Thursday, May 24, 2007

Southern Survival 101: Stuff I Missed

OMG this is so fun writing these!!! Because, you don't really stop to think about these things when you live it day-to-day. When you stop and look at our lifestyle as an outsider would, it is really bizarre. I'm glad y'all like reading them, too. Y'all bring up big things I keep missing, and I am so grateful. I'm wondering if we'll ever stop talking about Southern food! Examples:

Charming is correct about our love of seafood and frying it, especially in states where there is a coastline. We do, indeed, fry a lot of fish down here. I forgot to mention that. It's not unusual to have a Fish Fry as the main annual fund raiser for the Volunteer Fire Department. (In rural areas, we have volunteer fire depts. Is this true everywhere?) I also forgot about Mississippi Mud, which is a deliciously sloppy chocolate dessert. I think there are marshmallows in it, too. I dunno. It's been a while. I just remember it's very messy. And you're right, Charming, I think there are nuts in it. Thank you for correcting me on my assumption everyone in LA is Catholic. Again, I am exposing my ignorance! Y'all really are so much different than us "Eastcoasters"! I had no idea. And thanks for bringing up "parishes". That is another thing unique to LA. I didn't realize how Catholicism affects Spring Break or chain restaurant menus in LA. Thank you for bringing that up--it's very interesting!

Meghan, if I went to a party and all you had was a keg and a couple of bags of chips, I would think either A) "Oh shit, I forgot to bring something. We were all supposed to chip in!" or B) "OMG. Starve us, why don't you! How rude!" or C) "She ain't from 'roun here." Also, most of the time, if you say, "Oh, yeah, I made that low-fat!" then at least one person will say, "What'd ya do that for? It takes all the flavor out!" Oh, and it's considered "old school" to demand a glass out of which to drink your beer. Just old-fashioned ladies do that. Also, old school ladies don't walk around with a lit cigarette -- they sit down to smoke. Weird, I know. And no, I will not give you a crab dip recipe so you can make it with Miracle Whip. That is a crime down here. We just simply cannot condone such an act. Miracle Whip in your crab dip! PSH! Yankees! *rolls eyes*

As far as lingering around after church is concerned, you have to remember that back in the day, church was often the only time you went into town, so that's the only time you're going to see anyone outside of your family. We were (and still are) very rural down here. I think that's where all the socializing came from. And your friend who went from SB to Greek Orthodox? Holy cow. Not only is that one heck of a stretch, she might have been written out of the will. I'm not kidding. And I forgot to talk about how alcohol sales can vary from city to city, county to county and state to state:

In NC, the counties run all alcohol sales. There is no such thing as a private liquor store. In VA, the state runs it, and the selection BLOWS. You have one choice of everything. So. Lame. I don't even know where you can buy wine, as I don't remember seeing it for sale anywhere in VA. You can buy beer in gas stations, though. In SC, you can buy beer and wine in grocery stores, but not hard liquor. We do have privately owned liquor stores here in SC, which I have to say, is kind of unusual. But if you want to drink alcohol on a Sunday, you have to go to a restaurant or hope you've got some leftover from the night before at your house. (I'm not totally aware of alcohol sales anyplace I live, because I don't drink. So there's more to it than that.....I'm sure there's some weird law I'm forgetting.)

Glad you brought up the bugs, though. Will have to discuss that in a future post.

Kimmykins -- yes, Mrs. Fearnow's canned Brunswick Stew is an excellent substitute. And yes, sometimes we put sweet pickles on our ham biscuits, too. It's excellent. And yes, you're right about SBs -- there are many many different kinds. There is a whole spectrum. Sounds like you're one of the SBs who makes sense. :) Hope I didn't offend. The vast majority of SBs are perfectly normal and good people. Like I said, I have lots of SB friends.

Mieke -- we don't have Goodberry's custard here. I've never heard of it. Will keep my eyes peeled. Frozen custard could possibly be my all-time favorite food.

RWA -- yeah, we do eat turkeys....that was an unfair statement in retrospect. It's just that at the Belle house, the ham is the star of the show. Sometimes we don't even fool with a turkey. Especially if my brothers found/hunted some venison. Glad to hear y'all eat Brunswick stew, too. Man, it's good stuff. And thanks for clarifying about the rumor that Alabamans put mayo in their BBQ sauce. I thought that sounded funny.

Grewuprural -- Oh man, you have opened up a can of worms by bringing up scrapple! First off, it's not a Southern thing. You cannot buy it at our stores. I do believe it's a mid-Atlantic thing, because you can buy it in VA, MD and PN. WLF and The Czarina used to get into arguments about whether or not it's a Southern food. I think WLF was wrong, because no one here's ever heard of scrapple. (I have had it and I like it. Tastes like sausage.) The scraps from the pigs down here (and often, chit'lins are included in this) are eaten by poor people only. Sounds bad, I know. But the nasty piggy parts are what "po' white trash" eat. More on them later.

