OT: Thoughts on the true South

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Emmylou Harris, playing in Ahoy, Rotterdam, Th...

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English: A southern breakfast of grits, toast ...

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As a southerner born and bred, I have found a lot of people from other parts of the country and the world have very stereotyped notions of what life is like for us. Someone from “up North” recently asked me if we had indoor plumbing. I assured her that not only did we have plumbing, we had electricity, city water and that new-fangled internet thing.

I am not saying there aren’t backward, ignorant redneck types here. But I have discovered you’ll find those kinds of people pretty much everywhere you go. The accents may be different, but their outlook is the same.

I ran across this essay written by a Mississippis restauranteur and I thought some of you ladies might enjoy it.

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This was written by Robert St. John, executive chef and owner of the Purple Parrot Cafe, Crescent City Grill and Mahogany Bar of Hattiesburg, MS. and sent to me by a friend on my block.
Thirty years ago I visited my first cousin in Virginia. While hanging out with his friend, the discussion turned to popular movies of the day.
When I offered my two-cents on the authenticity and social relevance of the movie Billy Jack, one of the boys asked, in all seriousness; “Do you guys have movie theaters down there?” To which I replied, “Yep. We wear shoes too.”
Just three years ago, my wife and I were attending a food and wine seminar in Aspen, Colo. We were seated with two couples from Las Vegas.
One of the Glitter Gulch gals was amused and downright rude when I described our restaurant as a fine-dining restaurant. “Mississippi doesn’t have fine-dining restaurants!” she exclaimed and nudged her companion. I fought back the strong desire to mention that she lived in the land that invented the 99-cent breakfast buffet.

I wanted badly to defend my state and my restaurant with a 15-minute soliloquy and public relations rant that would surely change her mind.

It was at that precise moment that I was hit with a blinding jolt of enlightenment, and in a moment of complete and absolute clarity it dawned on me — my South is the best-kept secret in the country. Why would I try to win this woman over? She might move down here.
I am always amused by Hollywood’s interpretation of the South. We are still, on occasion, depicted as a collective group of sweaty, stupid, backwards-minded and racist rednecks. The South of movies and TV, the Hollywood South, is not my South.
This is my South:
a. My South is full of honest, hard-working people.
 
b. My South is colorblind. In my South, we don’t put a premium on pigment. No one cares whether you are black, white, red or green with orange polka dots.
 
c. My South is the birthplace of blues and jazz, and rock n’ roll. It has banjo pickers and fiddle players, but it also has B.B. King, Muddy Waters, the Allman Brothers, Emmylou Harris and Elvis.
 
d. My South is hot.
 
e. My South smells of newly mowed grass.
 
f. My South was the South of The Partridge Family, Hawaii 5-0 and kick the can.
 
 g. My South was creek swimming, cane-pole fishing and bird hunting.
 
h. In my South, football is king, and the Southeastern Conference is the kingdom. i. My South is home to the most beautiful women on the planet.
 
 j. In my South, soul food and country cooking are the same thing. k. My South is full of fig preserves, cornbread, butter beans, fried chicken, grits and catfish.
 
l. In my South we eat foie gras, caviar and truffles.
 
 m. In my South, our transistor radios introduced us to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones at the same time they were introduced to the rest of the country.
 
 n. In my South, grandmothers cook a big lunch every Sunday.
 
 o. In my South, family matters, deeply.
 
p. My South is boiled shrimp, blackberry cobbler, peach ice cream, banana pudding and oatmeal cream pies.
 
 q. In my South people put peanuts in bottles of Coca Cola and hot sauce on almost everything.
 
r. In my South the tea is iced and almost as sweet as the women.
 
 s. My South has air-conditioning. t. My South is camellias, azaleas, wisteria and hydrangeas.
 
u. In my South, the only person that has to sit on the back of the bus is the last person that got on the bus.
 
 v. In my South, people still say “yes, ma’am,” “no ma’am,” “please” and “thank you.” w. In my South, Sunday is for church. The Ten Commandments mean something.

In my South, we all wear shoes & clothes….some of the time. My South is the best-kept secret in the country. Please continue to keep the secret….it keeps the idiots away.

About fedoralady

I'm an LA native--Lower Alabama, that is. My husband of more than 30 years and I live here on a portion of my family's former farm with two gorgeous calicos and a handsome GSD mix. My background is art education, and over the years I've been a teacher, department store photographer, sales associate and a journalist. My husband, his business partner and I have Pecan Ridge Productions, a video production company, for which I shoot & edit video and stills and manage marketing. I also still write part-time for the local paper. I love movies, music, art, photography and books, and my tastes in all of them are eclectic.

