It started back in 2010 with a post called My Big Fat Southern Christmas in which I explained how our Christmas had been big, fat and Southern. Then, again in 2011, I recapped our holiday and explained the role of the You Girls and how people were scooping pimento cheese with potato chips. It had the potential to be devastating for Mama, but it turned out ok. This year, the post is back. With absolutely nothing new at all.
I have been looking forward to writing this post, actually. In my very limited life as a writer (enjoyed mainly by The Hubs, my sisters and some cousins), these Christmas pieces seem to be entertaining. But – really – what’s the big deal with a Southern Christmas? It’s not like it’s a snowy white Christmas. Or, a bright lights, Broadway show, Rockefeller Center Christmas. It’s usually not even very cold. Last Christmas, The Hubs had to turn on the air conditioner just so we could build a fire in the fireplace. Happy Holidays, Georgia Power.
Christmas morning started our trek to cover all the Christmas bases, although this year it was on fast forward. We started with a brunch that was DE-licious. Bacon, cheese, grits, eggs in no particular order or combination and propped up by homemade biscuits. Then, a mid-afternoon “lunch” starring ham, glorified macaroni and Mrs. Brenda’s brownies held together with things like collards, squash, dressing and pimento cheese. Dinner brought the addition of 18 mouths, 3 casseroles, a turkey, some people from California…and explosives – not meant for the people from California. I know I ate all that. I have the jiggly thighs to prove it. And I know we opened gifts. I have some beautiful tokens to prove that. It just happened so fast this year. All in one day to be precise.
Just a little detour here…….Why would a grown man give an 11 year old boy tannerite? Uncle Fortson? I’m waiting. And further, when I see a video on Facebook of a group of cousins varying in gender and age blowing up things and scaring off the bird hunters and the birds, where are the adults? Explosives aren’t new to us, to be honest. I have an uncle – isn’t it always an uncle? – who has a habit of spicing up parties with a little fire and smoke. But, I can’t really talk about that. I think there is still an open investigation. But I don’t think he ever shot the explosives with a rifle in order to detonate. That was our own personal flair for the dramatics. And, again, I’m forced to consider the difference between Southern and Redneck.
So, all of this…the food, the people, the forms of entertainment(?)…it was all pretty much what it normally is. That is to say, it was the expected combination of typical and atypical. Normal. But, recently, I’ve been reminded how completely and totally NOT normal this is to an awful lot of people. For example, some people actually monitor their salt intake.
During December, I ran across 2 articles: Why Do Southern Drawls Sound Uneducated to Some? in the Huffington Post and Happy Holler-days! in the New York Post (which is about the popularity of TV shows set in the South). “It seems that all a cable network needs for a hit show lately is some Southern accents and a little twangy, banjo background music” writes Kate Storey from the NYPost.
Exhibit A: my son and nephew, their Southern accents and twangy banjo music
Reading those articles, then going through a whirlwind Christmas made me think about this fascination with our Southern way of life.
Is it the food? Maybe. It is unexplainable how so many people that have eaten the Southern way for generations can actually live beyond their 40’s? Paula Deene is/was the epitome of soul food and look what happened to her. In a way, it’s like cheating death and I would imagine the millions of Health magazine subscribers would want to get to the bottom of that. Some people talk about ingredients or the fact that there are Southern chefs who have found their wayward souls cooking in places like NYC or San Francisco doing things to collard greens that didn’t come recommended by the UMW.
I think it doesn’t have anything to do with the food, where it was grown, where the chef grew up or was trained. I think the fascination is with the entire Southern way of life and eating the food and going to these restaurants allows a little glimpse of just that.
Yes, there are shows like Swamp People, Duck Dynasty and Redneck Millionaires and while those portrayals are not altogether untrue, there are also the Southern people who simply go to work, enjoy their family, attend church and just “do their thing”, as my Daddy would say. It’s doubtful there are pictures on those big city menus that show a man’s rough hands from pulling those peas in order to get them into the puree. And that’s not nearly exciting enough to make it to cable television.
Maybe it’s the slow pace that allows for the stories to be told and handed down that appeals to the jet-setters. Those biscuits I mentioned before? They were kneaded in a bread bowl handed down 3 generations. And just yesterday, I heard a grandson tell some hilarious stories about his grandfather who delivered newspapers growing up in Auburn, Alabama to some pretty funny characters. I guess we can only hope the taste of fresh corn in a dimly lit restaurant provides even a sliver of a view of our life. ‘Course, if the customer actually shucked that ear, that’d get him a little closer.
And, ok, there is the quirkiness that can be hard to turn away from. One of these articles I mention explains the attraction to shows set in the South because “those are shows that were based on a very strong character — characters with character, so to speak. Maybe they’re more prevalent in the South.” Ya think?
I’ve never been to New York City or San Francisco or Chicago (Chicargo, to most people I know) so I’ve never eaten Southern food in any of their restaurants and I’ve never asked them how they spend their Christmases. But, I, for one, am tickled to see such interest in what goes on down here. And, if we can rub off on even one person, I hope their job is governmental and they reside in DC. That group may rival us in the “very strong character” department, but we’ve got ‘em where it counts and we, apparently, count large in TV.