I've been looking into some of the names of my forebears, just Googling a surname now and then, running an eye down the lists and the branches, finding kin, finding even from this remove an unexpected sprinkling of names of friends-back-home whose lineage parallels or channels with my own, merely by dint of a far-ago marriage in the place we both are from.
Memories kindled, smiles of recognition and astonishment at our links in the long chain---it's been fun to scroll across the names of old friends and acquaintances whose names echo mine in the long past. Something about being from the South, of the near-and-dear relationships, the kinship of place as strong as of family---it's a heart-thing, absorbed through the air and the heat and the long vistas of flat Delta gumbo, from that primal scent of first-plowing to the nip of Fall, with Winter delineated by getting out jackets and gazing on the drab scape of gray fields shorn to stubble.
My own raising, deep in the moist heat of that fertile flatness, was centered around family gatherings---Sunday dinner and birthdays and holidays and reunions and sitting together in the shade, waiting for the ice cream freezer to do its magic to the custard whose recipe was older than anybody present. The old recipes and jotted-downs and clipped-outs and the mainstays---we repeat the gestures, the measures, the tastes.
I cook Southern, but have been known to throw foie gras or caviar onto a table with crawfish, catfish, mallard, mountain oysters, rooster fries, buffalo and wild hog. I cook whatever we feel like at the moment, whatever is freshest from the garden or the Farmers' Market, or whatever was just brought back from a trip South. Food and cooking and the cultivation of both have been a greater part of the Southern perspective for time beyond memory, and the dedication and methods from the old ways have hung on longer in the South, it seems.
I own white gloves, lacy hankies, opera glasses, a well-sharpened hoe, a TALL ladder and a Troy-Bilt. A lifetime of food raising, hoeing, picking, canning, pickling, freezing and preserving has given me a deep appreciation for all methods of hunting and gathering. Deer, duck, crappie, barbecue and gumbo have appeared as often on our table as pasta, hamburgers or Mapo tofu.
The ladylike rosy shade of my own nape was earned honestly, bending over the beanrows, pea-vines, cornstalks and squash hills in that extremely HOT Delta sun. Redneck is as redneck does, I reckon.
But sometimes it would be nice not to have to waste so much time dispelling the notion that the lowest IQ in the room necessarily must belong to the person with the Southern accent.