Tag Archives: favorites

99. Salads (Hold the Veggies, Please)

15 Jun

Cranberry salad by Unsophisticook.
Click for recipe.

When I lived in LA, I witnessed a whole heap of salad eating going on. Here in the Pacific Northwest, folks happily munch on greens of any variety, as long as they’re organically grown less than two miles from their home (Ok, maybe it’s 50, but who’s counting? Locavores, that’s who!). But I daresay there’s no place in the country–perhaps even the planet–where folks eat more salad per capita than the South. Now before y’all start to challenge my completely made up statistics, let me explain: When I say “salad,” I don’t mean a bowl of veggies lightly drizzled with dressing, perhaps topped with a sprinkling of walnuts or cranberries. Oh no. I’m referring to Southern-style salad, which hardly ever features any vegetable as the main ingredient.


So what IS in Southern salad? Well, there are two main categories: sweet or savory. Cool Whip features prominently in the former and mayonnaise in the latter.

Sweet salads include, but are not limited to: fruit salad, pistachio salad, cranberry salad, strawberry salad, blueberry salad (noticing a theme here?), and ambrosia and Waldorf salads (for the fancy people).

Many of the above salads also feature Jello (or Jello Instant Pudding) as a main ingredient. In fact, I think the rule is that as long as you add one other ingredient to Jello, you can call it a salad. The varieties of congealed salad are too many to list, but here are a few I found in my trusty Bell’s Best community cookbook: Apricot Jello Salad, Coca-Cola Salad, Lemon-Lime Congealed Salad, and Miss Dora Sills’ Golden Glow Salad (which involves lemon Jello, pineapples, and carrots. Yum?).

Pistachio salad by Country Door.
Click for recipe.



I should mention that the outlier of the bunch is Waldorf salad, which contains both fruit and mayonnaise. But don’t blame Southerners for that bizarre pairing. It came straight out of the hotel formerly known as the Waldorf Hotel (now Waldorf-Astoria) in New York City. I should also mention that my sister-in-law Karen taught me to make an AH. MAZE. ING. fruit dip using only a pack of cream cheese and a jar of marshmallow creme. Ok, so that’s not technically a salad, but close enough.

In the savory salad category, you’ll find Southern staples like chicken salad, tuna salad (usually referred to as “tuna fish”), potato salad, egg salad, and macaroni salad. This is where you’ll find the occasional vegetable such as celery, green onions, or pickles. Mostly, though, the recipes break down like this: Put a large portion of salad’s namesake ingredient in bowl, add large portion of mayonnaise, stir, and serve. If you’d like to read more about chicken salad, check out what Southern women want by my blog pal, reelingintheyears.

Chicken salad–Hey, who added the lettuce?



I’ll leave y’all with the recipe for one of my all-time favorite salads (also courtesy of my sister-in-law Karen). You might think it sounds more like a casserole than a salad, but it’s CALLED salad, which is good enough for me.

Hot Chicken Salad
2 cups chicken (cooked and cut up)
1 can water chestnuts
1 can pimentos, chopped
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup almonds
2 T lemon juice
1/4 t celery salt
1/8 t pepper
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 can french-fried onion rings

Mix all ingredients together except cheese and onion rings. Mix cheese and onion rings together and place on top of mixture. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

What are your favorite “salads”?

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94. Camping (Not That I’m Happy About It)

14 Apr

Disclaimer: Everything I have to say about camping in the South is based on my personal experience way back in the 1970’s. Here goes:

When I was in fifth grade, I wrote a scathing expose on camping and got to read it in class. Everybody thought it was hilarious. I can’t remember what all I said, but the gist of it was: I hate camping. I really hate camping. Also, camping sucks. Which is why I hate camping. So much.

This was the first time I truly realized the power of a number 2 pencil and Trapper Keeper-compatible loose leaf paper. My highly unscientific hypothesis was: People like to laugh. I can make people laugh. Therefore, people will like me.

I wish I had a copy of my essay on camping, but it has most likely disintegrated by now, considering how many times I read it to a captive audience. (By “captive” I don’t mean “fascinated by” so much as “prevented from fleeing.”)

Here in the Pacific Northwest, people see camping as a way to loosen the shackles of society, commune with nature, catch a rare glimpse of a star-filled sky, and sleep in tents. That all sounds great (apart from the sleeping on the ground aspect), but unlike any camping I’ve ever experienced.

Our campsite looked kind of like this,
only smaller and with plastic fruit lights.

When I was a kid, my dad would hook our pop-up camper to the trailer hitch on the car and away we’d go to the KOA Campgrounds in uber-exotic Wiggins, MS. Once we’d parked in our assigned spot, we’d set up camp. This involved popping up the camper and erecting a tarp cover to shade the picnic table, complete with a snazzy string of plastic fruit lights. (My mother never met a place she couldn’t decorate.)

