Tag Archives: south

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?

49. Okra (Rhymes with Oprah, Sort of)

3 Nov

Do I even need to specify that I’m talking about fried okra? Ok, then.

If you grew up outside of the South, you’ve likely never encountered this weird little vegetable. It’s a green pod that’s shaped kind of like a jalapeno pepper, but with vertical ridges and pointy end. It tastes like…well, okra. Some people use it in stews or gumbos (at least that’s what crossword clues would lead one to believe), but it has a reputation for being slimy. Which is why everybody else fries it.

by jimmywayne: flickr creative commons

I must admit to feeling a wee bit of Dixie pride when the contestants on “Master Chef” had to identify bizarre produce, and the two Southern chefs named okra right off the bat. Also, a shout out to Whitney, the 22-year-old chef from Mississippi who WON. Way to represent!

The typical okra batter is corn-meal based. Don’t ask me why; I wasn’t at the meeting. Okra is sliced horizontally (tossing both ends), battered and then deep fried. Not just deep fried – deeeeeep fried. Many places serve it almost burnt, which is how we like it.

fried okra by roboppy

Imagine my elation upon discovering a rib joint right next to my friend Linda’s house that has fried okra on the menu. Unfortunately, the pulled pork sandwich only came with one side, and I wasn’t about to pass up hushpuppies in favor of fried okra. (Fried dough vs. fried dough with vegetable? No contest.) An extra side was $2.50, and I also wasn’t about to pay $2.50 for fried okra. I don’t like it THAT much.

I guess I’ll never know what Seattle’s version of fried okra tastes like because the pulled pork at “Rainin Ribs” was standard for the area. And that standard is LOW. Yes, the name “Rainin Ribs” should have tipped me off. Now if they changed the name to “Rainin Men” I might consider a second visit. After all, the hushpuppies weren’t too bad.

What’s your favorite place to get okra, outside your grandmother’s house?

48. Being Neighborly.

2 Nov

Boy, did I witness Southern hospitality in action when I was in Memphis helping my sister with her new baby, Eli. The folks in her neighborhood were kind enough to set up a feeding schedule for the adults (me, Jenna, and Shawn). Every other night, someone from Jenna’s subdivision took over dinner duties, bringing us homemade meals that were ready to heat and serve. There are few pleasures in life better than eating a home cooked meal that you didn’t have to cook yourself. Especially after a few days of hospital vigils fueled by fast food.

My sister had major complications shortly after coming home and had to go back into the hospital for several days, and her neighbors shifted into high gear. Not only did they keep the meals coming, they also helped me in my new role as single mother of two. One of her neighbors kept Eli for about four hours each day so I could get some work done (or sometimes just a shower and nap).

I should also mention that Jenna’s not-so-nearby friends showed up with food and to help out with the kids, too. But I was really floored by the concept of neighbors who were so, well, neighborly. That just doesn’t happen here.

Off the top of my head, I can tell you the names of three of my neighbors: Ruth, next door; Vern, two doors down; and Bill two doors down on the other side. I’ve never actually met Bill, but Geoff has talked to him quite a few times. I think he got to know him when we needed to park a concrete truck essentially in his yard in order to repair our retaining wall. But I digress.

When I’ve been incapacitated, none of my neighbors has brought me so much as a donut from Safeway. And, to be fair, I have not made deliveries to their doors either. Now that I think about it, Geoff did pass out plums in the years before the invention of Plummy Yummy.

The sad truth is, Geoff is far more neighborly than I am. If he sees somebody struggling with an unruly couch, say, he’ll go out and help them. But then he will also run off people trying to pee in our yard or smoke crack in the driveway. Actually, he’s not so much neighborly as vigilant. I should note that his office window faces the street.

Even though we don’t often interact with the neighbors, we know them by pet names such as “Bandana Boy,” “Little Crazy Guy,” “Grill Boy,” “Purple Smoking (not crack) Lady,” “Sunshine Boy,” (note: only one of these boys is actually a juvenile) and my favorite, “Greenwood Man.” Geoff also names the squirrels, but that’s a whole nother story.

One time Walter, who used to live next door, dropped by to let me know that he’d hit my parked car. I thought that was right neighborly of him.

This one goes out to my sister’s neighbors:

I’ve always wanted to have a neighbor just like you.
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.

So, let’s make the most of this beautiful day.
Since we’re together we might as well say:
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?

If so, bring over more of those chocolate-covered peanut butter balls. Thanks!

Are your neighbors naughty or nice?

