Monday, June 21, 2021

Mamas House Site

Mama and Daddy's first farm in mountains was 13 acres that Mama named it "Our Few Acres". The property had 2 large fields, known as the Upper and Lower Pastures, one located up the hill from the other, separated by woods. The farm was known as "Tables" to all the locals.  

When we came up to the mountains, we still stayed at our house  which was just a mile or two from the farm. And, yes, I am taking liberties referring to 'Our Few Acres' as a farm, but in our world it was land, had fences, and had cows therefore it was the closest thing we had to one. Most Saturdays I spent just exploring, watching the cows, or riding around the area with Daddy.

Of course, Mama wanted to build on the farm. So she started looking for house sites. Daddy told her she had 13 acres to choose from. He would move his cows to suit her, once she chose where she wanted to build. She started down by the gate in a pretty wooded area, but soon decided that it would be too noisy by the road. The Lower Pasture was considered but it was small. Then she got to the Upper Pasture. This was the obvious choice. Daddy went back to his cows and told her to let him know when she made up her mind. About thirty minutes later she came back,. "I found it. It's perfect. Come see."

So we all followed her as she headed to the Upper Pasture. She walked toward the top and we followed. No surprise here, she obviously wanted a view. She kept walking into the woods. And, she wanted shade. We kept walking. Things were going well until she crossed the fence and we followed along. Next thing we knew we were standing on the top of this mountain with a 360 degree view of hills and valleys below. It was breathtaking. She walked to the highest point, turned around, looked at Daddy and said, "Here." 

"Right here? You've got to be kidding. You know when you crossed that fence you were past our property line?" 

"I figured as much. But this is where I want my house." He just looked at her, then looked around at the view and shook his head.

Eventually we all went back down the hill, across the fence, and returned to Our Few Acres. Daddy knew the discussion was not over. Mama was going to build her house on top of that hill. After some inquiries, he learned it was a nice family, Hoyt and Roland Jones. Hoyt's family, the Kerr's, had owned the land for generations, still worked it as an apple orchard. They were extremely well thought of. 

With hat in hand, Mama and Daddy paid them a visit. After some discussion, they agreed to sell them the two acres that would include the top of the hill and the land between that and our current farm. There was only one stipulation, they would have to purchase the remaining 198 acres of the tract.

There was no way Daddy was going to purchase 200 acres of land for my mother to have one acre to build a house on. Certainly, somewhere on their current 13 acres there was a suitable place. However, being a gentleman, and not wanting to seem rude, my father agreed to go with Roland to look at the rest of the property. Maybe he could convince him to part with only 2 or 3 acres after all.

They went up the road behind the Jones' home. As they got to the end of the road, Roland made a right turn through a gate. There was this unbelievably beautiful piece of property with rolling hills and meadows, pretty woods with poplars and other hard woods, and an apple orchard. Daddy was speechless. And, then they drove through the field to the top and there was that view. They started discussing money.

After a deal was made, that I think included free prescriptions for the Jones and their family for life in addition to the cash sales price, Mama and Daddy drove back up the road to take another look at what they had just purchased. Daddy looked around. "I hope you are happy now. This is a damn expensive house site." 

Mama's response was, "Well, I don't know. All I did was select a house site and somehow you finagled a cattle farm to go with it." That was the afternoon we went from Our Few Acres to High Acres and Mama finally had a place to build her house. And, Daddy had 213 acres he could call a farm.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Sweet Mash and White Lightening

moon·shine
/ˈmo͞onˌSHīn/


Defined as “illicitly distilled or smuggled liquor”. Other names include: mountain dew, choop, hooch, homebrew, mulekick, shine, white lightning, white/corn liquor, white/corn whiskey, pass around, firewater.

My Daddy drank bourbon for years, then later in life he changed to Scotch. But, always included in his bar stock was a mason jar of sweet mash moonshine.

As a child, my family had a farm in the mountains of North Carolina. High Acres, as the farm was named was our haven. Daddy referred to it as his favorite tax write off. It was where he could play weekend farmer, which he found “relaxing”. He found getting up at the crack of dawn, mending fences, branding cattle, and anything else his farm manager needed help with, pure joy. 

This brings me to Stanbury Franklin, the farm manager. Now Stanbury was quite the personality . He resembled a version of the character that was on the old cans of Mountain Dew soda. He didn’t say much. However, when he did speak it was always pearls of wisdom. 

He was very dedicated to my Daddy. I’m not sure if that dedication came from his fascination with this pharmacist from the flatland who wanted to farm. Maybe it was Daddy’s odd projects - such as breeding Angus Cattle - years before many people did in the North Carolina mountains. Or those spotted horses (Appaloosas) that Daddy bought. Of course the fact that Daddy provided free prescriptions for Della, Stanbury’s wife, who had some health issues didn't hurt. She required a lot medication, which was pretty expensive and they had no insurance. But, I digress.

Stanbury always had a jar of sweet mash when Daddy needed it. He never volunteered where it came from, and I doubt Daddy ever asked. He would frequently bring us tasty things from Della's kitchen - including Rhubard Pie and Apple Butter.

Besides the cattle and the horses and goats. Truth be told, the goats were a fascination of Daddy’s, something Stanbury never understood. That fascination ended when the neighboring farmer called, for the third time, and complained that the goats had escaped and were found feasting on apples in his orchard. After much apologizing and payment of reparations, that was the end of the goats.

Stanbury had overseen the construction of the stables, the hay barn, the pond house (more like a glorified picnic shed), and the house, (but that’s a whole ‘nuther story). 

The hay barn was the first structure you came to after entering the front gate. It was usually full the bales of fescue and bags of sweet feed.  This was all necessary to get the cattle and horses through the cold mountain winters. To this day, I can remember that sweet smell of the hay and sweet feed when you entered the barn.

All was well until the Friday afternoon we arrived to find the hay barn burned to the ground. As Daddy and Stanbury stood there surveying the smoldering remains, Daddy said, “It must have been struck by lighting. You said there was a storm last night. No doubt the hay fueled this.”

Stanbury, shuffled his feet, and in his halting country voice added, “That and the still in the back.”

Daddy turned to him, “Still? What still? Liquor still, seriously?" Thankfully, Daddy was more amused than upset.

“Yep, and there was a full barrel sweet mash in there. Just finished it.” Stanbury looked at Daddy, “Where’d you think your mash came from? Like I would trust the Juston’s 'shine, second rate stuff from that still they kept hidden in the woods?”

Daddy just chuckled, “Well it was good stuff, but a bit expensive.”

“Why you say that, never charged you a dime for it.”

“Maybe so, but it cost me a barn.” Daddy smiled, shook his head, and continued, “Guess we need to rebuild it. This time without the still.”

Months later the barn was rebuilt. Stanbury continued to provide Daddy with a steady supply of sweet mash. And Daddy never asked where it came from. However, he enjoyed telling the story of his barn burning to the ground, the result lightening from the thunderstorm and white lightening from the still.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

To the Moon Alice

 I read this week that United Airlines plans to reintroduce Super Sonic travel in 2029 (which scarily is only 8.5 years away). This heartens back to  the hey day of the Concorde, the super sonic program developed jointly by France and Britain. Between 1976 and 2003 for the price of $7,995 a seat (equivalent to around $13,000 in today's dollars) one could travel at the speed of Mach 2 from London to New York. 

This means flying twice the speed of sound, in less that 3 hours (vs a bit less than 7 hours on a standard passenger jet), one could cross the Atlantic in pure luxury. Flying on the Concorde was more than just a fast way to get some where. Passengers enjoyed 3 course fine dining  with menus that may have included Angus beef, Scottish smoked salmon, caviar, lobster, guinea fowl, truffles, foie gras, and champagne, as well as high end cocktails and fine wines. Speaking of wines, the Concorde had its own wine 'cellar' stocked with fine French wines and champagne.

There were other offerings, such as Cuban cigars. Remember the days when one could smoke on airplanes - up until the late 1980's.

The experience started with the exclusive "Concorde Lounges" at each airport that serviced the super sonic jet and its passengers. Once on the plane, there was an understanding that anything not tethered down could be taken home (cutlery, luggage tags, cutlery, bottle openers, matches, coasters, and vanity kits). In addition, the price of the ticket included swag for each passenger such as Wedgwood paperweights and circular trays, Smythson of Bond Street notebooks, silver photo frames, letter openers, leather drinks coasters, hip flasks, and leather bags - each embossed, engraved, or etched with the iconic Concorde symbol .

