Christmas actually starts months ahead of December in the South… lots of folks started Christmas Club accounts at their local banks last January, or put things on layaway back in the summer. Folks put up pickled peaches, preserves and cracked pecans for days on end looking forward to pecan pies, toasted pecans, pecan tassies and topping those sweet potato casseroles. And then there are a very few women who start their fruitcakes- real ones made up back in early Fall, when the mixing it all together, baking and the soaking with likker starts in earnest. If their faith teaches against the evil spirits of alcohol, the fruitcake making women enlist a man or a friend who is of another persuasion to ride over at least two counties to the ABC store to buy the Bourbon or the Dark rum- with a warning, ‘For heaven’s sake, please don’t let a soul see you buying this! -it’s for fruitcakes not for drinking!’ These are the Southern Spirits of Christmas. Truth be told most like to put a nip in their eggnog too and the menfolks generally have a spot where they can slip outside and imbibe. Can’t stand either fruitcakes or eggnog, never developed a taste for Strong Spirits myself, yet-I freely admit that it is nearly impossible to cook Southern food without some Spirits accompanying the other ingredients. For instance, after Hot Pecan Pies come out of the oven, a sizzling sprinkle of Bourbon raises up a Pecan Pie like nothing can. One could argue that Rum aids and abets many desserts, a Bread Pudding or the accompanying Hard Sauce really does need to be Spirited, flavored extracts just won’t get it done. Some of the best beverages in the world were conjured up right here in the South. Co-Cola (yes, that’s, how we pronounce it) Bourbon, Sweet Tea, Buffalo Rock and Jack Daniels are just a few. It is the moderation of these Southern Spirits which is key. And while strong drink might be evil to some- it does bring a certain Southern Comfort to some with a bittersweet heartache and even a Festive Spirit to the holidays. Now, about those Bourbon balls…don’t get me started!
Love y’all, Camellia