Tag Archives: southern

69. Gone with the Wind (Frankly, We Give a Damn)

15 Feb

Do Southerners prefer the book or the movie? Yes. We prefer both the book AND the movie to most of the nonsense that passes for entertainment these days. I mean, would you rather witness the catty shenanigans of the True Housewives of Atlanta or ogle Clark Gable? No contest.

I must admit that I hadn’t read Mitchell’s masterpiece until four years ago. Who has time to read a 1,000 page novel? Someone with sciatic nerve pain who’s essentially couch-ridden for a month, that’s who. While I would never choose to be immobilized, it was a great excuse for catching up on my reading. (Alas, I was still unable to make it through Wuthering Heights and Anna Karenina.)

At first glance, Gone with the Wind doesn’t seem like something I’d want to read at all. War + Romance + Melodrama = Gag. But from the first page, I was hooked. Why? Mitchell employs the Dickensian cliff-hanger better than Chuck himself. Sleep? I don’t need no stinkin’ sleep. I need to know WHAT HAPPENED NEXT! (This is the very reason I watched the first five seasons of “Lost” in about a week. And, no, I don’t consider myself obsessive. Thanks for asking.)

Doggone with the Wind
Photo by Carol Vinzant
Flickr Creative Commons

Mitchell populated her novel with cast of deeply flawed characters: Scarlett, the self-centered, calculating belle. Rhett, the unapologetic rogue. Ashley, who is hopelessly wishy-washy. And, yes, even dear, sweet Melanie, who is far too nice for her own good. Some might argue that “wishy-washy” and “too nice” aren’t character flaws. But they would be wrong.

I fear this post is heading into research paper territory, and since I’m not being graded (or paid), I’m jumping off the train before that happens. If you want to know more, you can find a copy of GWTW at your nearest library, book store, or possibly garage sale.

While some of the old ways of the South are not exactly “gone with the wind,” I know of at least two that are:

1. The notion that proper ladies shouldn’t be seen eating in public, which leads to…

2. You’re unlikely to encounter any Southerner with a 17-inch waist. Except maybe a toddler.

Do you prefer the book or the movie? Ashley or Rhett? What’s your favorite Southern novel?

68. Funeral Food: Love in a Casserole Dish

9 Feb

Photo by softestthing
Flickr Creative Commons

Most Southern ladies of a certain age keep at least one casserole in the deep freeze at all times. You never know when somebody will up and die, so it’s best to be prepared. However, if you’re momentarily casserole-less, not to worry: grieving Southerners always welcome fried chicken, even if it’s store-bought. I’d like to put in a plug for one (or more) of those chicken nugget platters from Chick-fil-A (unless somebody dies on Sunday, when all the Chick-fil-As are closed). I’m still grateful to the kind soul who delivered one of those when my mom died.

I should mention that funeral food isn’t actually served at the funeral. You bring it to the home of the deceased, so the grieving family members and the people who drop by to pay their respects have something to eat. When Southerners lose a loved one, they rarely lose their appetite, but almost always lose the desire to cook.

Of course, you needn’t only bring savory sustenance. Sweets are an essential part of a Southern mourner’s diet. And for the love of all that’s holy, do not make funeral sweets with Splenda, people! Grief and dieting go together like…like…ok, they just don’t go together AT ALL.

Photo by Chris and Jenni
Flickr Creative Commons

If you want to bring over some meat-flavored vegetables, that’s great. But a salad probably isn’t your best bet. No, not even a congealed “salad.” Especially if the recently departed had been hospitalized for any length of time before their departure. Nobody wants to be reminded of institutional gelatin, even in the best of times.

In case you’re in a quandary about what to bring, consult this handy guide:

Banana pudding: YES!
Photo by Jason Meredith
Flickr Creative Commons

Great Southern Funeral Food:
Casseroles (anything made with cream of something soup is most welcome)
Fried chicken
Chicken ‘n dumplings
Potatoes (preferably mashed or au gratin)
Homemade mac ‘n cheese
Ham (spiral sliced preferred, but not required)
Chili or hearty soup (Not chicken noodle; no one’s getting better anytime soon…)
Deviled eggs
Deep-fried anything
Homemade sweets of any variety (remember, no Splenda!)

