Southerners looking for last minute gifts to wow Northern friends and family this Christmas, look no further. Below are actual gifts I’ve given to my Yankee relatives and friends over the years so they could get a taste of South Carolina. All were huge hits.
Mustard-based BBQ sauce. Northerners have no idea this even exists. I was seven months pregnant when I moved here and had to drive past Maurice’s Piggie Park for my prenatal doctor appointments. I hadn’t suffered any morning sickness but the idea of mustard on BBQ nauseated me. However, on the ride home with our new baby, I insisted on stopping so I could chow down on some. I much prefer it over vinegar or tomato-based sauces. Maurice’s and Shealy’s are my recommendations, or make your own!
Famously Hot Sauce. South Carolina is famously hot, and we actually boast our own line of hot sauces: Palmetto Pepper Potions. My oldest son loves these and asked me to send more for his birthday this year.
Pecan anything. Yankees call them peh-cahns and think Southerners are referring to toilets when they hear anyone talking about pee-cans. Nevertheless, you can’t go wrong with pecans in any form. I heartily suggest pralines, unless you’re buying for a diabetic, and nobody makes them better than River Street Sweets. (You get free samples when you visit the stores!) Their mixed nut tins are another favorite of mine. If your giftee doesn’t have a sweet tooth, then simply sending a bag of shelled pecans is a great alternative.
Magnolias, pineapples and palmetto trees. You can’t go five feet in South Carolina without spotting one of these emblazoned, engraved, stitched, or tattooed on something or someone. We love our magnolia blossoms and devote entire dining rooms to them. Pineapples are another home décor favorite, but they’re popular jewelry motifs, too. And then there’s the palmetto tree that South Carolinians all but worship. Click here for suggestions from my friend Evelyn.
Gamecock gear. It’s bad enough that the University of South Carolina is known as “the other USC.” But making things worse is that our USC’s mascot is a chicken. I realize a fighting gamecock is a tough bird, but it’s scrawny. And a chicken. (And politically incorrect… uhh, remember Michael Vick?) But, since we’re 2x back-to-back College World Series champions, everybody should have “cocks” printed on something. The best place to shop is Addams University Bookstore.
Carolina Panthers gear. I buy Panther hats and sweatshirts as gag gifts since the Panthers actually play in North Carolina.
You still have time to shop online and have your gifts wrapped and Fedexed over the Mason-Dixon Line by Christmas. Or just buy something for yourself, and have a truly Merry and Mild Carolina Christmas!
This is the time of year when certain television or magazine ads can make me feel nauseated. It’s the holiday season and that means green bean casserole is everywhere. I hate that stuff. And, just so you know, the ingredients in the Campbell’s Mushroom Soup negate any health benefits you’re supposed to derive from the beans. I don’t like green beans, so please don’t send me alternative versions of this dish.
Thank goodness for my my Yankee friend Michelle, who came to my rescue. She gave me her sister Debbie’s recipe for corn casserole – in three variations, no less! It includes cornbread, or what Michelle and I like to call “pone,” which automatically makes it a Southern dish. It’s become a staple on the Carolina Yankee’s holiday dinner table (and at other times of the year).
I also make a yummy zucchini casserole that I serve in lieu of macaroni and cheese. My kids love it.
These and other recipes can be found on the Favorite Southern Recipes page. If you have a favorite holiday recipe that you want me to post on the blog, contact me here. Or you can post it yourself on the Carolina Yankee Facebook page! Hurry up because we’re hungry!
When out-of-town guests visit me here in Columbia I usually take them on a driving tour of the most interesting sites around town. The Confederate flag that waves proudly in front of the State House, Blue Sky’s “Busted Plug,” the Nickelodeon theater, the Obama gas station, and the IBM punch-card building are only some of the sites included on my tour.
I never, however, take my guests to Maurice’s Piggie Park for mustard-based BBQ. That’s because I don’t support racists, which Maurice Bessinger is. I had to quit sending bottles of his famous BBQ sauce to my friends up North for Christmas. Northerners have no idea such a thing as mustard-based BBQ exists. Actually, Northerners are pretty in the dark about BBQ in general.
However, I may just add Piggie Park to the tour. Seems Grampa Maurice has one smart cookie for a granddaughter. I’m not a fan of BBQ in general, but I have to support the fact that the public can now eat at Maurice’s with a clean conscious . You can read about the Kinder, Gentler Maurice’s Piggie Park for yourself.
Please welcome my guest blogger, Nancy Tuten, a modern-day Southern belle if ever there was one, bless her heart. Please let her know how much you enjoyed her post by visiting her blog Writing Midlife.
