Something Southern: Three Degrees of Separation

You’ve probably heard of the theory of six degrees of separation.  It’s this idea that everybody and everything is connected by six degrees or less.  There even used to be a social media site around this back in the late 90s, early 2000s (it’s where I met my husband, actually).

In the south, it’s a lot more like three degrees of separation.  If you’ve ever met a Southerner, chances are if the conversation lasts long enough, they’ll ask who your people are.  Some of this is a holdover from our Scots-Irish ancestry (they are other cultures who will take forty-five minutes and a pint to sort out how you’re connected).  Some of it is that the South is just one big small town.  Mississippi, in particular, is VERY much the poster child for this kind of thing.  But it happens on the internet, too.

Example:

I just recently read Jamie Farrell’s Southern Fried Blues.  Sidebar: It is fabulous and funny and she’s going on my auto-buy list.  Double squee cannon salute!  Anyway, because I loved it, I totally fangirl stalked Jamie and struck up a conversation on Facebook to tell her how much I was enjoying it (because I’m on a kick of actually acting to share compliments when I think them because I figure people need to know these things).  So we’ve been talking some as I popped up for play by play laughter while I read.  She spent a decade in Georgia as a military wife, and it came out in our conversation last night that her neighbor there went to Ole Miss.  As this is my alma mater, I automatically asked, Oh yeah, do you know what year?  ’99-’00.  This is smack dab in the middle of when I was there.  She mentions her neighbor was in a sorority.  Well, I was in that sorority!  So I ask her name and go look her up on Facebook (because my brain is a mite fuzzy on just names these days).  Turns out her neighbor was totally one of my sorority sisters.

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The South is a very very small world.

Something Southern: Coke

We Southerners have a reputation for laziness in certain sectors.  One of the most well-known is in how we deal with soft drinks.  All soft drinks/pops/sodas (for you Yankees and midwesterners) are Coke.

I actually come from a Coca-cola family (my great granddaddy owned a Coca-cola bottling plant in the Mississippi Delta forever ago), so it’s definitely Coke products in my family.  There’s a family story about one of my mom’s uncles who was playing  around on the catwalks and fell INTO the vat of grape syrup.  He was purple for A MONTH.

This is another quirk of the South…putting salted peanuts in your Coke!  I know, it sounds wonky, but don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!

Something Southern: Who are you shipping on Hart of Dixie?

I haven’t watched the first episode of Season 4 yet (that’s my plan for lunch today), but I’ve been eagerly awaiting it.  Hart of Dixie is one of those shows that kind of snuck in and got under my skin last year.  Right after New Year’s, I was struck with a hideous stomach flu and was home for several days generally feeling like death warmed over.  After I’d had my fill of period drama (aka Downton Abbey, which I still have not forgiven for the end of Season 3 and have not watched again), I stumbled onto Hart of Dixie.

I loved this show.  It does, in my opinion, capture the charicatures and absurdities of life in the South in a way that’s far more accurate than MOST representations.  I feel convinced that at least some of the writers are legitimately southern.  We are a culture that embraces our crazies and have all kinds of strange traditions.  As I was, at that time, finalizing the plot for To Get Me To You, it was exactly what I needed to watch to get my head in the right space for writing about the south in a way that people from outside would understand.  And I blew through everything available.

If you haven’t watched the show at all and don’t want spoilers, you should totally leave now.

Still here?  Okay then.

When I got through Season 1 I was absolutely shipping Zoe and George.  They were PERFECT FOR EACH OTHER.  When Zoe ended up with Wade, I was FURIOUS (even though the writer in me appreciated the conflict and pacing).  I couldn’t see how Wade and Zoe could EVER really fit.  And of course, I despised Lemon because you’re SUPPOSED to despise her.  All the back and forth drove me nuts–when Zoe was available, George wasn’t.  Then when George was available, Zoe wasn’t.  And then she left.  And then she came back.  And then there was Joel who was all..wha???  And then he was gone and Zoe realized she was in love with Wade for real.

Somebody at some point compared Zoe to a hurricane, and this isn’t an inaccurate description.  If she hadn’t shown up, George would’ve married Lemon, who would’ve remained stuck in her bitchy debutante who can’t do anything for herself role.  Wade would never have made anything of himself.  AB would never have stepped outside the zone of the Belles to date Lavon (and can I tell you how much I ship those two?  Lavon had BETTER come to his senses this season!).  Zoe upset the status quo, and that was a really fabulous thing all around because it caused GROWTH.  And, of course, she grew too.