Suitable Southern Funeral Food
Cold cuts and sandwich fixings
Egg/potato/chicken/pasta salad
Store-bought sweets (think Sara Lee, not Little Debbie)
Ice cream

Crudité: NO! P.S. Where's the dip??
Photo by Robyn Lee
Flickr Creative Commons

Ill-advised Southern Funeral Food
Green salad
Crudité platter
Fruit basket
Low-cal frozen entreés
Tofu of any variety
Chewing gum

If you can’t get over to the home of the deceased right away, don’t despair. In fact, I’d recommend avoiding the rush and swinging by with snacks a few days later. Trust me, the bereaved will appreciate a fresh supply of comfort food.

When my mom died, I can’t remember eating much else but cold fried chicken and some kind of cake (caramel, maybe?). But I do remember my relief at not having to think about fixing something to eat.

I don’t know much about funeral customs for non-Southern folks, but I will always be thankful for the ginormous basket of cookies my decidedly non-Southern friend Karen sent over when I got back to Seattle after my mom’s funeral. I reckon everyone knows that while food isn’t a panacea for grief, it does serve as a small island of pleasure in an ocean of pain.

This one goes out to my friend Beth, who just lost her Aunt Sue. Hugs to you…and lots of homemade Dixie delicacies, darling.

What’s your all-time favorite funeral food?

67. Deer Hunting (For Sport or Supper)

8 Feb

Photo by Kevin Chang
Flickr Creative Commons

At swank Seattle restaurants, venison is a delicacy, complete with delicacy prices ($25 to $45 per entrée). Southern fine dining establishments rarely feature venison for one simple reason: deer meat is FREE. Ok, I reckon you have to factor in the cost of a shotgun, some camo gear, a deer stand and possibly a four wheeler. But after those one-time investments, you can enjoy all the venison you like at no additional charge.

Of course, most Southerners don’t hunt simply for the meat. Would you rather A. crawl out of a warm bed at five a.m. to go and climb up a deer stand and freeze for hours hoping to get lucky or B. go to Kroger and buy a t-bone? Right.

So what is it about hunting that appeals to Southern males (and, yes, even some females)? The thrill of the chase? Well, no, you generally sit and wait for the deer to come to you. The camaraderie? I’m told you’re not allowed to chit chat so as not to spook the deer. Does it really come down to the joy of killing animals? Isn’t that how most serial killers get started?

Diana: Goddess of the Hunt. >br> Photo by Wally Gobetz
Flickr Creative Commons

Best I can figure, deer hunting is about bragging rights. As if the number of points on the antlers of a man’s felled deer directly correlates to the size of his unmentionables. I mean, you don’t often hear about someone shooting a 5 pointer. No, they’re all aiming for 10 or even 12 pointers.

Also, there’s the matter of taxidermy. What deer hunter doesn’t aspire to display his trophy deer head for any and all to admire? Some even go so far as to use the poor creature’s paws as a gun rack. Hmm…collecting trophies of one’s victims…isn’t that another well-known serial killer trait? Or am I the only one who watches far too much Law & Order?

In hunting circles, a boy’s first kill is a rite of passage similar to a bar mitzvah…with a lot more blood and a lot less dancing. At the very least, the blood of the animal is smeared on the kid’s face. Some folks even go so far as to encourage the kid to drink the blood or take a bite of the heart. If this sounds barbaric, well, that’s because it is.

Photo by lobstar28
Flickr Creative Commons

Speaking of barbaric, when I worked as photographer for a small town Mississippi newspaper, I was tapped to shoot pictures of recently departed deer alongside a happy hunter. Usually, the deer’s tongue hung out of the side of its mouth, which I always imagined as a belated eff you. And in case you are wondering, yes, the newspaper occasionally ran the photos if it was a slow news week. Like there’s any other kind in Crystal Springs, MS.

Some argue that deer hunting is necessary to thin the herd. Sadly, that’s true. Ask anybody who’s smashed into one of Bambi’s kin as it unexpectedly dashes across the road. And if you live in the South, you know at least one, if not a dozen, folks who’ve experienced that particular trauma. But, hey, even if your car’s totaled, you still get free venison. And you wonder why everybody in the South has a deep freeze

Are you a hunter or more of a gathering type?