Traveling at Mach 2 allowed passengers to actually see the curvature of the Earth. However that was a bit difficult given the windows were very small. One had to remember the super sonic Concorde was really a glorified fighter jet - that offered champagne and Cuban cigars. 

I love to travel and enjoy flying (even in today's trying circumstances). Flying on the Concorde was always on my bucket list . At least  until 2003, when the service was stopped. That was 3 years after the crash of Air France flight 4590 that killed all the passengers and crew aboard. After an extensive investigation, it was determined that the cause of the crash was not the super sonic jet but rather a piece of debris  on the runway that fell off an earlier passenger jet.

There have been several times I have flown 1st Class, always on an upgrade or using my airline points. And it was great, not worth the price of $1,000 plus per seat, but a more enjoyable and comfortable way to travel.

So thanks to United Airlines, I may be able to check this off my list after all. Good thing, I have 8 years to save my nickels and dimes for the $13,000 fare. Ironically, for that price, wouldn't one want the experience to last more than a mere 3 hours?

Friday, June 18, 2021

Saying What We Mean

Traveling with friends from the 4 corners of our great land often leads to comments about life in my part of the world. Funny, all the other parts of the country treat us (southerners) like we live in another country. Didn't they fight a war 150 years ago or something like that, ensuring that the South stayed in the Union? But I digress.

These conversations eventually come 'round to things we say. I don't think twice about the sayings I grew up hearing. Some call them 'colorful', I say they just spell out what we are trying to say . . . albeit usually in a colorful way. Here are some that come to mind (and may as well been spoken in Greek and written in Cyrillic to my friends from the rest of the country.)

  • 'Forty Going North'  
  • 'That Dog won't hunt' 
  • 'Nobody'll ever notice it on a galloping horse' 
  •  'Two bricks shy of a load', 'Their elevator doesn't go to the top floor.' 'She's not the brightest bulb on the tree'. '2 sandwiches short of a picnic' 
  • 'Good thing he had that one at home' 
  • 'He ain't got no pot to pea in'
  • 'He couldn't hit the broad side of a barn'
  • 'She's about as useful as buttons on a dishrag'
  • 'That ain't worth the powder to blow it to Hell'
  • 'Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit'
  • 'Cute as a speckled pup in a red wagon'
  • 'Snow ball's chance in Hell'
  • 'Argue with a fence post'
  • 'A bit light in his loafers'
  • 'Got the short end of the stick"
  • 'Like a stuck pig'
  • 'Bump on a log'
  • 'In a coon's age'
  • 'Chew'n the fat'
  • 'Well, I do declare'
  • 'Like white on rice'
  • 'He gets a burr in his saddle.'
  • 'Got her knickers in a knot.'
  • 'Why that egg sucking dog'
  • 'Lawd, people will be able to see to Christmas!'
  • 'She's as lost as last year's easter egg'
  • "I swan, you all musta pissed God off somehow"
  • 'We're off like a herd of turtles.'
  • 'He hasn't got the sense God gave a goose'
  • 'Hotter than blue blazes.'
  • Bless your pea pickin' little heart!
  • 'Barking up the wrong tree.

But the my favorite is 'Hissy Fit'. Who knew we had the corner on that market? My daddy used to say, 'That lasted about as long as Pat stayed in the Navy'. I never quite figured out where that one came from.

And, that's all she wrote.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Elusive Coconut Cake and the Truth of Moderation

I am constantly on a mission to lose weigh. And, I am proud to say, I am pretty dedicated to this. Well, that is until someone shows up with a homemade coconut cake - then the jury is out. 

My love for a good coconut cake brings back memories of my Grandmama and her kitchen - that magical place. I know most of us have fond memories of our grandmothers and the delight that came from their kitchens - especially that one thing everyone at the family reunion waited for with bated breath. In my case, that was her coconut cake.

Unfortunately the recipe for that cake went to the grave with her. I have never been able to recreate that perfect culinary creation. Oh, I have a recipe  (on a 3 x 5 slightly stained note card) in her hand writing, no less. Try as I might this luscious splendid gâteau, eludes me.

Even using the exact ingredients - down to her traditional Red Band Flour, I cannot recreate that light fluffy cake. But, I think with 10 - 12 more attempts, I can probably produce the lighter than air yellow cake as I remembered. The icing, however, continues to challenge me. Even using a traditional double boiler and hand mixer, I have yet to get it right.

Not that I am bragging, but I pride myself on my cooking - baking included. I conquered the Lemon Doberge cake,  if I must say, on my first attempt. Even though at first glance, the recipe of 5 layers of a rich white cake, each layer separated with sweet, yet tart, lemon custard, all covered with a very fluffy butter cream icing having just enough zest to give it a wisp of heavenly lemon flavor, was initially daunting.

But not Grandmama's coconut cake. Perhaps it is not to be. My baking days have been put on hold for a while - a long while. After all, who can seriously bake without constantly tasting each step to ensure perfection. Well, not me. 

Meanwhile, back to watching my weight.  And this does not include a coconut nor a Doberge cake, biscuits or gravy smothered doves. Oh, to what depths vanity will drive us! One desire (more like delusion) is that the success of my most recent project will be the ability to enjoy these delights once again. They say moderation is the secret to success. But seriously, does "moderation" mean the tease of a very small piece or just not going back for seconds?

Come to think of it, anything that is suggested to be consumed in moderation, must be worth more. After all, life is short, why moderate. One of my favorite quotes from the late Queen Mum was, "Wouldn’t it be terrible if you’d spent all your life doing everything you were supposed to do, didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t eat things, took lots of exercise, and suddenly, one day, you were run over by a big red bus and, as the wheels were crunching into you, you’d say, 'Oh my God, I could have got so drunk last night.' That’s the way you should live your life, as if tomorrow you’ll be run over by a big red bus."

Given she had a full life, was adored by everyone, and lived to be 101, perhaps she had it right. The secret of getting the most from your life may not be moderation per se, but being generous when you moderate. 


Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Road Kill

Last spring, the first sign the pandemic was getting bad down here was the disappearing evidence of road kill. Especially prime meat like opossum and squirrel. And deer, now there's a prize if you bring it down with your dad's F150 instead of the 12 gauge - no buck shot to clean. And, the truck's so old no one can tell the dent is new. Everyone 'round here has a yard truck or a fishing car, the old vehicle that has so much sentimental attachment you just couldn't bare to part with it. Besides, it still runs and the duct tape on the front seat matches that darn gray replacement rear fender you never bothered to get painted.The left blinker doesn't work, but that's OK, it's not like it's NASCAR or something, just make right turns instead of left ones. 

I bet women up north don't have jumper cables in their cars (or trucks). When I was old enough to get my driver's license, my father would not let me go down to the highway department (the one next to the Bar-B-Que place) until I could do three things: change a tire, change the oil in my car, and drive a car with a clutch and the gear shift on the column (am I showing my age or what!) He wasn't concerned about my ability to safely maneuver the vehicle. I had been doing that for years on the farm.

I started out with a used blue AMC Gremlin. Remember those classic automobiles? It had no carpet, no AC, an AM radio, and manual transmission. You could safely say it was as bare bones as it got. For some reason my parents wanted to make sure I knew my place in life. And, let me tell you when you drive up to the Country Club every afternoon for tennis team practice in that jewel and park it next to the Mercedes, Buicks, and Cadillacs, let's just say, it makes a statement. It was humbling to say the least.

But, we still try to drive our cars for at least ten years. I'm not one that needs a fancy car to impress the neighbors or have that "itch" some folks have every time the new models come out. (Although I do not deny my passionate desire for a Porsche Carerra. We all can dream.) The idea is to have safe, reliable, comfortable transportation. Of course, it helps if it is well constructed so if you happen to hit that deer for dinner, you can easily throw it across the hood and bring it home. Otherwise your pickings will be limited to opossum, rabbit, squirrel, and the occasional coon. And, that's a lot of work.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

It Ain't Fittin'

For God's sake, will someone tell them, it's not "Cheesey Grits". If you want grits with cheese in them, you order, "Cheese Grits".  . .  y'all.

Honestly, you don't have to try to be one of us to get our attention, our affection,or our vote. Come to think of it, we would appreciate it, if you wouldn't try. Some folks can screw up a two car funeral.

Come on down, sit a spell, we'd love to have you. We'll serve you sweet tea, good bourbon, and BBQ that will make a tadpole slap a whale. We'll show you a good time on a Sat'day night at a juke joint down the road with some of the best music you ever heard. You can go with us for fresh oysters on the dock at sunset overlooking the marsh. We'll mosey under a mile long canopy of live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. You can go uptown to the high faluten world renown restaurants, down town to the local dive for collards and hot biscuits, or out back for pulled pork that has been slow cooking over hickory coals all night.

