco! Also, the interior was designed by my good friends, Regiven.

What to do in Nashville: Pinewood SocialLOCAL BREWS + COCKTAILS

  • Bar 308 (East Nashville) — arrive after 9 p.m. or you'll be the only one in there (which I don't hate.) The Monkey's Paw is a great grapefruit + champagne cocktail. Everything they make is homemade and delicious. 
  • Tennessee Brew Works (8th/Downtown) — these guys did a tasting at my house once! Now, the brewery is up and running and everything is super delicious. Take a tour, enjoy live music... have a blast!
  • The Taproom (12 South) — awesome porch and beers on draft. This is where all the locals are.
  • Pinewood Social (Downtown) — great drinks and mocktails, just prepare to spend $12+ on each. Great location and beautiful porch if it's a nice day!

DINNER:What to do in Nashville: Rolf and Daughters

  • Rolf and Daughters (Germantown)—if you don't have a reservation, plan to arrive immediately when doors open at 5:30 p.m., eat at the bar, or wait until 8 - 9p.m. for second service. We love to eat at the bar and order as much as we can stomach. We've never tasted a single bad thing.
  • Burger Up (12 South)—our favorite place to be regulars. Two Lamb Burgers, Two House Red Wines. Done and Done.
  • Lockeland Table (East Nashville)—wood fired pizzas, great cocktails, awesome value. Just a good ol' neighborhood spot.
  • Two Ten Jack (East Nashville)— Asian flavor invasion. This place does Ramen like a pro.
  • Josephine (12 South)

DESSERT:What to do in Nashville: Bobbie's Dairy Dip

  • Bobbie's Dairy Dip (Sylvan Park) — it may look suspect from the outside, but Bobbie's Dairy Dip is a Nashville establishment, famous for its specialty shakes and soft-serve treats. Cheap, awesome. Perfect after a hike at Percy Warner.
  • Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams (12 South or East Nashville)—Jeni's has more locations around the nation now than it used to, but the flavors are always changing so it's always fun to go see what they have in the freezer. HINT: Ask for a taste of an ice cream sandwich. They'll cut you a piece!
  • Tempur Chocolate (Germantown) – this new spot has great truffles and an insane cup of hot chocolate.


  • Ryman Auditorium (Downtown)— original home of the Grand Ol' Opry. This is a place you must see a concert before you die, but unfortunately, most concerts sell out months in advance. Plan a trip around a concert you want to see, or simply pop in for a tour. (Tours leave ever 20 minutes or so.)
  • Roberts Western World (Downtown) — the honky tonk to beat all honky tonks. Show up at 10 am, prepare to drink cheap beer, listen to some great bluegrass, and dance with the regulars.
  • Country Music Hall of Fame (Downtown) — to be fair, I've never been to the hall of fame. But I hear it's a must-see, so I would feel remiss if I didn't include it. SOMEDAY...

Alright folks... so what did I miss? What did I forget? Those of you who have been here recently, what did you enjoy the most?

Music City Ate. A lot.

This weekend, Nashville hosted a food and wine event called Music City Eats. And boy, did I.


I wrote a preview piece about the festival for Forbes. And thanks to the beauty of the "press pass," I actually got to attend!

(SIDE NOTE: There's no way I would have been able to afford the $500 all-access pass on my own. I'm sure we'll never know about actual ticket sales, but if the festival happens again next year, I hope it will be at a slightly lower price point, so that more people can partake.)

Under white tents armed with red wine, I had the privilege of tasting Roderick Bailey's tender pork shoulder; Sarah Gavigan's savory Japanese pancake; Josh Habiger and Erik Anderson's rendition of "eggs" and bacon, and Hattie B's throat-singeing hot chicken. The entire weekend was one delicious indulgence.

And I can't forget to mention Arnold Myint's Banh Mi. Good gracious.

IMG_1539While most people milled between the interior tents tasting and drinking, there were "demos" and panels happening in larger tents around the perimeter.

In the demo tent, an angled mirror and jumbo-tron displayed the chef's hands at work. In one demonstration, acclaimed chef Jonathan Waxman (pictured in purple below) butchered a duck, turkey, and a chicken with ease.

During the panels, the talent explored various topics, like Bourbon or Moonshine? or How do you Q? During the Southern Food Lore panel, Tandy Wilson scolded our generation for culinary laziness. And in What Would You Serve?, Jonathan Waxman discussed musician's favorite late-night snacks. Someone mentioned Velveeta. IMG_1552I'll be honest. There were parts I didn't love. Anytime you charge $500 for tickets and tout a long list of celebrities, some people (read: me) are going to feel awkward and out of place. At times, it wasn't just indulgent—it was grandiose. But maybe that was the point.

I also felt the event was missing a few of Nashville's most talented chefs. Sarah Souther at Bang! Candy, Scott Witherow with Olive & Sinclair, Evie Coates with Twelve at the Table, just to name a few.

But don't get me wrong. There were parts I loved, too.

High on the list? Meeting Dana Cowin—the editor-in-chief of Food and Wine Magazine—and realizing she is just as kind and thoughtful in person as she seems on television. Catching up with Jeni Britton Bauer, and learning that she offers a sabbatical to every employee who has been with her ice cream company for at least three years. Stopping by Roderick Bailey's tent, and marveling at how he's remained so humble amidst a spectacular year of hard-earned success.

But my favorite part was seeing local chefs that I admire have a place to display their incredible talent. They work so hard, and so often behind the scenes—and they deserved every bit of attention that Music City Eats provided.

And to have an event of that caliber right in Nashville's backyard felt surreal! Wasn't it just a few years ago that if you wanted a good burger and didn't want McDonalds, your only option was a sushi restaurant? (Disclaimer: PM's burger is still one of the best in town.) But I digress.

Food and Wine Magazine sponsored it; a large event company called C3 Events produced it; and Caleb and Nathan Followill devised it—and if you ask me... Music City Eats was a huge success.

Here's hoping for another taste in 2014!