Alabama Motor Vehicles…

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Happy Fourth of July!

There’s no doubt about it- in Alabama we love our trucks and cars- Home to the Talledega Speedway, Barber Motorsports and to Alabama Automakers-

  • Honda,
  • Mercedes Benz,
  • Hyundai and
  • Kia

The rich history of Birmingham’s US Steelworks which provided good jobs and the sheet metal to America’s famous automakers- Ford, Chevrolet and General Motors.

Alabama is also home to Goodyear and B.F. Goodrich plants which have been making tires for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up, it was considered our Patriotic Duty to buy American Made Automobiles!

Also, Alabama workers made Tires for our cars, trucks and tractors, so we wanted them too!  Talk about the Pursuit of Happiness! Owning a vehicle enabled so many to live, work and take vacations! There’s nothing like owning a vehicle to feel true Independence! Ah, the Freedom of the open road… I, for one can remember getting chill bumps just hearing Dinah Shores sing- ‘See the USA! in your Chevrolet!’

In Alabama, we not only love our trucks and cars- we tend to hang on to them a while too! So, I present to you- in mostly Red, White, Blue with a generous amount of Rust- jeremy old truck 11 field

From our Alabama the Beautiful Backroad Series-  Motor Vehicles from our own photographer extraordinaire- Jeremy Miniard! This is a just a small sampling of what he sent- don’t worry, we plan to share many more! Now, I know you want to see that Car Barn photograph again! One of my favorites! jeremy old truck 10 barn

And just to add to the excitement of all we build in Alabama- From shipbuilding in Mobile Bay, all the way up to the Saturn V rocket in Huntsville, we love to put folks in motion right here in our Sweet Home Alabama!

Love y’all, Camellia

*Photographs are the property of Jeremy Miniard and cannot be used without permission. Take a look at Jeremy photographs at jeremy.miniard.fineartamerica.com

Benne Seed…

IMG_3070Only in the lower Southeast corner of the United States, are sesame seeds still referred to as Benne Seed and almost always connected with a candy, a savory cracker or a sweet wafer. Watermelon seeds and Benne Seed were brought to America on slave ships back in the early 18th century from Africa. It’s difficult to think of the hardship to get these seeds to our shores and difficult to imagine American cuisine without Watermelon or Sesame Seed. The first time I ate a Benne Seed Wafer, I was on a Girl Scout trip in Savannah, at the home of Founder Juliette Gordon Lowe, actual Girl Scouts baked the small thin crunchy wafers for us there. Lucky for me, since I wasn’t born a roughin’ it type of girl, much less a very enthusiastic scout, I never forgot those little wafers.  Only in the Low Country and Coastal South do you regularly find recipes where Benne Seed are a central ingredient.  I rarely make Benne Seed Wafers- they need to come with a warning on the recipe- *Do not make these home alone! You are at risk of eating the entire batch! I have made Benne Wafers which are like a savory shortbread dough baked then salted while hot, I have added lemon zest and thyme or even grated sharp cheddar cheese for variations, but again not often- honestly you could stand there and eat every one. Just look at these Salty Benne Wafers! Great with a summer salad, or to serve with soup or a fancy snack! IMG_3078

Benne Seed Candy has a caramel like base with a heavy dose of toasted Benne Seeds- wrapped in little squares of cellophane. Toasted Benne Seed are the key ingredient- to do this , place the pale white seeds in an iron skillet and toast in a hot oven until they are browned, being careful not to burn the seed. As the seeds cook in a recipe, a browned nutty flavor is achieved.  Topping off Yeast Rolls, sprinkled across a pan of cornbread, browned on the bottom of biscuits or even tossed in the batter for fish- Benne Seed add crunch and texture.  I just had to share the best recipe I’ve come up with for Benne Seed Wafers, tweaked from several very good old fashioned cookbooks.  And darlin’, it’s not pronounced- Been– with the ‘e‘ dropped; please say it like Jack Benny or Awl-benny Georgia!  IMG_3073

