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Number of posts: 11
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By Myra Blackmon:
Bon Appetit Y'all
There is little I enjoy more than the bounty of Georgia’s oceans, farms, dairies and vineyards. I’m addicted to the fresh flavors and heirloom varieties of locally grown fruits and vegetables. I could mainline Georgia peaches and not get enough. I grew up on milk-fed beef from the back yard.
When my friend and occasional employer wrote that he would be in town from Beirut, I quickly invited him to dinner. He said he would have two Lebanese colleagues with him. That pleased me even more.
When he accepted, he said, “They think Southern food is gross and unhealthy.” My response? “We’ll have Southern Food, but not Southern Cooking.”
I decided to make three bean salad for the cooler we would take on our road trip. Otherwise, I never would have snapped those beans. Like many others, I’ve taken to calling them green beans and serve them crisp and whole, rarely broken up and certainly never cooked to mush with a ham hock!
So I found myself standing over the sink snapping beans into a colander. Before I finished one handful, I was back in Washington, Georgia, in the 1950s and 60s where Mama and Aunt Virginia next door spent many a summer afternoon snapping and shelling some kind of beans or peas: snap beans, pole beans, butterbeans, black-eyed peas, field peas. And talking. That’s what they did in the summer. They were joined often by Aunt Norma up the street, or grandmother Agnes from across the street.
Some people are born knowing what they should do in life. Others have to be grabbed by the shoulders, aimed and pushed to see it. That was the case with me. From the second grade, I wanted to be a pediatrician. In those days, the response to that ambition was usually “Don’t you mean you want to be a nurse?” I stubbornly refused to change my focus.
It was New Year’s night, which is the tail end of New Year’s Day, which comes after New Year’s Eve, which is preceded by New Year’s Eve Eve. Any excuse for a party. But we had not been partying, unless you count the excellent venison stew with our cabin neighbors Roxanne and Jay. They’re great friends and we continue to celebrate Roxanne’s brand new Ph.D. in Nursing Education. Considering that she dropped out of school at age 15—that was normal in Louisiana, she tells me—to get married, it’s a special accomplishment. We joyfully toasted GED to Ph.D. We were home by 8:30. And I don’t mean 8:30 on New Year’s Day.
Not long ago, two days into the Southern Women Writers Conference at Berry College, I was feeling inspired, excited, and fascinated. I was all fired up to write my heart out when it hit me like a brickbat: I cannot possibly be a Southern Woman Writer. Yes, I’m Southern — for at least 10 generations. I am female. I write a bit. But that’s not being a Southern Woman Writer. I simply am not qualified. Here’s why: 1. I have been loved and cherished since before I was born. My parents planned to have me. My daddy snuck into the hospital nursery to hold me. Utterly, completely loved, with no weird manifestations of same. Well, there is that peculiar thing with my name. You know, they named me one thing, but decided to call me something else. In another family, I might have been Peg or Maggie, short for Margaret […]
I am magic. A little girl said so.
You see, I’ve just finished my second day as a volunteer at my neighborhood school, Timothy Road Elementary in Athens, Georgia. Because of my Master of Education in Instructional Technology degree, they have put me in the school’s media center, which is a great place to work. I check books in and out, help kids with the card catalog, run errands and do little chores for the media specialist. I don’t know jack about any educational stuff below college level, but I can learn a lot in this school.
My knees hurt and it ticks me off. There’s nothing wrong with my knees, but my exercise shoes have worn slap out and the lack of proper support makes my knees hurt. I’m mad in advance over the hassle I’ll have to go through to find a pair of new ones.I am NOT driving to Atlanta for this. You see, I’m a victim of shoe size discrimination. I wear a 9½ narrow or AA. For some reason, most manufacturers don’t bother to make this size. Of the few that make 9½, even fewer make them in the narrow width. Need a 9 narrow? No problem. Need a 10 narrow? No problem. Need a 9½ narrow? Prepare for a long drawn-out shopping expedition. To add insult to injury, it’s getting worse, not better. Now, I’m not one of those women who love to shop. Even though my daddy owned a department […]
Let us speak of gumbo.
That’s the inscription in my copy of “The Ballad of Little River” by Paul Hemphill. We were at a book-signing at the Georgia Governor’s Mansion, where Roy Barnes had just delivered a thundering introduction that begain, “Thank God for Alabama!” We all appreciated the double entendre: First, the story in “Little River” made Georgia look good by comparison; secondly, Alabama had given us Paul Hemphill.
The gumbo comment was Paul’s little way of reminding me that, while he had forgiven me, he still had not forgotten the night we had made gumbo in my kitchen. I don’t cook well with others. I was trying a new anti-depressant which wasn’t quite right, exacerbated by the fact that I was washing the medicine down with significant quantities of Jack Daniels.
And I was a pluperfect bitch. Probably one of my best (worst?) performances ever, at something I’m damn good at. The clever insults and putdowns rolled off my lips like little barbed honey drops. I contradicted him on everything about making gumbo, from the quality of the seasoning on a cast iron pot, to how brown the rue was supposed to get, to how much filé to add and when. At the time, I was confident of my brilliance. I didn’t know jack about making gumbo, but that didn’t slow me down.
Sometimes we Athenians get almost as bad as Atlanta folk, thinking we’re really all there is. We live in our little world of academics, funky shops, music halls and progressive politics and think everywhere is like this. Or maybe we just wish it. At any rate, I always get a good dose of alternate reality, of the beauty and mystery of the rural south when we head to our little place in Mountain Rest, S.C. The trip itself is mostly charming, with the exception of about 13 miles on I-85 between Carnesville and Exit 1. Georgia 106, up through Madison and Franklin Counties, is one of the prettiest drives around. Rolling green hills, dark hardwood forests, everybody with their little garden. Sometimes a herd of goats, a roadside produce stand. Now that the drought is over, the lush green you’d almost forgotten softens even the chicken houses and rusted tractors […]
I can’t tell you his real name. Or where he lives. Or the real name of his business. He might kill me. Once upon a time, in an earlier life, we ran up on a business card in a hardware store. “Mr. Honeydew. Can fix most anything. Give me your honey-do list.” That and a phone number. It was just corny enough that we took down the info and called him for a minor repair. Mr. H. arrived more or less on time, if you know what I mean. Stood by his truck, chatting with my husband about the job. The house windows were open and after the preliminaries, I heard, “I’ve got my gun here with me. See it? I love that gun and I’m not afraid to use it. Man’s best friend is his gun. You never know what you might run into.” It didn’t sound particularly threatening […]
My Uncle Dilmus is way too good a man to have to spend his last years this way. Devastated by Alzheimer’s, ravaged by a body that let him down way too young. He still has a few good days now and again, when he remembers his brothers’ and sister’s names, and can chat briefly on the phone. He didn’t have an easy life, but then, who does? Really. His mama died from breast cancer when he was just about getting used to big-boy pants. His daddy, a fine man with one eye, missing part of a finger and working off a lot of rough edges, got him a good stepmother after a few years, but that don’t take away your mama dying. At 19, my Uncle Dilmus married his high school sweetheart and together they got him through vet school at the University of Georgia. They had three children. The […]