Christina -- yes, good idea! I should do that!!! The only problem is, I don't know how to make most of this stuff.....hard to believe, I know. But I'm sure I've got some recipes floating around somewhere. I'll let you know. The thing is, you need special equipment for a lot of the recipes: cast iron skillet for cornbread, deep fryer for hush puppies, e.g. I don't have some of the equipment, plus, it's pretty fattening stuff, so I don't normally make it at home.

Amy -- you are living in BBQ heaven, btw. Memphis is my personal favorite style. So tangy. Mmmmmmm!!! And you are totally right about peach ice cream. It's VERY popular down here. Probably because we grow so many peaches. The Czarina used to make preserves and pickle things, too. She makes a fantastic chow chow. (Goes great with beef!) But her best is probably her strawberry preserves. They kick ass. And yes, biscuits need Crisco, lard, bacon grease...something! Your meemaw is old school if she makes neckbones!!! WOW. I, too, don't think I would try that. Another thing you'd have to grow up with. I completely forgot about deep fried chicken livers!!! Czarina loooooooves them. That's another thing you'll see on a BBQ buffet. I am having a hard time seeing how you cook your ham in a skillet. You must slice it up first...because there's no way a 15 lb ham will fit in a frying pan. I have never heard of such a thing. Oh, and you are completely correct in your explanation of cleaning/caring for cast iron. I forgot some people call crawfish "mudbugs". Thanks for the reminder!

coffeesnob -- thank you. I tried to be fair, but some of it does indeed humor me!

mc-- I like that joke. It's kinda true, actually.....tee hee! Some Baptists are closet drinkers!!! And they most certainly don't have booze at their weddings. Not even at funerals. I'm talking a totally alcohol-free lifestyle here. Grape juice at church instead of wine.

MJ-- yes! I can't believe I forgot that!!! Meetings in the secular world have prayers. You'll see people blessing their food in restaurants....lots of praying here in general. It will surprise you if you're not from 'roun here. And you don't believe in Jesus??? OMG, I am friends with a heathen! *faints*

meish -- Oh, I can't believe I forgot to mention bars! Thank you! On Fridays, bars close at 2am. (This was an adjustment for me, because in IN, they never close before 3am) On Saturdays, it's 1am. You gotta get up the next morning for church, ya know. There are some bars who can get away with staying open later than that, but that is unusual and inconsistent. So yeah, you'll never hear of someone coming home from the bars at 4am. They'd have to explain where they've been for the last 2 hours. ;) I have no idea what the hours are in bars on Sundays. Going out on a Sunday night is pretty much unheard of.....I'm sure college students do it. (This is just in SC, btw. I can't speak for the rest of the South....readers??? Help!)

lowtide-- I can't believe I forgot that! Yes, the SB church is ALWAYS the biggest building (or at least the biggest church) in town. That seems to be their "thing." And yes, church suppers (dinner = lunch, supper = dinner...another weird Southernism) often have 5 types of fried chicken, 3 kinds of mac n cheese, two different sweet potato casseroles and 5 different cakes. And yeah, we always have deviled eggs. I've heard it said that you're not a True Southern Belle unless you own a deviled egg plate. (And in case you're wondering, YES, I do own one.) Oh boy. You brought up The War. That is a whole different can of worms. More about Northern Aggression later. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. ;) Can everyone just hold off on this topic for a bit? We still have to get through football and slang!

Ya know what aspect of religion I forgot to talk about, y'all? We have a higher percentage of Jehovah's Witnesses down here, I think. I know they are everywhere, but I really think we have more of them in the South. You occasionally hear about the little kids who don't have birthday parties or of people who won't accept blood transfusions. If you are scratching your head right now, read the link above. It will explain what I'm talking about. They take the Bible even more literally than the SBs. Witnesses are hard-core.

I'm not sure about this either, but I think we have a large number of open-casket funerals down here. (Readers, I need your help on this one) They kind of creep me out -- we don't do that in my family. But I know some families who only have open-casket. (Ooh, this is a good transition paragraph, as funerals are where food and church intersect!!) Now, when someone dies, everyone in town--even people you haven't seen in years and people you don't know--will bring you food. TONS of food. (I want you to imagine what "tons" of food looks like. Now double it. That's what I'm talking about.) Typical funeral food includes: casseroles, deviled eggs, potato salad, fruit salad, mac n cheese (I swear, someone always brings this!), sliced ham, fried chicken, biscuits, red velvet cake, pound cake, etc. Some people bring booze. (Maybe this is just my family??) Within hours of the passing, your kitchen will be full of food. As in, "Holy cow. Where am I going to put these baked beans??? Seriously???!!" Because people don't just bring small amounts of this stuff. They fill up those aluminum lasagna pans with food. Each person brings food for 20.