Camellia’s Cottage Benne Seed Wafers

  • Toast 3/4 cup of Benne Seed, set aside to cool.
  • Cream together 1 stick of butter with 1 cup of light brown sugar. (In Southern Recipes, because of the age old problem of heat- butter was salted to retain freshness, therefore salted butter is used in old recipes unless otherwise indicated.)
  • Add 1 large beaten egg to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix well.
  • Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla, stir well.
  • Now, add 3/4 cup of sifted self rising flour (add 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder to all purpose flour if you don’t keep self rising flour on hand) Do not overbeat but mix well.
  • Fold in 3/4 cup of toasted benne seed carefully.
  • Pre-heat oven to 350º, while dropping  mixture from a scant teaspoon approximately 2 inches apart onto a buttered parchment lined baking sheet (I use a silicone baking mat- if you have one it makes baking easier).
  • Bake for 11-12 minutes (14 for silicone baking mat). IMG_3070
  • Remove and cool slightly, no more than a minute because the cooled Benne Seed Cookies will stick!
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely- the cookies will crisp up as they cool.
  • Makes an incredible 5-6 dozen Benne Seed Wafers!

Serve as soon as possible so you won’t eat them all yourself! Actually, they keep very well stored in an airtight container. If you’re smart, you will package them up in cellophane bags for 4th of July Favors! IMG_3082

While you’re enjoying Hamburgers on Sesame Seed buns and cold wedges of Watermelon- tell the story of how these African treasures made it to our shores, for it is in the telling…we won’t forget.

Love y’all, Camellia

Travelin’ Abroad Southern Style…

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It just wears me out that folks think Southerners don’t like to travel abroad just because we basically have it all right here…and it’s true, we have gorgeous beaches, old homes, mountain retreats, historic seaport towns even a few big cities. The South has wonderful food, friendly folks and of course our people live here- what more could you want? Well, we do like a bit of culture and gettin’ out to see the sights, and Travelin’ abroad to Europe and the Islands has always been fashionable, what with sugah plantations and finding out if our ancestors go back to King Charles the first, or whatever… An elderly friend once said her daughter was thinking of moving to New York City of all places- she said, ‘I told her travelin’, seeing the sights and going shoppin’ is one thing but why would you evah want to move up there with all of those Yankees thinking Sherman was a hero when really, darlin’ he was an arsonist, plain and simple- all of that unpleasantness of burnin’ Atlanta, it’s just unthinkable that’s what it is! If Ida Mae wants to travel abroad, well now, that would be a horse of a different color.’ So, while we never want to move, occasionally some of us get a good case of go-itis and start making plans. Planning ahead and being prepared is imperative.  We’ve thoroughly enjoyed seein’ the USA on our vacations, this year we decided to go out of the country, let me re-phrase- goin’ out of the country- Southerners could mean Atlanta depending if you still live on the fah-rm; what we actually mean here, is leaving the confines of the United States. Cruises and tours became immensely popular when televangelists started leading tours to the Holy Land, churches began leading groups on overseas mission trips and country music stars began loading up on cruise ships to the islands. I actually won a trip to Cancun over 30 years ago; when my husband kissed the ground at the Dallas airport on the way back I figured the chances of going back were slim. Yet this year, we headed on a family trip to Cancun! (Yes, we got a deal we couldn’t pass up and it was off-season which I highly recommend there.) The grown children agreed to go with us. I began reading up on it, our hotel sounded insanely wonderful with one exception- Black Iguanas made their home on a nearby ancient ruin on the resort…wait a minute! I called the 800 number and said to a very nice lady- ‘Now, Margeurite- it says right here that y’all have some big lizards on that property, is that right?’ She confirmed proudly that they did. ‘Well, now don’t put me on the ground floor because I might die, just die if I even see one!’ She agreed to put us on an upper floor. Preparations commenced in earnest once we got that straightened out.

  • Plan an excursion or two. We took a half day trip to the Mayan Ruin, Tulum- pronounced, Ta-loom. We went there, mainly because I couldn’t pronounce the other one which I kept calling ‘It’s a Chicken!’ (Chitchen Itza) To my dismay, in Tulum, Iguanas roam freely, not tiny either- I wanted to squeal- ‘Kill it Bobby Lee, kill it!’ but I restrained myself. My advice would be to remind yourself that the odds of one running up your pants leg are slim to none. Remain calm, be considerate and make a wide berth around them- then keep sayin’ Iquanas are vegetarians! It was beautiful there! Just incredible, truly.

