Thanksgiving in the South…

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It’s always fun to try to explain the South- it occurred to me that Thanksgiving in the South might provide some enlightenment of our people and our region.. We all know how interesting, maddening, delightful and hilarious family holidays can be!. We would never want to be too critical of the family because, well- Southern Food, Southern Beauty and Southern Accents are far superior. The South has eye popping beauty- refined, rustic or rough as a cob, like the people who’re from here. Take the Grumpy Uncle who can get loud- you know this type- knows it all but never knows when to hush up.  His scope of the political landscape is daunting- he’s a ‘law and order, hang ’em high and often’ kind of guy whose wife watches NPR and graciously corrects him -saying ‘Thank you darling for sharing your perspective’. They stopped watching the news together years ago and have agreed to disagree. She likes diversity- attends Combined Worship Services with all Communities- Grumpy Uncle stays home.

And then there is the Nephew who lives for the Opening Day of Hunting Season- Bucky is always dusty from the chert roads he drives on. Sometimes we think  Bucky loves his hunting dogs, Jackpot, Fang and  Cream Puff more than he loves his own Momma! He offered to take his Momma up to the hunting lodge and teach her how to shoot; she  politely declined. Secretly she keeps her great grandfather’s pearl handled pistol under the mattress, loaded. In fact, she won’t allow that mattress to be turned- it weighs fifty ‘leven pounds and is reported to be worth a fortune.img_1579

Then there is Aunt Eugenia, who is always interested in ‘Who your people are’. It has been reported that when a distant cousin was thinking of marrying a questionable young man- Aunt Eugenia wrote to the State Director of Archives and History  asking for the lineage of the young man. She has had a working relationship with the Directors for decades. The bane of her existence is her Niece, the political activist, the one who agreed to attend the full round of Catechism Classes at First Presbyterian and then announced to God and the Church Elders that she would not consider putting herself forward for Confirmation and Sprinkling even though the programs had already been printed. Her family was horrified.

And we can’t forget Long Tall Double First Cousin Floyd, who has led singings at Sacred Harp Conventions  for 50 years. Everyone feels obliged to ask him to say the Blessing. With bowed heads, the women struggle to keep the food warm while Cousin Floyd starts in praying- he opens up with original sin in the Garden of Eden and ends fifteen minutes later with a flourish at the Great White Throne. Everyone is very thankful by then. His plump wife is the prize winning Pentacostal Princess of the Covered Dish- she wrestles with high blood pressure and swollen ankles. The high salt content in Cream of Mushroom Soup and Canned Onion Rings contributes to it.  At the other end of the table is a Union Boss Aunt whose husband is Foreman on Third Shift. He had to learn how to make biscuits and cornbread and the best blackberry jam this side of heaven, just to survive his working wife’s inability and disinclination to ever come near an Iron Skillet; though she is proud to say- her Ironworkers have been making Iron Skillets for generations. She’s tough as pig iron- he’s a big teddy bear.img_1578

The offspring of Grandmaw Bama, a full blooded Cherokee, continue to act like wild Indians whooping it up as part owners of Mississippi Casinos but were wise enough to marry good Methodist girls who are quiet and unassuming members of DAR. Their parents are the bankers, the lawyers, the accountants. Generally their mothers are pillars of society or teachers who wear sensible shoes. They know the ropes of society’s high demands. We count on them to bring the Tea Sandwiches, the tiny Dinner Rolls and Petit Fours, tiny being the operative word.2015-06-05 12.02.11 (2)

And isn’t there always a skinny freckled Nephew with buck teeth who is the official photographer, and has an annoying habit of catching the Beauty Queens without a smidge of lipstick on, looking pale as ghosts? The Beauty Queens are in varying degrees of glamour- for instance, the Cotton Queen and the Peach Queen are a cut above the Peanut and Boll Weevil Queens. Yet all the Queens run the vacuum cleaner wearing  Tiaras and no matter how old they get- will always be Queen of Everything. And dare I mention the motorcycle riding Vietnam Veteran, Billy Jack who brought home a sweet foreign wife? They wear matching bandanas- he bears a striking resemblance to Willie Nelson- while his wife has been here 40 years but still thinks dumplings are steamed! Their son was a child prodigy, learning to play classical violin before he was three, while simultaneously perfecting hogcallin’ .

