Southern Charm

Hey there darlin’,

I’ve been in the south long enough now that I’ve become accustomed to the hospitality and general kindness shown by strangers that drew me here in the first place.  Just the other day, I was at the deli counter at Kroger ordering honey maple turkey and Swiss cheese and the lovely elderly worker behind the counter engaged me in conversation the entire time she sliced my deli items with motherly care.  We talked about the weather because that’s what you do in the south.  She asked me what was going on out there because we were due for some inclement weather.  I told her it was cold and raw and rainy and she informed me that we were to get snow later in the evening and maybe some ice. This was just one day after it was a lovely 70 degrees and sunny.  We chatted about how we’d like to be somewhere tropical when the weather turns sour.  As she handed me my food, she looked me in the eye with genuine concern and said, “Now, you be real careful out there.  Alright, honey?”  I replied, “Yes, ma’am.  You do the same.”  It’s nice when strangers care about your well-being.

This is just one of many instances of southern civility that occur on a daily basis in my life.  I was talking to one of my clients a little while back as we were completing an install at her condo here in Nashville.   She is from the Northeast and lives in New Jersey so we have a lot in common and often talk about the differences between the North and South.  She said although she loves the variety and all the Northeast has to offer, she is always struck by the warmth of southern people.  We were talking about going to the drugstore or grocery and how people hold doors, smile and actually talk to you, not at you.  I mentioned how I had been at T.J. Maxx the other day and instead of a surly “Here’s your receipt,” as I checked out, I got a cheerful, “Thank you. Come back and see us!” My client smiled and said she hears that a lot here, too.  We both paused for a moment, looked back at each other, and at the same time said, “And they actually mean it!”

I think non-southerners are catching on to this and flocking to the south.  The secret is out!  I stumbled upon this article one of my friends shared on facebook.  I’m glad to know that other people appreciate the ways of the south like I do!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suzy-strutner/tk-things-i-learned-in-th_b_4394289.html

Y’all come back! (I mean it!)

Sugarlump

Advertisements

Here to Stay

Somehow, I have lived in Tennessee for a year.  How did that happen?

This past Saturday marked the anniversary of completely uncharacteristic move 1100 miles south.  In a way, it seems this year flew by, and yet living in Boston seems a long way back.  I didn’t know a soul when I moved here, but of course I received a warm welcome.  It is the south after all.

I’ve made many wonderful friends in the last 12 months.  I’ve gotten to see my grandparents and extended family more than ever.  I’ve discovered I like bluegrass.  I’ve put 17,000 miles on my car. I’ve experienced a tornado warning.  I’ve taken thousands of pictures of the sky.  I haven’t done yoga once.

Words like “you’re fine” and “y’all” have become fixtures in my vocabulary.  My style has become more eclectic and less preppy.   Though it would be a serious stretch to call me an extrovert, I’m more outgoing and chatty than I used to be.  I like to get out more.

I don’t have a TV in my room and I don’t miss it. I still haven’t bought bar stools so I don’t have a proper place to eat a meal.  I cook maybe once or twice a week.

I’ve decided I’m not over the city living as much as I thought. I’ve stopped drinking soda. I like dogs more than I used to.  I’ve been to the movie theater 3 times.  I’ve canned jam.

I’ve learned more about what’s important to me and what’s not.

It feels like home here.

IMG_5472

I think it’s time to take down this wreath.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

Batcat

Gus may appear to be a little short on brain cells at times, but I’ve always suspected that he had some secret powers.  My suspicions were confirmed the other day when I saw Gus’s shadow. He was lounging in his … Continue reading

Ramblings

Lord, I was born a rambling (wo)man. 

I tend to ramble.  Not so much in my speech or in my travels, but in my mind.  Here’s what’s gone through my head in the last few minutes:

1)      My pinky finger hurts. (Also known as a “finky” in Eugene language.)

 I gave myself a doozy of a paper cut today as I was trying to steadfastly recycle all of my paper, cardboard, bottles and cans.  A thin piece of cardboard had it out for me.   It drew blood.  A lot of blood for a paper cut.  I didn’t have anything to clean my cut with so I poured some hand sanitizer over it.  BOY that did the trick.  I had to squeeze my steering wheel with all my might to keep from yelling.  Thankfully, car inspection lady who also works at the waste management center was not there this time to witness it. 

2)      I’m hungry.

I was perusing some food blogs today and came across a game-changing recipe that had to do with French fries, parmesan cheese and some sort of chipotle lime dip.  It sounded outrageously delicious.  I was planning on going for a brisk walk at the time and was seriously tempted to ditch those plans in favor of making the fries, but I held it together and stuck to my exercise plan.