We love company and we don't ask for much. But, a little advice here, "southern" don't fit well unless you're from here. Like Mammy said: "It ain't fittin'... it ain't fittin'. It jes' ain't fittin'... It ain't fittin'."

Monday, June 14, 2021

Cured or Not

Cure  ( kyo͝or)

- to preserve (meat, fish, tobacco, or an animal skin) by various methods such as salting, drying, or smoking.

Call me behind the times, but I am always amazed by what I don't know, and worse, yet, how long it takes me to find out what I am missing.

In the grocery store yesterday I notice "Uncured" bacon. Now for those of you already enlightened about this, stay with me here. Like many of us, I was raised reared in a world of "Cured" meats. The salty and smoky flavor of cured ham is unmistakable. When you are cooking collards, do your throw pieces of sandwich ham from your Oscar Mayer package into the pot?  Oh, no. You want that a piece of ham hock from a cured ham to give that unique salty smoky flavor.

This brings us to the types of curing: salting, sugaring, and smoking. There is hot smoking, cold smoking, and smoke roasting. 

All this is based on chemistry, a subject  I avoided like the plaque once I got to college after surviving Mr. Allen's Advanced Chemistry class in high school. Centuries ago, man, in all his wisdom, concluded that spoiled meat contained something very bad (botulism) that would lead to death.  The idea of vegetarianism not being appealing, through trial and error (thanks to Harold's camp fire and Eric's salt seller) they found that by "curing" their meats they could both enjoy their kill and avoid botulism. 

All this brings me back to the meat counter in the market and the "Uncured" bacon. If bacon by definition is "cured meat from the sides and belly of a pig (ie pork belly)", does not that make the term "Uncured Bacon" an oxymoron? 

The official definition of “Uncured” bacon is "bacon that hasn't been cured with general sodium nitrites (salts), flavorings, and other things." Even as we delve into the belly of the issue, the semantics of  it gets murky. While "Cured" bacon is soaked in a brine of flavorings and salt - which contain nitrites, the definition of "Uncured" bacon continues as "[usually] cured with a form of celery juice, which contains natural nitrites, and plain old sea salt, as well as other flavorings like parsley and beet extracts". 

This all begs to ask the obvious - if it is still "cured" with sea salt..... 

I'll spare you an opus on nitrites and nitrates. The long story short - both "Cured" and "Uncured" bacon are cured (yes cured) with these "chemicals". The "Uncured" version can say that their process uses natural nitrites from celery juice and beets. But we live in a world of nitrites and nitrates. Many green leafy vegetables have more nitrates per serving than bacon (of any kind). Heck, nitrites are part of the powerful antimicrobial agent in our saliva. 

So much for all the hullabaloo about the nitrites/ nitrates in bacon. This new "Uncured" epithet looks to be just lipstick on a pig. Whether "Cured" or "Uncured", neither makes bacon more healthy. All this mess about curing aside, just start talking to the health nuts concerned about fat. Suddenly nitrites look like super complex mega vitamins. 

In defense of the real thing (not that I would take sides here), I did read a recommendation to buy and eat "Cured" bacon due to the rare chance of contracting trichinosis from the pork in "Uncured" bacon. But I would not worry about. After all, there are folks injecting botulism in their face daily. Who knows, in the future the rage could be capsules containing yersinia pestis (Bubonic Plaque) to ensure eternal youth. And, I don't think that can be cured.

Why mess with a sacred food, especially one of the southern trinity: Bacon, butter, and gravy?

Sunday, June 13, 2021

No Plastic Flowers - Please

On the back window of the car in front of me, in large script letters, read "In Loving Memory of  LaQuaChaniqua Jones, now with Jesus, 1966 -2010." (This is not an unusual sight down here.) It reminded me of some business I need to take care of. Not that I have any plans of going any where any time soon. In the case of my demise, it is very important that someone handle the following:

·   Before my body assumes room temperature, please go to my house and clean out my refrigerator. Short of condiments, just toss it all  and wipe it out. Don't worry, posthumously, I'll take the blame for not having any food in the house.  (Trust me, the church ladies will make sure my family does not starve in their time of grief, it is the south after all.) 

·  For God's sake, make sure there are no plastic flowers or silk arrangements involved. If some should appear, I would appreciate someone just anonymously seeing that they are delivered to some other bereaved family, it's the least I can do.

·   And, no daisies or carnations please, they are the dearth of arrangements. (I have gone out of my way to make sure all the arrangements we have sent over the years have not included them, and I damn well expect  repayment in kind.)

·  Yes, and one last request, needless to say, don't even consider putting my name on the window of your car.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Food Tells It All

Now, I read the other day that only a true Southerner knows instinctively that the best gesture of solace for a neighbor who’s got trouble is a plate of hot fried chicken and a big bowl of cold potato salad. If the neighbor’s woes are a real crisis, they also know to send over a large batch of banana pudding! Of course our friends in times of bereavement or stress are SOL if they are waiting on the hot fried chicken from my household, seeing that I don't fry chicken, but I do serve up a nice ham and fresh (tiny) butter beans. As for the bananna pudding, I'll put mine up against anyone else's, thank you very much.

But there is always the issue of how high regard you hold the distressed family. And, it's all in the food. This is especially true when there is a death and friends start bringing food to the house. Now you might think that the food is to feed the grieving family. And, true, it does serve that purpose. However, it has always been my theory that the primary motive behind sending food to the family was that we're all southern and that's what you do, but really it's our way of letting everyone know what we think of the family - like a secret code.

If you send a cake, then you think well of the family, as long as the cake is home made, and whole. Sending slices on a tray, just says "this is what we had left over - enjoy." Sending a store bought cake says one of two things, either you don't think much of the family or you're not from here and don't know no better. A basket of bread, shows you are being polite like your Mama taught you, but that's about it. A loaf of white bread is just an insult to the family.

Home made salad means a lot, especially if it is  chicken salad. Of course, if you use dark meat, folks will talk about you for weeks. (Everyone from a nice family knows better than that.) But, the highest compliment is bringing a platter of meat. Sending a ham, a  fried chicken, or platter of BBQ shows that this was 'show 'nugh someone you thought a lot about'. Posthumously, you have arrived when the neighbors start bringing meat. 

Now, the church ladies have a book back in the kitchen where they write down every dish that everyone brings to the family. You can rest assured that when folks come and drop their food off, their eyes are going to glance over that list to see who brought what. "Potato salad. Can you believe that Sally Jane just brought potato salad. I thought their families were pretty close.

"Well, look here. Margaret brought a ham. Just who do you think she is fooling? You know she never forgave Sam for his little indiscretions."  

"But, that was twenty years ago?" 

"She said he broke up her brother's marriage." 

"Can you believe Linda Sue brought a cake? A bet you a dime she bought it at the Piggly Wiggly?" 

"Well maybe this time she put it in her own container." 

"I don't know. Her mama was a Jenkins. She may not know any better. Bless her heart."



Friday, June 11, 2021

I'm Sorry If I Don't Like You

As Macbeth said, "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Stay with me here folks.

I have a love hate relationship with Facebook. Yes, I post a photo or a picture of one of my paintings  every morning or so. It is not unusual for me to post a candid shot of my pups with some witty comment about what they are thinking - like I really know.

So I have confessed my participation in the madness of this college social connection board gone awry. OK, hijacked by grandmothers posting pictures of their grandchildren, folks sharing photos of flowers someone sent them, gifts they received, or what they are having for dinner. The smart phone app "Four Square" will automatically post your location anytime you walk into a business that participates. (My favorite being the notification I saw one evening showing a friend of mine had just arrived at a funeral home.)

The site is now also flooded with ads that are "personalized" to what Facebook "knew" I would be interested in according to some confusing algorithm. Thankfully I found the drop down arrow where, after 3 flicks, I can tell those who think they know more than I do about my tastes that in fact they do not. "Friends"of mine and "Friends" of Friends post little sayings that are often quaint, sometimes religious, and a few times pithy. Unfortunately there is no drop down menu to notify Facebook that these posts are extremely annoying and I would appreciate their ilk not being added to my news feed. They just take up too much of my time as I scroll through pictures of my grandchild, surprise appearances of characters from my past, and updates on friends and family who are ill, dead, nigh onto to death, or just plain dying. (Ever since my Mama died and I lost her daily update on this last category, often Facebook is my best source.) But I digress - I simply scroll down.

