Early on I attempted to rid myself of all things Southern except, of course, my charm. I believed the accent and expressions made me sound ignorant, and I wanted to be cosmopolitan, sophisticated and smart. Then over dinner once in the North Country suddenly, “Well, that ’bout knocked me slap dead” came flying out of my mouth.
It occurs to me that, as Thanksgiving approaches this year — the second Thanksgiving of the economic plunge — some people may have a difficult time being thankful. Just recently the jobless rate reached double digits, and that does not include the underemployed. That’s still not as bad as the rate during the Great Depression, when about a fourth of the workforce were out of work. Ten percent is not as bad as 24 or 25 percent, but for the person who is unemployed, it is 100 percent.
Most of us are thinking about gratitude this week. And why not? Everywhere we look there are reminders of our wealth of blessings.
If you are lucky enough, your mother or grandmother had a recipe box that now lives in your own kitchen. I don’t know many cooks who actively keep one nowadays. I think the advent of instant recipes via the Internet, along with enough published cookbooks to warrant their own section in bookstores, have lessened the importance of saving passed-down recipes. And, many of these passed-down recipes have lost their relevance to today’s cook, with amounts given in pinches, or ingredients that include such items as oleo or prunes (lots of prunes in those old recipes).
Our world is so very full of need. It is overwhelming, trying to understand the vastness of poverty and suffering. Humans everywhere (and voiceless animals) are hurting. Sometimes scarcities are created by war, or natural disaster, or the unwise actions of a government. Misery may be the direct result of choices made by those most in distress. However, the causes hardly matter when the results are tragic and immense.
My mother was definitely a Southern mother, and I appreciate her more and more the older I get. I feel that I must apologize to the following generation, especially the young women, for spending more time and money trying to preserve my own youth and less acquiring the wisdom necessary to pass on to their generation. “ ... older women ... train the younger women ... ”
You may spout any praise of America, but you cannot conceal the fact: America has no hedgehogs. Not native ones, anyway. Oh, we have hedgehog hobbyists who enjoy having imported hedgehogs as pets, and even have them compete in the International Hedgehog Olympic Games (the Olympic Committee who runs the human version wants you to be sure they do not themselves sponsor or endorse the hedgehog version).
Charles Darwin’s name is so firmly linked with evolution that it is often forgotten that he was interested in specifics of biology. For instance, while he was fretting for 17 years over whether to publish about evolution, he was busy investigating barnacles. He was to publish an authoritative work on them. He also wrote about the geology he had seen on his travels in the “Beagle,” and did experiments on whether eggs or seeds could travel the oceans to get to new lands. He was constantly busy on other projects, constantly enquiring and doing his own research simply because he had an exemplary curiosity.
When I moved to Columbus from Washington, D.C., I was in Miss Emily Potts’s fifth-grade class at Franklin Academy. In Washington people had teased me about my “southern drawl.” In Mississippi they called me a “d---- yankee.” My defense was to try to talk like whoever was talking to me. (I have even caught myself lisping back at someone who lisped!)
Once upon a time, when the world was a simpler place, there were only four seasons. In those days, it was easy to understand spring and summer, winter and autumn. The seasons were sort of color-coded and clearly-themed. Back-to-school ads and photographic calendars were always embellished with falling leaves in tones of gold and rust and fiery reds. No matter where you lived, winter meant Currier and Ives-inspired snow scenes.
The second annual Festival of Trees, benefiting United Way of North Central Mississippi, opens Thursday with a Holiday Party and Auction in the Palmeiro Center on Mississippi State University’s campus. Last year, more than $20,000 was raised during this multi-event festival. For 2009, a new venue, more events, and increased participation promise an even better year.
As I emptied my satchel Monday, I wondered how many of my friends attend symposiums (such an educated word) and return with: homemade peppered jerky, individually-packaged cookies from famed Momofuku Restaurant in New York City, a blueberry muffin-shaped kitchen timer, Martha White blueberry muffin mix, harmonicas from the National Peanut Board and the remains of a dark chocolate, grilled jalapeno and salty peanut candy bar? (I could eat another one right now if I had one).
These days it seems that our world is filled with pain. Psychic pain is intangible and private. Who can really understand the agonizing loss of someone dearly loved? American sons and daughters are suffering, bloodily, in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, we do not need to look across the globe to find hearts shattered in ways that will never heal. (Where is Kaila Morris?)
This past weekend made six for six Great Delta Bear Affairs in Rolling Fork, a festival held to commemorate President Teddy Roosevelt’s bear hunting trip to the south Delta.
Grinning jack-o-lanterns, fanciful Frankensteins and dancing skeletons fill the kitchen at Lucy and Macy Willcutt’s house. But the 4- and 7-year-old sisters have nothing to fear. The Cookie Mama has just been hard at play, baking and decorating a fun-filled cast of characters ripe for gobbling up, each as sweet and tasty as the next.
It seemed that the season would never change. The city tried to hurry summer along by decorating downtown with our traditional fall display of scarecrows resting on bales of hay. I’m sure those straw men were grateful for the floppy fedoras protecting them from the brutal sun.
The recent tribute to Disney artist Josh Meador reminds me of an occasion which I probably ought to recount for posterity, assuming posterity is remotely interested. Change is in the air with the possibility of a new name for Mississippi University for Women, so maybe it is time to tell this bit of history — or her story, as some would say. I am not totally proud of it, however.
Everyone who has followed current events even slightly over the past five years knows that football hero and soldier Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan, and that the military had trouble telling the truth about his death from rifle fire by his own platoon. Tillman had a remarkable life for one who died at age 27, and in “Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman” (Doubleday), Jon Krakauer has provided the biography that Tillman deserves, vivid and compelling.
Scientifically, we might know a lot more about rats than we do about dogs. There are some experimental labs that have dogs as subjects, but lab rats get a lot of scientific attention. Dogs get a lot of domestic attention, but scientific study of dogs, and the ways they get along with humans and with other dogs, has not been a high concern.
We love seafood and could eat it every day if we had access. Access is the obstacle in a land-locked town, especially a small town. Even a moderate-sized town such as Athens, Ga., with 150,000, doesn’t have a seafood shop. There, we depended on our local organic grocery store, Earthfare, which at least had several deliveries a week of some of the basic fish, like wild-caught salmon or tuna. Plus, they also sold only dry-pack shrimp and scallops.