Aunt DawDaw keeps chickens and always brings the devilled eggs- her son, Mason inherited the Family Cotton Farm and shocked everyone by not majoring in Agriculture- instead he got a degree in  Horticulture with a concentration in Floral Design. Fitzgerald now makes Wreaths and Floral Arrangements with the Family Cotton, his designs grace the front door and Thanksgiving Table. Folks whisper he’s topping high cotton making more on his floral designs than a bale of cotton brings but Fitz is still suspect among the local farmers. The Aunts wave away Fitzgerald’s eccentricity, who is loved and admired by his loving and proud family. All of the unmarried girls tell Fitz they want him to make their  bridal bouquets with the Family Cotton!2016-02-12 15.52.26

Like veteran cyclist Billy Jack, Great Uncle Chester also married a foreigner. Bless her heart she was a Yankee.  Uncle Chester moved her down to Texas out in the middle of nowhere, promptly drilled an oil well or two- then had the nerve to invite the whole family to his ranch for Thanksgiving, of all things.  We don’t have Stuffing made with bread balls or cubes whatever they are– We have Dressing, Cornbread Dressing!  Thanksgiving Food is Sacred in the South. Unfortunately, it was discovered that Uncle Chester’s wife was a liberal when she tried to make Dressing- and failed miserably. She put a liberal amount of Oregano in the Dressing instead of Sage! All of that Oregano caused a gag reflux in Aunt Flora, who actually had to excuse herself from the table! She never forgot nor forgave it. A real southern lady and an impeccable cook- from then on, every year without fail- if Aunt Flora hadn’t personally made the Dressing- she would cautiously taste the Cornbread Dressing before it went to the table- hissing that she would never get over Chester’s wife- ‘She put Oregano in the Dressing!’  On her deathbed, Aunt Flora stretched out her frail hand and said – ‘If you evah put Oregano in the Dressin’ I will twirl three times and come up out of mah grave!’ No one wants to risk it.image

This is the South, y’all. We are alike but different- some of us think the others should be more open minded- others cling to the old ways.  We may not yell for the same SEC football team but we all agree it’s the best football in the country. And, we never disagree on how gorgeous it is down here or how to make decent food, especially Cornbread Dressing. The South cannot be described in all of its varying degrees of civilized or uncivilized behavior. Norman Rockwell never painted a Southern Family having a Southern Thanksgiving- he would not have inflicted that on the General Public. However, because the South is so much prettier than other places and because the food is unmatched anywhere, we defend her, overlook her eccentricities and step carefully in our Graveyards for fear of all the Rolling Over, Rising Up and Twirling surely going on

I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving! Wherever you are, remember this tale of a Southern Thanksgiving, and perhaps your own family will look positively sane by comparison!  Oh lord, y’all- like all good Southern tales, this one is part Truth, part Myth and part Outright Lies…

Love y’all, Camellia

All of the photographs are mine, to try to dress up this absolutely horrible description of my beloved South! The beautiful floral arrangements were taken recently at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear Alabama- ok, admit it…they are gorgeous!

32 thoughts on “Thanksgiving in the South…

  1. This one had me rolling laughing. I can see parts of my family in this story. Part from family stories and parts that I’ve seen on my own. I would love to add this one to my “Southern Life” page, if you wouldn’t mind.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Hmmm…cornbread dressing? I’ve never had it! You should have included a recipe. We have German potato filling. Yum! It’s got to be just like Mom made it or no one will touch it. Only pumpkin pie will do too. One year my brother brought a mincemeat pie (store was sold out of pumpkin — yes he tried to fool us with a store bought pie! Blasphemy!). He was disowned and ate it all himself. Traditions are important and there is little tolerance for any deviation.