Oh, and just because someone stops by to visit for a bit and bring you food doesn't mean they are coming to the funeral. Really, just your closest family friends attend the funeral. Anyone in town can stop by with food. Your neighbors, whom you've never talked to, because they live 3 miles down the road, found out about the death while they were down at the post office, where they heard about it from your youngest son's 2nd grade teacher. Who's on her way to your house with a huge pan of cornbread., even though your youngest son just graduated college and you haven't talked to the teacher in 15 years. So don't be surprised if your neighbors show up to both introduce themselves and give you their condolences. Complete with a pan of creamed corn. (See how things work around here?)

This is why, after the funeral at church, everyone goes back to your house and helps you eat it. There's usually a lot of drinking, too. So I guess, in a way, this is much like a wake. Southerners know that food is the best thing to bring when someone dies because: grieving people don't feel like cooking, lots of people are going to be coming over and you have to feed them, plants might die on you too and it's tacky to give money. So food it is.

Speaking of food...

I forgot to mention tomato aspic. THAT is a Southern dish. Very old-school. If you don't know what it is, imagine tomato Jell-O. "Ew" is right. We also do a lot of chicken n dumplings, but I have heard they eat that out west, so I don't know if that counts as Southern. In Texas, they eat one of my favorite things: brisket. Whatever you do, never turn down brisket. The first time I had it, I think I ate a pound of it in one sitting. It's freakin awesome.

Oh! I forgot to explain "country fried steak" and "hamburger steak". You will see these items on menus in small country towns. Country fried steak is just a steak that has been deep fried like fried chicken. So it has that yummy fried chicken crust on it. It's usually topped with gravy. Hamburger steak is basically a burger in fancy clothes: served without a bun, with mashed potatoes on the side, and covered in sauteed mushrooms and mushroom gravy. It's my brother Fat Dog's meal of choice.

We also fry pickles down here. You'll see those at fairs and festivals. (We pretty much fry everything down here...)

I forgot to mention tomato pie (imagine a quiche, only very heavy on the tomatoes) and the importance of Vidalia onions. They are valued above all other onions. We have oodles of Vidalia onion recipes around here. They come from Georgia, you know.

Anything made with peaches is going to be very popular around here, especially where I live. (Trivia fact for you: Most people think Georgia grows the most peaches, but they don't. SC does.) K's mom makes the best dang peach cobbler I've ever had. I need to get that recipe....

Corn is definitely a diet staple. We've talked about grits, but there's also: corn pones (aka Johnnycake), corn fritters (delicious!), corn pudding, creamed corn, etc.

People down here eat quail. Usually they're deep fried (duh). They look like tiny, deep fried turkeys.

I forgot to mention that sometimes, we stuff our turkeys with oyster dressing, instead of sage or Stove Top or whatever. I mean, it's got breadcrumbs in it, so I guess that's not too weird. I've never had it, but I bet it's good. Again, we love our seafood down here.

I also forgot to mention the importance of Cool Whip to our desserts. Pretty much every dessert has Cool Whip in it, on it or near it! But Jell-o? Not so much. We don't eat a lot of Jell-O here. We are more likely to have some rice pudding around. With a dollop of Cool Whip on top. (Dude, when rice pudding is made correctly, it is to DIE for. Cinnamon and raisins are in it....mmmmmm) Chess pies are popular: lemon chess, chocolate chess, etc. You'll hear of vinegar pie (it's good! It's sweet, I promise!) and that is similar to custard pie or Shoo Fly Pie, which is a little more popular in VA. Peanut brittle and key lime pie are popular down here. So is bread pudding (again, don't knock it 'til you try it!). One of the more popular cakes is red velvet cake, although I have no idea why. People go crazy for it. If you're deep, deep down south, you are familiar with King Cake. We don't have it in my part of the country, though.

In the summer, we eat a lot of local watermelon, nectarines, peaches, blackberries and strawberries. Lots of sweet potatoes, tomatoes, squash and coleslaw. We don't really use cabbage for anything else. And of course, it's got tons of mayo.

Now, if you want to go old school in the dessert department, you'll have benne seed candy. I personally don't care for it, but some people like it. Imagine sesame seed brittle. That's pretty regional, though -- SC and GA mostly. That's something they ate in the 1700s.