Left on her own, Lemon stepped out of her comfort zone and became a restauranteur.  Not that she had experience at this–but she made it work (well, there was that awful fire at Fancy’s, but that’s another story).  She gained confidence and became more tolerable and human.  She’s becoming somebody that I can finally see George with (since I feel sure that’s where the writers are going with season 4).  Wade wanted to become the kind of man Zoe could be proud of and he made something of himself (with the unlikely partner of Lemon–that was a fascinating thing to watch), and now she has to woo him back, which she swore to do at the end of season 3).   And coming back to Lemon, now she’s gone off on this singles cruise, with both George and Lavon running after her (Lavon, honey, you need to get over this and realize that Anna Beth is perfect for you).  So season 4 is going to be off with a bang, I feel sure.  And there’s also the rumor I heard that Rachel Bilson (Zoe)’s real life pregnancy is going to be written into to the show–so WHO’S THE FATHER GOING TO BE?  Lots of drama.

SO, Who are you shipping for this season of Hart of Dixie?

Something Southern: Cornbread Dressin’

We’re coming up on Thanksgiving here in the U.S. and that brings up a great and powerful debate:

Dressin’ (no there is no “g”) vs. Stuffing

In the South, the rule is hands down cornbread dressin’.  And it goes in a casserole dish, not inside the bird itself (which is a highly questionable practice from an avoiding salmonella standpoint anyway).  This is a moist and delicious side that goes with the turkey.  There is some debate whether turkey or chicken goes IN the dressin’ (The answer?  NO, IT DOESN’T–this is a side dish for the turkey, not a casserole for a church potluck).  But one area where, I think, most Southerners agree, dressin’ is never ever made with sweet cornbread.   None of your blue box Jiffy crap.  Cornbread dressin’ should be made with proper (preferably homemade) buttermilk cornbread.

And here, I am sharing with you my grandmother’s dressin’ recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 1 cup of diced celery
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup (I use 98% fat free) (Note for gluten free folks, Pacific foods cream of soups are the best option I’ve found for both soups.)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup (also 98% fat free)
  • 5-6 slices of white bread, torn into pieces (Note for gluten free eaters, I have used this bread successfully–but cut down to 4 thin slices…it absorbs more liquid)
  • 2 pans good, homemade cornbread [I highly recommend this recipe] (if you go with a mix, do NOT under any circumstances buy sweet cornbread–it DOES NOT WORK for this recipe–STEP AWAY FROM THE JIFFY MIX–find a mix that says buttermilk cornbread–and for heaven’s sake, use a cast iron skillet to cook it. You only do this once a year, so do it right.)
  • 1 pinch (1/8th tsp) poultry seasoning
  • good chicken stock (either roast your own chicken and boil the skin and bones, or buy a rotisserie one at the grocery, have a couple meals off of it, and boil the skin and bones of that–see my post about batch cooking for how to make your own chicken stock).
  • 6 eggs

Directions

  1. This works best if you bake the cornbread the day before and allow it to dry out overnight.
  2. Crumble the cornbread into a large bowl. Add the 2 cans of soup and mix well.
  3. Add the onions and celery and the eggs. Mix well.
  4. Add the white bread. Mix well.
  5. Add enough chicken stock to make the consistency just on the soupy side of moist.
  6. Add poultry seasoning. Mix well. Please note there is NO SAGE in this recipe. It overpowers the other flavors. Don’t use it.
  7. Pour the mixture into a 9×13 casserole dish.
  8. You may freeze the dressin at this point if you’re making it ahead of time. Just be sure to thaw completely before popping it in the oven at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes. The edges should be golden brown.
  9. If you like moister dressin’, drizzle more chicken stock over the dressin’ before baking. If you like it dryer, don’t add as much.
  10. Serve with turkey and giblet gravy (if you’re into giblet gravy…I’m not…the rest of my family is).

 

Something Southern: Christmas Open House Aberdeen, MS

Over the weekend, some girlfriends and I drove up to Aberdeen, MS for a holiday open house.  Aberdeen is right around the size of my fictional town, Wishful, so I was really curious to see how they’d do things up for the holiday.  I could tell as we were walking around downtown, that I’ve spent way too much time in Norah Burke’s head because everywhere I looked, I kept channeling her, thinking what she’d do to fix up this or market that.

We started off our downtown pilgrimage by hitting up Ruth’s Warehouse, a florist, floral supply shop that had broken out all the stops for the open house.  A long, narrow storefront, the front half of the shop was decked out in Christmas trees of all ilks, displaying ornaments and other holiday wares for sale.  Me being me, I spotted the shop cat in a corner and immediately went over to say hello.  She climbed right on up my knee, so I picked her up and carried her around while I browsed.  According to the owners, Miss Matty doesn’t generally take to people.  I think she saw me as a willing savior from all the feet!

