Pappaw’s Peanut Brittle

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I’m so excited to be a guest today on Debby Hudson’s blog, Creating Space for the Rhythms of Grace. She asked for a post on memories with food and this childhood memory flooded in. Click here to read about Pappaw’s peanut brittle.

Do you have a favorite memory that is attached to food, or is that just a Southern thing? We have food at every.single.celebration.

I’d love to hear your memories!

 

 

 

Pearls of Wisdom: Surviving a Southern Family Gathering

Ingredients of Southern family gatherings

At any Southern family gathering there will be food. The best food you have ever tasted.

There are also likely to be a healthy supply of fireworks.

There will also be football, which means a game will actually be playing on a TV somewhere in the house or people will spend a good amount of time talking about football, or both.

And there will be talking. Lots of talking.

If you are new to the family, you may get trapped in a corner by a well meaning relative who wants to show you the scar from her recent surgery, or to tell you a random detail about a relative you’ve never met. Just smile, nod, and use your manners. (Yes Ma’m and No Ma’m)  

Where a family gathers, there will be storytelling.

Whether your family sits on chairs scattered around the porch, around a formal dining room table, or on 5 gallon buckets around a bonfire, story swapping is going to happen. It is important to know two important rules of storytelling in the South.

Rule Number 1: Embellishing is allowed, as long as you keep a few of the key details intact. For example: It really was  Bubba’s pond that you caught that fish on, but the size of the fish and the fury of the fight may differ each time you tell it, depending on your audience and beverage you are consuming. If you are drinking anything stronger than sweet tea, the sky’s the limit!

If anyone asks “Did it really happen like that?” it is perfectly acceptable to smile and say “Sure it did,” “Dang straight!”, or a similar variation.  Everyone knows a least one part of your story isn’t accurate; they just don’t know which part. And that is exactly the point.

Rule Number 2: The second rule, often learned through painful trial and error, is Do not interrupt the storyteller or suddenly become overly concerned with the accuracy of the facts. This will ruin the flow of the story and Uncle James will begin his story again from the beginning. Or worse, alter the ending so that it lasts longer. A lot longer.

Meeting the Grandmother Rules

If you are being introduced to a Southern family, this is important! Southern Grandmothers have the ability to size you up and decide if you are worth your weight in salt in one glance. You will know immediately if you have been placed on the scales and found wanting. And it is nearly impossible to reverse this decision unless you bless her with beautiful grandbabies down the road.

  1. Besides your own worth, where you are from is also very important. Therefore, it is vital that you know as much as you can about your family history. It is best if you can trace your heritage back before the Mayflower. A true Southern grandmother will spend no less than 15 minutes trying to connect you with someone she knows. It’s an intense game of 6 degrees of separation, and your acceptance into the family is at stake.
  2. Say Yes Ma’m and No ma’m. If you fail at the first rule, this may save your hide.

Family Dynamics – You may be 6’2, but at family reunions you will still be referred to as knee high to a grasshopper. It’s just the way it is.  And if you’ve ever made a mistake in your life,  that will probably come up at some point.

It is difficult for families to realize that change is possible. We tend to lock people into the way we remember them. But the truth is, drug addicts can become clean, a willful child can grow into a focused, successful adult, and the baby of the family can become a successful entrepreneur.

We do move slower than molasses in the middle of December here in the South, but things don’t have to be frozen in time.

In our own family, for instance, I am known for my lack of direction because of an ill fated bus ride back in 1986.  I got on the bus in South Mississippi and instead of going north toward home I took a bus to New Orleans. That has been a quarter of a century ago, and my mama still makes comments about it.

See? Frozen in time. Even though she had no idea where I was and no way to get in touch with me and she was worried sick, Mama really should let it go. After all, I’ve got  Google Maps now. Which is helpful until they start using ridiculous directions like “East” or “West.”

I would love to hear your family stories, embellished or not. Leave a comment below and we can raise a glass of sweet tea (or whatever is in that container behind Granny’s kitchen door) together in honor of our families!

Y’all have a great day!

 

 

Pearls of Wisdom: The Skinny on Small Talk

I love being from the South.

I love the pace of life here. I love the words people use, and the way our humor combines exaggeration and (a touch of) sarcasm.

Southerners love words. We tend to play around with words and phrases in order to get our point across.  With the right combination, we can sum up an entire story in one phrase.  Or if we need a word that doesn’t exist, we have no problem declaring a new one into existence.

Conversations with Southerners take up time, because we have a formula of sorts that most of us use. And that formula begins with small talk. Now, I know some people despise small talk and see it as a waste of time. But it plays a very important role.  Small talk is approaching a conversation like you would a creek on summer day.  The water seems inviting, but you don’t just go jumping in without checking it out first.

How cold is the water? How fast is the current? And most importantly, are there any snakes around? (Always remember to check for snakes!)

Similarly, small talk allows you to ease into a conversation. It allows you to stick a toe in the water, so to speak, and see if you even want to jump in.

Does the other person want to talk? Do we have time to talk? Is that person safe to talk to? (Always remember to check for snakes!)

If the answer to any of these question is no, we can stay on small talk until the cows come home.

However, if the conversation is moving alone fine and we don’t detect any snakes, we don’t mind going to a deeper subject. Sometimes it takes a while to get good and comfortable, but when we do go deep, treasures are found!

Personally, I am suspicious of people who don’t participate in small talk. They’re the ones who just jump into a conversation with a list of questions right after the hello. That’s like jumping into a freezing cold creek without wading in. It’s just too direct.

For example: You cannot jump in with “Why in the world was Tracie Sue wearing that skanky outfit at the Piggly Wiggly yesterday?” and get a real answer. It just won’t happen. It’s too direct.

However, if you ease into it, here’s what it might sound like:

“Hey!”

“How are you?”

“Tolerable. How are you?”

“Oh fine. How’s your momma and em?”

“They are doing fine. Bobby’s been fishing every morning since the time change.”

“Really? He catch anything?”

“Oh yeah. A good mess of fish! You know the time change has me all tired.”

“Me too. But I like it getting light later in the evening.”

“ Me too. Hey, how is Tracie Sue doing?”

A sympathetic shake of the head. “Bless her heart, she’s had such a hard time with that new baby. He cries all the time and she is just beside herself.”

“I saw her at the Piggly Wiggly yesterday.” One eyebrow is raised for effect.

“Oh my. She was wearing THAT outfit wasn’t she?”

“Yep.” The tone in which you say “Yep”  and breathe out implies the exact nature of said outfit.

“She’s just can’t seem to lose that baby weight. And you know that husband of hers…”

See? Wasn’t that much more fun than just jumping in and splashing around? Since you waded into the conversation all proper like, the information flows freely.

Small talk can also be extremely helpful in parenting. If you suspect your child has done something wrong but aren’t sure of the details, with a little creative small talk, you can get them to come clean. Never, ever give away that you were unclear on the details.

Every Southern Mama has a line to use after confessions to imply that she is omniscient and omnipresent. When I was a kid my Mama often said, “Honey, you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time, and you can never fool your Mama.”

I’d love to know your thoughts on small talk, or your favorite “Mama quote.”

Ya’ll have a great day!