But there are those posts that I strongly agree with. There are those posts where I want to show my support or that I shared their "chuckle". Sometimes I "Like" a post because it is a beautiful or unique photo. It may be someone's travel photo that I feel the need to show that I see they are traveling and am enjoying their pictures. The perfect example of this being a childhood friend of mind who recently got married. She and her new groom took a "Tour" of Europe for several months as their honeymoon. I traveled vicariously with them, albeit pea green with envy, looking forward to her daily post.

Speaking of the infamous "Like" button, unlike (no pun intended) many of my Friends, I use this sparingly. I do not "Like" every post I scroll by. As I mentioned above, many I could do without, but to each their own. When I "Like" a post, I am saying, "I agree, I appreciate, I am amused, I am impressed, I share your pain, joy, or loss." Not getting a "Like" from me does not necessarily indicate I am against your view, hate your post, don't think your grandchildren are the cat's pajamas, or not care.

As for my posts, I take any "Like" I receive to mean someone has considered my post and either appreciated it, agreed with it, are both. I don't expect a "Like" from everyone who sees a post of mine. A prime example of this is my photos. I never receive more than 15-20 likes on a given day, yet I cannot count the number of people who have stopped me on the street or at an event to tell me "I enjoy your photos on Facebook." And very few of these are included in the "Like" numbers. (I can see who "Like"s any given post.) So, no doubt, more people see my Photos and enjoy them than "Like" them.

All this rambling came to mind this morning when I came upon a post, rather a rant, from a grandmother very upset that not one person "Liked" her post yesterday about her granddaughter's birthday. How thoughtless, how rude, how could everyone be so remiss (according to her). In her mind one would think this incident had ruined the child's special day and thrown the child into therapy for life. Spare me.

Just because I don't "Like"you, doesn't mean I don't like you, care for you, or saw your post. It just means that I did not have a comment to make about it. To each their own. To Like or not to Like is a question I take seriously.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

God's Plan

God blessed the south with many things - good food, friendly people, beautiful land. OK, so the rest of the world questions why we put 4 syllables in the words "hound dog" and are amazed at our chemical wizardry of being able to dissolve 1 pound of sugar in 1 gallon of iced tea.  

Folks not from here find it odd that we continue names for generations (William Pinckney Gadsen, William Pinckney Gadsen, Jr, the third, fourth, etc), but yet call them, Pinky, Bo, Trey, and Bub. It is not unusual for young ladies to have double names: Mary Grace, Sarah Kay, Ann Stuart. And, in the more "remote" regions: Bobby Jean, Billy Sue, Johnny Beth.

Children from good southern families (not necessarily always wealthy) have good manners, respect their elders, know how to dance, understand that socks and collards are best only after the first frost, seersucker suits are acceptable for any occasion before six in the evening, and a string of pearls makes any outfit (except a swimsuit). 

There is no such thing as a "grit". Bacon and gravy are staples of the food pyramid, and a good pound cake can cure many ills and make amends for many wrongs. One doesn't make fun of someone who doesn't know how to eat an oyster, wears white shoes after Labor Day, brings store bought potato salad to a church picnic, or wears polyester - they just don't know any better. 

Given all these idiosyncrasies of our culture, we find ourselves under assault by others. Whether they are coming to visit, or God forbid, relocating down here, the Yankees are invading. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting one. But the old man upstairs foresaw this. In his grand plan he had a 3 part strategy in mind for protecting us - no see-ums (gnats), mosquitoes, and August. 

So as we move into the Hades part of our year, fighting the gnats and mosquitoes, I realize it is all God's plan to keep the Yankees away. Unfortunately, it is not working.  

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

I Only Wanted To Play House

Whoever petitioned for women's right to work should have checked with the rest of us. I have no issue with anyone who wants to work outside the house, pursue a fulfilling career, make an honest living, turn around Yahoo, or whatever. However, did they ever consider in their fervor to enter the public workplace that they were letting a large Jeannie out of a very small bottle? 

Once, the men in this country got past the ego stage (well most of them, OK, OK, some of them) they realized this was not such a bad thing. More women in the workforce meant a bigger economy which meant more money for everyone. Well, that was until the Hedge Fund managers got involved. But, I digress.

Then that Jeannie was never going back in that bottle. Husbands realized that the household could now have two incomes, which soon became the norm. The rest is history. And, those of us ladies in the south who grew up thinking that life should just be about taking care of the household and our husband, raising the children, playing bridge, and having teas suddenly found those days gone with the wind. 

Well, a majority of us did. There are still those whose only concern is who has carpool that afternoon, do they have a court time lined up for their morning tennis game, and will they have Chardonnay or Pinot Grigeo for lunch. I know my Aunt Kat told me I should never hate anyone, but she is dead now, bless her heart. I loathe these women.

I would have no pride about staying home.  I have nothing to prove. My Daddy raised me with enough self esteem to know that, if need be, I could do whatever I wanted to, but I should not need to. A lady should be cared for if that is her wish. 

Yes, women should have the right to work, for equal pay, and  respect. I strongly believe in this, as it was drilled in me as a child. Ironically, Aunt Kat worked for Southern Bell for forty years and was proud to be a "Professional Women". While, my Aunt J'Nelle, the biggest 'Women's Libber' - as she was called- that I knew, had only one job in her life, and that lasted two years. Go figure. 

However, those insecure selfish women who petitioned, fought, and argued their way into the workforce did not have the sense of an earthworm to realize that by going about it the way they did and threatening the manhood of every male worker in the nation, they were making the professional road hard for every female following behind. 

Once, you threaten a man, it is like stepping on a fire ant hill - and don't think that you are the Queen Ant. That scenario doesn't fly here. Those women who thought making a public spectacle of themselves was the only way to achieve their goal, in my humble opinion, they badly mishandled the situation.  If you want to conquer men and get your way, every southern woman knows (as should every other woman in the world, if she had any sense about her) stroke their ego and feed them well. And, then make your case.

So while many of my friends seek to conquer the board rooms, the court rooms, and the halls of academia (and many - I am proud to say have!), I have set my personal goal on being a kept woman. Of course, now as I get on up there in age, I realize I have not been very successful at that goal. You know, on second thought, did anyone ever try to squeeze that damn Jeannie back in the bottle?

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

We are our Mother's Daughters

The late Cokie Roberts said it so well in her book, We Are Our Mothers' Daughters. This is truly the most frightening thought. But the older I get the more I realize I cannot escape it. Like a moth being pulled to a flame or rather a star being pulled down a black hole, more and more I find myself saying and doing things that remind me of my mother.

But so far I don't seem to have the strengths she had. I haven't managed to get those qualities that I and so many admired in her.

Did I receive her genetic disposition to remember everyone's birthday and anniversary and the obnoxious talent to always manage to have the US mail deliver the card on the appropriate day? No. I do well to remember the day at all, much less get a card, a stamp, and get it mailed. The idea of having all that coordinated in time for the thoughtful note to arrive on the proper day seems exhausting. Yet she remembered her family, her friends, members of her Sunday school class, her bridge club,current neighbors as well as those we had fifty years ago, etc. never missing an occasion.

Can I make my own clothes, design curtains for my den, or redo furniture? No. Nor can I play a piano or discuss the bible and its history from an academic point of view. A major in Religious Education and a minor in Music from Wake Forest served her well. Six years of piano lessons left me with the inability to even play the simplest verse of Red River Valley.

Mama could tell you at any given time during the fall how well any ACC football team was doing and probably most of the SEC teams, at least those in the Eastern Division. She knew baseball, the players, the rules, and the stats as well as any fan. I never knew anyone else who kept box scores.

I can remember when she was in CCU just a day or so before she died she had insisted her TV be turned on and tuned to a channel showing the Braves game one afternoon. The nurses did so mainly just to mollify her. By this point they felt they were just keeping her comfortable. 

I entered the room and walked up to her bedside.

"We're not doing so good," she said.

"You or the Braves?"

"The Braves. They can't get a man on base and the next man up is not one of our better runners."

"How do you know who's next?" I asked, not knowing much about baseball.

"They announce the lineup at the start of the game."

I just sat down to let her rest. A few minutes later, I was sure she was asleep by sound of her breathing. Then I heard from her bed, "Now, that boy is going places. They paid almost nothing for him. Everyone said he would not amount to much but he can hit. He needs to work on his fielding, but he is coming along." There was a base hit and loud applause.

