Thursday, September 1, 2016

Back To My Roots

Well, it's that time of year again! Dove and early teal season opened here in Illinois and dove and early teal opens Saturday in Arkansas, just in time for the holiday weekend.... Which of course just means more time in the blind!

I'm feeling quite nostalgic at the moment as I contemplate my upcoming trip to Arkansas. Brandon and I will be headed south tomorrow evening, and I can't help but to contemplate the many, many things I miss so much that you can only find once you're down yonder of the Mason-Dixon.

So for all my southern honkies out there, please enjoy my list of all too true and nostalgic things you can only find in the South:

Pancho's Cheese Dip – If you're southern born and bred you know immediately what I'm talking about. Pancho's is not only a delicious chain of Mexican restaurants but they have their own cheese dip brand that is sold in stores of all kinds all across the south. You will never find any other yellow cheese dip that tastes like Pancho's. I remember eating it when I was just knee-high to a grasshopper.

Southern Heat – no not, the sweaty humid heat, that's never nostalgic, although I do miss having warmer winters.... Anyways, here up north, people cook good, flavorable, spicy food. But something about it just misses the mark on heat, yea its still spicy, but it just doesn't quite have the same flavor of spice, like real spices such as cumin, chili, jalapeno, coriander and oregano. Sure they use 'em but not in any combination that brings southern heat.

The slam of mama's screened-porch door – Hardly anyone around here has screened in porches, I guess because the skeeters are tolerable and the heat too. Down south, most content southerners spend their evenings in a screened-porch with a box fan on a chair chasing away the humidity while counting the skeeters that collect on the outside of the screen. If you're lucky you have a swing or rocking chair on that screened-porch, it gives ya something to do. Any southerner knows you can swing or rock away any troubling thoughts.

Grandmama's cooking – Or as I call my own grandmama, Nanny, you just can't find any other cooking as good, they have the southern secrets and only they know how to directly infuse their food with love... Sometimes you just want to kidnap her and bring her up north with ya.

River fishing – Sure they have river's here and you can fish on 'em, but it's just not the same. Laying on the sanding banks of the southern rivers aka my beloved Mississippi, compares to a southerner's version of Florida. The sand is pure and soft, the river laps at your toes, and your hand does an automatic wave every hour to the tugboats chugging up and down the river. But the best part, is seeing them river poles bend like they're being used for vaulting....ya just know that big 30 pounder channel cat is on the other end.

Dove and duck hunting – Sure people do it here and its mildly popular, but dove season in the south turns into a big deal, you'll catch everyone and their dog up at Walmart at midnight buying up their hunting licenses or ten-fifties as we call 'em and raiding the store's supply of shotgun shells. Duck hunting is popular here, it just sucks, its slow and very hit and miss. While I haven't got to hunt my first season here, I've heard stories, and I've been told that I was lucky to grow up duck hunting in the south.

Food- All of it, fried chicken is only real fried chicken if its made the southern way and that includes a good flouring and eggwashing if ya know what I mean. Collard greens and poke salads are every day norms, whereas these here northerners eat these disgusting bitter dandelion greens...yuck...Biscuits and cornbread too. Its hard to find some good buttermilk cornbread and biscuits here, unless you make it yourself or go to Cracker Barrel (It may be a chain but it's a southern recipe founded chain). When you ask in a restaurant if something is made with buttermilk or sweet milk they look at you like you're crazy. For all you northerners still reading this wondering, sweet milk, is just regular ole two percent milk.... no it doesn't have sugar in it... Speaking of sugar don't even get me started on sweet tea... I miss good homemade silk pies and buttermilk lemon meringue pies. And of course the beloved fried chicken waffles... If you moved like me, here up north, don't even waste your time trying to find a Moonpie or RC Cola..... they just don't have 'em.

Hospitality – Everyone down south is instantly your friend and neighbor and most will give you the shirt of their back. We may not have much money down south to give, but we will definitely bring you into our homes and feed ya a good meal. It's just the southern way.

Football – Football is a big deal in the northern states but its not near as obsessive as the southern states. In my particular area, the football team sucks and is pretty much unheard of, not to mention its kinda too cold to tailgate the entire football season. You only think you love football until you take a trip down south. Everyone knows, don't change the channel, don't walk in front of the TV and don't walk into an Ole Miss bar wearing a Tennessee Vols shirt and don't walk into a Razorback bar wearing a Roll Tide cap, because its gonna go down!

Beer – Sure there are many types of beer, but cut out all this Stag and Busch, Budlight is pretty much the universal buy when making a beer run. Don't be surprised if you have to go to an actual restaurant to find anything else on draft. Even then don't get your hopes up.

Candy – Homemade candy shops is the cream of the peaches down south. You'll find one in an small antique tourist town, likely with a mom and pop kinda feel. From fudges to taffy, its all homemade and all infused with southern deliciousness from recipes handed down years upon years, I'm talking before the great depression years.

Melting pot – The South tends to be the biggest melting pot you ever seen when it comes to races, and it just keeps on meltin' as years go by. You liable to find a southern Canadian who had a baby with a southern born Hispanic and popped out a beautiful southern belle.... It's like mixing drink combinations at Sonic, ya never know what ya gonna get.

Sonic – speaking of Sonic. They have 'em up here too but only one per every 60 mile radius, whereas my little hometown of 12,000 has got one on every corner, three to be exact and every little town in between, if they don't have a Walmart then the certainly got a Sonic, but for every Walmart, double the Sonics...

Strawberries – What originated in Memphis, TN as a down home soulfood BBQ place, was grown into a franchise of the delicious BBQ seasoning: Strawberries, only a real southerner knows this to be the go-to for everything plain.

Moonshine – Now don't get me wrong, I've tasted some pretty good apple pie here.... But, down southe you all know we've got that Mississippi Mud moonshine. At 250 proof, it will make you wish you had a southern's toleration for it.

Hushpuppies – When you ordered fried fish here, they give ya slaw, tartar and fries... Ok sure, that's the same as the south..... Nope, they don't serve hushpuppies and a pickle with your fish plate..... Now if you ask me paying $10 for a fish plate with no hushpuppies and a pickle is scandalous!

God – There is a general population of Christians but I've never seen a bigger population of “I don't know” or “I pray during hard-times” in my life since I moved here. I knew I moved from the Bible Belt to the Corn Belt, but I wasn't aware I was trading God for corn.... You make a scripture joke, nobody gets it. You quote a scripture, still nobody gets it.... Ridiculous if you ask me.

Well there ya have it, just a few of the many things I miss about the South. I hope to have a great time down there, its been three long months, so I'm more than ready. I will post soon after the holiday. Thanks for reading Straight Southern!

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