47. Petit Fours Like You’ll Never Find in Paris

4 Oct

petit fours -Brandi Korte

I don’t know how I stumbled upon the topic of petit fours with Geoff (I mean, it’s not like I EVER talk about sweets), but here’s another example of Dixie and Non worlds colliding:

I’m explaining to him that petit fours are little cakes with icing poured over them. About this big (imagine my hands making the universal 2 inch square symbol). And he goes, “Oh! They sell those at Whole Foods.” Me: “WHAT??” See, I have searched the internets more times than I care to mention trying to find petit fours in Seattle, and he’s telling me I overlooked Whole Foods. I would have hopped in the car immediately, but it was well past Whole Foods’ closing time. Ok, maybe not, but I was already in pajamas.

So the next day I set out for Whole Foods in Ravenna, giddy because I was moments away from petit four bliss. As I perused the bakery case, I encountered lots of lovely, lovely baked goods, but nary a petit four in sight. I made no less than three trips around the entire bakery area. No petit fours ANYWHERE. What they did have, though, were a ton of yummy looking bite-sized desserts. The price was a foreboding $18.99 a pound, but then how much could these really weigh? I got a tiny key lime pie and a wee cheesecake and they worked out to about two bucks each. Yes, a little steep for bite sized dessert, but you’d just have to see how cute these things are.

The next day, I was near another Whole Foods. Ok, it was maybe three miles out of the way, but who’s counting? Again, no petit fours. Ack!!

Meanwhile my sister calls to tell me about these awesome petit fours her friends ordered for her baby shower. (My sister’s two requirements for any shower thrown in her honor are petit fours and punch. It may not get more Southern than that. Especially if the punch is the lime sherbet variety. Alas, this is not Jenna’s favorite.)

I tell her about my wild petit four chase and tell her we’ve GOT to get petit fours when I go down to Memphis to help attend to the baby for whom she was recently showered.

Geoff has a client on the eastside, so he swung by Whole Foods to check out the PF situation there. He comes home and says, “Ok, they have a whole bunch of petit fours. They’re all different kinds of bite-sized desserts and they’re $18.99 a pound.” Me: “Yeah, I saw THOSE, but do they have any that are pieces of cake about this big with icing poured over them?” Him: “Uh, no.” Me: “Then they’re not petit fours!” Him: “Well, the sign says ‘Petit Fours.’” Me: “The sign lied.”

Fast forward to me in Memphis. I got the name of the petit four place from Jenna’s friend Tricia. I found their website, which was…somewhat off-putting. Some of their cakes were worthy of Cakewrecks. I would love to link to the site, but now Google warns that the site might harm my (or your) computer.

Nevertheless, Jenna and Tricia vouched for the deliciousness of the Kay Bakery petit fours, so I ordered a dozen. Ok, a dozen and a half because I was determined to bring some home to show Geoff. Not for him to TASTE, mind you, because I knew he would hate them.

kay bakery petit four

If the website put me off, the actual bakery did not do much to assuage my misgivings. But the guy showed me the petit fours, and while they weren’t exactly square, I could tell right away that they were honest-to-God petit fours. Hallelujah!

And they were as good as promised. Yay!

Epilogue: Geoff’s response upon seeing them: “Those aren’t small! They’re not petit fours; they’re grande eights!”

Some folks have no appreciation for the finer things in life.

Where’s your favorite placeto get petit fours? Have you ever attempted to make them yourself?

46. The Andy Griffith Show–Whistle While You Watch

28 Jun

Before “Splash,” before “Apollo 13,” before “Happy Days,” an adorable, six-year-old Ronny Howard charmed Southerners (and Yankees alike) as Opie Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show.” He’s maybe the first and last non-Southerner to emulate the accent without causing native’s ears to bleed while screaming “The horror! The horror!” Or maybe that’s just me. Even now, I’m nostalgic for his “Awww Paaawww…” I have never actually heard a Southerner refer to their father as “Paw,” but who cares? Opie can do no wrong. (In case you are wondering, I believe fathers in the South are most frequently called “Daddy” pronounced “Dead-E.”)

For some reason, Southerners got into the habit of calling Andy Griffith “Andy Griffin.” (Hey, maybe that explains why I can never remember whether the infamous D-lister is called Kathy “Griffith” or Kathy “Griffin.”) I, for one, always wondered why the show was called “Andy Griffith” rather than “Andy Taylor.” Yes, I have since figured it out.

Growing up in the boondocks, I was always a little jealous of the town folks in Mayberry. Where was our bullet-less deputy? Our lovable drunk? Our chatty barber? Sure, as a teenager I wanted my MTV like a good Gen-Xer should. But when I was little, I wanted my Aunt Bee. (Although I must say my aunt Tommie was infinitely more fun. Especially when she switched the contents of her all-day giant sipping cup from Coke to wine coolers, due to the “New Coke” debacle.)