A buffet of treats was spread out in the central portion of the store, featuring homemade fudge, cookies, chips and rotel cheese dip, pimento cheese sandwiches, and…watermelon.   In November.  Curse my dairy allergy, there was pretty much nothing I could eat (which was probably for the best–I don’t care for watermelon, and I had an armful of kitty anyway).  On my return trip from the back of the store, where there was every kind of ribbon and ornament known to man, a quartet of pickers and fiddlers and a lone mandolin player struck up a rousing rendition of “The Battle of New Orleans.”  I felt like I’d stepped into a scene from my own books!

We wandered through the antique store and the children’s store, and ended our trip at Kimmel Bakery and Sweet Shoppe, home of a pretty amazing selection of homemade fudge.  I was nice and brought home some peanut butter fudge for hubby.  It was cute and kitschy and exactly the right tone for a Sunday afternoon with my girlfriends.

Of course, now it’s got me wondering what’s going on in Wishful this time of year, which has me plotting again.  There’s a second chance romance brewing…

Something Southern: SEC Football

I’m up to my eyeballs in the final stretch of my book, so I’m turning this over to three other writers who have captured the absolute effervescent joy I’m feeling over the Ole Miss and Mississippi State victories this past Saturday.

 

1. One big Saturday in Mississippi: Ole Miss upsets Alabama as Mississippi State celebrates win over Texas A&M

You didn’t get goose bumps from a late-morning Starkville din so loud it seemed set to jar loose the Mississippi-Alabama borderline and hurl it nearer Tuscaloosa. You didn’t hurry along 98 miles of mid-afternoon roads past cotton in a field and an armadillo on the roadside and a great big hush that gave way only to the very occasional lawnmower. You didn’t hear the early-evening roar that can stem from an Alabama kickoff fumble trickling across an Ole Miss field in a 17-17 strife.

You didn’t feel this whole fall turn all Mississippi on us.

It’s terrible to rub it in, but you didn’t witness a terrific Mississippi State quarterback named Dak carve up a Texas A&M defense until Aggies seemed to look at each other thinking, Why’d they put us in the SEC, anyway? You didn’t drive through West Point and Egypt and Okolona and Troy and Pontotac, or see the sign pointing to “Downtown Okolona.” (Whew!) You didn’t see the goal posts come down in Oxford or hear Ole Miss defensive end Robert Nkemdiche tell how a confident Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze told his players in pre-game, “Be sure to move out of the way when they tear the goal posts down.”…CONTINUE READING.

2. Growing up in Mississippi, Ole Miss, MSU rise especially gratifying

 

This will start out with one assumption, maybe two. One, most of you have never lived in Mississippi. Two, most of you are happy about that.

Now we’ll move onto one fact, maybe two. One, for the first time, the Ole Miss andMississippi State football teams are ranked in the top five of the Associated Press Top 25.

Two, I’m from Mississippi. And happy about that.

So I’ll forgive you for not understanding just how awesome this week is for my people back home, if you’ll forgive me for agreeing with those people — that yes, this is awesome. It’s awesome and it’s been a long time coming, and it’s beyond perfect that neither the Rebels nor Bulldogs have bragging rights because they are actually tied for No. 3 in the latest AP poll.  CONTINUE READING.

 

3. ESPN producer calls Oxford best GameDay experience ever

 

Lee Fitting has produced College GameDay for 11 years. He’s been intimately involved in planning and monitoring shows across nearly every major football campus in the United States.

Saturday was the show’s first visit to Oxford, Miss. Guest picker Katy Perry made quite a splash, and then the Ole Miss Rebels beat the Alabama Crimson Tide, ranked No. 1 in the Coaches Poll, in a thriller.

“This was the best on-campus experience I’ve been part of as Game Day producer,” Fitting said in an email to Sports Illustrated on Sunday night. “It wasn’t a show, it was an event, and it was because you have such a great natural character in The Grove. You have an incredible recipe – a picture perfect setting, with thousands upon thousands of people that all share an unmatched passion for their school, their team and their sport.

“The buzz throughout the weekend was awesome. There were times when the production truck was actually shaking. … It’s a place, and an event, that every college football fan has to experience in person.”

That’s a huge compliment coming from Fitting. Yes, it’s in his best interests to pump up the show and say good things about the schools that welcome ESPN. But that’s not your typical pat on the head.

Fitting also said GameDay, which is in Starkville, Miss., this week, could return to The Grove on Nov. 1 for Auburn-Ole Miss.

Saturday’s show — in between Perry’s corn dog tosses — focused on one of the most celebrated places to tailgate in the United States rather than the history of Rebels football…  CONTINUE READING.