37. Chick-fil-A

7 May

I’m going home for my dad’s wedding in a few weeks, and can’t wait to get me a Chick-fil-A sandwich. Yum! Those of y’all not familiar with Chick-fil-A might think this is just another fast food sandwich along the lines of McDonald’s Filet-o-fish. Well, two words: Nuh Uh! Chick-fil-A is the best chicken sandwich in the universe. Ever. Plus, it’s cheap! And fast!

Words cannot convey how amazing this sandwich is, but I won’t let that stop me from trying: it’s a DD-size breast o’ chicken dipped in some kind of breading and magical spices and then deep fried. But it’s not all greasy like something you’d find at KFC. Not that I’m claiming it’s some granola-ish health food. It just lacks the traditional fast food oil slick. The chicken breast (or “fil-A”) is cradled by a buttered bun and garnished with two pickle slices. No nasty Thousand Island goo. No sickly-sweet ketchup. Just two pickle slices.

I never manage to get up early enough for it, but one of these days I’m going to get a Chick-fil-A biscuit. I can’t even speculate how good that will be, seeing as biscuit trumps bun any day.

Considering my undying love for carbohydrates, y’all might be surprised to note that sometimes I skip the bun altogether and go straight for the nuggets. They’re that good.

When my mom died, I took a red-eye and got home around 10 a.m. Folks had already started bringing food, and the first thing I spotted was a gi-normous tray of Chick-fil-A nuggets. They were gone before 11:00. I couldn’t tell you how many I ate. A. Because I don’t remember and B. I’d be embarrassed to say. My best guess: a lot. I don’t know who brought them, but thank you, thank you, thank you. The next tray’s on me.

All right, it wouldn’t be fair to rave about Chick-fil-A without mentioning the downsides. There are exactly two: 1. Closed on Sundays. 2. Waffle-cut fries. While I respect their right to forgo work on the Lord’s day, sometimes I sure would like a sandwich. Or even one lonely nugget. Imagine me staring through the drive-thru window looking sad. And waffle-cut fries are just wrong, any way you slice it.

Also, their lemonade isn’t all that great. Better than Country Time, but just barely. However, they make up for it by having the absolute best soft-serve ice cream. What does it have that other soft-serves lack? In a word: flavor.

36. Wrangler Jeans: Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Wear Levi’s

7 May

Why do Southern people love Wrangler jeans? No, I’m asking you: why? Ok, I’ll admit to admiring the way they hug the backsides of bull riders. But, honestly, I think any jeans would do. Even Walmart brand, if there is such a thing.

Wranglers are supposed to be tough, the Clint Eastwood of jeans. So maybe folks feel more macho with that lasso-esque label on their butt. Still, this doesn’t explain why women wear them. Then again, maybe it does.

I can’t recall whether or not I’ve ever actually owned a pair of Wranglers. I’m sure my sister would remember. She has an uncanny talent for recalling anything you’d rather forget. I do distinctly remember trying on a pair once. This was at Mildred’s, a sad little clothing outpost not far from where I grew up. I can’t remember anything they sold apart from the aforementioned Wranglers. Underwear? Neckties? Ball gowns? Help me out, Richland people…

I never considered myself the Wrangler type. I mean, I’ve yet to attempt roping a steer. Heck, I haven’t even chased after a greased pig. I think you kind of have to earn Wranglers, in the manner of a Boy/Girl Scout merit badge.

When I was growing up, getting caught in Wranglers knocked you at least two rungs down the social ladder. In my mind, anyway. I didn’t even want folks knowing I occasionally wore Lee’s. (eek! now you do!)

I was all about Chic jeans (pronounced like “small yellow bird,” not “oil baron.”). And Jordache (with requisite comb in the back pocket). And my personal favorite, Gloria Vanderbilts (although my dad claimed he couldn’t afford those fancy Gloria “D.” Vanderbilts. Perhaps because he wasn’t John D. Rockefeller?)

