Sunday, September 2, 2007

Learning Southernese

OK, so maybe I'm not cut out for this blogging-thing after all! It seems that real bloggers post a lot more writing than I seem to be doing. My daughter-in-law who has two little boys and a new home in a new city seems to be much more prolific than I when it comes to blogging. She is, however, what I call an "RCP" (Recovering Career Person). Rachel has recently become a full-time stay-at-home mom, and is just learning the wonders of actually having the time and energy not only to spend quality time with her family, but to indulge herself with a little "me time" also. She has become quite the photographer and blogger at I love seeing the pictures of their family and reading about the fun things they are doing and learning in their new home in Tucson.

And so I'm thinking--what might people want to know about what we are doing here in South Carolina? I loved relaying information and pictures from Ireland when Michael and The Boys were on their golfing trip. I had lots of fun sorting through the many pictures I took of Gabby, Molly, and David's visit, of course, and I'm sure more of those will show up on the website one of these days. But since all of my family and old friends are "Yankees", maybe you all would like to know something about how we're learning to be Southerners.

One of our biggest challenges has been learning to speak what I call "Southernese". Lots of one syllable words here are pronounced with at least a two-syllable--or more--inflection. "Like" and "this" roll slowly off the tongue and become "lii-iike" and thii-iss". My first name now has three syllables: "Jay-Ann-Net", and Michael is "Ma-ahh-Kuul". Sweet Tea ( a true staple of life here in the South) has not two, but four syllables: "suh-weet tay-ee". Of course, dropping a syllable is also a part of Southernese--Coca Cola is "co cola" here in the Low Country. I haven't figured out the syllables on "purtinear" yet, but I do know that it means something like being close to whatever I asked about. ("I'm "purtinear" done with this beer--y'all want 'nother?")

Don't get me wrong...I love living in the South. For the most part, the food is fabulous as my broadening body can attest. Before moving here, I ate sweet potatoes with a little brown sugar stirred in and marshmallows on top for Thanksgiving dinner. This past year I have eaten sweet potato chips, fries, salad, pie and an assortment of sweet potato casseroles with pecans (pee-cans, not pe-chans) all over the top. The seafood is awesome here in Murrells Inlet, the self-advertised "Seafood Capital of South Carolina". Fresh grouper and shrimp are plentiful and reasonably-priced, and it wouldn't be Monday at the Dead Dog Saloon without a couple of pounds of cold peel-and-eats with our friend Pete's more-horseradish-than-ketchup-sauce! And we are no longer on a quest for the world's best onion rings--now we are searching for the best lump crabcakes. So far Frank's Outback in Pawley's Island is at the top of the list.

My real Southern friends--those who were raised in the South--are appalled that I still have not developed a taste for grits. My friend Priscilla keeps trying to tell me how good the Shrimp and Grits are at various restaurants, but I can't help thinking that it is a waste of perfectly good shrimp to mix them with grits! "Frogmore Stew" sounded perfectly awful--I couldn't see liking frog of any kind in my stew, let alone "more frog". Ever the adventurous one, however, I was pleased to discover that "frogmore stew" is actually a wonderful sort of Southern "Bouillabaisse" made with fresh shrimp, hot sausages, red potatoes and fresh corn-on-the-cob. (Must use the cob, too--very important!)Every good Southern cook has their handed-down-for-generations recipe for frogmore stew and for "bog". When I first heard of "bog", I expected something with cranberries--as from a cranberry bog. Bog here, however, proved to be another sort of stew made with chicken, sausage, and rice. There are as many ways to make bog and frogmore stew as there are Southern ladies--and each one is convinced their family's recipe is the best!

She Crab soup has been a delightful discovery, though I've yet to find anyone who can tell me what makes a "she-crab" better than a "he-crab" for this creamy rich soup. Grouper bites are a staple of any good appetizer menu, as are oysters any way, shape or form. I love oysters any way I can get them, but Michael still adamantly refuses to eat them. Those of you who know him well remember his rule: he eats nothing that in its' natural state was a "filter". That, of course leaves out oysters, clams, liver, etc. 'Seems to me he is missing out on some very good taste treats, but that's his loss.

Of course, real Low Country food is fried. Fried fish, fried apples, fried green tomatoes (Yum!), fried green beans (questionable), fried dill pickles (no thanks!), and of course the ever-present fried hush puppies. I'm firmly convinced there is no redeeming value to a hush puppy--but gosh, they sure taste good with honey butter! Along with okra and collard greens, I have discovered "chow-chow", for which there are also hundreds of recipes, each with its own special "secret" ingredient. It is a sort of relish made with cabbage, onions, green and red peppers, spices, and lots of salt. It is traditionally served atop a bowl of pinto beans, but I prefer to pile it on my hot dog. It's sort of like sauerkraut, but not really--similar, yet different! And did you know that in the South hot dogs are always served with cole slaw? Not on the side, you understand--on the hot dog! Quite tasty, actually! And I was nearly thrown off the Plantation one day when I suggested that Hellman's mayonnaise might be just as good as Duke's Mayonnaise. What was I thinking??!

And finally, let me assure you that all males are not named "Bubba" here in our new home, and not all women have double first names like Mary Elizabeth or Laura Sue. Southern hospitality is alive and well, and I must say it is rather nice to be called "Mam", and I don't even mind when one of the "good ol' boys" calls me "Baby Doll"! Somehow it seems just fine coupled with his fine "southern gentleman" manners. I do think the phrase I like most and have found most helpful is "y'all"--it just works so nicely into any social setting. Whether it is the kids at school, or the members at the club, or Michael, "y'all" just seems to fit. But then y'all knew that--din't ya?


Rachel said...

Mummm.. the seafood sounds wonderful. I'm with Michael on the filter food.
I hope we can visit soon, it sounds so charming. But I'm going to wait until the humidity drops some.
Thank you for the beautiful writing, Yes you should write more often!

Katie said...

It is so fun to see your blog. We will miss seeing you when you visit Rachel and Chad! We miss having them across the street sooooo much. The baby is due in 5 weeks. I can't wait. You need to post recipes! The food sounds so good. Check out my blog sometime.