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52. Beauty Parlors–Curl Up and Dye

5 Nov

By S. Myers: Flickr Creative Commons

It’s no wonder beauty parlors are such popular spots, seeing as they combine two of a Southern lady’s greatest loves, gossip and perms. Oh, and don’t forget pampering. Any belle worth her sugar loves a good pampering.

When you get to the beauty parlor, don’t bother picking up People or US Weekly. Wouldn’t you rather pass the time finding out who’s done what to whom? It doesn’t even matter if you know the “who” or “whom” in question. Some stories are just that juicy.

Back in the day, Southern ladies had standing weekly appointments for hair-do maintenance. I imagine many still do. You can spot them quite easily; they’re the ones whose hair simply DOES NOT MOVE. Ever.

How do they keep the hair in place overnight? Some swear by satin pillowcases, but my aunt Juanita relied on trusty toilet paper. Every night before she went to bed, she wrapped the back of her head with t.p. and secured it with bobby pins. I’m not sure about the science behind this, but her hair always had that smooth, shellacked look popular among women of a certain era.

Hairstyles of a certain era.

I, myself, have spent a fair amount of time in beauty parlors. When I was growing up, my mom’s best friend, LaRue, was our hair dresser. (I have no idea if that’s how her name is actually spelled, seeing as I’ve never had occasion to use it till now.) Anyhoo, as I recall, LaRue’s magazine selection was rather slim, so I spent many an hour perusing the J.C. Penney catalog. The thing I liked best about the beauty parlor was the jar with combs floating in blue liquid. Why modern salons have done away with them, I do not know.

When I was a kid in church, I scanned the hair-dos of the ladies in the choir, and I dreaded the day that I’d be required to sport the helmet-head look. Thankfully, I’ve realized that day will never come. Though each visit to my local beauty parlor finds me with shorter and shorter hair, my curls will never be considered ruly. And if you ever see me reaching for a can of Aqua Net, feel free to snatch me baldheaded. If you know what that means…

What are your favorite beauty parlor memories?

50. Drive-thru Beer Barns–Libations for Lazy Folks

4 Nov

What? You thought burgers, tacos and donuts had the drive-thru market cornered? Oh no. They can’t compete with kegs, cigarettes and wine coolers. Not in the South anyway.

I can’t say how the drive-thru beer barn got started, but I suspect it was the brainchild of someone whose six-year-old flat out refused to go into the tote-sum for momma’s Marlboro Lights. See, if I was making a list of Stuff Southern People DON’T Like, number four would be “Getting Out of the Car” (or more likely, the truck).

A beer barn isn’t necessarily in an actual barn, but “beer building” just doesn’t sound festive at all. The cool thing about beer barns is that minors are allowed in. Craving a bag of pork rinds and a coke? Need a pack of gum? M & Ms? Just drive on through!

You might think the idea of a drive-thru alcohol purveyor is counterintuitive. Wouldn’t this promote drinking and driving? That’s like saying drive-thru restaurants promote eating and driving. Who wants to eat in the car when there’s a big screen TV and a coffee table waiting at home?

I reckon beer barns might have been outlawed by some zealous Baptists, seeing as the one on Lakeland Drive was closed eons ago. Now, that, my friends is counterintuitive, seeing as Baptists are the ideal demographic for the drive-thru beer barn: no chance of being spotted in public toting a six-pack of Bud.

When I was in high school, Mississippi changed the drinking age to 21, but Louisiana had yet to jump on the bandwagon. Folks would drive across the river at Vicksburg to this place called Daiquiri World where you could get a ginormous Styrofoam cup of daiquiri TO GO. There might have even been a drive thru. And what’s better than a drive through beer barn? A drive-thru LIQUOR joint.

Beats the heck out of the drive-thru espresso stands that multiply faster than rabbits – or Starbucks – around here.

Ever been to a beer barn? Do they still exist?

43. Cracker Barrel: Putting the Kitsch in Kitchen

25 Jun

"Cracker Barrel" by keithlam

You’d think the novelty of nostalgia would have worn off by now, but judging from the ever-crowded parking lot, I reckon not. But then Cracker Barrel combines two of Southern women’s greatest loves: eating and shopping. Also, you can get in quite a bit of gossiping, too, depending on who you run into and how long you have to wait for a table.

