I just have so much to say about my raising and outlook and cooking, and who taught me, and all the wonderful Southern cooks and writers and farmers and woodcrafters and just plain good folks who've been such a part of my life and all that I am.
And one question, which always arises: Grits. And people also have a great curiosity about G.R.I.T.S Girls---not Magnolia Blossoms or Sweet Potato Queens. G.R.I.T.S.--- acronym for Girls Raised In The South, the down-home, Southern-raised group of women whose company and goodwill have been such a part of life as I've known it. My own membership is a treasured thing, indeed. G.R.I.T.S. Girls (and Guys, if they're lucky) are of a Southern State of MIND, not geography. They are be-mannered at birth, born to be gracious, social, tolerant of others' foibles, and just a tad bit short-tempered with foolishness and unkindness.
They may be young or old, hair ranging from whalespout wisps to blue once-a-week helmets sprayed into submission at their Standing Appointment. They almost all own pearls, gloves, compacts, and several sturdy purses. Hats are optional, though the G.R.I.T.S set probably own as many feathery sweeps and veiled toques as the Royal Families of Europe, and wear them with more panache, as well.
They can take their French manicures straight home from the salon and plunge right into that bowl of buttermilk chicken, flour it up and fling it in that skillet beside the pot of collards as well as they can sashay their satin-clad selves into a country club, the Opera House or the White House. Dirt under those fancy nails just means they've been in the tomato patch or the rosebed or the horsestall, but they clean up REALLY well.
They have a zest for life, for literature, for Family and Friends; both are legion and necessary. Countless generations are remembered and celebrated; Grandma's necklace is a lovely accent to Granddaughter's wedding dress, and the tiniest new member of the clan is welcomed with her own add-a-pearl and a whispered word of womanly wisdom in her tiny ear. The littlest ones know to say, "Yes, Ma'am" and keep their skirts down and their knees together on their trikes...they aspire to be cheerleaders and doctors, mothers and teachers, writers and world-fixers, and usually achieve any and all of those, and much more.
And G.R.I.T.S. of both genders usually have a home-learned knowledge of Nature and the hows and wherefores of where their food comes from. They see the fields---from Spring, when the tillers are crawling the land, sending out that primal earthy scent of First Turning---to the last plowing-in of the Fall-brown stems shorn of their bounty, ground into the land for enrichment during the long cold days.
We know that meat does not spring from the Earth wrapped in plastic, and have witnessed the hard facts of raising and getting those hams and sides of beef into the freezer, have hefted a deer carcass onto the hanger for skinning, and can cook all the above in more ways than Emeril. Quite a few of the G.R.I.T.S. contingent are proficient at bringing down game for the table, having received their first small rifles when most kids are still clamoring for Elmo or Barbie, and more than a few of the female persuasion can outshoot all the males at any Huntin’ Camp.
Tiny girls in the smallest-size camo are proudly loaded into pickups to ride happily out with Daddy for a day at the deer stand or duck blind, taking their own places and turns at very young ages. Nobody messes with a woman holding a 30-aught-six, and many a 12-gauge stands in a closet behind the sweeping skirts of a prom dress. Some with the credentials of breeding and a family older’n dirt get away with owning their own assault rifles.
Martinis and Mystery, Chanel and Chainsaws, Satin and Skillets, White Gloves and Workboots---all are part of a G.R.I.T.S. Girl's makeup, along with good manners, kitchen knowledge, love of animals and the outdoors, luxurious perfume and scandalous underwear and perhaps a good knock of bourbon on occasion. Florence King is the Queen of writing about G.R.I.T.S. and Belles and all manner of Southern Womanhood; Fannie Flagg is an absolute genius with a golden gift for dialogue and character and scene, as well---her Idgie Threadgoode will live on as long as Scarlett O’Hara in the minds of female readers---just as memorable and smarter, besides.
My friend Klary lives over in Amsterdam, but her picture of a fried drumstick, properly marinated in buttermilk, Tabasco, etc., then cooked to the perfect golden-brown, perfect shattery crust, is worthy of any Below-the-M/D-cook in possession of her Mammaw's black skillet and a leftover cotillion corsage.
And G-girls sure DO say “BUTT,” but most of the ones I know say "Bee-hind." In exigent circumstances, they say "ass"---pronouncing it "ice"---as in "Dayum, Bobby Ray! Get your sorry ice in this house 'fore the neighbors see you!"
It's a soothing, sizzling Sisterhood, and location is no deterrent to membership. It's all in the outlook.