For months now, my friend the Carolina Yankee has been nagging me — or, as we like to say here in the South, pesterin’ me — to write a guest post for her blog. She writes from the perspective of a transplant. I, on the other hand, am a dyed-in-the-wool, born and bred Southerner — one who has lived here since day one, for over half a century. Her request set me to thinking about what it means to me to be Southern:
Southern by birth, I love grits (when they are cooked right: long and slowly and with plenty of milk, salt, and butter) and magnolias (especially when it comes time to decorate the mantle and the mailbox for Christmas), and children who say “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am,” “yes, sir” and “no, sir” (until they reach young adulthood, at which time their deeply ingrained politeness makes me feel old).
Having grown up on the coast, I cannot imagine a summer without a vacation at the seashore, chasing ghost crabs and smelling pluff mud (though I despise the feel of it between my toes). I crave the visceral pull of the moon as tides rise and fall, but I know better than to get caught in a city below sea level when high tide and the full moon and a heavy rainstorm converge.
Truth be told, I have a love-hate relationship with the South. Since this is a lighthearted blog spot, I will refrain from ranting about Southerners’ obsessions with guns, hunting, college football, beauty pageants, and the Confederate flag or about our having way more than our fair share of sexists, racists, and homophobes. And don’t even get me started on the subject of Southern religion, politics, and education. I’ll just end up in a bad mood, and you will, too. So we won’t go there.
Food is usually a safe topic — unless it sparks a debate over whether barbecue sauce should be vinegar-, ketchup-, or mustard-based (the right answer is mustard). And while I’m on the subject of barbecue, let me share with the uninitiated that “barbecue” is something you eat, not something you do or something you cook on. When we cook over gas or coals on a grill, we are having a cookout.
To be sure, my love-hate relationship with the South includes its food and some of the rituals that surround it. Besides grits, I love cooked collards (fresh, that is), fresh peaches, boiled peanuts, my momma’s macaroni pie (which in no way resembles a pie), fried okra, red rice, butter beans, sweet tea, and bread pudding.
But there is no food-related practice quite as disturbing to me as a Southern tradition known in these parts as a pig pickin’, an event during which a whole pig is skewered (who actually RUNS that spit through the poor pig anyway?) and roasted over an open pit full of special wood that smokes the pig for hours — during which grown men feel obliged to hold vigil and drink a great deal of beer and after which otherwise civilized people nonchalantly “pick” the cooked meat right off the poor pig’s bones while making small talk about the most recent hurricane, the price of tobacco, or cousin Martha Louise’s rheumatism. I am not making this up.
Oh, and while I’m blaspheming, let me go ahead and admit that my gag reflex can’t stand oysters, even during months with the letter “R” in their names. Oysters aren’t unique to the South, but oyster roasts are are a big deal in Southern coastal towns. I have nothing against the events themselves; they are fun events, and I will happily shuck oysters all night long for other people to eat. But there is nothing about the chewy texture and slimy surface of a raw or roasted oyster to suggest that I should be putting it in my mouth.
So when it comes to life in the South, I’m not exactly “all in.”
At certain times, though, I am reminded that despite the many things about the South that trouble me, I am, nonetheless, Southern to my core.
At no other time of the year am I more aware of my deep Southern roots (and I’m not talking about the hair variety — this is still my own God-given color, thankyouverymuch) than I am between Labor Day and Easter Sunday, that time of year when I maintain a steadfast commitment never — and I mean not ever – to wear white shoes.
Never mind the fact that in September it is still hot enough to melt the mascara off your eyelashes or that Easter falls on a different Sunday every year having nothing whatsoever to do with the temperature outside. I am confessing to you right here and now that I am slave to a fashion rule that is illogical and impractical. And Southern. So be it. I am standing firm (in properly colored shoes).
And while we are on the topic of the heat of summers in the deep South: typically in August, by eight o’clock in the morning it’s impossible to walk from the house to the car without glistening (Southern women don’t sweat). We expend as little energy as possible, scurry to the coast to find an ocean breeze, or curl up in the air conditioning with a good book.
For much of this summer, the topic of conversation around the water cooler at work (and, I’m guessing, at the pig pickin’) was the fact that we had made it all the way to August with the temperatures only rarely reaching 95 and never hitting 100.
Until last Monday. High of 96. Low of 76. Lest we get soft.