    Here you go, find the Iguana!IMG_0164

  • Don’t be a nitwit.As tempting as it is to smell exotic- smearing fruit lotions, cocoa butter and coconut oils- make sure to load up with sunscreen and mosquito repellent. If anybody knows about skeeter bites and sunburn, it’s a Southerner, however before we went, I found out you can look at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta darlin’, look for the region where you are travelling and they kindly list- the risks, act accordingly. It is a traveler’s friend. Zika virus is a risk in Cancun, the region of the Mayan ruins and on Isla Mujeres, which was our other excursion. We took a public ferry there, rented golf carts and had a ball riding around the whole island, we even saw one of the most photographed houses in the world- you know the one that is shaped just like a big ol’ conch shell! IMG_3053IMG_3044Y’all Take Care Now– Staying hydrated is a must, however- the warnings were to drink bottled water only and make sure your waiter brings unopened water to the table. And don’t be ordering up just any old tutti fruitti drinks, just be mindful of food sources is all I’m sayin’. We found the food at our resort and highly recommended places were wonderful, but it doesn’t hurt to bring along whatever your doctor or pharmacist recommends for stomach ailments, and while we’re at it- stow your prescription medications, just the amount you need in it’s labelled container in your carryon or tote.
  • Take care of the family jewels, bury the silver and hide your assets. Two words- Cubic Zir-Con-ia. Do not wear the Family Jewels while travelling. Losing Momma’s Cocktail ring or, lord forbid- having Great Grandmother Shug’s pearl necklace stolen will break your heart, don’t risk it. Please call your financial institutions, let your credit card company know of your whereabouts- dates of travel, including the airports where you will make connections. Almost every place will accept major credit cards. Do not carry large sums of cash- Southerners instinctively know this, let’s face it, no other region in this country knows better than the South, that local currency can become worthless- they’re still finding stashes of Confederate money that ain’t worth the paper it’s printed on! Sometimes public transportation is the smartest way to get around; they do tend to prefer their own currency, so be gracious about it. Protect your assets, as carefully as the folks at our hotel were fencing in these sea turtle nests!IMG_3040
  • Know who your people are. Your travel documents are vital, and while I wish I could have my passport photograph re-touched, do make at least 3 copies- I made one to leave at home, one for my husband to keep and one to keep with my valuables at our hotel. Always make sure someone you trust has a copy of your passport- you never know what could happen to this important document. It just takes a few minutes to find out where the US Consulate is, and keep your passport in a ziplock bag (accidents can and do happen, in fact I keep a stash of baggies for cellphones, cash or other items.) Hey, Juliette Lowe was from Savannah, become a Girl Scout! Be prepared. If you are of a certain age, you may need to buy travel health insurance, Medicare doesn’t cover foreign travel. Buy a short term travel policy!  IMG_3066Avoid trashy liquor laden bars and sleazy locales. Your momma should have taught you that! Stay with your group or as someone said- ‘Develop a pack mentality’ and no lollygagging or wandering off by yourself and it is always good to have a designated pack animal to hold the stuff while the rest of the pack is splashing around or being active.  And speaking of language and communication- if you aren’t sure what your cellphone plan covers concerning foreign travel, check with your carrier before you leave and find out. Always know who is squiring you around, we consulted with our hotel for our airport transport and they kindly obliged. Knowing who your people are is important and that includes making sure you have the name and address of your hotel with your other paperwork just in case you get lost. Stay at reputable hotels, ask for local maps- they are invaluable. Pointin’ might be rude, but darlin’ in foreign countries, it might be the exception to the rule! Finally, have a great time but-
  • Behave yourself. Real Southerners are taught good manners. Remember to speak kindly, allow plenty of time for each part of your trip there and back, treat people with courtesy, be patient with difference in languages and customs. These might be the most important things you take on your trip!

The folks at Westin Lagunamar Resort and Spa in Cancun were wonderful to us; it is a well run place and in a safe convenient location, I’d recommend it to anyone! And I didn’t see one Iguana on the place!Travelling to Cancun during off season was truly a wonderful time to go.  Of course there are a multitudes of tips out there, yet I hope Travelin’ Abroad Southern Style helps you have a wonderful summer vacation!

