Vrouw has posted about having “morphed” into a Southerner, and what she appreciates about it.
Having been born in the really, really deep part of the Deep South (Birmingham, Alabama), and having lived all of my life in the South (with a brief 1.5 sojourn to South Florida, which is not, culturally speaking, the South), I’ve taken some time to reflect on what I appreciate about my cultural heritage. So here goes.
- The music of the voices. I’m talking about Southern accents. Not “a Southern accent”: there’s no such thing as one solitary Southern accent. They are many, and they are varied. A Piedmont accent is vastly different from a Tidewater accent, although they may occur in the same state (for example, in Virginia). Someone from Decatur, Alabama, sounds nothing like someone from Montgomery. (For one thing, the person from Decatur will probably pronounce the “t” in Montgomery, while the Montgomery native never will.) I’m not a big fan of mispronunciation, but having a Southern accent does not mean one has to mispronounce words. In Laurel, Mississippi, for example, many people pronounce the word “or” as if it were the word “are.” That gets on my nerves. So does “thoo” for “through” or “o-vair” for “over there”. Southern accents lend a musical quality to speech: mispronunciations just get in the way of communication. If you have a Southern accent, don’t try to lose it: lose the mispronunciations but keep the accent.
- The food. As I’ve pointed out on here before, I’m talking about traditional, home-cooked Southern fare here. Vienna sausages from a can may be very common throughout the South, but it is a deviation from the tradition: it does not define Southern cuisine. I love the regional debates in the South over food. For example, white corn meal or yellow? In Texas, they say yellow. Most other places in the South, it’s white. (But Texas is so big, it’s had a lot of influence.) And you can just about start a fist fight when you start talking about mayonnaise brands. (But, let’s face it, Duke’s is the best!). Southerners have a sweet tooth. The South is the land of banana pudding (see an earlier post), bread pudding, and pecan pie. It’s the birthplace of Moon Pies, Little Debbie snack cakes, the Goo Goo Cluster, and Lance snacks. It’s also the home of sweet tea. (For this reason, I don’t consider much of Texas to be the South, because you can’t get sweet tea in most of the state.)
- Progress. When I mentioned Birmingham, Alabama, many of you no doubt got mental images of the 16th Street Baptist Church, Bull Connor, and Kelly Ingram Park. Yes, we’ve had more than our share of shame in the past. But, for the most part, we worked through it. The most racist people I’ve ever dealt with were not from the South, but were transplants from other places where there was not a significant minority population. They had no skills from which to draw for relating to people of other races, because they had never done so. I’m not saying there’s no such thing as racism any more in the South or that we don’t still have a long way to go, but we’ve dealt with things that many other parts of the country have not, and we are better for it.
Back in 1947, Phil Harris recorded a song called “That’s What I Like About the South” that catalogued some of his favorite things about the region. Here’s my list, in no particular order:
- Real football. This may come as surprise to many of you who know me and read this, since I’ve never been a really big football fan, but SEC football is in the air in the South. I probably know at least 150 Alabama-Auburn jokes. Last year, when Buster and I went to the Independence Bowl, we went decked out in our Gamecocks regalia, because they are an SEC team. Imagine my horror at finding that most of the locals were rooting for Missouri! Treason! In the South, we take care of our own.
- Vanilla Moon Pies microwaved for exactly eight seconds. And if you’ve got an RC to go with that Moon Pie, bring it on.
- Krystals, just the way they serve them (mustard, pickle, and sautéed onions).
- While we’re on the subject of hamburgers: Milo’s.
- Trailer commercials. Some of the truly worst, and therefore most entertaining, commercials in the world are from mobile home salesmen. (“Clark’s Mobile Homes! We do it for a livin’, not a killin’!”)
- Alabama Public Television. They were the very first public television network in the country, way back in the 1950s. Every other state’s public television network is modeled after Alabama’s. And APT always had some good stuff on, even when they weren’t having pledge week. Georgia and South Carolina have great public television networks too, putting much of the rest of the country to shame.
- Literature. From Flannery O’Connor and James Faulkner to more recent favorites such as Fannie Flagg, T.R. Pearson, and Vicki Covington, Southern authors have a unique voice. (The Vicki Covington link is to Lemuria bookstore, one of my favorite places in the South.)
- The Sacred Harp.
- Actual pulled pork sandwiches.
- Rich’s. Shopping at Rich’s. Working at Rich’s. Does anyone else besides me really, really miss Rich’s? (The link has a picture of the Pink Pig at the original downtown Atlanta location!)
- Bama Jelly glasses and Bama Peanut Butter mugs.
- Duke’s Mayonnaise.
- White Lily flour and White Lily corn meal.
- Manners. Even if you grew up in a two-room shack in the South, your Mama taught you to put your napkin in your lap and which fork to use when. In the South, you’re brought up to say “Yes, ma’am” and “Yes, sir” to people older than yourself. You’re taught to be polite. The rest of the country could learn a few things about politeness and decorum from Southerners.
- Traditions. Two-year-old boys don’t wear miniature business suits (unless it’s Halloween): they wear button-on suits with short pants. People wear their “Sunday best” to church, to weddings, and to funerals. (People in the South did not start wearing black to funerals until they saw people in the movies doing it. Theologically speaking, the way they did it before was better–dress like it’s Easter! It’s all about the resurrection, after all.)
- Eating Tomatoes, Yellow Squash, and Purple Hulled Peas fresh from the garden in the summer.
- Sweet Tea. Luzianne, please. And not too sweet: less is more.
- Icebox Cake
- Chicken Supreme and Roulage at Cobb Lane
- Moravian Sugar Cake at Winkler’s Bakery
- Crab Cakes at Poogan’s Porch!
- Having someone offer you a “col’ drink” on a hot day.
Anyone with items for the list? Mark? Cancerman? Anyone? Anyone?