The nurse came in to check on her. She looked at the monitor, adjusted Mama's covers, and made sure all her wires and tubes were not tangled. Then she came over to me, "She seems to be resting well, finally. Perhaps we should turn the TV off. I really don't want her to be bothered."

"I don't think that's the case."

About that time, from the bed, we heard, "Now Chipper Jones is up next. You know this is his last season."

"I thought he was long gone," I said.

With that she started giving out his stats for past few years, when he had been on the disabled list and for what injuries.

Oh, but I am my Mother's Daughter in some ways. Apparently I have every innate obnoxious character trait she had. My daughters are quick to remind me with an eye roll or some phrase like "Seriously" or "That is something ZeeZee would have said". All those little quirks I grew up with that drove me nuts, I find myself doing today. Mannerisms and habits that I chided her for, just come naturally to me these days.

I only wish she were here for one more Mother's Day so I could tell her how I never knew I would miss her so much, How I never told her I loved her enough. And how much being my Mother's Daughter means to me.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Far Away places with strange sounding names

I know, I know, as my Daddy used to say, "To each there own." But there are some times I just question someone's sanity - not their taste, God Bless them, or who they keep company with. But life is just too short to waste vacation time in some miserable place, doing some wretched activity, or having to put up with obnoxious people. The following is a list of vacations that I personally know folks who have these on their "Bucket List", dream of the day they will be able to take this trip, or have already had the experience and will not stop talking about the "once in a lifetime" adventure.

First, a caveat, there is no intention to offend anyone. If your dream vacation is listed here, then I hope you get to go there and return - often. That is what makes the world go 'round and keeps the economy going.

That said, here we go:

(10) Running with Bulls in Pamplona. No, not there to watch, take photos, and enjoy tapas and sangria but actually running your hiney off down a narrow street in the crowd of other insane idiots just seconds in front of pissed off Bulls with serious horns that are aimed your way.

(9) Diving off the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Yes, it is the largest and probably most endangered reef in the world. But first let's consider its takes a 4 day flight to get there. OK, only 25 hours from the east coast of the U.S. But still that is a long expensive trip to snorkel and dive all the while taking a chance to be poisoned by a venomous jellyfish, the toxins of Lion fish and Stone fish as well as a Blue Ringed Octopus (for which there is no known antidote), not to mention the vicious sharks that patrol the reef.

(8) Antarctica. Why not just stick your head in your freezer for several hours? Spoiler - it's cold and frozen. Save your money and find the National Geographic special on the continent. If you have to brag that you have set foot on every continent, take a quick trip King George Island (one of the South Shetland Islands in Argentina). You can check it off your list and the islands are relatively ice free. Or you can just make it up. How many of the rest of us are going to know what you are talking about anywhere.

(7) Lego Land - Sure I played with them - but planning a vacation around these small building blocks?

(6) Atlantic City - I don't care for salt water taffy, I don't gamble, and I have no desire to be anywhere close to the location of the reality show "Jersey Shore". And, besides, any place that lists "Ripley's Believe it Not" as one of the Top Ten places one needs to visit when coming there just doesn't sound like some place I would enjoy.

(5) Gatlinburg, Tennessee - Streets full of rubber street emporia selling baubles, doodads, novelties, trinkets, and kitsch. No doubt salt water taffy is in there somewhere. It is not hard to find shelves of Cherokee Native American crafts (all made in China).

(4) Myrtle Beach - the once seaside location of small clubs playing Carolina Beach music, now columns of concrete condos lining the beach. Acres of golf courses, goofy golf, pancake houses, "Ripley's Believe It or Not", and everything found in #5 Gatlinburg

(3) Area 51 in southern Nevada. If you're not familiar move along, only believers and conspiracy theorists need venture there.

(2) The Leaning Tower of Pisa . . . I just don't get it.

(1) And my idea of Hell - an all inclusive Christmas Bus Trip to Branson Missouri that includes 5 days on a "luxury" coach with 39 other people, accommodations in a 3 star hotel (double occupancy only), all meals included (no choice there, most likely all buffet), a tour guide (to make sure no one ventures off on their own), and a personalized fanny pack and large tag to wear around your neck that identifies you as someone on a bus tour to Branson Missouri, as if you were not in enough pain and anguish. Just saying.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

You know you are getting old when . . .

Toward the end of her life, my Mama was very optimistic, irritatingly rosy at times. She always told me that life was good. Every morning it was not unusual to get a phone call from her. After we exchanged the general pleasantries, she would always say, "Did you know 'so 'n so' died?" If I was not familiar with this most recently departed, I would judge my reply carefully. If I had some time, I would ask Mama who this person was. Ten minutes later I would find myself tired, looking at my watch, and questioning my insanity to inquire.

Mama died in 2012. And with her, went those of daily updates of the dead and dying. After that, even though I was out and about in the community and kept up with friends, I often was the last person to learn of someone's (or their loved one's) demise. So I then found myself looking at the local paper's Obituary column daily. Even worse, I was able to sign up to receive an email every morning of the obituary column. One knows they are old, long in the tooth, whatever, when that message is the first one you check when opening your email every morning.

Then, while looking over my list of "Friends" on Facebook, I was shocked to see how of many them are no longer with us. Which brings up the ultimate conundrum - does one remove the names of those dearly departed? If so, is that seen as sign of respect or the ultimate insult - ie you do not care for their memory? But I digress. 

However every time I peruse the obituaries I think of my Mama. It is a generational thing.  While the ages of those listed in the daily column were once mostly of older folks. You know, in their 70's or 80's.  They are getting younger everyday. It doesn't take new math for one to realize that the difference between their ages and mine is quickly diminishing. Now, I have passed that milestone and have become a member of the generation who wants time to stop. It goes by so quickly. 

Nothing can slow time down. There is no miracle elixir (or phone app) to make it stop. Short of being in Wilder's "Our Town", we cannot go back in time - relive those moments. In that story, the stage narrator warns Emily when she wants to return for one day, “Choose the least important day in your life. It will be important enough.”  This is a quote that has stayed with me since college.

It is the mundane that gives us comfort. Sure Christmas mornings as a child, one's wedding day, graduation, etc. would generally be the ones we want to relive. But chances are we have fairly clear memories of those particular days. Most likely there are old photos, faded flowers, or some other tangible items that tie us to those particular moments. But, it is the "every" days that would give a better look back. True, one day in a life of hundreds of thousands seems minute. But each day is part of one's fabric of their life. I'm not sure what day I would chose. But then, if I knew a day, it would have been memorable - which defeats the purpose.

My doctor once gave me wise advice when I was stressed. "Live in the moment," he said. It took me a while to grasp that concept. So I try to 'live in the moment' when I can. Worrying about something will do me no good. After all, if I could do something about what I am fretting over, I should have already done it. Otherwise I have to realize it is out of my hands. So remember the 'Stop and smell the roses', advice we have all heard. The trick is finding and recognizing the roses among all life's melee. After all, no one promised us a rose garden.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Fried Chicken - It ain't Broke

Full disclosure, even as southern born and bred as I am, I cannot fry chicken, Now that we have that behind us....

It never ceases to amaze me how folks want to mess up something good. If ain't broke, don't fix it. My theory is that it is like buying a wedding dress - they are all white, when you find one you really like, stop the madness and buy it.  But. I digress.

The Gray Lady (aka The New York Times) has done it again. There was an article in there today entitled "How to Make Good Fried Chicken."  The first sign was "making" fried chicken. My Mama said, "Don't be late for supper, we're having fried chicken." or "I'm frying chicken." My mama never said she was "making" chicken. In my house you could "make" a pie, "make" a cake, or "make" a mess.

First, they got into the chemistry of the dish -how the starch must coat the bird, then oil must be just the right temperature. I got right tickled when they suggested two or three pieces per person would leave you plenty for left overs. At our house there was never any left over fried chicken. Miraculously,  we would find some the next morning in the 'fridge but that was only because Mama, in her great wisdom, would put aside some extra pieces before supper.

Then they went on about "brining" your chicken in a buttermilk, pickle, cola, or cider brine and waiting a few hours. Next, they got into gluten free flours. This is where the the train jumped the track. I never had one of my friends or kin folks drop dead over dosing on gluten from the flour in fried chicken (or anything else for that matter).  They also suggested to cook the chicken outside if you don't want to "mess up" your kitchen.

Why not just call up KFC and order a bucket? By now everyone in your household must be starving. They already have had to wait several hours while you brined your chicken and it is going to get ugly when they realize there is a limit to their servings.

