Tag Archives: family

45. Fishing, Worms and All

27 Jun

"Live Bait" by Pierce Place

Sure, you can buy fish in the South, but what’s the fun in that? Wouldn’t you rather sit in the heat (and humidity. Can’t forget the humidity.) skewering live worms and waiting for a nibble that might never come? Now before y’all go all PETA on me talking about the inhumanity of using worms, crickets, and minnows for bait…saying “if only you knew how it felt to be stabbed with a hook.” I will say this: “I DO know!” If anyone who’s ever fished has not been accidentally hooked by their companion’s (or worse: their OWN) fishing line at least once, I will eat a scummy, fresh-water catfish. As long as you serve it with hushpuppies.

I should add that lots of folks fish with tackle these days, though I don’t suppose that placates PETA seeing as the goal is still to kill and eat fish (or sometimes merely to wound them and toss them back).

"Eric's Tackle Box" by jordansmall

Y’all might be surprised to know that I did a fair amount of fishing as a child. I even won a prize at a local “Fish Rodeo” once. No, this did not involve roping or riding fish. Don’t ask me why they called it that or what I won the prize for. A. I don’t know and B. I don’t remember. I do, however, remember the prize. It was a plate of gummy worm lures, alas, not the edible kind. Now that I think of it, this is the only competition in which I have won a prize. Perhaps I missed my calling. Wait, on second thought, I’ve won a bunch of awards for advertising. Which is almost as impressive as winning a prize for fishing. Almost.

I might get retroactively disqualified for admitting this, but I never baited my own hook. I can’t remember ever actually touching a fish. Where I excelled was sitting patiently and reeling them in. I am a champion delegator.

What I liked best about fishing was that first moment seeing the buoy sink. The excitement! The elation! The hope! I must say, I was always a bit disappointed upon reeling it in to discover I’d caught…a fish. I think after years of watching cartoons, I was hoping to snag a tire or old shoe. Some kind of sunken treasure like that.

My most unsuccessful fishing trip was the time some friends and I crafted homemade poles and went fishing in the drainage ditch in their front yard. Would you believe I did not catch a thing?

What are your favorite fishing memories?

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?

35. Four-wheelers or How to Drive without a License

6 Apr

Photo by Denise
Flickr Creative Commons

All-terrain vehicles used to be known as three-wheelers till somebody decided an extra wheel would make them safer. What really might make them safer is if folks didn’t drink a few six-packs before taking them out for a spin. Or let their five year olds loose on them. But, hey, as long as they stick to the woods or the yard, fine by me. It’s not like people get killed or even maimed on them. Not that many, anyway. Not anymore.

Apart from the rifle, four-wheelers may be the best thing that ever happened to hunters. No more pre-dawn, miles-long treks to the deer stand. Just hop on your four-wheeler and go. No more dragging your sad-looking deer carcass home by the antlers. Just secure it to your deer rack and zip back in time for, well, Miller Time.

A little known fact about me: I used to have a three-wheeler. An even littler known fact about me: I wrote an extremely persuasive letter to my dad to secure said three-wheeler. (Which included compelling arguments such as “EVERYbody has one!” and “Do you want me to be the only girl in seventh grade without a three-wheeler??”)

Back in the day, I loved racing around the yard on my bright red three wheeler. Tumbling down the hill wasn’t all that much fun, but it beat sitting around watching ice melt. Maybe the best part was riding with my little sister, hitting a bump and sending her bouncing off the back. Ok, I wouldn’t be laughing if she’d really been hurt. Not too much, anyway.

Sure, ATVs have the tendency to tip over and pour the rider out in the manner of a short, stout teapot. They may not have seat belts. And nobody EVER wears a helmet. But they’re way safer than, say, bull riding or sassing your mother.

Do you have a four wheeler? What do you use it for?

30. Biscuits: Our Daily Bread

3 Mar

Let’s settle one thing right up front: if it comes out of a can, it is not a biscuit. Not that there aren’t uses for Hungry Jacks. They’re a key ingredient in monkey bread and will also make a semi-decent Krispy Kreme substitute if you’re desperate, just don’t serve them with butter and jam expecting them to pass.

Some Southern folks have gotten a little lazy about the biscuit making and rely on the frozen Pillsbury variety. One advantage to these is that you can heat up however many you want and never be stuck with cold, leftover biscuits. Although for some reason my dad hasn’t caught on to this idea. He heats up a whole bunch of them at once, butters them, and then leaves them out on the counter. Just in case somebody happens by and wants a biscuit, I reckon.

I really don’t get why folks would want to eat some kind of bland, biscuit-like substitute. How hard is it to make a biscuit? Ok, I will confess that I, myself, had never made a biscuit till last Saturday, but it’s not at all difficult.

As often as I watched my mom making biscuits while I was growing up, you’d think I’d have the recipe embedded in my brain like a Barry Manilow song. Au contraire, mes amis. (Imagine that pronounced with a Southern accent. On second thought: don’t.) My mom didn’t have a recipe. She dumped some flour in a bowl, cut it with Crisco, poured in some buttermilk, mixed it up, dropped the dough on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven. And Voila! Light, fluffy drops of heaven on a plate.

She always swore her biscuits were not as good as her sister Juanita’s, but I wouldn’t know because I never actually tasted one of my aunt’s biscuits while it was hot. My uncle J.P. had a habit of reading a bible passage before breakfast, usually directed toward someone at the table. By the time we got to eat, the o.j. was warm and the biscuits were cold.