I’m not going to extol the virtues of Cracker Barrel’s food, because I fail to see any. Ok, I’ll admit, they do have some good pecan pancakes that come with wee bottles of maple syrup. I know this because whenever I’d come home to visit, Mom would wake me up WAAAAY early the next day (like around 9:00) to go get some pancakes.

"Sweet Treats" by Lorianne DiSabato

What Cracker Barrel lacks in culinary skills, they make up for in kitsch. Where else are you going to find cornbread pans, patriotic clocks, wooden toys, and old-timey candy all in one place? Ok, maybe your grandmother’s house. But the candy will likely be not so much old-timey as just plain old.

"Peg Leg" by JasonChamberlain

There’s plenty to look at while you wait, and the fun doesn’t stop after you’re seated. Who’s up for a challenging round of the peg game? You know the one with a triangle-shaped piece of wood featuring pegs filled with golf tees? The object is to “jump” and remove the other tees, leaving only one tee standing. It sounds more exciting than it is. But then, maybe I’m just bitter because I’ve yet to win.

I’ve only ever been to Cracker Barrel for breakfast because from what I hear, that’s the only meal worth eating. However, I can’t imagine the food would be any worse than the short-lived “Po Folks” that we used to patronize frequently in college. Because, hey, we WERE po folks, and most anything beats Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

Though I do enjoy poking around in the general store, I haven’t eaten at Cracker Barrel in the last three years. My mom loved those pancakes enough to endure breakfast with a grumpy, jetlagged daughter, and it wouldn’t feel right eating them without her.

What’s your favorite part of the Cracker Barrel experience?

41. Stuckey’s: Home of Pee Breaks and Pecan Log Rolls

19 Jun

Stuckey's, Coffee County, Tennessee by naslrogues

Every road trip I ever suffered through as a child included at least one stop at Stuckey’s. Which was often the highlight of the whole ordeal. How to describe Stuckey’s to the uninitiated? Hmm…a gas station, restaurant, souvenir shop, ice cream parlor, and candy store all in one. Kind of a low-rent version of Disneyland, sans rides, dorky hats, and teenagers sweltering in Disney character costumes.

Anybody who’s ever been to Stuckey’s knows I’m building it up way too much, but y’all have to admit that to a road-weary kid, Stuckey’s is pretty awesome. Except for the bathrooms. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a clean bathroom in a Stuckey’s. But, hey, look! There’s a figurine made out of a clam shell! A rubber alligator! Peanut brittle!

What I remember most about Stuckey’s is that they used to sell their own brand of melt-in-your-mouth peppermint balls. I remember this because I’ve spent the rest of my life (so far) trying to find a decent substitute. If y’all know of any, please let me know.

My sister and I never left Stuckey’s without new “Yes and Know” books in hand. These were filled with trivia questions or word games, and you revealed the “invisibly printed” answers with a “magic pen.” As I got older (or perhaps my eyesight improved), I realized you could read the “invisibly printed” answers without the use of the “magic pen” AKA yellow highlighter. However, until I Googled them just now, some thirty-odd years later, I didn’t catch anything odd about the tagline “Hours and hours of by-yourself enjoyment.” Hmm.

My mom always had to have a box of sesame sticks (which were WAY exotic back in the day) and the ever-popular Pecan Log. This is not as gross as it sounds, but almost. I don’t remember anything my dad enjoyed about Stuckey’s other than getting the hell out of there and back on the road. Of course, we didn’t often get to-go drinks because a pit stop was to “empty” not “fill up.”

Anytime I happen to be on a road trip in the South, I can never pass up a Stuckey’s. They’re harder to find these days, but if you’re on the road from Jackson, MS to Memphis, there’s one in Vaiden. Last time I checked.

Alas, while they do still sell a bunch of Stuckey’s brand food-like substances, the peppermint balls are long gone. However, I’m happy to report that the bathrooms are just as nasty as ever.

What do y’all remember about Stuckey’s?

39. Cool Whip–Cream of the Non-dairy Crop

17 Jun

Do the Cool Whip by sweetmusichearts

In case you’re wondering why it’s taken me so long to get around to Cool Whip, I must confess that I haven’t used it in so long that I almost forgot about it. UNTIL…I was eating at a restaurant near my hometown called Mama & Mamee’s. (Many thanks to my friend Tammy Tadlock who recommended the place!!)