Love y’all, Camellia

Biscuit Research…

IMG_3028Biscuits, made with soft southern milled flour- hot from the oven, buttered or smothered with preserves or silken gravy, are iconic in the South. Ironically, real homemade biscuits are quickly becoming a lost art. Oh sure, there are attempts to recreate them, but today’s biscuits are more like their distant cousin, the Scone, than authentic homemade Southern Biscuits of our memories. I recently completed Camellia’s Cottage Biscuit Research. It was exhausting– that’s right! I completely exhausted over two dozen folks with questions regarding their memories of Homemade Biscuits! And such good memories they shared! One of my favorites:

‘My grandmother made wonderful biscuits, in a huge dough bowl on legs that she pulled in and out of a small closet, needless to say with 13 children and field hands, she made huge pans of them and cooked them in a wood burning stove. They were breakfast size, about 3 inches across. One of our favorite things used to be trying to figure out how many biscuits Grandmother made in her lifetime since she made them everyday, usually 2-3 times a day.’

Can you imagine? Well, several of my respondents came from very large farm families and indeed the pans of biscuits were almost never ending! When Self Rising Flour began to appear on shelves, it was referred to as Biscuit Flour and  bought in five pound bags or even larger! That alone should tell you just how many biscuits were flying out of wood burning stoves! I personally prefer Self Rising Flour, and usually add even more baking powder.  I do not make biscuits everyday so I keep self rising flour in the freezer so the leavening powers remain fresh. The very best biscuit makers I know will tell you that the oven must be screaming hot and the biscuit ingredients work better when chilled. So, why are biscuits iconic in the South? A bit of research revealed that Southern Milled Flour is indeed very soft- not braggin’ now, but it’s true. As wonderful as soft flour is for biscuits, shortbread, piecrusts and cakes- soft flour does not bond well with Yeast, therefore southern cooks used leavening agents like baking powder and baking soda for quick breads like Biscuits and Cornbread. Some swore homemade baking powder was best- No darlin’ I’m not telling you how to make it, just sayin’…IMG_3030

You will find more Yeast breads and rolls the farther North you go…perhaps it is the heat and humidity in the Gulf States? But still those Yankees sure can make some wonderful bread! In the South, there are those who swear by using Buttermilk, which produces a fluffy biscuit with a distinct tang. Buttermilk biscuits need baking powder and baking soda to rise.  Others swear by sweet milk which is milder in flavor and relies only on baking powder as the leavening agent.

  • A sweet milk biscuit is what is referred to as a ‘powder milk’ biscuit.
  • Some biscuits were made so large they were called Cat Head Biscuits- which refers to size. My grandmother held Cat Head Biscuits in disdain as coarse and common…
  • Hers were quite often very small Tea Biscuits or Breakfast biscuits which are 2 inches, no more than 3 inches across.

It must be said, when making biscuits, please don’t think you can mix up the dough put it in the refrigerator and bake them off later- no! the dough becomes gummy and tough! There is nothing worse than a tough biscuit- so from the best biscuit makers, remember Soft Southern Flour resists being kneaded to death– let those Yankees knead their hearts out, down here we make pillowy soft biscuits by gently kneading the dough just until it comes together, either rolling gently or patting, even lightly  pulling or pinching the dough. Seasoned Biscuit makers insist on making one swift cut with the biscuit cutter and warn us not to twist the biscuit cutter which will hinder the biscuit as it tries to rise. They also insist that re-rolling the dough scraps will result in the dreaded tough biscuit but I have to admit it is a fun treat to eat the rustic scraps which are baked in a separate pan! Biscuits placed together in the pans will result in a higher softer biscuit. Biscuits which are gently rolled very thin, then folded over as many as four careful times result in those layered delicacies many dream of.   Pulled or pinched biscuits aren’t even rolled at all, a sticky dough is made- then with a gentle pulling motion, a mound of sticky dough is plopped in soft flour and gently shaped. Usually pulled biscuits were placed close together but many who liked their biscuits with a crisper outside placed the dough slightly apart. Because we were ‘soft white flour’ proud… biscuits were not browned heavily, but left very light in color on the top and browned lightly on the bottom. Now that I’ve gotten all Historic on you- let me share the results of Camellia’s Cottage Biscuit Research…IMG_3028