Now that I’ve been an ex-pat Southerner all these years, I kind of think I ought to get myself a pair of Wranglers. Embrace my heritage, you know? But where would I even find a pair? I’m guessing Nordstrom doesn’t carry them.

Do you wear Wranglers? What do you like about them?

36. Manners AKA Acting Like You’ve Got Some Raisin’

6 Apr

For Southern children, one of the most often heard phrases after “Don’t feed THAT to the dog!” is, of course, “Mind your manners.”

My apologies in advance to Yankee-type folks who might take offense, but Southern people are, in general, far more genteel than y’all. We can’t help it. It’s how we’re raised.

We don’t rant and rave when things don’t go our way. We figure out how to get what we want…subversively.

For example: Say a non-Southern child is denied a cookie. He/she might start hollering and carrying on (although non-Southerners probably wouldn’t call it “hollering” or “carrying on”) saying, “I WANT a COOKIE! I want a cookie NOW!! If you don’t give me a cookie NOW, you will RUE the day, BITCH!”

Ok, now say a Southern child is denied a cookie. He/she might make a pouty face and say, “Oooooooookaaaaaaaay…” Then immediately run to Dad who is distracted by college football and say, “Can I have a cookie? Thanks!” And then sneak back into the kitchen and take a handful.

Naturally, this carries over into adulthood. For Southern women, in particular, not being “nice” ranks among the seven deadly sins right below wearing something tacky.

Don’t misunderstand me, though. Southern women are just as catty (if not more so) as their Northern sisters. They just don’t let anybody know it.

The basic rule is you can say whatever godawful thing you like about somebody as long as you end on a high note.

A Southern conversation might go something like this:

Dixie Girl 1: “Have you seen Wanda lately? She’s growing an extra ass.”

Dixie Girl 2: “What? To keep her three chins company?”

Dixie Girl 3: “And that dress she wore on Sunday? Did she make it out of couch cushions?”

Dixie Girl 1: “Nope. Not enough material.”

All three: “Bwaaaaah Haaaaaah Haaaaah Haaaaaaah!!”

Dixie Girl 2: “She does make really good chicken and dumplings though.”

Dixie Girl 1: “I KNOW! Aren’t they the best?”


Hypocritical? Perhaps. Sneaky? Probably.

But, hey, at least we’re polite.

Do you remember to act like you’ve got some raisin’? Why or why not?

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?

23. Sonic: In-Car Dining at its Finest

8 Feb

I I once had a friend in California who was telling me about this magical, mystical place she was planning to visit with her daughter: “You park your car, and they bring the food out, and you eat in the car.”

Me: “What? Sonic?”

For the uninitiated, perhaps Sonic offers a certain nostalgic charm. Kind of like you’re an extra on the set of “American Graffiti,” without all that god-awful 50s music. But, me, I’ve been going to Sonic since before I’d even heard of “Happy Days,” so the novelty has long since worn off. I mean, they don’t even come out on roller skates anymore. Still, I must admit, it’s hard to visit the South without stopping by Sonic at least once. Although my visits have been far less frequent now that they’ve done away with the Frito Pie.

Truth be told, Sonic’s food isn’t all that special. But the drinks…Hoo boy! First off, all the fountain drinks are served with crushed ice. And not the kind of half-assed crushed ice you get out of a side-by-side refrigerator. Sonic’s ice is about half way to sno-cone consistency.

Next up: flavors. They claim to feature 168,894 possible flavor combinations, but I imagine about 168,794 of them would be pretty nasty (Lemon/chocolate root beer? Orange/grape Dr. Pepper?). Still. They’ve got all manner of limeades, slushes, flavored teas, coffee drinks, and smoothies. Plus, they’ve got a bunch of flavors you can add to soft drinks (known generically as Cokes throughout the South. As in…Q: “What kind of Coke do you want?” A: “Sprite.”). I am partial to Coke with vanilla flavoring, in case you’re wondering what to order for me.

They’ve also got some pretty tasty shakes, although I don’t consider shakes a “drink” so much as a “dessert.” Save room. I’ve yet to try one of their floats or Creamslush® concoctions, but I’m adding that to my list of adventures to have.

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