My first order of business was scoping out the nearest bathroom facilities (some things never change). If we were lucky, there’d be a sketchy looking building with toilets and showers fairly close to “home.” One of the stereotypes of Southern folks is that we don’t have running water. Well, I’m here to tell you we do. In the wilderness, no less.

The ones in Wiggins, MS,
were slightly less grand.

The next item on my agenda was chasing squirrels. Not for supper. Just for fun.

One of the selling points of the Wiggins campsite was that it featured a lake with sandy beaches. Since I’d always associated sandy beaches with oceans, I once tried to teach myself to surf using the lid of a Styrofoam cooler. I made a valiant effort, but, alas, it was not to be. Turns out that surfing requires, well, surf.

Me, Jenna, and her creatively named doll, "Denna."

I can’t remember what all we ate when camping, but I do know that our food was cooked on my dad’s trusty propane Coleman Stove. As it turns out, a propane stove can be quite useful in a crisis. When Katrina knocked out the electricity at my parents’ house, my dad used his to cook up ham and eggs, and more importantly, coffee. “Eggs?” I asked. “Where are you keeping eggs?” My dad: “In the cooler.” Me: “Of course.”

Seeing as I’ve never been a fan of dirt, insects, public showers, and propane-tinged food, the only thing that made camping remotely bearable was when we brought along our portable color TV. My dad claimed that my sister and I were the only people in the entire history of camping who couldn’t stand to leave the TV at home. What? Other folks were content to miss an episode of “Mork and Mindy”? Seriously?

I do understand why people might choose to stay at campsites to economize while traveling on vacation. But, y’all, the campsite WAS our destination. I still can’t fathom how cramming four hot, cranky, occasionally TV-deprived people into a pop-up camper constitutes a vacation. Now that I think about it, maybe my dad was trying to give us an idea of what Hell might be like so we’d do our best not to wind up there.

Somebody ought to
buy me this.

Every once in a while, I’ll hear people in Seattle planning weekend camping trips. They make it sound quaint, enticing, blissful even. Which starts me thinking, “Maybe it would be different without the scorching heat and 1000% humidity. I’ve long-since cured my TV addiction, and it would be nice to see actual stars again.” I might just be persuaded to try again, if it weren’t for this one thing: I hate camping.

Did you go camping as a kid? Would you voluntarily go now? What’s the one item from civilization you’d find it most difficult to part with?

Photo Credits, Flickr Creative Commons: Camping sign by Susan Hunt, Bathhouse by Amy the Nurse, TV by Eric Albee

I Love Not Camping luggage tag by Anne Taintor available here.

44. Caramel Cake–Like a Hug, but Tastier

26 Jun

I made this. Yum.

If you happen to be in the South and happen to be offered a slice of caramel cake (or better yet, somebody’s grandmother’s caramel cake), proceed with caution. Much like heroin, one hit’s too many and a thousand is never enough.

I have never met a caramel cake I didn’t like. Mostly, I think, because Betty Crocker has yet to throw her hat in the ring. That I know of, anyway.

Caramel cake is a bit of a misnomer, seeing as the cake isn’t caramel at all. It’s the icing that’s caramel. Well, actually, even the icing isn’t caramel. It’s caramel-esque. And way better than any plastic-wrapped caramel you’ve ever encountered.

The first time I attempted a caramel cake, the icing turned out gritty. Did I still eat it? You bet. See “never met a caramel cake I didn’t like” above.

caramel cake in progress, a still life

The second time, I turned to the Patron Saint of Southern Cooking, Paula Deen. She did not disappoint. And, so, having mastered my technique, I decided to treat my sister to a home-baked caramel cake. What I didn’t plan on was my sister’s sad, sad baking pans. Perhaps I should have switched to sheet cake mode, but I was determined to wow my sister. And wow her I did.

So the cakes stuck to the pans, but I ingeniously inverted them, crumbly side down. Which worked ok for the first layer. Halfway through icing the second layer, an avalanche sent one side of the cake sliding. Not to be defeated, I kept icing that sucker, which was getting crumblier by the second. Even my six-year-old nephew who loves to help in the kitchen decided it was hopeless and abandoned the project in favor of Sponge Bob.

My sister took one look at the cake and said, “What happened??” Me: “It stuck to the pans.” Jenna: “What pans did you USE?” I showed her the culprits. Jenna: “Well, no wonder!”

It wasn’t pretty, but that did not deter us from enjoying a slice. (Well, not so much a slice as a glob). But then, we’ve been known to eat my sister-in-law’s carrot cake rescued from a fall to the floor, which is a story for another time.

If you take a notion to make your own caramel cake, I recommend Paula Deen’s recipe. However, I leave out her layer of filling and have never missed those extra two sticks of butter and two cups of sugar. The icing isn’t a true caramel, but I’ve yet to figure out how that culinary feat is accomplished. I’ve tried many a time, but for me caramel always ends in disappointment or disaster.

Anybody happen to have their grandmother’s caramel cake recipe? Please do share!!

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?

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