  • The majority of the Southern Biscuit Makers used buttermilk
  • Most made breakfast size biscuits
  • Most recalled very hot ovens- up to 450º, best cooked in a Cast Iron Skillet or heavy Cast Iron tray.
  • The preferred fat was overwhelmingly Lard, which current culinary experts suggest more often because of the flaky texture- however, vegetable shortening came in second, preferred over butter in the mixture- Butter is a must for topping a biscuit. One suggested that the biscuits weren’t hot enough if the butter didn’t melt in 30 seconds!
  • It was almost a tie between rolled or pulled- however pulled or pinched biscuits won out by a small margin over rolled biscuit dough. The biscuits of our youth were thinner and lighter in color than the type now found in fast food restaurants.
  • *Note- Farming and large families were more likely to consume biscuits everyday.
  • In the minority, biscuits were made only with a Sunday meal or at special occasions-
  • Drop Biscuits were made for the evening meal, this is neither a rolled, pinched or pulled biscuit, it is made from a sticky dough, usually with other things like cheese added.
  • Even fewer recall anything but a canned biscuit made in their homes and of special note they still love them best- go figure.
  • One respondent noted that a ‘homemade biscuit was never thrown away’.  Consumed every day or on special occasions, the subject of Biscuits always brought forth sweet memories.

Now, why did I launch out on this research project? It was a comment read in a 30 year old History of Southern cooking and recipe book-

‘Biscuit for breakfast is a social and economic self measurement among croppers and hands. Those who always have biscuit for breakfast regard themselves as successful persons of dignity. They pity and look down on the unfortunate who have to go back to corn pone during hard times. The first breakfast at which corn pone is eaten is a sad ceremonial …by partaking they admit they have been deserted by their Cap’n and have sunk to the lowest level of human subsistence. A Garth Negro or white cropper would relish corn pone for dinner or supper, but to have had to eat it for breakfast would have broken his spirit…’ William Bradford Huie, Mud on the Stars 1942 quoted in Southern Food– by John Egerton.

Our Southern roots might have sprung up in red clay soil of poverty, but almost everyone admits that the most delightful food anywhere, comes from the South. Now, don’t fret…I know these biscuits have you starving to death! I’ll be showing you how to make some homemade biscuits very soon!

Love y’all, Camellia

* it is of special note that depending on region some say biscuits and others refer to them in the singular form of ‘biscuit’ for a whole batch!

Summer in Full Bloom…

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‘In a world that values only what is young and green, Summer reminds us that maturity and ripeness were designed to be the biggest prizes. A tomato or a melon is best eaten at it’s peak. A rosebud is lovely but incomplete. A meadow in full bloom is more beautiful than one just beginning to grow. In nature, grown ups are the leading players.’

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A Rose in Full Bloom…

This lovely Summer Sentiment is about more than blooming flower gardens, lush meadows or roadside markets filled with ripe fruits and vegetables;  it is about Life itself. Being a child is wondrous, yet we must admit- Life often saves the best for last… Sunsets blaze with far more beauty than the sweet light of Dawn, being a Grown Up has it’s own rewards; like tomatoes, melons or even begonias… IMG_2727

Aging gracefully as a fragrant full blown Rose- might just be the biggest Prize of all.

Love y’all, Camellia

*the lovely quote is from Martha Stewart magazine- July 1996, author unknown  *photographs are mine, with the exception of the beautiful rose in full bloom- by our own Jeremy Miniard, right here in Alabama

Southern Sweet Potato Salad…

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Recently I attended a Barbeque, most of the side dishes were picnic style- Coleslaw and Classic Potato Salad with Desserts to die for, however one lady who knows how much Southerners love to eat Barbeque with Spicy Greens, Cornbread, Fried Okra, Baby Limas and Sweet Potatoes; brought a wonderful Classic Sweet Potato Casserole with brown sugar, butter and pecans as a thick crunchy topping, oh my! It was wonderful! I started thinking about how good sweet potatoes are with barbeque but also how I had never seen a recipe for Southern Sweet Potato Salad– now, I know recipes are out there but not with completely Southern ingredients! So what you see is rare, here at Camellia’s Cottage, we don’t mess with perfection- we love our classic recipes, we want to preserve the traditions! Yet, I could not stop thinking that a chilled Sweet Potato Salad could be Devised, Concocted or Dreamed Up.  The Pecan Topped Sweet Potato Casserole was my inspiration. (please don’t say – pee-can, we say Pa-cahn)  I began a list of ingredients that are often paired with Sweet Potatoes.

