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Mississippi

Mississippi is like a living, breathing history lesson. You can steep yourself in blues music, a not-too-rarified literary environment, architecture, and Civil War relics. In Jackson, the Agriculture and Forestry Museum is designed to resemble a little Mississippi country town. It includes a blacksmith's, a general store, and an exhibit about every step involved in catfish farming. Clarksdale Delta Blues Museum is like a classroom crammed full of everything blues-related, and its docents will enthusiastically converse about Robert Johnson's alleged sale of his soul to the devil at a crossroads around here. A new building is devoted strictly to Muddy Waters. If you like offbeat and playful topics, check out the Jim Henson Exhibit in Leland (where the puppeteer/director/producer lived as a young boy), which contains various memorabilia such as the Kermit puppet from The Muppet Movie. You can make a William Faulkner pilgrimage to Oxford and see the house where he lived for over 30 years until his death, as well as his grave. Square Books, also in Oxford, is a world-class independent bookstore which hosts traveling authors and has a special Faulkner section. Eudora Welty's Tudor Revival house is in Jackson. In Vicksburg, National Military Park has a huge Civil War battlefield, and a 16-mile driving tour with historic markers. Biking is an excellent option here. Staples of Mississippi tables seem to be cornbread, fried green tomatoes, fried fish, ribs, cole slaw, and the like. Fancy versions may include broiled oysters on red fish or barbecued oysters with brie, or buttermilk-fried quail at Morgan Freeman's restaurant in Clarksdale. You can get a vegetarian Indian three-course lunch special including a drink in Gulfport, or head to the capital for organic macrobiotic cuisine along with organic cheese and vegan desserts, or for beet burgers and portobello Reubens. Look out Jackson town! There are Indian, Thai/Vietnamese, and Italian/Greek restaurants in Tupelo. Oxford, the location of higher-ed facility Ole Miss, offers local organic food with produce and herbs pulled from the garden directly outside. Ocean Springs not only has pizza with vegan options, but organic vegetarian Malaysian/Indian cuisine with many ingredients from the restaurant's own farm and items like samosas, burfi (traditional Indian caramel), and 20 flavors of cake. They actually have a cow protection program. I hope for the animals' collective safety that their disguises are effective!