The most lasting lesson I learned from Andy Griffin was Barney’s motto: “Nip it! Nip it in the bud!” Of course it took more than a few non-nipped situations to make me realize the wisdom. But these days, I am quick to get out the scissors. There’s a reason one of my favorite things to say is “Goodbye.” (However, I should note that this is also one of my least favorite things to say.)

After a decade and a half living as a Southern ex-pat, you will not likely find me whistling “Dixie.” But I still do a mean rendition of the Andy Griffin theme song. It’s almost as good as this parrot’s.

Who’s your favorite Mayberrian?

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?

40. Gossip–Whispering Dixie

18 Jun

"gossip cats!" by fofurasfelinas

Forget Entertainment Tonight or People magazine. Southerners only want to hear gossip about people they KNOW. Or in a pinch, about one of their friends’ relatives. You will not often hear Southern women speculating on how many more children Brangelina will collect. Not when the next-door neighbor is collecting a passel of her own…all by different daddies. But y’all didn’t hear that from me.

The best kind of gossip is of the ongoing saga variety. Preferably involving people who are bat-shit crazy. I mean, who cares about the new TV your uncle bought at Walmart? Unless you mention that your aunt poured a fifth of 151 over the old one and set it ablaze. Along with his power saw and his favorite rodeo belt buckle. Why? Was he cheating? Lying? Stealing? No, Springer was a rerun, and she didn’t have anything better to do.

While Southern folks love exchanging the latest juicier-than-watermelon tidbits, there’s only so much that can happen in a day. Which is why we’ve perfected the art of gossiping about what happened…10, 20, 30 years ago. Faulkner said it best: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Y’all might think I mean reminiscing. Nope, that’s just talking about what happened. We Southerners like to talk about what might have happened, what ought to have happened, or what might could happen now that what happened happened. If y’all understood that last sentence, you get an honorary degree in Southern Vernacular Sentence Structure.

The thing you have to keep in mind about Southerner’s gossip is: A. We tend to exaggerate. B. We often misremember. Not always on purpose. And C. If what you said ever gets back to us, we WILL hold a grudge. Oh, we may not let you know, but you will find out one day. Oh, yes, you will.

And, of course, there’s always that “telephone” game factor. The story doesn’t even have to go through four or five people before it gets permanently disfigured. After my last trip home, I’ve decided that any information I get from my dad henceforth will have to be corroborated.

Case in point:
Me: “I’ve started taking kick-boxing classes.”
My dad to my sister: “Kim’s toughening up. She’s doing kick-boxing competitions.”
My sister: “Um…I don’t think so…”

One last note: Do not miss a family gathering because what they say TO you is hardly ever as bad as what they say ABOUT you.

What’s the most popular topic of gossip in your particular circle?

29. Vacation Bible School (Crafts and Cookies for Christ)

3 Mar

Yes, I realize this sounds like a doxymoron. And yes, I just made that word up. But really there ought to be a word for a double oxymoron, which Vacation Bible School most certainly is: vacation + school, vacation + bible.

Anyhoo, I don’t know if Vacation Bible School (VBS) is strictly a Southern thing, but since I’ve never heard any yankee types pledging allegiance to the Christian flag, I’ll proceed with my assumption.

If you like Kool-Aid, chances are you’ll like Vacation Bible School. And I don’t mean Jim Jones Kool-Aid, I mean “the guy in the giant pitcher costume crashes the party” Kool-Aid. The consumption of Kool-Aid is one of the more popular VBS activities. Right up there with making yarn and popsicle stick “God’s Eyes.” Or learning the hand motions to “Deep and Wide.” (Which, taken out of context, sounds more like adult entertainment.)

I’m pretty sure there was some sort of bible teaching going on, but if so I can’t recall. I will say that I know the names of Jesus’ disciples because I learned them in a song:

“There were twelve disciples
Jesus called to help him
Simon Peter, Andrew,
James, his brother, John,
Phillip, Thomas, Matthew
James the son of Alphaeus,
Somebody, Thaddeus, Judas…(hold the note)
And Bartholomew.”

Apart from the singing and crafting, the only thing I distinctly remember is eating a lot of those butter cookies with the holes in the middle. You may not be familiar with them, as I don’t believe I’ve encountered them outside VBS. The thing to do was poke your finger through the hole and eat around the edge of the cookie. Um, maybe you had to be there…

After a 25-year hiatus from VBS, my sister went back last year. This time as a teacher. MWAH-HA-HA-HA-HA! She called me up all bent out of shape because the class she was teaching turned chaotic right off the bat. Nobody was listening to her and they flat out refused to obey. Not the kids, mind you. The parents. No Kool-Aid and cookies for them.

Any fond (or not so fond) memories of VBS? Please share!

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