10 responses »

  1. I love this. Thank you for sharing it. As a fellow Southern girl, I couldn’t agree with it more. Oh, and BTW…Roll, Tide, Roll! (Nephew attends this particular institution, so we support the Crimson Tide!). 🙂
    People would fall in love with the South if they should dare venture this way. It is beautiful country. Alabama has it all, starting with gorgeous beaches on the Gulf Coast (where I’m from) straight up to the mountainous regions where I think you may be from. And surprisingly enough, there are intelligent, forward-thinking people all in between!:) We drive modern cars, use cell phones, text, twitter, and (GASP!) some even have their own websites and blog following!! Hope you get some rest tonight. I am putting off going to bed, because once I fall asleep, the vacation is over and it will be back to reality! Guess the wise thing to do is call it a night. Stop blogging, so I will stop reading and commenting! 😀 I can’t seem to resist! Have a great week and BE CAREFUL!

    • I knew my fellow southerners would like it. 😀 And yes, Roll, Tide Roll! Whoo-hoo!Watching the BCS game was wonderful! I have a nephew who graduated from the Capstone and one of my sisters did as well.

      We actually live about 45 minutes east/southeast of Montgomery so we are in your general neck of the woods. I have a sibling in Birmingham and one who lived for many years in Huntsville and now has a home in Foley and a condo at Orange Beach. Aren’t they gorgeous beaches? Those sugar white sands . . . we do have a portion of the county here called the Ridge which is rather mountainous–it’s got the tail end of the Appalachians cutting a swath through it. Even here it’s quite hilly. Yes, we have quite the variety of landscapes in this state, pretty much something for everyone.

      I have dealt over the years with so many people who seemed surprised to discover I was from Alabama–because apparently I seemed intelligent and educated, imagine that!! 😉 So I try to dispell some of the stereotypes and myths when I can. I know you are sorry your vacay is over and I hope your Monday will go well. After being off so long, it will be an adjustment when I do go back to work (if my darned tailbone ever heals enough). Thanks@ 😀

      • I think I’ve mentioned before that I’ve had similar experiences when traveling- encountering undisguised/unflattering surprise that I’m from Alabama. As you say, I guess all we can do is try to politely inform/educate about our state/region. Roll Tide!!!

  2. The stereotypes about the South still amaze me sometimes. People are frequently shocked at the fact I live in Alabama and have neighbors from India, various parts of Africa, Asia and South America–not to mention the mix of African Americans and Caucasians. We’re an eclectic, educated lot and proud of it!

    • I read somewhere that white southerners are the last group it is acceptable to make fun of in today’s PC world. Some days I feel that way. Here in our little hometown we have Indian and Korean families along with Hispanics, African Americans and whites. There’s diversity and hospitality and interest in the arts and education.

      • I still find it so weird that people are ignorant of the real South and the eclectic, diverse culture it has to offer. I found I didn’t much care for some of the attitudes I’ve encountered there, but they’ve been the same kind of rubbish I’ve encountered elsewhere. Some of the cuisine is not to my taste, but I could say the same of anywhere else on the planet. (We’re starting Lent here. Saltcod and potato omelette anyone? Pizza with tuna and hard-cooked egg on it? Maybe a side of lentils, or some scrambled eggs with green beans in them?)

        • I just hate it when we are pigeon-holed. I’d be the first to tell you there are rednecks and I know of some people who might have walked right out of Deliverance. But, yes, sadly, you are going to find the “same kind of rubbish” almost everywhere else. As for the cuisine–well, I will pass on the hog jowls but say yes to crispy golden fried chicken, field peas and red ripe tomatoes still warm from the garden.

  3. Thank you for this very interesting essay. I can’t stand generalizations,pigeon-holing and prejudices! I remember travelling to Italy in the late 1980s and some people there were surprised we had TVs in Hungary (probably because we were part of the Communist block). And even 8 years ago, when I booked an intercity train ticket for an English colleague, he said he “didn’t want to travel with chickens”(!) on the train.He made it sound as though he expected the intercity to be like a train in a 3rd world country. I was quite miffed.

    • I am sure you have experienced some of the same types of stereotypes and prejudices because of the history of your country, just as some people seem to think we are still back in the American Civil War days. Excuse me, but that was almost 150 years ago and we have moved on since then. 😉

  4. Pingback: Soul Food in the Capital of the South | RENTCafe rental blog

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