All this is to say that I can’t give you my Mom’s biscuit recipe, but I did encounter one that’s almost as good. Since I moved to the Pacific Northwest, I’ve attempted a bunch of scone recipes because that’s what you do here. But last weekend, I figured it was about time to learn to make biscuits. Sorry, scones, it was nice knowing you…

Sour Cream Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sour cream

Heat oven to 450.
Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
Cut in butter until small crumbs form. (easier to do this in food processor)
Add sour cream and stir until mixture is moistened.
Mush together with your hands (wash first!) until the dough holds together with no stray flour bits.
Drop onto ungreased baking sheet in biscuit-sized lumps.
Bake 10-12 minutes or until tops are lightly browned.

Slather with butter and jam (or gravy if you like. i don’t.) and eat. Then nap, if necessary.

What’s your favorite biscuit recipe? Can you make them as good as your own mama?

24. Crock-pots, the Best Thing Since Boxed Cheese

8 Feb

Why do Southern people love Crock-Pots? Two words: Rotel dip. Sure, this kitchen appliance is handy for making stew, chili, soup, whatever, but for Rotel, well, it’s indispensable. If you’re wondering why, my guess is you’ve never tried cold Rotel dip. Heed these Johnny Cochran-esque words of wisdom: if the Velveeta isn’t hot, step away from the Rotel pot.

Now, if you’re balking at Velveeta, you may want to steer clear of Southern get-togethers on general principle. American cheese (or cheese-like substance) tends to play an active role in everything from Rotel dip to piggies.

Crock-Pots also make a mean batch of barbequed meatballs or lil smokies. Only problem is transporting your Crock-Pot to the party and returning home unscathed or unscalded. Even though Crock-Pots are fairly sturdy, they’re not indestructible, so be careful who you lend your Crock-Pot to.

Case in point: My sister’s husband took her Crock-Pot to work once and failed to return it in one piece (or actually two pieces since it was one of the new-fangled “removable stoneware” types). Of course, he never heard the end of this. Probably still hasn’t. She was nagging him about when he was going to replace her Crock-Pot, and he said was planning to buy her a new one for Christmas.

Now I love Shawn, but have to side with my sister on this one: Wrong answer! Or as they say in the South “That dog won’t hunt.”

22. Family Reunions (Keeping Up with the Kinfolks)

29 Jan

Since I don’t have family on the West coast, I can’t really determine whether Southerners have more family reunions than other folks. But I’ve yet to see an official family reunion tee shirt in Seattle, so I’m going out on a limb here.

There are only two requirements for a Southern family reunion: 1. family and 2. food. Preferably less of the former and more of the latter. Some families also require alcohol, but you’ve got to be careful: Too little and folks may want to kill each other. Too much and people actually might. See shotguns.

For kids, family reunions can be a lot of fun once you get past all those old folks pinching your cheeks and telling you they haven’t seen you since you were “thiiiiis high.” You get to hang out with cousins who teach you new and better cuss words and adult supervision tends to be at an all-time low: “You kids still breathing? Carry on then…”

For adults, however, family reunions are often approached with a mix of anticipation and dread (the proportion of each often depends on how well one has stayed within her Weight Watchers points). And pity the poor soul who’s volunteered to host the reunion: the whole house has to be scoured/decluttered. Because your family doesn’t stop at peeking in your medicine cabinet; they snoop in closets and under the bed, as well. Note: hide the prescription meds and pricy jewelry.

If you make it through the day without name calling, hurt feelings, or fist fights…If no one storms off in the middle of festivities vowing to never come back… are you sure you’re family? No, seriously. Are you sure?

You may be asking yourself, “If family reunions are that bad, why do people go?” Simple: If you don’t go, they’ll talk about you. None too kindly either. And inevitably, some concerned family member will tell you what all was said. And then there will be hurt feelings/angry proclamations without the benefit of banana pudding and chicken casserole. And that’s just sad.

21. Birdhouses–for Decoration, not Shelter

29 Jan

If you go to any artsy/crafty show in the South (and I HIGHly recommend you do), you will no doubt run across a fair amount of decorative birdhouses. Some are designed to hang in trees, but more often they’re attached to some sort of stake that folks stick in the ground. And you’d be hard pressed to find a lone birdhouse in anyone’s yard. They multiply like tattoos on a hipster…

There’s this house down the road from my dad’s place that has probably 20 birdhouses planted in a row in the front yard. I’ve often thought of stopping to take a photo, but on the one hand I don’t want to be conspicuous and on the other hand I just can’t be bothered to pull over. You’ll just have to take my word for it. Or take a drive down the Florence/Byram road and see for yourself.

Years ago, my mom got swept up in the birdhouse craze, and I must confess that I contributed to her rapidly growing collection. One day she calls me up and says, “You know that bird house you gave me last year for Mother’s Day? Well, I was planting some impatiens next it and the top of it just fell off. I looked down in there and there was a BIRD’S NEST in it!”

Me: “Um, yeah. It’s a birdhouse. What do you expect?”

Mom: “It’s MY birdhouse. It’s not for those BIRDS to go around making nests in. I took the nest out, but the other day I was out there and I saw a BIRD fly out of it!”

Me: “Well, if you don’t want birds in there, you’ll have to cover the hole so they can’t get in.”

Mom: “But then it wouldn’t look as pretty.”

Point taken.

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.

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