Next, the article went into the "Various flavors" of fried chicken. I never had flavored fried chicken, unless you counted "Burnt" as an alternate taste. Please tell me who as a child came home at dark for supper on a summer night or waited patiently in the food line at the church homecoming dinner or feasted on the comfort food brought by friends and neighbors when a loved one passed away only to find a platter of chicken flavored with Adobo, Korean, Nashville, or Persian spices? I think not. I can only imagine the countenance on the church ladies' faces should someone show up at a bereaved family's home with a platter of Korean flavored fried chicken. That would be worst than having dark meat in their chicken salad.

I stopped reading the article before they went as far as to say they frowned upon eating fried chicken with your hands. Please dear God, say it is not so.

Even though I am cursed and cannot create this simple southern dish, part of the southern trinity together with biscuits and collards, I cannot help but think that Clemmie,  said it best when she said, "Cook 'til done, season to taste."

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Little notebooks

I never go anywhere without a pen and notebook. I have notebooks everywhere. My favorite ones have nice leather covers. But any bound group of clean pages will do. I am always jotting things down. Random exchanges I over hear, odd thoughts that come to my mind, obscure musings, the insane comments I over hear, what I see that is  hard to believe . . .  all those things that come and go in my life that I think, "I could never forget that". However, I learned a while back that it doesn't matter how insane, inane, humorous, absurd, or unbelievable something is in the moment, if I don't write it down at the time, I most likely will never remember it. Or worse yet, I'll remember that "something" was memorable but I'll never be able to remember the details.

When I was a little girl, I was always collecting note pads, notebooks, tablets, etc. But they were so precious, I would never write in them. In my mind I needed to keep each precious sheet of paper in them until something important came up that needed to be recorded. At some point the light bulb came on - why wait for the world to go by, anticipating something? Since that point, I am never more than a few inches away from some form of pen and paper.

So now, I note, comment, ponder, record, to my heart's content. It only takes a few seconds to jot down the comment I heard - one older lady with her walker speaking to another with a cane about how 'randy' that Mr. Goldsmith is at the home. Or the seriously overweight customer reply to the cashier at the drug store about how healthy her metabolism was and that her mama always said is was good to look healthy, those stick fingers of young girls were surely in poor health. And there was the couple, who had maybe 10 teeth between them, dressed in dirty t-shirts, commenting that, "Ain't no body got no sense no mo." 

Oh, there are also the to-do lists, grocery lists, and reminders to call the drug store or not to forget an upcoming birthday. There are the rough diagrams scribbled down of directions to my next destination, as well as phone numbers, passwords I know I will never remember, and the name of that song I love but will do me no good unless I can recall the name. So someone picking up any one of my random notebooks will find a plethora of nonsense, totally non sequitur drawings, weird "words" made up of aimless combinations of numbers, letters, and characters, and my grocery list.

But all that aside, there is method in the madness, clarity in the chaos, memories in the minutia. I no longer fear "using up" a notebook. There are always more.

Gravy, the Real Thing

Is gravy a beverage?

What kind of question is that? If you have to ask, then obviously you don't know. Down here, we know a good thing when we see it (or, in this instance, taste it). And, since we are known for conspicuous consumption, then perhaps that term does apply. But, then we are just talking semantics here.

Personally, I think of gravy as something additional or unexpected that is pleasing to the senses. That one thing that truly makes a dish. And, as I see it, gravy is gravy. Southerners are honest about it. We have no airs about our cooking (or cuisine as y'all call it now). At least Italians call it as it is. An honest to God old school Italian cook calls the rich red sauce that the meatballs lounge in to soak up all that flavor - "gravy".

When you go to a fine restaurant, the menu may read that their steak is "topped with a sauce au pouivre" or the chicken is served "with a demi glace", and those (yummy) duck fat fries are served "with a side of aioli". Honey, you are either in denial or fairly dense (or both) because those are just fancy names for gravy.

Today's expensive cookbooks of haute cuisine have pages of recipes for Béarnaise, Hollandaise, Beurre blanc, and Béchamel sauce. These fancy highfaluton incredibly rich flavorful concoctions are just - you got it - gravy! And even though nothing beats a southern gravy, a gravy by any other name is still a gravy.

So, it doesn't matter whether the meal is served with a South American Chimichurri, a Southeast Asian Sriracha sauce, or an Eastern Asian Tianmianjiang, sweat heart, I hate to tell you, it's all gravy - "something additional or unexpected that is pleasing to the senses". How tasty would our fare be without it?

We have our Red Eye, Sawmill (White), and Brown gravies. It is served as rice and gravy, biscuits and gravy, grits and gravy, chicken fried steak and gravy. Then there is the creole gravies that start with a roux and we are in a whole different ball game.

So if you have a problem with this, that's alright with me. But, you can't have your boring bland dull health food and enjoy your gravy too. Just something to think about.

After all, there is love and life, and the rest is gravy.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Wise Words from Margaret Mitchell

I often refer back to the second religious manual of southern women after the Bible- well maybe third after Emily Post's Etiquette - Margaret Mitchell's epic novel Gone with the Wind. No, my heart does not hearken back to our most recent unpleasantness nor do I condone the sins of our past, that said, I find Ms. Mitchell's text and dialogue often full of wit and brilliant prose.

I'm not sure from what part of the book the following came from, but it is spot on for southern women.

“It was this feminine conspiracy which made Southern society so pleasant.Women knew that a land where men were contented, uncontradicted and safe in possession of unpunctured vanity was likely to be a very pleasant place for women to live. So, from the cradle to the grave, women strove to make men pleased with themselves, and the satisfied men repaid lavishly with gallantry and adoration. In fact, men willingly gave ladies everything in the world except credit for having intelligence.”

Hopefully, in the 85 years since the publication of Miss Mitchell's novel, we have learned some lessons. Women have found their voice and men, well at least some of them, have started to realize that women are more than just pretty faces to be adored. 

To quote another woman, "I am woman, hear me roar in numbers too big to ignore." 

Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy the gallantry and adoration of a gentleman. It is not lost on me the manners of someone walking after me up stairs and in front going down - to prevent me from falling, on the outside on the sidewalk to keep my skirt clean, or standing when I enter a room. Opening doors, pulling out chairs, and assisting with a coat may be old school, but I know courtesy and respect when I see it. Give us some credit - we know a good thing when we experience it. Personally, I do not find these gestures offensive, but rather a dying tradition. 

Perhaps we should show some intelligence and enjoy it while it last. After all, the time of chivalry is passing and may soon be gone with the wind.


Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Mamie, Fode, and Southernisms

Speaking of "southernisms", to further show the differences between my Granny, known as Mamie aka Mary Margaret and her sister (my "Aunty" Fode aka Flora Katherine)  they tended to use different southern terms.

I can remember hearing my proper Granny saying things like, "He's too big for his britches" or calling a young person a "whippersnapper". She would be "gettn' ready" to go the store. "Once in a blue moon" she would have a "tip or two" with my Daddy after supper. And, she always wanted us to get our "picture made" in our "Sunday go to meeting clothes."

My Aunty, on the other hand, was a little more colorful to say the least - much to her sister's dismay. Someone poor "didn't have a pot to pee in". When my Granny commented that they had raised the drinking age from 18 to 21, Aunty's comment was that "the world was going to Hell in a hand basket." Where my Granny would refer to someone in the community as to having "passed away". Aunty would tell us, he was "as dead as a door nail."

Then there were the subjects Granny wouldn't touch. When it was revealed (in the 70's) that the daughter of some friends of the family was pregnant at the time of her wedding. Granny was gracious and in her proper way, just didn't acknowledge that small issue. (In her mind, like many southern ladies of her time, if you didn't talk about it - it didn't exist.) Aunty just laughed (as she took a long drag off her ever present Salem cigarette), "Well they ate dessert before they said grace."

Monday, May 31, 2021

Fried Chicken, Lightn' Bugs, Hair Spray, Bubba, and Baby

Memorial Day, this year in particularly, is the "opening" of summer. It is when school is out (or close to being out). Swimming pools are uncovered. Some say that Memorial Day is the first time it is fittin' to wear white. Personally, I have always thought it to be Easter, but that's just me. That brings to mind other customs, traditions, and beliefs, sometimes referred to as archaic, that are still embedded in our psyche.

Wearing white shoes (with the exception of athletic shoes) after the first Monday in September shows that you were either raised reared in a barn, have no sense of pride, or, when it comes to clothes - are totally uncouth.

