New Magazine Column is Ready for You

Beach Pie 3

 

The Jan/Feb 2016 issue of Blue Ridge Country magazine has hit the streets and it is bigger than usual.  It’s the travel issue, telling you all about wonderful places to visit in our area.  Call it our vacation planner issue.  Anyway, my travel-themed column is ready for you online and I hope you enjoy it.  It includes a recipe, a first for me. Of course, it’s a pie recipe.  Y’all know me.  Here’s the link.

http://blueridgecountry.com/newsstand/mill-creek-stories/the-car-wants-to-go-to-north-carolina/

 

 

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This Old House

A brand, spanking new column is up at the Blue Ridge Country magazine web site.  It’s entitled “This Old House.”  I am tickled pink with this one, as it gives y’all a fairly accurate peek into our life here in the Valley.  It’s less Country Living and more Psychology Today than you might guess.  As always, your comments are welcomed both here and at the magazine site, where they’re constantly evaluating my popularity and/or law suit potential.  Love y’all.

Mill Creek Stories Column: This Old House

2015 New Year Lucky Meal

 

New Year Day Dinner

In the South, we invite luck and prosperity to the new year by cooking certain foods on New Year’s Day.  Here is my celebration meal: rice and Hoppin’ John for plenty to eat because as long as you have beans and rice you’ll be okay; collard greens, the color of money, to invite cash to visit your pocket; likewise, cornbread, the color of gold, to attract wealth; and fried chicken, because there is nothing better.

I wish you health, happiness, and good fortune in 2015.  Good luck to us all, y’all!

Banned Book Week

Hello, my friends.  This is banned book week, 21 – 27 September 2014, where we celebrate having access to books that someone else decided at one time were too controversial, too provocative, too real, too eye-opening, too mind-expanding for our delicate sensibilities.  As if anyone knows better than you what will help you understand the world, become a better person, expand your perspective, and live a better life.

I hope you’ll find and read some of the books that have previously been banned or worse, burned by the unquestioning and easily controlled.  The mass is easily manipulated.  Just ask any Border collie. Reading banned books is a simple act of defiance but a powerful one.  You can Google the banned books list.  You will be surprised by what classics made the list, deemed too offensive for human eyes.  It is impossible to read this list and not think, “What were they thinking?”  Well, they weren’t thinking but they still thought they knew what was best for you.  Beware of people who claim to know what’s best for you, particularly if you are over the age of twelve.

I leave you with a quote from my favorite banned book, To Kill A Mockingbird.  I can not imagine growing up in the South and not being able to read this classic tale.  You know what?  It does not matter that Harper Lee never wrote another book, because this one is just that good.

To Kill A Mockingbird taught me that not all gruff people are truly mean, sadly that justice does not always prevail, that people’s fears are a far greater motivator than their sense of fairness, and that courage is found in quiet deeds at home as well as on dramatic battlefields.

Read a banned book.  Don’t let other people control your life.

To Kill A Mockingbird

Mayberry, R.I.P.

andy

(This piece first appeared on my old blog in August, 2012.  With the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, I thought it timely to post this piece once again.)

 

I grew up in Mayberry, RFD. Officially, the show was named The Andy Griffith Show for most of its on-air life, but the location was Mayberry and that’s how I remember it. RFD for those who don’t know, stands for rural free delivery. What it technically means to the post office, I can’t tell you. What it means to the world is that the post office services an area so small and intimate that an address is barely necessary. I received mail with nothing more on the envelope than my name, county, and state. The postman knew everyone, had time to chat, had time to lend a hand to the elderly on his route if needed. The postman was the thread that connected all.

In this world, my daddy was Andy Taylor and I was Opie. Dad wasn’t the sheriff.   He was a state trooper, but in our county if you were in danger you called the state police. Our local sheriff was a sorry excuse of a man. He took his phone off the hook every Friday afternoon and didn’t put it back until Sunday evening. If you got in trouble on the weekend, and the weekend is where trouble thrives, you got a busy signal on the sheriff’s line.

How did he keep getting elected? That’s a good question. The sheriff’s wife was the head public health nurse for the county. When she delivered medicines to the poor in the months before the elections, she’d tell the recipients that if her husband didn’t win she might be so distraught she’d be unable to continue delivering their prescriptions. So he got re-elected standing on blood pressure medicine and insulin. As I said, sorry excuse of a man.

