Sunday, October 22, 2006

Southern Fried Tradition

As a people, we in the South tend to show our finest character traits during times of great importance like births,weddings and deaths. If somebody in the family has an event of major life importance, you can be sure that we'll be there with comfort food and support. The family is by no means defined strictly as "blood kin." We tend to extend the familial connection to those with whom we have shared work and love and a lifetime of friendship. It y'alls Mama was friends with my Mama and we had babies around the same age that played together....that qualifies as family. When one of your folks passes on to glory, we will either stand in line outside of the funeral home for visitation or show up at the graveyard to pay our respects. You can flat out expect for deviled eggs and fried chicken to be delivered to the doorstep to feed the grieving family during their time of need. Somebody else will call the florist and arrange for a proper tribute. The sympathy cards and church memorials will come in a flood at first and then trickle in over the next weeks and months.

Babies are named after family and friends, and their births are preceded by henfests known as showers where all the womenfolk gather for fingerfood and fellowship with a side of labor pain horror stories and child rearing advice. God bless every one of us who has known the simple pleasure of buying an outfit for an unborn Southern child only to find that it's the wrong color. Yellow and green are always a good choice to avoid cumbersome returns for the rare mother-to-be who doesn't know the sex of her offspring six months before delivery. On the next Sunday following the birth, a rose will appear on the pulpit in honor of the birth of a new Southern child.

Southern weddings tend to be extravagant affairs involving yards and yards of tulle and satin. The mother of the bride is traditionally the one who bears the weight of the stress during such an event, fussin' over every little detail as if the world would quit twirling if a thank you note got missed or the silver had a speck of black on it under the food on the reception table. Come rain or shine, the wedding takes place on the appointed date and everyone says it's the prettiest one they ever attended. Mothers and grandmothers march down the center aisle on the arm of a southern boy who would much rather be hunting or fishing than dressed up in a tux because it's the honorable thing to do.

We do so love the holidays down South. From Easter to Christmas, we mark family tradition with dinners for the clan and whoever else feels like showin' up for the feast. Wise southern women buy their Easter hams on sale and make the cornbread for Thanksgiving dressing well ahead of time. The "good china" comes out on these occasions along with the linen and lace for great-grandmother's antique table. If there is family silver, it shall be polished to a sheen and laden with enough food to feed an army. Leftovers are the best part of all.

We grow a lot of our own food and put it up in the freezer, or can it. I can't tell you anything more sweet than the taste of homegrown purple hull peas cooked 'til they're just right and served up with peaches-and-cream corn in the dead of winter. Pure heaven on earth, y'all. Here's my Mama's cornbread recipe to serve along with the vegetables:

1 1/2 cups cornmeal
3T flour
1 t salt
1 t soda
2 cups buttermilk
3 T bacon drippings

Turn oven to 450. Add some oil or bacon grease to a seasoned iron skillet and put in the oven to pre-heat for fifteen minutes.

Mix dry ingredients well. Add buttermilk and bacon drippings and stir well. Open the oven and pour the batter into the hot oil. Cook for twenty minutes or until top is brown and bottom is crusty. Cool for five minutes in the skillet, then turn onto a plate. Slice it up and put some real butter on it.