Thou Shalt Fry Okra (and Four Things that Happen to You in the South)

I’m writing here from North Carolina with my Southern In-Laws. I confess I am not a Southerner. I was born in Kansas into a military family and grew up mainly on the West Coast (Fort Ord, Fort Lewis) and then in Northern Virginia (which my UVA and Greystone friends remind me is not the South). And some of you, those from Mississippi, might actually claim that North Carolina is not the real South. But for the purposes of this particular post, let’s believe the best about one another.

Now I live in Pennsylvania, so I suppose I am a Yankee.

But I married into a Southern Family and have been a Southerner-in-Training for the past 15 years.

This means several things:

1. I know how to make real sweet tea (you do it on the stove, in a pot, but don’t ever let it boil. You let it steep forever and then add a gazillion cups of sugar. Done.).

2. I know how to fry okra. And I know that at the Farmer’s Market, you want to buy Silver Queen corn (it has to be Silver Queen for those creamy white kernels!). I know to fry chicken and make strawberry pies. I also know how to make chicken-n-dumplin’s, grits (the acronym is G.irls R.aised. I.n T.he S.outh: grits), pimento cheese sandwiches, and the right kind of vinegary barbecue. It’s a Southern thing.

3. I know what the following expressions mean:

“On the short rows” means one is nearly finished with one’s work (from the old days of tobacco farming when the short rows were at the end of the field where the tractor turned around).

“The devil’s beatin’ his wife” means it’s raining while the sun is shining (what? huh?).

“She showed herself” means she was overly emotional in public (I’m doomed).

Add in these gems: You might be fit to be tied or in hog heaven, depending on the afternoon.

4. A Southern woman lives in the kitchen, and this isn’t a bad thing. You will cook 2 pounds of bacon in the morning and fry your eggs in the bacon grease. You will grill sandwiches for lunch with all sorts of fillings like egg salad, chicken salad, ham salad, and pimento cheese. There’s lots of mayo and butter involved. You will fry things at dinner. But the whole time, you’ll be talkin’ and lovin’ each other.

So, my friends, I want you to know that although I am only a Southerner by marriage, I have learned my lessons well. Grandpa has asked both for my buttermilk fried chicken and the strawberry pie recipes. This is like winning the Nobel Prize. I’ll go celebrate with some sweet tea.

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  1. I <3 you!

    What about “fixin to” – do you know that one? When my oldest went off to the Merchant Marine Academy, his first roommate was Vinny, from NJ. Needless to say, it was culture shock for both of them. Vinny was constantly frustrated with Nick's “fixin to” do this or that.