Just like Mayberry, we had a courthouse square with the obligatory statue and ancient shade trees. There was a drugstore with a soda fountain that made excellent grilled cheese sandwiches. Their strawberry milkshake was pretty special, too. The gas station would let you pump gas and settle up with them on payday if you were in a tight spot, just like Goober and Gomer. There was no stop light in the entire county. There were more historic battlefield markers than there were stop signs.

It was a great place to be a kid. Just like Opie, I lived in the land of dirt roads, fishing holes, and ice cream socials. My world was populated by women who planned for months to show off their skills in the county fair, just like Aunt Bea with her pickles. There was a barber shop like Floyd’s that was more men’s social club than a working hair stylist. Until I was six, there were party lines and an operator on the phone system, though her name wasn’t Sarah.

We even had our version of Otis, the town drunk. I wonder what would happen to Otis now that law enforcement is sitting squarely in the military surplus world of fear-based policy decisions? Otis is still just an alcohol-addled, stubborn nuisance every payday, but now he’s seen as a menacing threat by people wearing riot gear. This development will not end well for poor Otis.

I remember my daddy talking a thoroughly drunk and completely naked Otis down out of a maple tree where he was singing a shaky version of Beautiful Dreamer and driving him home to sleep it off. I can’t help but think that today poor Otis would be tear-gassed, tasered, handcuffed, and tossed in jail if he lived through the process at all. It seems like overkill, when kindness works just as well, maybe better.

So I was personally sorry to hear that Andy Griffith, the actor who so completely inhabited and molded Mayberry, passed away recently. I hold Mayberry as a touchstone for a time when I was happy, carefree, and cared for. Neighbors knew and took care of each other because it was the right thing to do. If a farmer fell sick with crops in the field, those crops were anonymously harvested and put up. Livestock was fed and milked morning and evening until the farmer was back on his feet.

If someone got sick or died, God forbid, women descended on the family’s home with casseroles, ham, and baked goods, scrubbed the house into company-ready status, and got the lawn cut. All was done without thought of acknowledgment. It was simply the right thing to do. It was also done because you knew that when you hit a rough patch, your neighbors would drop everything and be there without you having to suffer the embarrassment of asking for assistance.

This abiding sense of community was shown every week on Mayberry. Now that Andy Griffith is gone, he’s pulled the last remnants of Mayberry into the mists with him and I will forever miss it. Andy Griffith played Sheriff Andy Taylor with the three qualities that could still save our world: grace, generosity, and good humor.

Good-bye, old friend.

Southern Vernacular

scarlet

 

Honesty is the best policy. Except when it’s not. That’s the crux of Southern-speak, right there. You’ll find yourself wandering into the “except when it’s not” territory more than you ever thought possible. You might even end up forwarding your mail there, you’re in it so often.

This goes far beyond the old comic line, “Do these pants make my butt look big?” Really? People, unless you need to quickly assess whether or not your partner is experiencing suicidal tendencies, why would you ever ask a question like that? Baiting your partner with land mine questions is not cool. And for those of you who are stuck in the remedial relationship class, the answer to that question is always, “Why no, Honey. In fact, I was just thinking that you look very pretty today.”

No, Southern-speak can be far more subtle. We learned it watching our parents and our grandparents, so we can spot it and drop it without thinking. For those of you who were not raised Southern, well, you obviously need some assistance. Here I am, a public service peach, ready to help.

“I’m just being ugly.”

This phrase has nothing to do with physical attractiveness. All Southern women are beautiful and we know it. This phrase refers to behavior, speech, or attitude. The speaker is announcing that they have slipped into some serious hatefulness. It’s a half-hearted apology and/or acknowledgement that yes, we are indeed being a world-class bitch but we’re not quite finished yet. Recognizing you have a problem is the first step back towards “nice lady” behavior.

“You’d best be getting to it.” or “You’d best not do that.”

Other regions might use the “You’d better. . . .” but in the South, we have ramped up our seriousness on the good-better-best scale. When we say you’d best, we are quite earnest that you should or should not do whatever we are discussing. This also implies a certain amount of urgency.

“You go right ahead.”

Under no circumstances are you to proceed with whatever you are contemplating if you’ve heard this from your mate. It is not permission, it is a warning. In fact, if you’ve pushed hard enough, you might hear this phrase delivered in an even clearer manner. “You go right ahead, I dare you.”

 “Bless your heart.”

This one is pretty well-known yet still confuses people. We are not the Pope. We ain’t blessing nobody. This is our go-to substitute for anything rude we might think when we realize you’re not very bright. We understand you could just be having a bad day. Everyone suffers moments of stupidity. I warn you though, if we say “bless your heart” and pat your hand, you’ve just said or done something so peculiar that it has convinced us your mother still has to dress you or worse, you’re a ward of the state. Which would explain a lot about you, actually.

