I was writing a Facebook post today about an old Southern Tradition….. Bottle Trees. My grandma had a bottle tree to ward off evil spirits and I have an updated version in my garden. But it made me think about Southern Traditions and what everyone needs to know to fake it, or at least to understand our culture.
1. Learn the Lingo
You’d better learn some lingo, start dropping words like; Caint, Aint, Y’all, Fixin, Rekon, Hankerin’ and Piddlin’. And then I highly suggest that you learn some of our more sarcastic sayings like, “Aren’t You Precious”. No….we don’t actually think you’re precious, it’s our way of saying….take your rude sarcastic butt back home!
2. Slow Down
Southerner’s put an intentional hitch in our giddyup. We talk slower, we walk slower and we take the time to have real meaningful conversations with our waitresses… especially if she’s from your hometown. We’re slower to throw things out, slower to rile, and slower to change. But it’s those things that allow us to own Great Grandpa’s ’48 Ford. Oh, and Ford vs Chevy? Well, You’d better pick a side on that issue right now and be willing to defend yourself if necessary.
3. Food Is Everything!
Food says it all; I love you, you have my condolences, get well soon or I heard an awesome piece of gossip about you and I’m here with this casserole to lend support and gather further Intel. We take every excuse to throw a BBQ, a tailgate party or a fish fry., (try out this recipe by David Leite at Leitesculinaria). And an old fashioned wedding is still the perfect venue to strut your stuff. In the South, inheriting a cast iron skillet is still the dream of many a young southerner of both sexes.
4. Tea only comes one way
You will definitely stand out as a foreigner if you ask for anything other than Sweet Tea. Visit Melissa at No. 2 Pencil for a great recipe! As for ice….well, that depends on what side of the tracks your kin is from. Up to you, but I’d definitely go iced tea if you don’t want to appear too big for you’re britches. Sweet tea isn’t just a drink, it’s a tonic too. It’s served for every occasion and as a solution to every problem. If sweet tea can’t fix it, then it’s serious and you’d better run down to the salon and talk it over with your beautician while getting your hair done.
5. Pick Your Ring Side Seat
Front porches are where you can see and be seen. It’s like hanging a sign, “I’m available for a chat”. It’s also your vantage point for the best gossip! Who needs the National Enquirer or Television when you have a front porch. This is our reality TV and it’s the best seat in the world! It’s where we spend time with our friends, family or just our own thoughts. Rocking our cares away while listening to a symphony of crickets mixed with children’s laughter and fireflies light up the night sky. All the best poets were Southern’s with a front porch.
6. The Southern Trifecta
Religion, The Weather and College Football. These run neck and neck for importance in Southern culture. You need to say things like, “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity!” and “We have 4 seasons; Spring, Summer Winter & Football”. Mention all three in every conversation that you have and you should be okay.
Some Final Words
Following these guidelines will help you. You won’t pass as a Southerner but we won’t make fun of you…. while you’re in the room anyway. And if you can’t pull off a decent Southern accent, just hand out a card that says, “I’ve lost a football bet and can’t talk for 3 months”. People will believe that faster than a New Yorker trying to emulate Scarlett O’Hara…. who was played by a British actress BTW. Being Southern is a state of mind, it’s family traditions, home gardens, hoarding every mason jar you’ve ever seen, years of iced tea abuse, manners, hospitality and the certain knowledge that if common sense was laird, the rest of the world wouldn’t be able to grease a pan. Oh yeah, one last tip. The phrase “Bless Your Heart” can denote sympathy, support or “you’re just dumber than a box of rocks”…… and sometimes it means all three. We leave the interpretation up to you.
Y’all Come Back!