  • My grandmother loved to squeeze fresh Orange juice and a bit of pulp into hot buttered mashed Sweet Potatoes. Then she scooped out and filled the Orange Shells with the Sweet potatoes for a wonderfully fragrant side dish. Citrus is a very Southern ingredient!
  • Of course, Pecans are as Southern as can be.
  • Celery is added to so many Southern Salads, and often include the Tops for crisp crunchy texture.
  • And finally because of our proximity to the Caribbean, Pineapple is often used in Southern  cooking, particularly salads and desserts. in fact it is not unusual to find Pineapple incorporated into a Sweet Potato Casserole.

An idea for a Southern Sweet Potato Salad was Dreamed up, Devised and Concocted.. Southern Sweet Potato Salad

  • Preheat oven to 375º
  • Partially bake or boil one large Sweet Potato. Cut in Cubes, do not peel.
  • Rough chop 1 cup of Pecans.
  • On a parchment lined baking pan, mix cubed Sweet Potato and Pecans.
  • In a small bowl, combine 3 tbs. of Sugar, 1/3 cup of Brown Sugar, a pinch of salt, 1 teaspoons of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Toss sweet potato and pecans with the sugar mixture.
  • Pour 3/4 cup of melted butter over all and spread in a single layer on parchment- Roast this until sugar mixture has caramelized. About 12 minutes. IMG_2986

While the sweet potatoes are roasting, make the Salad Dressing.

  • Combine the zest and juice of one Lime, 1/3 cup of Orange Marmalade, 1 tablespoon of local Honey, 1/4 teaspoon of Cinnamon, pinch of Cayenne Pepper and 1 teaspoon of Apple Cider Vinegar. * This is my all purpose Fruit Salad Dressing and is equally good drizzled over seasonal fruits like strawberries, blackberries and blueberries.

Now, chop one stalk of Celery including Tops. Cut up 3/4 cup or more of fresh Pineapple and 3/4 cup of diced unpeeled Tart Apple. Put Salad Dressing in a large bowl, toss to coat- Celery, Pineapple and Tart Apple. When the Sweet Potatoes and Pecans have roasted, carefully incorporate into the Salad Dressing, Celery, Pineapple. Be sure to include the buttery juices. Southern Sweet Potato Salad is good room temperature or chilled. IMG_2987

Okay y’all, I am going to tell you that my picky Test Taster loved this Southern Sweet Potato Salad with Fried Pork Chops! Now, I will admit this Salad will never reach the heights of glory our Southern Potato Salad has with old and classic recipes. Southern Sweet Potato Salad is certainly unconventional, though it is dependent entirely on Southern Soul Food ingredients, so… it might just end up becoming a new favorite here at Camellia’s Cottage! Let me know if you try it!

Love y’all, Camellia

*The results of our Biscuit Research is forthcoming soon! Stay tuned…

Sinking Spells…

vintage woman on fainting couch

Southern Ladies are known for vague conditions and symptoms, like Sinking Spells. We’re not looking for medical terms or specifics. We prefer eccentric descriptive health conditions like:

  • Having a Come Apart, Being in a Fog, In a Rigor
  • Suffering from the Change of Seasons, a Crying Jag or being absolutely Mortified
  • Wasting Away, Catching a Chill or In a State of Abject Horror
  • Being covered with Chigger Bites, Flustrated, or Working ourselves into a State.

We know the value and consequences of various Fits- Hissy Fits, Conniption Fits, Running Fits and if the situation calls for it- we might even Pitch a Fit. There are vague Nervous Conditions too, which are never labelled with Capital Letters. Nervous conditions are described in more colorful terms:

  • A Basket Case
  • Gone Over a Cliff
  • Being High Strung
  • Falling to Pieces (which made Patsy Cline a major Grand Ol’ Opry Star)
  • Breaking to Bits, Melancholia
  • Flighty, Nervous Ninnies, Having Spots before Our Eyes
  • Having Frayed Nerves with Hair Standing on End
  • Keeling Over (often accompanying an actual Sinking Spell)
  • Being Fragile or one of my favorites- Delicate.

