OXFORD, Miss. – Recently, I came here on the way to someplace else, which many others often do. Spent about three hours consorting with three local luminaries and left with regret that my stop was all too brief. One should never come here hurried.

You should never be “on the clock” when you are in Oxford which has, since its very founding, aspired to be as much like the other Oxford as possible. You know, the one that lies 4,336 miles to the east, where they speak a different kind of English. The Mississippi Oxford doesn’t apologize with regard to emulating that famous seat of learning by the River Thames in Oxfordshire County.

You see the iconic red painted double-decker buses here just as you do over there. As it is in Oxford, England, the chief administrator at Ole Miss is known as “Chancellor” as opposed to “President.” There are no pubs here, but there are plenty of watering holes to do what college kids do in their downtime. And, of course, if you want to enjoy the feel of a literary environment and walk where Faulkner walked, this is the place. His home at Rowan Oak is a museum one should not miss.

Oxford and Ole Miss are still laid back and becoming, buttoned down and inviting. About the only thing different from yesteryear is that the football team is not dominant as it once was under the legendary Johnny Vaught.

While it has become old news, you likely recall that Ole Miss was the last school in the Southeastern Conference to stop playing Dixie and the last to take down the Confederate flag. There are scars, but Ole Miss doesn’t dwell on the past. The campus and community are moving forward with collegial harmony.

Much of the profound transformation that Ole Miss has undergone was the result of the extraordinary leadership of Dr. Robert Khayat, who played football well enough to last three seasons in the NFL as a “toe” kicker. He loved being a Johnny Vaught Rebel, but no Oxonian has ever done more to rid Ole Miss of the tarnish on its image.

Of course, Oxford is a place where good food is passionately appreciated. You would not think of coming here and not scheduling dinner at City Grocery, operated by John Currence, one of the most renowned chefs in the country. He is a James Beard Award winner and a national celebrity when it comes to creative cooking.

He is happily anchored in Oxford, where he raises Dominique chickens and lives in one of the five houses that were not burned to the ground during the Civil War. That is about as Southern as imaginable for a New Orleans born outdoorsman (he is an avid hunter and fisherman) who spent a portion of his life growing up in the United Kingdom, where he enjoyed the traditional culinary dishes of Europe. However, his bent for the kitchen, recipes, cooking and experimenting with a variety of dishes, originated at a well-known address in Chapel Hill: Bill Neal’s Crook’s Corner. Currence began his extraordinary career as a dishwasher at one of North Carolina’s most acclaimed dining establishments.

You come to Oxford for a few days and you can dine with John every meal every day. In addition to City Grocery, he owns Nacho Mama’s, Kalo’s, Ajax Diner, Boure, Snack Bar and Big Bad Breakfast. The first time I ate shrimp and grits was with John at City Grocery. I’ve had a big bad breakfast with him and lunch at Boure and the Snack Bar— and then a nap. His food leads to a restful interlude.

As much as City Grocery’s menu turns one on, I, with a rural influence, am happy to say that to start your day at Big Bad Breakfast in Oxford, Mississippi, is a rare dining treat.

You might think there is nothing so special about frying an egg, but if you have eggs fried the way John fries them, there is something eventful by whatever pinch or dash he adds to the egg when it is sizzling. You don’t get mayonnaise from his menus, you get Tabasco mayonnaise. There are plenty of ways to cook catfish, which is a big deal in Mississippi, but nothing like John’s Catfish Lafitte. It is worth the trip here to order his pasta jambalaya.

When you visit City Grocery, you may see Ole Miss legend Archie Manning or his son, Eli, former New York Giant quarterback, having dinner. They both have condominiums in Oxford. Network announcers Todd Blackledge and Joe Tessitore beat a path to City Grocery when they are in town. You may look up and see Morgan Freeman or Tom Cruise seated in a corner of the restaurant.

Those personalities, like the Oxford clientele, find fulfillment when they dine with John Currence.

Sadly, this is the first time since John hung out his shingle in 1992 that he is not catering at the Grove on fall Saturdays this year. The famous Grove is as devoid of tailgaters this season as it has always been on Easter Sunday.

Loran Smith of Athens, the long-time sideline radio voice of the Georgia Bulldogs, writes a regular feature column.

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