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Jacksonport 'Farm to Table' exhibit also pushes manners

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Photographs by Special to the Democrat-Gazette/MARCIA SCHNEDLER

“Farm to Table,” at Jacksonport State Park, is a temporary exhibit about cooking and dining in Jackson County and elsewhere in Arkansas.

JACKSONPORT -- America's national pastime may no longer be baseball. It's probably not football either -- or even smartphones. What unites us these days, as always, in this land of abundance, is the joy of eating.

Food's shared pleasures provide the spice for a temporary exhibit at Jacksonport State Park, 90 miles northeast of Little Rock. "Farm to Table" fills a room in the former Jackson County courthouse with the history of cooking and dining among families here and around Arkansas.

One display, headlined "Mind Your (Table) Manners," proffers advice -- some of it still worth heeding -- from etiquette books of the late 19th century.

Here are some of the 10 dinner-party tips listed under "Do":

"Place the napkin on your lap instead of tucking it in at the neck."

"Keep your mouth closed while chewing."

"Keep conversation continual but light and away from controversial or deeply intellectual topics."

"Children should wait quietly until their elders are served."

The following are among the 27 prohibitions on the much longer list labeled "Do Not":

"Eat garlic or onions before attending."

"Sit too close or too far from the table, fidget in your seat or lean elbows on the table."

"Slurp soup or coffee."

"Mix your food on the plate."

"Pick your teeth at the table."

"Draw attention to the body's workings. Coughing, sneezing or blowing one's nose are strictly prohibited."

An interactive exhibit tests visitors' knowledge of how to arrange a table setting for a formal six-course dinner that included oysters, soup, fish, main course, salad and dessert.

Placing an item in the correct place on the table lights up the display. The objects include: bread knife, bread plate, champagne glass, dessert fork, dessert spoon, dinner fork, dinner knife, fish fork, fish knife, napkin, oyster fork, plate, water glass, white wine glass, red wine glass, salad fork, salad knife, sherry glass and soup spoon.

A moment of respectful silence would be in order for the unlucky soul stuck with washing all those dishes and implements.

Permanent exhibits in the old courthouse tell the story of Jacksonport's decline from a thriving county seat in the decade after the Civil War to today's backwater of about 200 residents. The key factor was the community's rejection of a proposed railroad connection, which led to the county seat's transfer to Newport.

A sense of what might have been is conveyed upstairs in the restored 19th-century courtroom. The handsome chamber is entered through 9-foot-tall double doorways that match the two doors opening onto wrought-iron balconies at each end of the courthouse. Gorgeous fanlight windows sit above the end doors.

Jacksonport visitors on Friday and Saturday can also enjoy lots of music at PortFest 2017, which is being revived after a hiatus last year. Because of recent high water around the state park, the festival will take place in nearby downtown Newport.

Fourteen tribute bands will perform more than 23 hours of concerts, with other activities including a children's village, fireworks and a show of cars, trucks and motorcycles. Admission is $20 per day or $30 for a two-day pass. A child under age 12 can enter free with each paying adult.

Jacksonport State Park, on Arkansas 69 northwest of Newport, is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Admission is free, with donations welcome. For details, visit arkansasstateparks.com or call (870) 523-2143.

For more information on PortFest 2017, call (870) 523-3618.

Weekend on 06/08/2017

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