Enduring the heat of most Southern summer days is a process not unlike childbirth: you forget just how painful it is until it cranks up again. Every year I am as surprised by the intensity of the heat as if I had just moved here from Iceland. I’m talking about nap-inducing, car-like-an-oven summer days when you can, quite literally, see waves of heat rising up from the pavement. Patience runs short, everyone is cranky and whiny, and tempers are, well, hot. The smallest tasks are an effort, and showers are a waste of time.
Most of us really aren’t as dim-witted as the rest of the world thinks we are; it’s just that we have become accustomed to slowing down everything from our movements to our speech — and, admittedly, sometimes even our thought processes — in an effort to stay cool. The infamous Southern drawl is a natural consequence of the heat and has nothing whatsoever to do with generations of brain damage caused by our forebears’ conviction that a little sour mash was a good antidote for teething.
But the heat is a small price to pay in exchange for winters when we wear a coat only once or twice and for Christmas afternoons when our children can go outside in short sleeves to ride new bikes. We endure the heat because we can’t imagine life without riots of honeysuckle and Spanish moss and kudzu, without thick stands of Loblolly pine trees, without lightning bugs or Palmetto trees.
Or while sitting in a chair a few feet from the surf at Folly Beach or at the Isle of Palms or at Litchfield Beach or at Daufuskie or Edisto or Kiawah or Pawleys Island?
And P.S., if the only South Carolina beach you know is Myrtle Beach, then you don’t know pea turkey about South Carolina beaches, bless your heart. That’s like going to Epcot and saying you’ve been to France (with apologies to Epcot, which has far less neon and traffic than Myrtle Beach and, to my knowledge, not a single wet T-shirt contest).
Being Southern, then, is like most things in life: a paradox, an enigma. We take the bad with the good. In the end, truth be told, I wouldn’t trade being Southern for a whole closet full of white shoes and permission to wear them year ’round.
I like peanuts, especially the honey roasted ones the airlines (still) offer passengers. I like peanut butter more than I do whole peanuts. I eat peanut butter almost every day – on a banana, sandwich, crackers, apple, celery, or even with a spoon. However, it wouldn’t bother me if I never ate another whole peanut again. Actually, I’d miss them in a Snickers candy bar. Southerners love peanuts. I’m proud to say that my city is home to the renowned Cromer’s P-nuts Inc., where you can buy fresh roasted peanuts that are “guaranteed worst in town.”
The food culture in the South can be peculiar to us Northerners, but nothing is quite as bewildering as the Southern penchant for hot boiled peanuts. I couldn’t believe my eyes the first time I saw someone eating hot boiled peanuts. They’re in the shells. They’re wet and slimy, like slugs or raw oysters. They’re eaten much like raw oysters, too. You pop the shell open, slurp the juice down and then roll the nuts onto your tongue. That’s what I’ve witnessed. I refuse to eat them.
The worst part about hot boiled peanuts is that consumers simply toss the empty shells on the ground. I don’t know why that’s acceptable, but it is. I realize they’re biodegradable, but look under the bleachers of any outdoor sporting venue and you’ll see piles of discarded shells still not composted between events.
They’re sold everywhere down here: retail shops, roadside stands, off the backs of trucks, and at outdoor events. I’m surprised the Boy Scouts don’t sell them door to door. The S.C. General Assembly designated hot boiled peanuts as the state snack in 2006. That was signed into law by former Gov. Mark Sanford, arguably South Carolina’s biggest goober.
George Washington Carver, probably the foremost expert on the peanut, cooked peanuts in dozens of recipes. I wonder if he ever imagined the lowly peanut would become a regional obsession. Me? I’m sticking with peanut butter.
In response to my last post (“Food for thought,” Mar. 8, 2013), an inquiring mind asked me to research the origin of Yankee pot roast. She also wondered if there was a rebel pot roast. Let it be said that the questioner is a Yankee living in the South who is as capable of Googling up answers to questions as I, but for some reason thinks I’m scholarly. I’m pretty sure scholars use Google as often as everyone else.
Yankee pot roast is a dish that originated in the United States but is based off a European cooking technique called braising. The dish was originally prepared in New England — hence the Yankee in Yankee pot roast, according to wiseGeek, a website that offers clear answers for common questions with a team of apparently smart people who like to research obscure topics. I’m sure the team member who researched this topic has no reason to fudge the answer. I think we can safely assume there is no such thing as rebel pot roast, unless we count the cook who refuses to follow the standard Yankee pot roast recipe.
My mother used to make pot roast for dinner quite frequently when I was a kid. I disliked it then and I still do. Therefore, the topic of pot roast is now closed! (Sorry again, Mom!)