Sunday, July 27, 2008

Have you seen "Mama Mia" yet? If not, let me tell you, I dare you to go and try not to sing and laugh all the way through it. Can't be done! It's infectious! I saw it last night with my friend Yvonne and thoroughly enjoyed it. I'd forgotten Meryl Streep could belt out a song like she does, but when did I hear her sing in a movie last? "Postcards from the Edge," maybe? Pierce Brosnan could use a few more singing lessons, but who cares when he's such delicious eye candy.

After the movie, Yvonne and I ate dinner at Margarita's. She moved here recently from Texas and is a Democrat! So you know I enjoyed our conversation over dinner. Since moving here, she's decided that Mississippi has a serious PR problem.

As if on cue, Benji sent this today, so I had to share it. It was written by Robert St. John, executive chef and owner of the Purple Parrot Cafe, Crescent City Grill and Mahogany Bar of Hattiesburg , MS.

Thirty years ago I visited my first cousin in Virginia . While hanging out with his friends, the discussion turned to popular movies of the day. When I offered my two-cents on the authenticity and social relevance of the movie Billy Jack, one of the boys asked, in all seriousness, 'Do you guys have movie theaters down there?'

To which I replied, 'Yep. We wear shoes too.'

Just three years ago, my wife and I were attending a food and wine seminar in Aspen , Colo. We were seated with two couples from LasVegas . One of the Glitter Gulch gals was amused and downright rude when I described our restaurant as a fine-dining restaurant. "Mississippi doesn't have fine-dining restaurants!" she insisted and nudged her companion.

I fought back the strong desire to mention that she lived in the land that invented the 99-cent breakfast buffet. I wanted badly to defend my state, my region, and my restaurant with a 15-minute soliloquy and public relations rant that would surely change her mind. It was at that precise moment that I was hit with a blinding jolt of enlightenment, and in a moment of complete and absolute clarity it dawned on me -- my South is the best-kept secret in the country.Why would I try to win this woman over? She might move down here.

I am always amused by Hollywood 's interpretation of the South. We are still, on occasion, depicted as a collective group of sweaty, stupid, backwards-minded, racist rednecks. The South of movies and TV, the Hollywood South, is not my South.

This is my South:

My South is full of honest, hardworking people.

My South is the birthplace of blues and jazz, and rock n' roll. It has banjo pickers and fiddle players, but it also has BB King, Muddy Waters, the Allman Brothers, Emmylou Harris and Elvis - and Leontyne Price.

My South is hot.

My South smells of newly mowed grass. My South was kick the can, creek swimming, cane-pole fishing and bird hunting.

In my South, football is king, and the Southeastern Conference is the kingdom.

My South is home to the most beautiful women on the planet.

In my South, soul food and country cooking are the same thing. My South is full of fig preserves, cornbread, butter beans, fried chicken, grits and catfish. In my South we eat foie gras, caviar and truffles.

In my South, our transistor radios introduced us to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones at the same time they were introduced to the rest of the country.

In my South, grandmothers cook a big lunch every Sunday, so big that we call it dinner (supper comes later).

In my South, family matters, deeply. My South is boiled shrimp, blackberry cobbler, peach ice cream, banana pudding and oatmeal cream pies. In my South people put peanuts in bottles of Coca-Cola and hot sauce on almost everything. In my South the tea is iced and almost as sweet as the women.

My South has air-conditioning.

My South is camellias, azaleas, wisteria and hydrangeas.

In my South, the only person that has to sit on the back of the bus is the last person that got on the bus.

In my South, people still say 'Yes, ma'am,' 'No ma'am,' 'Please' and 'Thank you.'

In my South, we all wear shoes....most of the time.

My South is the best-kept secret in the country. Please continue to keep the keeps the idiots away.


Suz said...

I thoroughly enjoy your blog, and this posting about 'your' South was especially touching. I grew up in Tippah County, and I live in Phoenix now. But all my family is still back in Mississippi, and I miss them dearly. Looking forward to visiting them in August, and having some of Mom's garden vegetables, biscuits, and Coca-Cola salad. By the way, the best fine-dining experience I ever had was at Delta Point restaurant in Vicksburg....better than anything I ever had in Houston or in Phoenix! Thanks again for such a "delicious" blog!

Suzanne Hight

C J Garrett said...

Yeah, I liked the Delta Point, too, but it's gone, thanks to the casinos.

Tell me about this Coca-Cola salad your mom makes. That's a new one on me.

Suz said...

Coca-cola Salad was at just about every church social I ever attended. I copied my Mom's recipe below:

1 pkg. strawberry jello
1 pkg. black cherry jello
1 small can crushed pineapple
1 3 oz. cream cheese
1 cup pecans (fairly large pieces)
1 small Coke (see how old this recipe is?)
2 cups hot water

There were no instructions on how to put it together, it's fairly intuitive. Just mix jello and hot water, chop up the cream cheese a little bit and add to the hot jello, add the rest and put in the fridge.

C J Garrett said...

Oh, that Coca-Cola salad! I remember those, too. It's been years since I had one though, hence the failing memory. Hope you enjoy your trip back home.