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Considering that I’ve spent all of my 40-plus years down here, I consider myself an expert on Southern Culture. So, as a litdotorg newbie, I decided to share my insights with you folks out there. 
 
Alas, there was no category titled “Southern Culture,” nothing even close like, say, “Trailer Trash and Serpent Handlers.” 


 
So, in addition to making a plea to the powers that be to create a Southern Culture category, I decided to take this opportunity to share some of the basics of life in the Deep South and to post it under “Humor” since most folks north, east and west of here find Southerners darned entertaining. 


 
The first thing you have to know about Southerners is we talk a little bit different from the rest of y’all. We tend to talk a bit slower, a reflection of the pace of life down here. And we use phrases like “fixin’” (which, roughly translated, means “preparing,” as in “I’m fixin’ to slap you silly if you don’t get that engine block off the front porch.”) and “y’all” (the contracted “you all” --- equivalent to the Brooklynesque “youse guys.”) and “younguns” (meaning “kids,” as in children, not goats). It’s easy to get confused, I’m sure, but no easier than it is for one of us to follow the specials as theyr’e spewed out by a speed-freak waitress in Manhattan. 


 
“(inhale)Thecrabcakesaregreatandyougetabigportionbutyoumightwanttotrythesoftshell 
crabtooorifyoudon’tlikecraboursteaksarewonderfulandofcoursecookedtoorderoryoucan 
justorderoffthemenuifyouwouldlike. (inhale) Now,wouldyouliketohearaboutourdesserts?” (I felt sure the poor girl was going to hyperventilate before she worked her way from surf to turf, and felt guilty when I ordered the crab cakes, the first thing she’d mentioned, after she’d gone to all the trouble and all that wasted breath.) 


 
In my ventures north of the Mason-Dixon line, it’s not uncommon for me to be looked at by someone I’ve met who might be introducing me to someone else and asked, with an excited grin, “Say something. Anything, man. Oh, boy, Bob, you gotta hear this guy talk! It’s so funnnnnyyyyyy!” Not exactly the impression you want to make among your Yankee colleagues, but, what do you expect, huh? 


 
And when we’re out of our normal habitat, our eating habits are forced to change a bit as well. Sort of like moving a seal from the shoreline to the desert. He ain’t gonna find many fish there, is he? And we aren’t gonna find grits or sweet tea or cracklin’ bread or fried okra in New York. What we will find is escargot, steak tartare and foie gras. But no Southerner in his right mind is gonna fool with snails, raw beef or goose liver. All the sweet tea in the world couldn't wash down such queer cuisine. 


 
One delicacy that you might be able to find that is distinctly Southern is a biscuit. Mind you, you won’t be able to find a biscuit like my grandmother in Elba, Alabama used to make. She would get out her lard and her baking soda and her Martha White flower and in a few minutes she’d lay out some of the best, biggest and flakiest biscuits you’ve ever seen or tasted. Cathead biscuits, so called because they were as big as a cat’s head --- and a hydrocephalic cat at that! God intended these biscuits to be covered with butter and cane syrup at breakfast and brown or red-eye gravy at dinner or supper. 


 
And that’s another thing. We eat different meals down here. Like the Yankees, we eat breakfast. And we eat dinner, too, but we eat dinner at noontime. The evening meal, what most folks call dinner, we call supper. As in The Last Supper. The Bible’s real big down here, you know. 


 
Speaking of The Good Book, we’ve got some people down here that interpret it in some strange ways. I guess some of the strangest are the serpent handlers. These God-fearing servants of the Lord have some kind of faith, I tell you. They believe that if their faith is strong enough they can take up serpents --- and we’re talking deadly diamondback rattlesnakes here --- handle ‘em during their shout-and-dance-and-praise-the-Lord worship services and they won’t get bitten. I remember as a child faking stomach aches and headaches and all sorts of stuff, God forgive me, in an effort to get out of going to church. But that was as far as it went. If I had been raised in one of these serpent-handling denominations, I would have done a bit more than that. Like climb the highest sweet gum tree I could find until those snakes were all safely put away. 


 
Religion is important to the Southerner. We have Baptists and Methodists and Episcopalians and Presbyterians and Holiness and Pentecostals and all manner of denominations. We have folks that don’t see anything wrong with drinking, folks that think a sip of moonshine is a one-way ticket to the devil’s doorstep and folks that go to church and speak about the sins of alcohol, then stop by the bootlegger’s house on the way home. We call those folks hypocrites. Not a denomination. One size fits all. 


 
But you know what’s best about the South? Family. As strange a crowd of people as we may seem to be, we all believe in the importance of family --- and not just immediate family, the extremely extended family, too. I know all my cousins and all my aunts and uncles and great aunts and great uncles and my third cousins once and twice removed. Reunions are a rite of passage in the South and, if you’re a youngun, you better get ready to get hugged and kissed and cheek-pinched by blue-haired ladies you never even heard of.  


 
But when you get older --- when 50’s speeding at you like a freight train and you start to realize your own mortality --- you appreciate those pinches and hugs and kisses. You appreciate your family and the cathead biscuits your long-gone Granny made, the love she mixed with the lard and the flour and the baking soda. You appreciate the little idiosyncracies of your language and that you’ve experienced them and unconsciously passed them on to your younguns. You realize that you were born in a great region in a great country and that you’re not a bit better than anyone else whose path you might cross. 


 
But --- and I’m fixin’ to tell you something you should always remember if you’re from Alabama or New York, Minnesota or California --- no matter how you talk or what you eat or what God you pray to at night, you aren’t any less of a person than the next one, either. 
 
And that’s what they teach you in the deep Deep South. 


------
David M. Granger



Comments

The following comments are for "Holy Serpents and Cathead Biscuits: A Tribute to the Deep South"
by aubie84

a bit of light reading
It's humour, but a very light and gentle variety. :-)
If you've acheived one thing here, it's to convey a sense of warmth and charm that practically radiates from your writing (...or is it just that I've got my monitor contrast turned up too high again? ;-))
Score 8/10.

( Posted by: Spudley [Member] On: June 4, 2003 )





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