At a later date, I will extol the wonderful deliciousness of the entrees, but for now I’m skipping straight to dessert. Have y’all ever been tempted to look over a dessert menu and say, “I’ll have one of everything”? I know I have. Many a time. But I never actually DID it. UNTIL…well, there were six desserts on the menu, and they all sounded equally good. There were three of us, and we were all equally smitten. Plus, the desserts were only $1.99 each. Which by the math I remember from high school meant two desserts for less than the price of one at any other restaurant anywhere. So we ordered six desserts and three spoons.

If I recall correctly, our waitress delivered: white chocolate bread pudding, coconut cake, Hershey’s cake, earthquake cake, banana pudding, and the ice cream sandwich cake, which was what got me to remembering Cool Whip.

After much tasting and speculating and finally asking the waitress, we determined that the ice cream sandwich cake consisted of a layer of ice cream sandwiches, a layer of caramel, a layer of Cool Whip, and a generous sprinkling of toffee bits. How could something that simple (and cheap!) be that plate-lickingly delicious? Magic? Love? Who cares! But I know what I’m bringing to the next potluck. Y’all get ready.

Ever since I bought my own Starbucks-style whipped cream dispenser, I’ve developed a strong preference for real whipped cream. Ok, yes, I’m whipped cream snob. But I will always have a place in my heart (and on my plate) for good, old-fashioned Cool Whip. Because without it, you cannot make my absolute favorite dessert in the world: Chocolate Stuff.

Chocolate Stuff

2 sticks melted butter
2 cups flour
Pecans (however many you want)

Mix and bake in a Pyrex dish at 350 for 25 minutes. Set aside to cool.

8 oz. Cream cheese
1 cup Cool Whip
1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar

Cream together and layer half of this mixture onto cooled crust.

2 (4 oz.) instant chocolate pudding mixes
3 cups of milk

Beat together and spread on top of cream cheese mixture. Top with additional Cool Whip and chopped pecans.

Don’t plan on seeing this one at a potluck anytime soon. It’s kind of a bitch to make. Also, I find it difficult to share.

What’s your favorite recipe involving Cool Whip?

32. Walmart: Save Money. Live Better?

29 Mar

Photo by "el neato"
Flickr Creative Commons

You know you’re Southern if the directions to two or more of your kinfolks’ houses include the phrase “turn right at the Walmart.” Extra points if you’ve ever used the word “kinfolks.”

For Southerners, Walmart (or “Wally World” as it’s known to fans of National Lampoon’s vacation) isn’t just a place to score “everyday low prices” on toilet paper, big screen tvs, or whatnot. Oh no. It’s where folks go to socialize. You never know who might turn up at the local Walmart on a Sunday evening. And if you’re not there to take part in the gossip, well, one guess who the gossiping’s going to be about.

The odd thing about the Walmart social scene (aside from the fact that it takes place in Walmart) is that even though folks know they will run into their friends/enemies/rivals/relations, there’s no pressure to dress up. At all. Curlers in hair? Why not? Mud-encrusted boots? Come on in! Pizza and beer-stained wife beater? Who cares? If you’ve ever been to Walmart, you know I speak the truth. And if you haven’t witnessed these crimes of fashion firsthand, consider this exhibit A through Z: People of Walmart.

Walmart has tried hard to cultivate this whole “Walmart Family” image, but, folks, the store is not actually your house. You might want to change out of your pajamas before running in to get the kids’ OJ and Jimmy Dean Pancakes and Sausage on a Stick.

Photo by Adam Kuban
Flickr Creative Commons

I think Walmart must pipe some kind of crack-like substance into their air filtration system and Southern folks simply cannot “Just Say No.” How else can you explain their need to visit Every Single Day? And not just once a day. I reckon twice a day is about average. Which I admit is pure speculation based on how frequently my dad goes. Hey, I never claimed to be scientific.

I imagine Walmart has become the hub of many a Southern town because…well, hell, because Walmart practically IS a Southern town. You’ve got your optician, your hardware store, your pharmacy, your photo center…groceries, clothes, furniture, housewares, firearms, fishing supplies…restaurants…video rentals…“jewelry.” If the Waltons could figure out how to incorporate a church into the mix, folks would NEVER have to leave. And as a bonus, customers might step it up in the wardrobe department. Nobody wears curlers in the house of the Lord.