One can tell the status of a family by the ratio of meat dishes over all other types of food brought by friends, neighbors, and loved ones when a member of the family dies. If you want to get into the weeds, look at the ratio of fried chicken over ham.
 
Show up as a hostess at a luncheon with store bought cookies or a cake in the box, and there's a good chance  you'll  get thrown out of the Service League (and maybe run out of town in shame).

Some women still frown upon those who put dark meat in their chicken salad. Adding grapes is still questionable (however the Food Chanel may justify that one).

Down here "Firefly" is a type of British shoe or vodka. "Lightn' Bugs" are the magical creatures that light up the yard at dusk.

Don't ask us for directions and expect to understand the landmarks, "Go to the red light, turn right and go down a piece until you come to the old Piggly Wiggly. Turn left, and after a mile or two there will be John McDean's Store, it's a Shell station, no maybe Esso, I can't remember. Turn right just after the store and you will see the place you are looking for on the left. But if you come to the burnt tree you have gone too far." (Of course the Piggly Wiggly closed 12 years ago and there is a Dollar Store there now, McDean's Store is an Exxon station, and the burnt tree fell down a while back, but we all know where it is - you can't miss that long curve.)

Going out in public with wet hair is beneath us.

Hair spray was created for southern women and we are in mourning for the aerosol can. Hair "Products" may be more environmentally friendly and easier on your tresses, but nothing holds big hair like good ol' hairspray.

A southern woman always has a casserole (or two) in the freezer in case an emergency arises such as a friend or relative suddenly taking ill. This allows us to show up prepared with a home cooked meal.

A string of pearls can be worn with anything.

We have been monogramming our sheets, towels, and the collars of our children's Peter Pan shirts long before the fad and we will still be adding our initials and monograms to such items long after this whim fades away.

We name our children some odd names, but they are family names we are proud of, so get over it. And, so what if we  go beyond Jr.'s and have the 3rd's and 4th's. Then there are the nicknames - Bubba, Jr., Skeeter, Little Bob. Sweetie, Baby,  Sport, and Honeybunch are truly terms of endearment.

And, yes, College Football, is a religion down here, along with good BBQ. 

Bottom line, honey, if you don't get it,  Bless Your Heart,we really don't care. It's not like our feelings are going to be hurt.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

If You See a Fork in the Road - Take It

One of my hobbies is collecting antique sterling flatware. In doing so, I have spent a great deal of time trying to identify some random piece I found in the back of an old antique store. And for those not so inclined, here is a bit of knowledge I have learned. A full place setting consists of more than just a knife, fork, and spoon or even a dinner fork, salad fork, dinner knife, teaspoon, and butter knife. A full place setting is made up of 56 different pieces, with few being  on the table at any given time. With each course, there is a different set of utensils, not to mention the dozens of various serving utensils.

Take place forks for example. Beyond the dinner fork and salad fork, there are Cake Forks, Pie Forks,Caviar Forks, and a Cherry Fork (not to be confused with a Strawberry Fork). There are Terrapin Forks, Escargot Forks, Lobster Forks, Oyster Forks, Sardine Forks, and Fish Forks. There are Ice Cream Forks - that differ from Ice Cream Spoons. You may also find a Ramekin Fork. I could go on, but I will not bore you.

There are also different sizes of place settings. For instance a luncheon setting is a bit smaller than a dinner setting.  And there is a Grille size (but very rare) that is larger than the dinner setting.

The height of sterling flatware was in the Victorian and Edwardian periods. As I often say, the Victorians never found a dish that they could not create a unique utensil for.  Perhaps the concern of not knowing which fork to use has some merit after all.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Mysteries of the Universe

Now that I am in my 60's I am beginning to learn there are certain mysteries of the universe. Oh, there were many I experienced as a child. Examples were: How did Mama always know I was guilty of something? Why did a fried chicken only have 2 legs? Why was the answer to one question always, "Someday you'll be old enough but not now."? Then the answer to next, "You know you are too old for that." Why did the thirty minute Christmas dinner at Grandmama's before we opened our Christmas presents take FOREVER but the two weeks we spent at her house each summer go by so fast? But I digress.

The enigmas that stump me today include folding a fitted sheet. Yes, I know Martha Stewart did an entire program showing how easy it is. But, then Martha and her minions are not in my laundry room every Saturday morning when I struggle with the elastic pockets that do not square up, only to try "folding" it the best I can into something that resembles a somewhat organized wad of cloth.

Or that the term "Well Done" in respect to steak actually means, "A decent piece of meat, burnt to a crisp and ruined."

That someone puts boiled peanuts in cans and worse yet, people buy them, consume them, and think they are tasty.

That men can detail and wash a car and operate a TV remote control yet picking up their clothes off the floor or putting the toilet seat down is beyond their comprehension.

Speaking of remote controls, why do TVs require 2 remote controls to operate and isn't the term "universal remote" an oxymoron?

And above everything, how can just eating a 1 pound box of Godiva chocolates cause one to gain 5 pounds? No wonder I was never good at math.

Friday, May 28, 2021

A Goose Chase, a Snipe Hunt, and Down a Rabbit Hole

With our frenetic life,  everyone these days talks about living in the "Rat Race", "Running in Circles", going on a "Goose Chase" or "Snipe Hunt", falling down a "Rabbit Hole", etc. Often, my life is so crazy I am usually dizzy, feel as if I should have some geese and snipe to show for something, and I am very wary of Rabbit Holes.

For the record I have hunted snipe - real snipe, not just the fool's game or a joke often played on campers. My daddy belonged to a hunt club in the low country and one of their quarry was Snipe. Yes, they exist. They are actually not easy to hunt because when they are flushed they go straight up and then have an erratic flight pattern. (The term "Sniper" came from a Snipe hunter as in one with excellent hunting skills.) So now you know, but I digress.

Several weeks ago, I decided I would search out some very old churches in the upstate. After identifying the ones I wanted to see, I had to locate them on a map. This was no easy feat given many of them are located on small roads in cryptic locations. Any directions I could find may as well said something like, "When you get into town turn right by the old Piggly Wiggly. Then after the third blue house make a left. Go until you see farmer John's pond on the right and the church will be on your left."

From experience I know the Piggly Wiggly probably have closed several years ago, so figuring out that landmark is a crap shoot at best. One of the blue houses burned down and the other two have now been painted white, and how in the Hell is someone supposed to know what pond belongs to farmer John?

This is where I feel as if I am going down the rabbit hole - following ambiguous directions to small towns that are now just a deserted general store, to find the unmarked street down which a two hundred year old shuttered church sits among the kudzu. And why you ask? A photograph? Yes, I too, often question my sanity.

All that said, last week I headed out with lists of vague directions to arcane places of worship. As I proceeded down Highway 25 I came upon a sign that said "Historic Cokesbury College". Having never heard of such, I decided to detour left and take a look see. It wasn't on my well prepared list but then proper planning is so overrated.

While visiting this spot, the gentleman sweeping the front porch, offered to show me around. While doing so, he asked what had brought me there. I explained I was on a photo tour of old churches. His face lit up. He mentioned several churches that were on my list. Then he asked me if Mt. Vernon on Hwy 61 was one I planned to see.

Not being familiar with that one, I inquired about it. He explained it was a beautiful old historic church that I could find off Highway 61 on Mt. Vernon Church road. A friend of his was trying to buy the church and move it. I made a mental note to add it to the list, thanked him, and made my exit.

When I got in my car, I pulled up the area of the state on Google maps. I could not find Highway 61 nor could I find a reference to a Mt. Vernon church. Whatever. I went on my way.

I turned off Highway 25 onto Highway 10 had headed toward Troy (population 93) found the first church on my list. After a circuitous route over the river and through the woods, I found the next church on my list. As I headed up Highway 81 toward Mt. Carmel (population 173) and the next church on my list, I noticed "Mt. Vernon Church Rd" to my left. Aha! Highway 81 not 61.

I turned around and turned off onto Mt Vernon Road. Sure enough a mile or so down the road on the left I saw the sign for the church. However, when the church itself came into view I was somewhat taken aback. Instead of an old wooden structure, a century old brick building, or historic masonry hall I had been expecting, what lay before me was a non-descript white squatty vinyl siding covered building that was twenty years old at most. This was of no historical significance. I looked behind it to see if there was a original structure, but no.

Not to be deterred, I continued down the road a bit to see if perhaps the original church remained on another site. After several miles I gave up chasing that goose.

