/New book depicts evolution of Hal & Mal’s from restaurant to cultural icon

New book depicts evolution of Hal & Mal’s from restaurant to cultural icon

Malcolm White describes Hal & Mal’s legendary Jackson food, drink, and music emporium, named after White and his brother, Hal. “You could walk into Hal & Mal’s and point at a wall, and I would have a dozen tales about all the events that have occurred there over the past thirty plus years.” That’s how The Artful Evolution Of Hal & Mal’s was created. It’s an illustrated reminiscence and retelling of the restaurant’s history. Ginger Williams Cook, an artist, visited Hal & Mal’s in 2010 to witness her husband’s performance in one of the shows. Cook began to draw sketches of the dishes and other artifacts around her. White came to view her drawings and the partnership was born. Cook stated that Malcolm picked up the book, and he had many stories to tell. White would tell a story for every sketch. She said that White “then kind of tossed it out there and said, “You know what? We’ve got to write a book together.” Cook didn’t hesitate. Cook, a Jackson native, is full of memories of Commerce Street’s landmark. As a child, Cook lied to her parents, saying she was staying at a friend’s house so she could see Helmet. Cook, as an adult, celebrated her engagement, held birthday parties, and mourned the loss at Hal & Mal’s. She said, “It’s a great place to celebrate things and it’s also had that grieving aspect too, as a community of many beloved Jacksonians who have passed away.” “We even congregated here when Michael Jackson passed away. White stated that he had been discussing the possibility of writing a book with his brother for many years. White stated that Hal was a master soup chef. White said that they had discussed the possibility of Hal & Mal’s soup book. He would write all the stories and I would use his recipes. We never did pull the trigger. The idea became a love story to him after he passed away.” Hal White was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm in 2013. Malcolm originally intended the book to be a history about the business. But it became more personal as Malcolm began writing it, particularly regarding his brother. He said, “You know, if I sat down to write about the house that I grew up in it would end up as a memoir.” You might talk about your window treatment or the yard or your room but it wouldn’t be complete without talking about your family and your friends. It was difficult to make it personal, but not too public. It was great, and it was an excellent exercise. It helped me to get closure on the sudden, dramatic, and unexpected death of my brother. “A lot of what I was trying do was to set the story straight, make sure my brother got credit, and remember him well.” Six years after White first saw Cook’s sketches on paper, the two began to put ink and paint to paper. University Press of Mississippi was open to the idea and decided to publish it. Craig Gill, Director of University Press of Mississippi, said that he thought the idea was a great one for Malcolm’s goals. We wanted to capture his storyteller voice. Although it is a book about a restaurant in Mississippi, it is much more. It’s not only a history Jackson but also a history Mississippi literature and art. He said, “It’s a very purposeful mixture of art and words and it’s a combination which really captures (Hal’s & Mal’s) spirit.” The venue was a regular stop for many well-known musicians over the years, including the classics like The Temptations or Albert King, and newer acts such as The Strokes. White stated that Ginger had a completely different view than mine. The book was published two years later. Lemuria Books, Jackson, hosted a Q&A and signing event with White and Cook on Wednesday night. Longtime patrons and family members attended the event to celebrate the publication. Gay Reynolds, a Jacksonian, said that all the rooms had different memories and were filled with people who are important to her life. She was originally from Montgomery, Ala. It’s like a large piece of Jackson history. Carol Puckett, a Jacksonian, said that she was glad someone took the time to capture it. She has been visiting the restaurant since 1985. I have gained many life experiences from there. Many of the people here (at Lemuria), are people I’ve known there or marched with in Malcolm’s parade.” White is a Jackson restaurateur and executive director of Mississippi Arts Commission. He is also planning the 35th annual St. Paddy’s Parade, which he dedicated to Hal. Cook was a new illustrator for this book, although her work has been featured in several national campaigns. Cook said that she enjoyed the process, particularly working with White. She said that Malcolm believed in me and allowed me to do what I wanted. He’s not a treasure of the local community, Malcolm White is a treasure of the state. White stated that he has many more ideas for books that he would like to share with Cook.