Saturday, November 17, 2012



Have you ever seen a white-haired, white-bearded gentleman floating along through life, his feet not touching the ground?

‘Tis the Season, I think, but the Reason is the thing. 

We went to Sweetpea’s Thanksgiving program and feast at school, sitting in an expectant hush as the big hall windows revealed a lively line of tall Pilgrim hats, construction-paper feathers, tiny demure lady-caps and aprons, and brown-fringed vests.   They entered singing a Turkey song, keeping up the refrain all the way around the auditorium, up onto the stage, and finishing with a flourish of stuffed-brown-bag-on-a-stick drumsticks.

The songs went on, with a little skit, small facts and interesting items about the First Thanksgiving, with all small participants doing their best---reciting or clapping or jumping about the stage, as the moment required.

The Moment of the program, the very pinnacle to remember, came last.   The teacher walked down the line with a small microphone, holding it gently before each little face, and asking, “And what are YOU most thankful for?”

Answers ranged from “Mommy” and Daddy”---quite a few of those, to “My Family” and others, including one that I didn’t hear, but which brought a wave of laughter through the audience.

Way down on the very end stood Sweetpea, awaiting her turn, and when the question came, she pondered a tiny moment, peeking up from beneath her little Pilgrim-lady cap, then in the softest tiny voice, leaned in and said, “Ganner.”
I swear, Y'all.   I'm gonna have to tether that man to the ground like a Macy float.

Monday, November 12, 2012


Four years ago today, I sent out the first tentative post of this blog, just blindly casting out words to scatter and scape about the world, and not quite sure what I wanted to say.   The deluge of words since has belied my shaky beginnings, for the freshet flows far and wide, too much and too fulsome---just whatever my mind throws on the page before the magical "SEND."

I so thank you all for your faithful reading and dropping in and the comments, so endearing and welcome and kind.   This four years has been immeasurably rewarding, and the greatest blessing of all is YOU, my Faraway Friends.

And so a post from the very first week---when words were all I had, pictures a far hope on the horizon, and many, many friends unmet.   

The little program at the end (just a tiny bit naughty in places) was sent just this week by Sis, a true-life G.R.I.T.S. Girl her ownself. 
                  LONG AWAY AND FAR AGO G.R.I.T.S. GIRL

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 great 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.


Friday, November 9, 2012



Perhaps it’s a remembered love of gumball machines---the little bright fellows on a shiny post, with their penny-slots and cheery krickle as you turned the handle, which causes me to LOVE big plastic dispensers in grocery stores (or candy stores, with their Wonderlands of pastels and chocolates, or even the Pet Store, with squirrel-corn and treats for Fuzzy-Pup).   


The flat scoop-ones are little storm-cellar doors into Aladdin’s treasure cave:


Just the PLENTY of them is appealing, the gleaming vast tubes stretching the aisles, like great faucets of colorful, interesting things to try.   The beans always catch my eye, and always, always my long-ago Uncle’s sepulchral bass intoning DON’T MIX THE BEANS comes to mind, for all HIS store beans hung waist-height in half-barrels with heavy silvery scoops, so tempting to young hands.
All the range of hues from the pale limas and Northerns, shading into the speckles and maroons of Pintos to the pale greens and dull browns of lentils and peas, (with a lot of interesting NEW beans, one beauty splashed with maroon and white in exact patterns of a REAL Paint pony).  

The pastas and the rices---so many lengths, so many shades of gold and beige and white, and the debate over which size of couscous and don’t we still have a bag of quinoa from last   time?     The surfeit of choices, shapes, colors, and the necessary height of the dispensers give me the déjà vu moment of stretching tiptoe to peer through the glass of a childhood candy-case.

I grab a bag and fumble open the wispy plastic, hold it fist-encircled around the faucet’s opening, turn the little tap.   The riches pour or cascade or rattle into the bag, filling with a gentle heft or the nil of cotton.   We come home with a few regulars, the old stand-by bulgur wheat and the dried apricots, some walnuts, some arrow-root, several sizes of salt, a tablespoon or so each of several new items, to be cooked in perhaps a cup of water, all on their own, for tasting and testing of flavor and texture, and the ponder: will this go in that cucumber salad, or would it be better as a little punctuation in a pilaf?
There’s one big clear reservoir that stands out---the contents are as gold and fluffy as Rumplestiltskin’s dreams, and I have to smile every time:   In this Mecca of Organic this and Gourmet that, the Importeds and the Importants, this one stands an unblushing parvenu amongst the grands:   A whole bushel or so of the golden powder which fills those little packets in the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese box.  
SOMEBODY must be buying it; the level is never the same.  In such a discerning  crowd, I wonder if they cover such a plebeian item in their market-baskets, as ladies used to camouflage Wrinkle Cream and Midol beneath the Lipton and DUZ.   Discretion amongst the dried goods---that would be novel.

The cupboards are full, the storehouse holds a gracious plenty, but somehow, I’m getting a hankering to go to Whole Foods and turn some spigots, though they have nothing that will ever equal the tongue-curling anticipation as the penny fell, and the big ole gumball rolled out into my hand.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


R. I. P.   ELLEN DOUGLAS   (JOSEPHINE HAXTON)      1921--2012

A formidable group of writers have chronicled the South’s days and years, and a lot of stories still need telling. There’s Miss Ellen’s clear, heart-felt prose of progress and change and the lingering need for both, Miss Eudora's quiet, precise voice; Faulkner’s characters strutting and fretting their hours upon the stage, and still other writers who trumpet our idiosyncrasies and ills and sins like a gaudy rack of supermarket rags in a check-out line.
Fiction fashion changes, fads grow and wane, and the true voices are the ones which endure. And we the people---we sleeve the sweat off lip and brow, turn a page, see our lives in the printed lines.  

The South’s HOT. It’s full of mosquitoes and snakes and gators and other hostile life; it’s growing by bounds, and it’s melting into the ground in places. But it’s FERTILE, pretty near more fertile than any same-sized plot of ground on this Earth, and the fertile imaginations are the most impressive crop.

Friday, November 2, 2012


It's a blessing and a marvel to hear your OWN childhood stories told by a little one with an enormous vocabulary and who still holds onto a few little phrases and words that are so endearing, you hope she'll use them for just a little while longer.

Once upon a time there was a beautiful Princess named Sleeping Utie.   She had a party and the witches gave her presents and one witch said “I didn’t get my invitation and I’ll put a curse on Sleeping Utie and when she grows up she will prick her thinger on a

And so they burnt up every spindle in the castle and she went up the stairs to look out the window and in that room there was a spindle.   She didn’t know what it was, and she pricked her thinger and fell asleep.

And everybody fell asleep for a hundred years.

When Sleeping Utie had been asleep a long long time, a Prince rode up on his Maple Steve. 
And then he kissed her on the lips to Spell the Break.  
And they lived happily ever after.