I consider myself to be a Southerner with Northern tendencies, an illegitimate daughter of the South if you will. I was born in Ohio to parents who were born and bred in Alabama. They felt their southern roots wilting when I was five years old, so they uprooted their flower child from sidewalks, snow, and front stoops, and transplanted me in red clay of Alabama, the Magnolia trees of Mississippi, and right up on my Big Mama’s front porch.
Whenever my Northern idiosyncrasies began to surface, my parents would send to one of my grandmothers for some Southern reconditioning. It was in the kitchens of Nellie Willis and Annie Jones that I learned some vital Southern lessons: 1. In the South there are canisters on kitchen counters that contain sugar, flour, corn meal and grits– store brand sugar is acceptable, but anything other than Martha White Self-Rising flour, Sunflower corn meal, and Jim Dandy grits, and you’ll have a sure-fire riot on your hands. 2. There are as many ways to cook grits as there are women who cook grits, just smile and rave about not ever having had a finer bowl of grits and you’ll be okay. 3. Every kitchen counter has two blue cans of Crisco, one that actually has Crisco in it, and the other to hold bacon drippings. (Don’t ask questions, just eat.) 4. Sweet tea comes two ways down here, cold and sweet. You can make it on the stove top, you can make on the back porch, you can add lemon, mint, peaches or berries– just don’t make it from a jar of instant powder mix, and don’t make it with sugar substitute– if you ask for unsweetened tea down here, you’re libel to end up with a cold glass of ice water. 5. The best seasoning for greens, peas, beans, squash, and corn? Meat. Preferably smoked meat. Preferably the neck, hock, or tail of a turkey, hog, or ox. Running short on meat? (That’s what that can of bacon drippings is for.)
I am a Southerner, by way of Ohio, transplanted in Mississippi, with kudzu-like attachments to Alabama.