Tag Archives: Black Eyed Peas

What is the South?

16 Jan

This semester, my colleague is teaching Southern U.S. History, and, on the first day, he asked his students to answer a simple question – what is the South? As it turns out, the question is not as simple as it appears, and the students have been trying to answer it for a couple of days.Question

I have been listening to the discussion as it takes place outside of my office door, and it has brought to mind a blog that I recently read. The person wrote about how they wanted to visit a southern city because they had never been to one. They had been to New Orleans but did not think that counted. The Big Easy was too diverse to be truly southern.

I was taken aback by the blog because New Orleans is one of the most southern of cities. Apparently, the blogger thought that a southern city should be a place where people put on their camouflage caps and rebel flag t-shirts; hop into their pickup trucks; and crank up the country music station.

Of course, those people exist. However, the South is more than that. It has different geography. It had different foods. People speak with different accents. In short, the South is a diverse region, and New Orleans is a perfect example of that.

However, that does not answer the question that was asked of the students. What is the South? Well, it is a matter of perspective. It depends on area. It depends on race. It depends on the person who is answering the question.

Obviously, people have different opinions about the South. Some think of its faults, and others think of its more positive qualities. I can only think about it from my point of view. When I answer the question, this is what I come up with.

The South is:

drinking sweet tea.

having people from other parts of the country make fun of your accent when their accents are just as strange.

the Blues.

reading Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner.

not being able to live without air conditioning.

eating black-eyed peas and hog jowl on New Year’s Day.

driving on country roads on a Sunday afternoon.

being washed in the blood.

hiking the trails of the Great Smoky Mountains.

eating baloney on crackers with a little hot sauce on top.

growing up as a non-football player in a region that worships football players.

going to college football games and worshipping players on a Saturday afternoon.

listening to the Allman Brothers and the Marshall Tucker Band.

feeling shame when watching film of Bull Connor’s forces using fire hoses and dogs on protestors.

saying I want a Coke when ordering a soft drink and knowing that someone who calls it pop is from somewhere else.

attending a NASCAR race and thinking I could do that.

driving the Natchez Trace from Nashville to Natchez.

going to church and having a “dinner on the ground.”

walking in the footsteps of Elvis at Graceland.

drinking Jack Daniels.

eating at a locally owned Meat and Three.

greeting strangers as you walk past them.

knowing that the region has had some serious issues.

being proud of where I live despite knowing about those problems because there are some great things about it, too.

To me, that is the South.

Cancun – Like Dogs in a Cage

7 Jan

We were awake at 3:30 in the morning on New Year’s Day. Admittedly, I have been up at that time on that day before, but I have never done it this way. I went to bed at 11:00 and woke up at 3:30 to get to the airport. This was the beginning of our Cancun adventure.

I don’t remember much from that morning, but a few things have stuck in my mind. One was my wife telling me to watch out for drunk drivers. The other was not seeing any kind of driver for a long time. If you want to feel like Charlton Heston in The Omega Man, then you should drive around at that time of the morning on New Year’s Day. Oh, there’s one other thing I remember. The whole family – me, my wife and my stepdaughter – ate black-eyed peas and hog jowl for good luck. Around here, that’s a tradition.

We made it to the airport without running into any drunk drivers or mutants and had a good flight to Cancun. I tried to sleep on the flight, but that was an impossible task. I can never do that. My family, however, does not seem to have that problem.Cancun - Plane

Once we landed, the situation became more hectic. We had to make our way through immigration before looking for our transportation. We had directions to where our ride was going to be and made it there easily. However, there was no ride and no record of us needing a ride. After some quick negotiating by my wife, we were provided a driver to get us to the Moon Palace Resort. Before we could leave, he rounded up some other passengers.

One couple was from New Jersey. At least, that’s what their accents sounded like. I hate to stereotype, but they were stereotypical. He was kind of a round guy who stepped off the set of The Sopranos, and she was a little mouthy. While we waited for the driver, she started complaining about having to wait in the backseat and said something about us being treated like caged dogs. We had been on the van for about 2 minutes.

Luckily, we were the first ones to reach our destination, but it was not without incident. Our driver made a wrong turn and headed to the lobby on the sidewalk. I have only seen one other person do that, and you have read about him before.

The bellhop took our bags and led us into the lobby. It was a nice lobby that I hung out in quite a bit, so I am not being mean when I say this. When I first walked in, I felt like I had been dropped into the middle of an Elvis movie. You know – one of those where he works at a beach resort.Cancun - Lobby

They directed us to the VIP Check In. Yes, we were VIP’s for a few days. However, they told us that the room would not be ready for a couple of hours. I guess we were second level VIP’s. We ate at the buffet and tried to book some excursions. That didn’t work because we didn’t have a room number. We hung around until a room came open. It was a good room. It was close to everything and had a jacuzzi tub next to one of the beds. It also had a hammock on the deck. I would use it in the future.

After getting everything packed, my wife and stepdaughter made a beeline for the pool and the beach. I made a beeline for the bed because I didn’t get all cozy on the airplane. After a few hours of relaxation, my wife and I went to the steakhouse by the beach where we had some good food and some good conversation. That’s also where the waiter called me Ricardo.

For the rest of the story, tune in again. Same Cancun Time. Same Cancun Channel.

Boiled Custard, Dead Hogs and Black-Eyed Peas

3 Aug

Every Friday, a group of us guys has lunch together. Same restaurant. Same table. Usually, the same meals. Through the years, some people have taken to calling us the Mafia. We don’t get anything accomplished, but we think the world would be a better place if people listened to us.

One member of the group of full of old-time ideas about such things as the weather. For example, he says that if you hang a dead snake over a fence rail, then it will rain. It has rained a lot lately, so, today, I asked him if he had been killing snakes. His reply was that he hadn’t seen any snakes. Maybe, they knew it was about to rain, so they stayed out of his way.

Since lunch, I have been thinking about superstitions and traditions such as this. I have heard them all of my life, and they sound like something that you would find in the Farmer’s Almanac. I wonder if people in different parts of the country have different things like this. I mean, is the dead snake idea universal, or is it a southern thing?

There are a lot of southern things that have come down through the generations. Prominent in my family is the idea that you should eat black-eyed peas and hog jowl on New Year’s Day.Black Eyed Peas

If you do this, then you will have good luck for the rest of the year. When I was a kid, I hated the idea of eating black-eyed peas, but my dad insisted that we do it. Surprisingly, I liked the hog jowl. Overall, I suppose it works. As a family, we have had pretty good luck.

Another tradition is making boiled custard at Christmas. When I say boiled custard, I don’t mean egg nog. This is completely different, and it is completely good. I don’t know what’s in it, and I don’t know why people only make it at Christmas. In my mind, anything that good is worthy of year round consumption. Being a strange child, hearing people talk about boiled custard always made me think of George Custer.George Custer

There is another tradition that is dying out, and I want to experience it before it does. In these parts, people have always killed hogs on the day after Thanksgiving. In the old days, my grandfather had a hog-killing on his farm. Obviously, it involves a lot of blood, but it was necessary to have enough meat for the winter. Also, they needed the hog jowl to put in the black-eyed peas for good luck.Hog Killing

Few people still do it, but the family of one of the Mafia members continue the tradition. This year, I’m taking part. The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday. I bet the hogs wish they were out shopping.

These are all traditions of the south. Are they also traditions in other places? What’s the old-timey way of doing things in your part of the world?