Southern Tapas

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Who Are Your People?      We want to know. When we meet you, we want to know. Who are your people? Are you kin to the Greenwood McDowells or the ones from Ware Shoals? Didn’t your daddy used to work in the mills in Pendleton?      It’s not that we’re nosy. We just want to establish some bona fides. Historically, we have been messed with by folks who seemed to be well-meaning, but turned out to be after our land or our sisters and daughters. So we’re a bit cautious and we’d really like to know if we can trust you unsupervised on our property. If we are related, or we at least know or know of your family and its reputation in these parts, we at least can start out on firm footing....

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A First Experience with Fried Okra...

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     It was my first month in Alabama. Time for exploring, seeing new places, and trying new things! A lifetime in the Northeast made everything here seem new, exciting, different. And it was!      But after making the long journey South, my old Honda was tired and unreliable. Gas was expensive, my map skills were non-existent, and my GPS didn’t recognize the dirt roads that surrounded me (and, on more than one occasion, directed me to turn into one of the many man-made lakes in Northern Alabama). When a co-worker offered to take me along on a day trip, I agreed. I was lured into the event with a picture of a riverfront locale in a secluded Alabama town, where we would be representing the environmental center we worked for.   Turns...

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Don’t Worry, I Won’t Shake Your Hand...

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    Editor’s note: Drawl will present a regular column from Melissa Crowder Rhoden, who writes about being a peculiar kind of mother in the South.      Hi, how are you? I’m Melissa. It’s nice to meet you.      I know it’s odd to read a column that begins with a formal introduction. Allow me to explain. Like Julia Sugarbaker from Designing Women, I believe that relationships between strangers ought to maintain decorum and distance.      Unlike Julia Sugarbaker, I am unable to maintain decorum and distance. So at the onset, I’d like to go through the usual motions of polite society. Particularly since chances are good that you and I are about to get to know each other intimately, which means you’re about to know that I once shook a doctor’s...

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Thoughts on the Civil War Sesquicentennial...

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  A lot of us don’t like to talk about it. Some of us are obsessed with it, so obsessed that we don period-appropriate garb and re-stage the battles year in and year out. Meanwhile, when told some years ago that my father was going to be serving barbecue at a re-enactment, I responded, “Well, maybe we’ll win this year.” I was not obsessed. Then, I wrote my master’s thesis on Faulkner and the act of memoralizing and found myself up to my eyebrows in something everyone around me had seemed immersed in for years. Somehow I’d gotten around it. Me, the girl obsessed with all things antique, history, retro, somehow never developed any affinity for the Civil War and its history, aside from a deep interest in the clothing of the day. People...

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There’s Past, Present, & Future in That Name...

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Your name is your single most common identifier. As a person with a tendency for the rabbit hole of questions about seemingly ordinary things, I can’t help but analyze how my parents chose these three names. I was raised in a southern household with generations of Dixie tradition instilled into me, so my name being a combination of other people’s identities is not unusual; it’s incredibly common in this region. Children are given names that belonged to grandparents or great grandparents. They’re named after aunts and uncles who had an impact on their parents’ lives. Have you ever stopped to think about your name? I mean really reflected on how your parents settled on those two, three or four words that would become your lifelong identity? I’ve spent a great deal of time lying...

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