For the next few days, I’ll need to do some extra fat walking. It’s almost time for the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena-West Helena, Arkansas. Of course that means a stop along the way at Miss Lena’s for a slice of pie.
Her place is just off Old 70, “The Highway of Dreams,” at DeValls Bluff. If she is open for business, one can find a good assortment of the best pies in the Delta, meaning of course the best in the world.
She buys sugar in 25-pound bags, if that is any indication. That used to mean, when I was a boy, someone was out in the woods making whiskey. The fare at Miss Lena’s is a lot tastier and is considered legal by everyone except the individual who runs the “fat program” at the VA Medical Center in Little Rock. I won’t mention my stopping at Miss Lena’s if you won’t.
She first garnered fame for her fried pies. Then, as she tells it, the man who helped with those left and she concentrated on the standard varieties. Now, she’s added the fried pies back into the menu, but I still cling to the chocolate wedges. I only eat one. Honestly.
Well, sometimes my mother-in-law, the Lady Hazel, doesn’t eat all of hers and one can’t let a bite of Miss Lena’s pies go to waste, can one?
Jacob DeVall settled the location on the White River around 1850. During the Civil War, it served as a crossing for troops headed for the Battle of Helena. My own great-grandfather may have crossed there but family records don’t indicate that he stopped at Miss Lena’s.
In addition to featuring the best pies in the world, DeValls Bluff is the home of Craig’s, a place that many feel serving the best barbecue in the world. It was also the original home of Murray’s Catfish place, a favorite of governors, senators, plain folks and gourmet experts from around the state.
Like many towns in the Delta, this one struggles with disinvestment. It is a pretty little place and doesn’t deserve to die. A place that has fed so many people and made them happy must endure.
As for now, a dedicated group of citizens is working tirelessly to save the town. One urges them on. And a stop at Miss Lena’s on the way to the blues festival won’t hurt.
Yeah, that’s it. We can tell my guardian at the VA that I’m not violating my diet. I’m saving a town. Yeah.
"I don't think I've ever seen pie advertised. That's how you know it's good. They advertise ice cream and other desserts. They advertise the bejeezus out of yogurt, but I haven't seen one pie commercial." - Adam Carolla