How often do you frequent your local Walmart? What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever encountered there?

20. Tote-Sum Stores (‘Cause We’re All About Convenience)

29 Jan

One day my sister calls me up and says, “Do you know what a tote-sum store is?”

I say, “Duh, it’s like a 7-11.”

“Shawn has never heard of a tote-sum!” She never ceases to be amazed that her husband is neither A. a Southerner or B. a democrat. But I digress…

Upon researching this post, I was surprised to discover that most folks outside of the Jackson, MS, area likely haven’t heard of a tote-sum either. Seems that there was once a small chain of actual “Tote-sum” stores, whose name was so catchy that it quickly became synonymous with any local convenience store.

These days across the South, tote-sum stores are quickly being usurped by big name gas stations that have joined forces with Domino’s, Taco Bell, and the like. So now you can get gas and, um, gas at the same place. But back in the day, you’d find all kinds of food-like substances at the local convenience store: Icees, fried chicken, boiled peanuts, donuts, and the ever-popular “tater logs.”

Sure, maybe the restrooms at those chain places are a little less frightening. Perhaps the shelves are dusted a little more regularly. Maybe the dairy products are rotated a little more frequently, but I still have a soft spot for a good, old-fashioned tote-sum store.

When I was growing up, my sister and I would walk up to Bernie’s where we could get chips, candy, and bottled Cokes just for signing our names on a slip of paper. It was a perilous journey (maybe a mile in the summer heat along a road without sidewalks. Uphill. Both ways.) but that just made the snacks that much more tasty.

Eventually, the credit system was replaced by an actual cash register (or maybe Dad put the kibosh on our too-frequent charges), but still we’d save up quarters and waste countless afternoons playing Ms. Pac Man.

About a year ago, one of those slick new gas/fast food joints popped up about a block from my childhood home. I haven’t been in there, so I can’t say what it’s like. But there aren’t any old men out front playing dominoes, so that’s probably a bad sign.

16. Catfish (The “Deep-Fried” is Implied)

29 Jan

Ok, a lot of these posts feature food (or drink), and I reckon you can guess why: We Southerners loves us some food. Hey, Mississippi didn’t get to be the fattest state in the US for nothing!

So while folks here in Seattle are swooning over salmon, my peeps back home are loyal to the good old-fashioned fried catfish. With hushpuppies (which one of my Seattle friends mistakenly called “puff daddies.” Of course, the name stuck).

Though I now regularly buy organic produce and “hippie eggs,” I’m still of the opinion that farm-raised catfish is the way to go. Sure, maybe wild catfish live happier lives, but they are notorious bottom feeders. For me, eating free-range catfish would be akin to munching on a fried vulture. Ick. As an aside, when I lived in LA, I was extolling the virtues of farm-raised catfish to a work friend who said, “Farm-raised? I thought it was a fish!”

There’s a reason I’m writing this blog, people.

Now if you happen to be in the South and are itching to try some catfish, I recommend Jerry’s in Florence, MS. Not necessarily because it’s the best, but because it may be the one and only place you’ll eat catfish in an igloo. Yes, I said igloo.

Jerry's Fish House, Florence, MS

It’s been a long time since I’ve been there, and I can’t really remember whether the catfish or hushpuppies are anything special. But it’s one of few places where I, an avowed fish hater, will actually eat fish.

13. Big Ass Churches (With Comfortable Pews)

12 Jan

My sister lives in Memphis, which features the largest concentration of megachurches in the known world. All the world I’ve known, anyhow. It’s the rodeo-champ style buckle on the Bible Belt.

There’s one that’s got so many bells, whistles, and jumbotrons, my sister’s husband, Shawn, dubbed it “Six Flags Over Jesus.” Of course, after a visit to their church, I figure they ought to be pocketing those stones.

If a church has three or more of the following, you’ll know there’s too much “junk in the trunk:”

1. Parking lot attendants. Bonus points for trams.

2. Nosebleed seats in the sanctuary.

3. Coffee bar.

4. Cupholders.

5. Jumbotron.

6. Basketball court.

7. Ferris wheel.

8. Map.

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