 “Fine.”

This one is practically universal, so I’m surprised that people are still confused about its true meaning. If you are in a discussion with your mate and they say “fine,” particularly if they deliver it with any degree of finality, this is not agreement. If anything, it is agreement’s bastard evil twin. It is a warning shot across your bow. The “fine” cannon has been fired. Stop talking. Stop doing what you’re doing. Back out of the room quietly. Maybe get in the car and go for a long drive. Don’t broach the subject ever again.

I can understand the source of this confusion. I have poked about all the dictionaries I could find. American Heritage, Merriam-Webster, Oxford American and they all get it wrong, wrong, so very wrong. Just one dictionary comes close to giving the correct definite of the word “fine.” The Urban Dictionary captures the essence of the word, which I will paraphrase here.

Fine: meant to signal the abrupt end of an argument. Also see: Go fuck yourself.

Any questions?

Fat-Bottomed Girls

Chicken dinner

 

There’s a saying here in the South that we do not like to admit is true. We like to think of ourselves as evolved, strong, dare I say even refined. Underneath our perfect pedicures, perfect blonde highlights, and perfect Talbot’s ensembles lurks a dirt road tomboy hungry for mama’s cooking. Yes sirreee, “It ain’t fit to eat if it ain’t fried.”

My weakness for fried food is hard coded in my DNA. I’m certain that I was weaned from mother’s milk straight to fried chicken as a toddler. Otherwise, I can not explain the visceral reaction I have to the smell of hot grease. My knees buckle a little and my mouth starts to water. The smell triggers genuine primal desire and woe be to anyone standing between me and the source of deep-fried deliciousness. This is why I have never, ever owned a deep fryer. I knew that I could not be trusted with one in my house.

My brother-in-law Bull got a deep fryer one Christmas. He wore it out. Broke it from overuse. Swore he wasn’t going to replace it. Somehow a brand new one managed to sneak into his kitchen as if the grease fairy had delivered it in the night. How did that get here?

Not to let an appliance go to waste, the new fryer got fired up and put to good use in no time at all. I have listened to Bull wax rhapsodic about fresh French fries at midnight, okra as snack food (it’s a vegetable you know), and hot doughnuts on Sunday mornings. If a man can love something with a plug, Bull is definitely engaged to his fryer.

I am what polite, artsy people refer to as Rubenesque. To put it plainly, I’m a big girl. I am also diabetic. I have no business even looking at deep fryers. Yet I found myself in Kohl’s department store one day in the kitchen section. I was holding a 30% off coupon. Small appliances were already marked down. I could have gotten a waffle iron, I guess.   I could have chosen the sno-cone machine. I could have walked across the aisle to Women’s Shoes and gotten those adorable espadrilles I found. I think we all know where this is going. I bought the deep fryer. Cue Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls on the iPod for the occasion.

When I got home with my new favorite appliance, my husband Gruff could not believe it. I think his exact words were, “Woman, have you lost your mind?”

“But Bull just adores his fryer, and I had a coupon, plus it was already on sale!”

“Bull weighs less than one of your legs and he is not diabetic. What were you thinking?”

“I had a really good coupon and it was on sale and, and, and I wanted it, okay?”

“Fine. It’s your funeral. I suppose you want me to break down some chicken to inaugurate your new doomsday device?”

“Yes, please. That would be lovely.”

The deep fryer has been all I dreamed and more. Oh my God, the fried chicken!  It’s been smack-your-mama delicious.  Fish and chips so fresh and crisp, it would make any Anglophile weep.  Peach hand pies, the filling sweet and the crust shattering with every bite.  So good.  Oh and French fries in minutes is like the best thing ever.  I love crinkle cut fries.

After getting a couple meals out of the Ore-Ida sack, I was reading the empty package. It seems that the good people at Ore-Ida think their package holds 11 servings. Eleven? They are misinformed. There must be some problem on the production line that they need to be made aware of. Their bag only holds four servings. That’s misleading the consumer. Eleven servings. Please. You’d think my endocrinologist mandated those portion sizes to Ore-Ida. You know, I don’t think I’ll mention to my doctor that I am the proud owner of a new deep fryer. The news might just make her cry.

Gruff’s right. I have lost my mind. I’m insane. I am indulging in self-destructive behavior. I should be ashamed. I am a weak, pathetic woman. I am also a woman who’s having hot doughnuts this Sunday! Oh happy, happy, joy, joy!