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    1. So funny Kate! Cornbread dressing is a dying art- it takes about 3 days to make and the thing is- every family has their own quirks about it- mine has 3-4 pans of cornbread, white bread and one biscuit for some weird reason!, chopped onions and celery, thyme, sage, turkey broth (from the baked turkey- I cook an extra turkey breast just for the broth!) and chicken broth, 6-8 eggs and the consistency is by ‘feel’ – it has to bake for over an hour and is served with gravy. It’s one of those passed down recipes- not written down…crazy!

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      1. There are some folks who put the giblets in the gravy- but it is not done in my Thanksgiving meal! There are folks who make a rich broth with the turkey neck and giblets but those are put in cheesecloth and removed. No cornbread dressing is like a savory smooth bread pudding. It is hard to make a small batch of it- but we love the leftovers cold- or warmed up and made into a sort of open faced sandwich, with the dressing topped with turkey and gravy on top! You haven’t lived until you taste it- I forgot to add there is milk mixed with the eggs in mine…think of the custard that covers the bread pudding- but not…ha! I think Southern Living Recipes may have a recipe but if that cornbread has sugar in it- horrors!

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      2. Wel the answer is yes and no, just saying if the cornbread you make to put in the dressing has sugar, well, move on to the next one ! They were based for a few years in New York which might explain it ! But now that they’ve moved back to Birmingham whew we can influence the cooks more ! Ha ! What you will find seriously is a wide variation of cornbread dressing, and like your mothers potatoes from family to family they want it to stay the same !

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    2. And about that pie… There is never pumpkin pie here- it is sweet potato! and always a pecan pie- which when brought out of the oven- is generously sprinkled with bourbon whether you are a teetotaler like me or not! yes traditions are important- the thanksgiving meal rarely changes…fun to learn about others! thanks for stopping by and sharing your story! xoxo

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  3. Hilarious!!! This is a fantastic post – a real winner of an article! Half truth, half parody? This should be in a magazine….

    Our Yankee Thanksgivings are differently insane, no worries. I’ll be in central Virginia this year, sort of the South, but it will still have nothin’ on this! No cornbread stuffing, though – if anyone fiddles with the sage-sausage stuffing it will lead to a duel!

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    1. Welcome to the South in all of her glory, darlin’…this post took on a life all it’s own. I have to say I am positively relieved that you at least do not even think of putting oregano in that sausage stuffing! All kidding aside- what a compliment! I do love to write about the South! As my grandmother used to say- ‘We may as well laugh about it’ – right?

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  4. I LOVE this post. Although I am not from the south, I do come from a large Italian family and your eloquent descriptions sound similar to my past family gatherings. Thank you for your blog, it is simply wonderful. Happy Thanksgiving.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This actually made me realize that people are so much alike no matter where they were born! The description of the family members (oh, my do I see our extended family there) and the strict rules about the food are spot on! I was laughing the entire time I was reading!
    And who the heck puts oregano in the dressing? Up here we’d have taken her out back and shot her for that kind of behavior! And we’d have gotten off, too! We’d just have to say, “Oregano in the dressing, Jury Members.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hysterical! yes, it was a crime- or as we say ‘a crying shame’…Some of the characters are fictional- I’ll never tell…but that particular part was real and part of my Thanksgiving experience! I am thrilled you laughed! You made my day!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I was looking for new reading material and I stumbled upon your blog. Great post. Well written and inspiring. Looking forward to coming back and explore other ones you have.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I am going to have you appointed as Southern States of America Ambassador to the UN. I often reference you as the gold standard for what we are really about in the gulf south. I am glad you liked one of my posts. It was my last shot at those “Damned Yankees” that have now become my haters. They lack the grace to settle for ” we will agree to disagree” Fired my first shot 12/12-I can not tolerate rude behavior in a man. Oh, before I forget, I showed my daughter-n-law your site and she read some of the posts. Now, I have to send her a copy each time you post and she distributes them to her friends. You have quite a fan base in Paducah, Ky

    Liked by 1 person

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