Changing Seasons

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     Ahhh…. The seasons in the South. They bring wondrous changes of color and temperatures that hint of what is to come. It is now late summer, and we're beginning to see and feel that marvelous slide into the season of FOOTBALL!      I know that football is played in other areas of the country, but in the South it is more than an athletic contest, or an excuse to indulge in too much beer and body paint. It is a Saturday celebration that combines tailgates, debutantes, and the WWE.      Tailgating incorporates the preparation and presentation of those old and well-guarded secret family recipes that we happily share with our parking lot pals. Well, except for that one little detail of ingredient, measure, or instruction. We’re not going to give everything away.      Debutantes...

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A (Mostly) True Fishing Story

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     In the late Spring of 1986, my friend Bobby and I had planned a weekend float trip on the James River in Virginia. As a precursor to this event, I had purchased a new fly rod, made of genuine GRAPHITE. State of the art. Berkley. $110.00. The weapon of bass destruction. The night before our early Friday a.m. departure, I spent several hours putting together The Ultimate Smallmouth Box. It was perfect. At 2:00 a.m., I was finally satisfied that the box was complete, and I went to bed for a couple of hours.      Bobby came by at 4:30 a.m., we hooked up my trailered Gheenoe, and we headed to Hillsborough, N.C. for breakfast at Jack’s, a local greasy spoon which served thick slices of country ham on a hot, homemade, cat-head...

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Puttin’ Up

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     As a child, I watched my mother and her sisters gather in my Grandmother Mimi’s kitchen two or three times a year for “puttin’ up.” My cousins and I would gather fruits and vegetables from Mimi’s big garden and lug them into the hot kitchen where the women were boiling water in big canning pots. They trimmed, minced, chopped, seasoned, blended, sieved, scrubbed, and scraped. They often sang spirituals and hymns in lovely harmonies that only come from being blood kin. It was a hoedown of pouring, lidding, and labeling. Except, of course, that as Baptists, they did not dance. The church, though, did not discourage the Gasaway Girls from bringing theirpreserves, jellies, jams, pickles, chow-chows, relishes, and various vegetables to Homecoming and other church events. The church was rather strict but not...

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Being Southern: Southern Comfort...

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 I was reared in the foothills of South Carolina, and when someone close to or in our family passed away, my kin were first out of the gate with the grief-comforts of casseroles, macaroni salads, and colorful, oddly-named desserts. It is how we console those who mourn the passing of a loved one – fat, sugar, and condensed soups. My mother used to whip up a coma-inducing sweet treat called “Better Than Tom Selleck” cake; the original name was “Better Than Sex” cake, but it was awkward at Presbyterian bake sales and covered dish dinners, so my mother changed the name so she wouldn’t have to write or say the word “sex” at church. She would swoop down on the home of the bereaved, place her Pyrex on the mantle, and wrap the grieving...

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Being Southern: Manners First

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     My mother and her five sisters were The Gasaway Girls. I always shook my head a little as I described to my more cosmopolitan friends the deeply Southern behaviors that were as natural to me as sweet tea or corn bread and buttermilk. I learned this from all the Gasaway Girls: Manners first. Always manners first.      A few years ago, my mother wanted to return a sweater to Belk’s department store, where she had shopped since Hector was a pup. She waited her turn in line in the Customer Service/Layaway area, chatting happily with an older woman with whom she had worked at the hospital. She waved to several other shoppers and sales ladies whom she knew. My mother was 80 years old, and it was a small town. She...

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