That, and I didn’t have any potatoes.

I’m so disciplined.

3)      I love accents.

Having lived in Boston for 13 years, I had a lot of exposure to extreme Boston accents, though I never had one myself.  I don’t know what comes over me, but every now and then I think of words in a Boston accent.  Kind of like when you learn a second language and think of words in that language, except not exactly.  Anyway, I grabbed my loofah in the shower this evening and cracked myself up thinking of how this would be called a “loofer” in a Boston accent.

I’m weird.

4)      I need to replace my watch battery.

My watch battery is nearly dead.  Not completely dead, because the time does change, just at a fraction of real time.  My watch currently reads 2:37PM and indicates that it’s the 5th of the month.   I know I’m on slow time here in Nashville, but not that slow. 

Despite my watch being temporarily useless, I continue to wear it as a reminder to go get the battery replaced.  I have continued to forget to get the battery replaced for the past week now.  And I also continue to forget that my watch is not functioning properly and consequently find myself staring at my wrist confused most of the day.

I think I need my memory replaced as well.

5)      The sunsets here are so pretty.

 

I never tire of watching (and photographing) the sunset.  

 

It makes me realize that I should stop thinking so much.

Don’t pay me no mind,

Sugarlump

Sausage Gravy

One of my favorite breakfast items is biscuits and sausage gravy.  And sausage, of course.   My granny makes a mean sausage gravy and I look forward to it when I visit.  Although I tried to make this breakfast for myself once (unsuccessfully because I couldn’t find the right sausage in the Northeast), I think I am going to limit myself to eating this only when I visit my grandparents for the sake of my hips and arteries.

It’s very important that you make this an irregular part of your life.  Yes, that’s right.  IR-regular.   I say this out of concern for your health.  But, nonetheless, it should be a part of your life even if it’s once every month/week/day or two.

It is CRITICAL that you begin with good ol’ country sausage.  By this I mean loosely packed and with a good amount of fat.  I would recommend Tennessee Pride, Ole South or Old Folks brands.   I would not recommend Jimmy Dean because it is too dense and lean and thus will not render enough fat for the gravy.

So, once you have proper country sausage (hot or mild, but hot if you are really serious about this), cut it into ½” patties and set ‘er in the skillet.  If you are intending to have 8 sausage patties to serve, cook 9.  I will explain this later.

My cousin Lauren was frying up the sausage this particular morning.

Cook them over medium-high heat until the meat is cooked through and the patties are nice and browned.

Meanwhile, have some homemade biscuits baking in the oven.

I was not present for the making of these biscuits, but I understand that there was lard involved.  That’s all I care to comment on the matter.

When the sausage is done, place the patties on a plate lined with several paper towels to absorb the excess grease.

If there is too much grease left in the skillet, drain it off.  I can’t give you an exact amount because I don’t know how much sausage you are cooking, but I would say for 8 sausage patties, you don’t want more than ¼ cup of grease to make your gravy.

Now, this is a VERY IMPORTANT step.  Break up the extra sausage patty into small crumbled pieces to add texture to the gravy.  You did make an extra didn’t you?

Next, with the desired amount of grease and the extra crumbled patty in your skillet, grab some milk and some flour (pronounced “flair” if you have a Southern accent).

Sprinkle in approximately the same amount of flour as there is grease in your pan and stir.  Let’s say ¼ cup since we are working with a ¼ cup of grease.

You may want to use a whisk so it doesn’t “lump up on you,” as my granny says.

Let this cook for a few minutes until the mixture is a nice golden brown.

Then add the milk.

How much?

Until it looks right.

That’s what my mammie (and it seems all Southern cooks) say because they don’t really go by measurements, they go by look and feel.

If you haven’t achieved that level of culinary expertise to know when it “looks right,” add about ½ cup of milk or enough until the mixture is fairly loose, but still has some body to it.  I’m not even sure what that description really means and I’m sure you don’t either, so here is a photo:

Then let it cook for about 5 minutes or until it has thickened, all the while stirring and scraping the skillet so it doesn’t burn.  You will know it has reached this stage when you can see the bottom of the skillet in the wake of your spoon/spatula.

The gravy should have a nice brown color to it.

Season it with a little salt as needed.  And pepper if for some strange reason you did not go for hot sausage.

Stunning.  Look at all of those brown bits. MMMMMMMMM.

Now the best part!