Squirrel Nut Zippers are not a rock band down here. They are little wrapped candies, kind of like Mary Janes. Only nuttier. But same idea. We also have Moon Pies and Goo Goo Clusters. You'll see them for sale in convenience stores.

We also have a tendency to put Coca-Cola in things: I've heard of Coca-Cola gravy and one of the most popular recipes in the Belle household is Coca-Cola cake. Some people make 7-Up cake, too. You'll hear of people soaking their peanuts in glasses of Coca-Cola.

Speaking of drinks, there are a lot of bourbon and whiskey drinkers down here. We especially like to use those liquors in punches. The Czarina has a recipe for Charleston Light Dragoon Punch, not to be confused with St. Cecilia's Punch. (More on St. Cecilia later...) Wine made from muscadine grapes is also popular. Oh, you'll love to know this little trivia fact: Coors beers were not available on the east coast until....hmmm. I would say the last 30 years or so. Pabst Blue Ribbon was popular, I think.

Cheerwine is a Southern soda pop. It tastes like a combination between cherry soda and Dr. Pepper. Another soda pop we have is RC Cola. It's getting hard to find, now, along with Nehi (pronounced "knee-high", because that's how tall the bottles used to be). Nehi comes in grape and orange...maybe some other flavors, too. It's very popular with children. I haven't seen it since I was a kid. SunDrop is sort of a Mountain Dew knock-off. That's hard to find, too. People who like it LOVE it, though.

Old ladies drink buttermilk sometimes. You'll see it on the menu in mom n pop restaurants in rural areas. Yeah, I don't get it either. Every restaurant in town serves crab cakes. At least, in SC they do. Oh shoot, I'm trying to hold off on restaurant stuff or else this will be too long...I guess I should at least mention that there's a Waffle House on every corner here. That's where you can have your hashbrowns smothered and covered.

Last but not least, the best recipes come from Southern Living or Paula Deen. (She is a culinary goddess down here!)

WHEW! Have I forgotten anything this time??? I promise football is next!


The Frog Princess said...

VB, you have NO IDEA how homesick you're making me! Thank heavens I'll be able to eat my way through KY, TN, and NC in less than two whole weeks! I'd sell my soul for some real sweet tea and fried chicken.

Can you believe that some waitress here in Yankee Land wanted to beat me up because I said the fried chicken just wasn't as good as what I was used to? Sheesh! These Yankees don't have a CLUE when it comes to frying chicken!

tallglassofvino said...

pralines. pralines. pralines.
and po'boys. red beans and rice.

I went straight from Hawaii to S.Carolina, and my culture shock was BIG. The pervasive love of pork didn't faze me, but all the jello products sure did. (I experienced this in the midwest, too - Indianapolis, but also southern Indy, where my ex-husband is from. His mother made some wacky desserts, for sure!)

But pralines. And good, GOOD, red beans & rice - I sure do miss that.

cmk said...

I am SOOO amazed at how much you mentioned reminds me of us here in the great white north! I swear, the UP of Michigan must have been carved out of a piece of the south and put down on the shore of Lake Superior! Too much to go into, but believe me, we are more alike in many ways, than not.

Meghan (The Declaration of MY Independence) said...

OK so maybe I'm enjoying these posts a little too much. Peeps are probably like "Gawd! Doesnt she have a life?" But I do! I promise! haha.

So about them keg parties....
Hospitality is not that big up here. It is conisdered lucky (esp. in my household being that I am NOT a good hostess) for those people to get those two bags of chips. But honestly people dont mind. They're more concerned if theres beer there, and the fact that its free is really all they care about. If they get hungry I can heat up some chicken nuggets or something later.

Old southern ladies scare me. They are either two extremes. They're either crazy and out of control or they are the epitamy of class. Either way the intimidate the hell out of me.

Alright so heres the deal. Give me the recipe and I'll give it to Al to make. Believe me, he hasnt made anything low fat ever in his life. Everything is fried in bacon grease and he loves Helmanns. This is the boy that puts pats of putter on a peanut butter sandwich...blech!

Alright, so that church thing is starting to make sense to me. Now I can understand why its always such a big gathering. My friend that switched from SB was from Alabama, which to my understanding is the central headquarters of the bible belt. I'm not sure what her parents though about the change. Her and I didnt really talk about religion just for the fact that she was extremely religious and I was extremely not. Funny thing-Alex calls girls from Alabama "Bama Boobs". He said when he was driving through there once, he got flashed like 6 times! So much for the bible belt!