Back on Highway 81 I made my way to Mt. Carmel and found that small old church exactly where it was supposed to be. There was one more house of God on my list I wanted to find while I was in the area. The directions were even more fuzzy than the others. When I was researching the other churches I could not find a photograph or drawing of this one. I found several references to it, but no history per se. My curiosity was peaked.

After heading the wrong direction for several miles and making a few wrong turns I felt like I must be pretty close. I drove down the country road through stands of pines and hay fields. Much of the land in this part of the world looks the same. Finally I saw the sign for the church. Great. As I saw it I realized this was one of the first churches I had photographed that morning. When you start running in circles it is time to take your goose and go home.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

So I'm Quaint

Years ago, I was having drinks one evening with some ladies at a conference in Portland Oregon and we were trying to discuss anything but business. Naturally I had taken a great deal grief earlier that day about my southern drawl. I only hoped they were as interested in the topic of my session as they were with the way I talked.

While we sat there that evening talking they started asking questions and as more rounds of wine were poured their inquiries seemed more and more to come my direction. "Do you really have your own personal note cards?"

" Are your daughter's clothes monogrammed?"

"Do you have those things down there, you know those dances called, oh what are they? Cotillions, yeah Cotillions, do you have those?"

Finally I made them stop. Yes, I explained, I did have some personal note cards. And, yes, both my daughters did wear some monogrammed clothes. Then I did my best to explain that we were just generally social down here and the term "cotillion" could refer to the couples' dance club my husband and I were in or the organization of mothers who had formal dances for their high school aged daughters twice a year. I figured they really meant debutante balls but I wasn't about to go down that rabbit hole with them.

The round robin discussion about monogrammed clothes made it sound as if I was sending my children off to school every day either with their names emboldened across their chest or the family crest stitched on them. It got lost in translation. I hoped no one thought to ask me about monogrammed sheets and towels or, God forbid, glassware.

Then one young girl from Wisconsin commented, "Well I'm just not sure what I would do with the personal note cards. I only write my grandmother because she doesn't use email. What would I do with the rest of it."

Another lady from California laughed,"Oh, I imagine she writes a lot of notes. (Speaking as if I were not at the table.) Down there they write notes for everything, thanking you for anything you did, to let you know she was thinking about you, or that she will not be able to come to your party."

"Seriously?"

"Well, it is just something we were brought up doing," I added.

"We call it quaint," said the lady from California. So I had been put in my place - quaint.

Then one lady who had been sitting quietly through all this spoke up. "I think if you are smart, you find a mother who has good taste. Then you name your daughter so she has the same initials as the daughter of that lady then you purchase the child's clothes as she grows out of them for your daughter."

I thought for a moment, should I explain the term "tacky" to them. No, I let that one die. But I made a mental note to remind them before the night was over that every young lady in the south does not have a double name that includes 'Billy' or 'Bobby"and our diet includes more than fried food. I wanted them to understand we all do not live in some grand plantation house and some of us drink unsweetened tea. Ladies from the south do not "swoon" (or at least none in my generation that I am aware of).  We do venture north of the Mason Dixon Line. Contrary to popular belief, we do not marry our cousins. 

I can handle quaint, but somewhere we need to draw the line. I may have a penchant for note writing and my daughters surely knew their initials by age two, however, even though our family tree may be gnarly, it certainly branches out wide.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Don' Confuse Fair weather with Hell

Many a man has rued the day he assumed the southern charm of his fair maiden was a barometer of the weakness of her character. How could something this sweet and delicate be bothered with serious issues. Well, Hell hath no fury as a southern woman scorned. As I mentioned earlier, a lady may take to her room with the vapors to recover but under that delicate demeanor lies a force to be reckoned with.

Just saying.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

If it Tastes Like a Duck

In full disclosure, this is an older post  from an earlier iteration of my blog that dates back to 2013. However, I wanted to share it with those new "Gentle Readers".

As many know, I enjoy cooking and like to think that I am pretty good at it. At least my friends and family compliment me. Either I am accomplished - and they are sincere or I am so pitiful that they offer positive accolades to make me feel better. Whatever the case, the family keeps assigning me dishes for the family reunion as opposed to paper products. (Cousin Helen should take a hint - her "prized" beef and eggplant casserole should be retired.)

We have some friends who share our affection for good food and the husband has prepared some of the best meals I have ever experienced. His dishes are usually Cajun but can vary. Although I have never watched him cook I would love to spend time with him to learn all the little details that make his meals so special. I am sure I could pick up much from his methods of preparation, his choice of seasonings, even the way he cuts his vegetables and meats. Whatever he prepares is always an unbelievable gastronomical feat.

Needless to say, when they come to dinner, it is a nerve racking experience for me. The bar has been raised. Being of a competitive nature, I start early researching recipes for something different, a little exotic but not too "out there". After all, I wouldn't want anyone to think I put any effort into it, you know, just a little dish I do every once in a while. (And for this occasion I do use a recipe and mind you, I follow every step - for I fear failure.)

This particular night was going to be one of those occasions. We were going to have duck. I started early in the morning. I washed the duck in cold water and then steamed it over black tea for an hour in an oven. Ok, I could do this, I told myself. The remaining preparation involved carefully rubbing the bird with a special herb butter blend, roasting, basting, resting the canard, (praying to the gods of all fowl), tenting it, then collecting the juices, and reducing them with the juice of freshly squeezed blood oranges. Then I carefully prepared the bird for presentation.

The dinner was most enjoyable and I basked in my success, modestly accepting the compliments from all of my guests. Over dessert, I remarked that even though, I had to admit, I was pleased with my duck, I had always loved the unique flavor of his duck and hoped one day he would show me how he prepared his dish.

He smiled and said, "That's easy. I just take the duck, wash it, cut off the breasts, throw the remainder of the bird away, then lightly saute it in a pan with butter." Then he added, "Oh, and I throw a bit of salt and pepper on it to taste."

So much for the recipe books.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Animal Crackers in my Soup

 "Do vegetarians eat animal crackers?" I found this to be a profound thought if one ponders it. If the purpose of a vegetarian's  diet is to spare the life of living creatures, then wouldn't the thought of eating a baked replica of them cause them to take pause, albeit of flour and sugar? Is this hypocritical?

I have no problems with vegetarians at all as long as (1) they practice it for a sane reason they are dedicated to, and (2) they do not judge nor proselytize those of us carnivores, taking in account that down south, 95% of us are carnivores. That 5% being part of the Yankees who settled in Florida and other folks who feel the need to forgo meat. Remember we are the ones who have cookbooks on road kill. There is a reason we refer to an Armadillo as Opossum on the Half Shell.

A girl I worked with years ago declared she was a vegetarian. When ever we went out for lunch, she generally ordered salads. One day, at the annual Fall Church Bazaar, we found ourselves sitting at the table with the local priest, whom we knew very well. Lunch was their famous vegetable soup.

As the church ladies came by and filled everyone's bowl at the table, my friend looked at me in horror. "There is beef in this soup." I had forgotten there was beef in the soup and felt badly about it. Then she continued in a panicky whisper, "What am I going to do?" 

"Don't worry, just have a few of the corn bread muffins and we will stop on the way back to work and pick something up for you." 

I took a spoonful of my soup and savored the flavor I had enjoyed every year at the Bazaar. When I looked over at my friend, I could see her getting even more anxious."Are your alright?" 

"No," she said in a whisper,"What will the Father think if I don't finish my soup." 

I hated to tell her since he was rector of the church and there were hundreds gathered to speak to him, whether or not she cleaned her bowl was not going to be his first (or last) thought. "Don't worry." "But, I don't want him to judge me because I am a vegetarian."

On the way back to work, I asked her just why she was a vegetarian. "Well, a good friend of mine in college was and I thought if she was, then it must be a good thing to do." 

"And, what were her reasons?" 

"I never really asked." 

"Do you like meat?" 

"Yes, I love steak and hamburgers." 

"So you have no ethical reason or health reason or political reason?" 

"No, not really."

"Maybe you should consider giving it up and just eating a regular diet." 

"But what would my friend think?" 

"If she is a good friend, it shouldn't bother her. She won't even know it until you dine together." 

"I guess not." 

"When do you think you'll see her again?" "Oh, I don't know, she hasn't really been available for a year or two now? I leave messages but she is so busy she never has a chance to return my calls." 

"In that case, I think she would happy you made a your own decision." 

"Still, I think I should call her." 

Exhausted by the conversation, I replied,"You just do that."

Come to think of it, I'm not sure which is worse, an arrogant vegetarian out to covert the world, or one blindly following along, simply because someone said it was a good idea. The jury is out on that one.