Actually, any Southern Lady who suffers from nervous conditions such as Sinking Spells is not considered weak, oh no- it is proof of Ah-ris-ta- cra-tic Blood lines, Good Breeding, think of Melanie Wilkes here.  Southern ladies who chopped wood and kept the farm running during Wartime, become Fragile– so fragile she might break to bits or fall to pieces in Peacetime. . Some Southern Ladies are High Strung  with an even Higher Temper and subject to Tantrams are prone to being Delicate or having Sinking Spells when necessary, Scarlet.   Really now, what woman, regardless of bloodlines wants to be thought of as a Battle Axe? No, Southern Ladies must be fragile and delicate;  look wan,  pale as a ghost, yellowed with jaundice, so delicate a puff of wind could blow her away, perhaps presenting with Chill Bumps then a Slight Fever.  Give us vague symptoms– certainly not a fever raging so high- hair catches on fire- that’s tacky.  Having competing Visions of the Heavenlies or the Gates of Hell is scandalous.  It’s not ladylike. Eccentric descriptions of vague conditions- a head swimming Sinking Spell are just enough to make Brows Furrow in Concern. This is not to imply we don’t have harsher words for more Serious Southern Conditions- we might say:

‘I was in such a state dealing with that Imbecile, I really should have been Medi-cat-ed but Momma warned me about Dope Fiends. I don’t want to end up like that! No sirree bobtail cat!  I just had to straighten up and be Gracious about the whole thing, so, I took a Minute to regain my Composure.’ 

We must be on guard to always be Gracious and Ah-ris-to-cra-tic with our various and sundry vague health problems! We would never appear in public with trashy conditions like Boils, Blisters, Carbuncles, Ri-sens, Knots or Pock Marks. It is unthinkable to appear Run Down at the Heels or be Prone to Hit the Bottle. Having the Heebie Jeebies or Raisin’ Cain isn’t done in polite company.  Showing Signs of overtly common conditions would send a Southern Lady Over the Cliff. We have long known that most of our vague symptoms and Sinking Spells can be cured with a Spring Tonic made from Wood Violets, Smelling Salts, the restorative Hadacol or a numbing dose of Paregoric. If a Sinking Spell occurs in the daytime, it is permissible to lay down fully clothed on top of a coverlet, but for heaven’s sake- please don’t disrobe and cover up by actually going to bed in broad daylight! It’s alright to put a cool cloth on your feverish brow in a darkened room, just don’t sit staring out into space with a washrag just on your head on the front porch! vintage fainting woman

Now I know you’re wondering- what is a Sinking Spell?

  • It is of unknown origin, ‘I told you when you let yourself get so thick, if you keep wearing those tight clothes you’re gonna start seeing spots before your eyes!’ Tight clothes are thought to be one source of Sinking Spells.
  •  Sinking Spells can be brought on by a Shock to the Nervous System. ‘Maddie Lou called and said, ‘It is with a heavy heart, I tell you the thing we greatly feared has come to pass, our skin has become lined and crepe-y’ 
  • A rise in Humidity and a sharp drop in Barometric Pressure can plague us with a Sinking Spell and a Sick Headache. ‘If this Fawg would just lift!’
  • Right before a Sinking Spell, one might be LeThar-gic (we love the word lethargic!) followed by a Queasy Stomach and Weak Knees. ‘Evah’ time I see Merry Beth in a new outfit, it just gets my goat the way she struts around. You can mark it down on the calendar, the next thing you know, my head’s a-swimming- then I’ll have a Sinking Spell.’ This is typical of a Change of Seasons Sinking Spell, a new outfit is the tonic for it and generally dispels the symptoms.

Sinking Spells are a Southern Ladies secret weapon for getting our own way. Remember, here’s how you do it.  Delicate. Fragile. Vague darlin’, vague… Try having a Sinking Spell if you need a bit of sympathy, feel under the weather, need a lift or a new outfit. Don’t forget to lay in a supply of Pepto-Violet, a Spring Tonic  or a Restor-ative Bottle of Hadacol. You never know when you might need it. Like all good Southern tales, this one is part myth, part outright lies and in this case, mostly true.

Love y’all, Camellia

*Vintage photographs from Bing. Hadacol (20% grain alcohol) and Pepto-Violet are old remedies. Paregoric is no longer available but it was a numbing medication given freely for teething babies or women experiencing Sinking Spells.