Funerals here are open casket, but I think that just may be a Catholic thing...I'm not quite sure though. I for one, like it (gosh, dont I sound morbid?) because it kind of gives me closure. No one really brings food. Usually after the burial, you go to a fire hall or church hall and have catered food there. Alchool is present for most occasions in my family b/c we're very Irish...haha.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE moon pies and goo goo clusters. I could consume so many of these that I would throw up, and then I would probably go back for more. You guys also have the cereal called "Oh's" down there. Every summer in NC, I grab like 3 boxes to take home with me. I love that cereal. Also, PBR is my most favorite beer. I love how cheap it is. Usually bars in NC have MAD specials on it too. This makes my vacation.

Oh, one more thing. The one thing that I cannot STAND about southern "culture" (im using that word loosely here) is that whole damn "northern aggression" thing. I heard that they were actually teaching kids in school down there that the south WON the war! It makes me sick to see how many confederate flags are out and about down there. Us Yankees refer to these people as "hilly billies and white trash". They need to let it go. I'm glad they aren't as prominant as they used to be.

Matilda Jane said...

Ok ok... let me clarify a little without going into a long shpeil... I do believe that Jesus existed... but I don't believe in all the hoopla about the 'son of god' and water into wine and all that. He was apparently a good man, but I don't know about all those 'miracles' he performed... the bible having been written after his death and with the availability of hallucinagenic drugs... I DO believe in God, or a God...

PS - do you know who the 2nd greatest peach-growing state is? New Jersey. I sh*t you not. I know I wouldn't eat anything grown in dirty Jersey.

Stuck said...

New Yorkers are all so bitter because the light at the end of their tunnel is New Jersey.

And VB... if you don't post about football in the next installment, I quit reading your blog. You've teased us with it for the past three long-ass posts.

Jonathan Zero said...

About 15 years ago a resturaunt in Raleigh, NC had on its dessert menu:

RC Cola and a moonpie, pack of salted peanuts were an option. (The peanuts were to be dropped in the cola but I think you mention that in the post.)

Salisbury, NC(which I live near) is the home of Cheerwine and as most folks know Food Lion. They have cheerwine sherbet and sun drop sherbet as well as cheerwine/vanilla swirled ice cream.

Goodberry's are mostly found in NC around the Triangle area of Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Durham but they have one in Myrtle Beach so I recommend it big time. They have a thing called the Carolina Concrete which is their frozen custard with a flavor added then mixed in with peanuts or almonds or other toppings and then blended so thick that they serve it to you upside down.

Coco said...

I used to live off of chicken friend steak and fried okra when I was a kid. I had no concept of how it would contribute to my "extra baggage" in the future. :) I also love RC Cola-but can't ever seem to find it.

I live and die by Paula Deen's food (and I have a bit of a crush on one of her sons). Have you tried her Not Yo Mama's Banana Puddin'? It's AMAZING. I have made it so many times and people always gush over it.

lenfercestlesautres said...

You mean, really, there's no wine in VA? Shit.

Anonymous said...

With all these Southern delicacies, it is no wonder I weigh almost 300 pounds. After reading this post, I am starving. I am going home for lunch to have a tomato sandwich with some Duke's mayonnaise and a glass of iced tea the size of your head.

Jess said...

Would you be terribly surprised to know that the dinner=supper, lunch=dinner thing is not exclusively Southern? I grew up on farm in Minnesota (although it was Southern Minnesota ... hmmmm) and that's what I've always called it.

Same thing with bringing food when someone dies. When each of my grandparents died, people were bringing food to our house and to their house and to my other relatives who lived in the area. Rural life in the Midwest isn't all that different than rural life in the South.

Also, I've never been to a closed-casket funeral. But I think I've been to just one non-Catholic funeral.

RWA said...

We have volunteer fire departments in our rural areas here too.

And, alcohol sales are state-controlled (tax and state liquor stores), but individual counties decided to be "wet" or "dry." There are private liquor stores as well.

A "wet" county can have different Sunday policies too. Some allow no sales on Sunday. Others allow it after noon. Some allow it all the time. Some allow sales at restaurants but require you to have a "membership" to buy it.

You've done a great job with these posts. People can read these and get a true "feel" for the South.

Well done, VB.

coffeesnob said...

these forays are fascinating. and engaginly told. but this is the most disgusting food i've ever heard of. anywhere. it's like everyone wants to be obese.

Gypsy said...

I loved reading about all the southern food. I can't tell you how many people are under the mistaken impression that North Florida is not the south. Because it so is. And the food around here is very southern. Take our restaurant -- we serve fried green tomatoes, fried mullet, BBQ, cheese grits, cornbread, buttermilk cheddar biscuits with ham and Tupelo honey mustard, collard greens...