Fix yourself a sausage n’ biscuit (or 2) and a big ol’ glass of cold me-yulk:

Oh heavens.

My cousin Kristen had clearly lost her marbles and opted for blackberry jam with her sausage n’ biscuit instead of sausage gravy.

(why????????)

I’m all for sweet and savory but I just don’t know if I can get on board with this one.

Sausage and sausage gravy had such a good thing going…

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

Sugarlump

Butter Beans

Whenever I visit my grandparents in Kentucky, there is always a lot of food involved.  Delicious.  Country.  Food.

My favorite kind of food that my grandmothers prepare is homegrown beans.  I love love love them, especially topped with fresh diced onion and jalapeno pepper, which also come from my papa’s garden.   If there are beans and cornbread on the table, there’s really no point in preparing anything else for me because all I’m interested in are those two items.

This past weekend, my granny made me some butter beans, which are speckled lima beans.  And as my whole family knows, I love me some butter beans.

Last Christmas, we were all working our way around the kitchen to fill up our plates with food and when I got to the butter beans, I said “I love me some butter beans.”  I didn’t realize that my whole family had heard me trying on my country accent for size, but they all started to crack up, especially my Aunt Vickie.  We still laugh about it now every time we have beans.

My love for butter beans runs so deep that I even tried to grow them in Boston last summer.

This is what they look like dried (as seed):

And this is what they look like as they begin to grow as shown in a picture of my garden last summer:

Now, as I mentioned, these I tried to grow in Boston, in a yard that had about 10 square feet of full day sun, imported soil, and a growing season about a month too short.  They are pretty pitiful.  In Kentucky, however, my papa’s bean plants grow to be about 8 feet tall and are so dense that they form a canopy between rows.

My yield was about 47 beans last summer.

My papa’s yield was probably 2047 beans last summer.

My solution to my gardening challenges?

Move South.

I have since moved to Nashville, TN and am driving up to Kentucky every few weeks to help my papa with his garden.   No joke.  I’m very serious about butter beans.

I have high hopes for the butter bean crop this year.

I love me some butter beans.

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

Sugarlump

Driving to Burkesville

Welcome to Cumberland County.

This is my (very dirty) car, Chino, sitting in my grandparents’ driveway in Kentucky.

Why is this noteworthy?

Well, let me tell you.

I’ve never been able to just drive to my grandparents’ houses in Burkesville, Kentucky.  Having lived in the Northeast and about 1000 miles from my grandparents my whole life, any visit involved at least one plane ride (usually 2) and then a 2 ½ hour drive from the airport in either Louisville or Nashville to rural Kentucky.

Now that I live in Nashville, I can drive up to visit and be there in 2 ½ hours.  It’s glorious.

The blue Jeep, Azul, is my cousin Lauren’s.  Since this is Chino’s first time in Kentucky, he and Azul had never met and they are just tickled to death (a favorite Southern saying) to finally be together as family.

Naturally, as soon as I arrived in Burkesville, we had to eat.  We went to one of my favorite little spots on the square in town: Annie Ruby’s.

Now, Annie Ruby’s is in the location that was formerly Smith Pharmacy.  My papa thinks it had been open since the town was founded in 1810.  He said that when he was little a single ice cream cone was a nickel and a double was 10 cents.  My parents used to go there as kids for ice cream and orangeades, which they could purchase for something like a quarter. This was pretty amazing (even back then) since it took 2 fresh, sweet oranges to produce enough juice for this specialty.

My cousins, sister and I had a summer ritual at Smith Pharmacy when we were growing up where we would go sit at the old-timey fountain and order coke floats after a long day in the office (more on this later).  They had the BEST old school vanilla ice cream that was sort of a creamy yellow and then they would pour over the fountain coke to create the perfect ice cream to coke ratio.  This sounds pretty basic, but there’s quite an art to making a coke float.  Trust me, I’m a coke float connoisseur.

While we were devastated when Smith’s pharmacy went out a little while back, we were so excited to learn that Annie Ruby’s would be opening with good food and with the fountain.  It’s the same fountain that was in Smith’s and they do a darn good job with the coke float.  Their curry chicken salad is also pretty delicious if you want something to go with that coke float.  Actually, maybe eat the sandwich first and then savor the coke float.

Annie Ruby’s is known for “tomato pie,” which I’m sure is delightful, but unfortunately I’m some sort of genetic mutant and do not like tomatoes.  As my granny says, “what a shame” because my papa grows a whole mess of tomatoes that the rest of my family lives for.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve worked up a craving for a coke float.

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

Sugarlump