Saturday, August 22, 2015

Kate's Top Eight... Mississippi Words and Phrases

When I moved to the land of Dixie, of course I knew of some Southern words and phrases, but I have certainly expanded my vocabulary during my tenure here.  Pour yourself a glass of sweet tea while I regale you with...

Kate's Top Eight Mississippi Words and Phrases

8. Y'all - the most commonly known (and mocked) of all Southern words, y'all is a very handy little word.  I have engaged in online discussions about the correct spelling of y'all.  I've seen it spelled seen it spelled "yall," no apostrophe, and "ya'll" as well, but I've done a bit of research and the most commonly held belief is that the origin is a contraction of "you all," which would put the apostrophe after the "y," and have it substitute for the "ou" and "a."   Up north, we say "you guys" instead of "y'all."  I like "y'all" better, because it's gender neutral.  I once went to a Christian conference in Amherst, MA that was led by a pastor from Texas.  He explained to us New Englanders that "you" addresses one person, "y'all" addresses a few to several people, and "all y'all" addresses a large group of people.

7. Bless yer heart - While this phrase *can* be used sincerely, and I've heard it used that way, more often than not it means that the person doing the "blessing" thinks that the other person has said something the blesser believes to be really stupid or something that the blesser heartily disagrees with, but is too polite to say so, or both.  "I think the U.S. needs universal, single-payer health care!"  "Oh bless yer heart.  We'll just have to wait and see what happens."Yep.  That conversation has occurred, almost word-for-word.

6. Might could - Do you need help with something?  Someone at church might could help you with that!  I never heard these 2 fairly common words put together until I moved here.

5. Hug your neck - If someone is glad to see you, they don't "give you a hug," they "hug your neck."  I find this one incredibly endearing, but a bit creepy at the same time as I don't really like anyone's hands or arms too close to my neck.

4. Buggy - Southern for grocery cart.  I grew up calling them carriages.  When we lived in Washington State, someone asked me where I was from that I called a cart a carriage.  Here, it's a buggy.

3. Ma'am and Sir - I've never been called "Ma'am" so much in my life.  Children here are well-trained and well-mannered, at least the ones I've met.  Everyone from the littlest child to graduate students calls their elders "Ma'am" and "Sir."  Even once I've said "No, really, you can call me Kate! You're an adult now!"  It's so ingrained in them that it's difficult for them to make the transition.  I have picked up on the habit too - if I'm speaking to someone whose name I don't know and they ask me a question, I say "Yes Ma'am" or "No sir."  I was once asked on a cruise ship if I had a military background, because I called a guy "Sir."  I think he was from New Jersey, so not brought up in the Southern cultured manner.

2. Yankee - As y'all know (see what I did there?), I grew up in Massachusetts.  I am a lifelong, die-hard, multi-generational Red Sox fan. It's in my blood. Our fiercest rivals in baseball are, of course, the New York Yankees. Much to my annoyance, the term "yankee" is slang for anyone from the North, and particularly the Northeast.  Whenever anyone calls me a yankee, I am irresistibly compelled to correct them.  "You can call me a Northerner or a New Englander," I say, "But please don't call me a yankee.  I'm a Red Sox fan."

1. Finna/fixin' to - Our first Christmas here, Rob & I decided that we were going to venture to the capital city of Jackson to do some "real shopping."  We looked online for shopping malls, and found one called the MetroCenter Mall.  We didn't find out until we got there that it's not the best mall to go to - not only was it oddly deserted for being so close to Christmas, but when we got back our pastor's wife said "You went there?!  I'm so thankful y'all made it back alive!"  Apparently it's not in the best neighborhood.

As we were preparing to pull out of our parking space - it was maybe 4 or 5 spaces from the entrance - a lady walked up to us and said "Yawlfinnalee?"  "Excuse me?"  I asked politely.  She repeated, "Yawlfinnalee?"  My husband managed to infer that she was asking if we were leaving.  "Leaving, yes, we are leaving," he told her.  She walked back to her car, TWO spaces further from the entrance, got in, waited for us to pull out, and took our now vacant parking space.  I later learned that "finna" is a contraction of "fixin' to."  The woman in question had contracted "Y'all fixin' to leave?"  into "Yawlfinnalee?"

"Fixin" of course just means preparing.  When I was living the single life, I had a roommate who was from Mississippi.  She once asked me, "I'm fixin' to go to the grocery store, do you need anything?"  I said, "You're what?"  I had never heard the term "fixin' to" before.  That's one phrase I haven't personally adopted.

What odd or interesting regional phrases have you heard around this great nation, or as you've traveled the world? Have you adopted any into your vocabulary?  Tell us in the comments!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Kate's Top Eight... Mississippi Foods

Dear Readers,

It has been quite some time since I have blogged.  Over 3 years, in fact.  Just today, though, I had an idea for a new series - Kate's Top Eight - in which I will periodically list the top 8 things in a specific category.  Living in Mississippi for the last 7(!) years has given me much fodder for the first post in this series, so let's dive right in to the deliciousness!


8. Collard Greens - I don't eat these often, but when I do, it is as part of a lunch plate, to be covered in more detail later in this post.  Collard greens in the South are not bland and flavorless, as they were in my New England youth (not that I ate them all that often in my youth either).  No, collard greens here are cooked to perfection and spiced with just the right touch of various kinds of pepper and vinegar.   There are as many ways to make greens as there are Southern cooks.  My favorite greens come from the gas station near my house. This recipe from Guy Fieri at Food Network looks pretty close.

7. Macaroni and Cheese - as a vegetable. I realize of course that mac & cheese is actually a complete protein composed of pasta and cheesy goodness.  Here, it is listed among the choices of vegetables on a lunch plate at most eateries.  And no, vegetables are not added.  Additionally, Southern "vegetable" mac and cheese tends to be VERY creamy, soft, cheesy, and rich.  It is most often made with mild cheddar, rather than sharp or more exotic cheeses.  I've made Trisha Yearwood's crockpot mac & cheese a couple of times.When you're in the mood for comfort food, it is perfection.

6. Monkey Bread - I had never tried this sweet confection until I moved here.  It makes an appearance at nearly every church potluck and community brunch.  It's sticky caramel pull-apart biscuit dough baked in a bundt pan.  You can make it from scratch, or you can use premade biscuit dough.  I've never made it, but I've tried both, and they are equally yummy.

5. Sweet Tea - This one is tough for me to admit, because I grew up on my gram's homemade mint iced tea.  Heaven in a glass, with just the right amount of sugar - way less than what's used in traditional Southern sweet tea.  The first time I tried Southern tea, it tasted like I was drinking syrup.  I quickly learned to ask for 1/2 unsweet, 1/2 sweet.  Or, go for the Arnold Palmer - 1/2 unsweet tea and 1/2 lemonade.  Over the years, though, I have grown accustomed to having my tea sweeter and sweeter.  Sure, that first cup is half and half, but for my refills, I go straight for the sweet.  I usually have some left so the sugar is somewhat diluted, but I do like it a bit sweeter than I used to.  I still occasionally make Gram's mint tea, but my last mint plant died.  I brought a new plant home from up North this past spring, and our new puppy ate it.  I will have to wait for my next visit to replenish my "brook mint" supply.  In the meantime, southern sweet tea is available in abundance.

4. Plate Lunches - also called "blue plates" or "meat and three."  In many Southern cafes and restaurants, you can order your choice of meat with two or three sides.  These delicious creations often include your sweet tea and a choice of roll or cornbread.  My favorite place for a plate lunch is the Fast Break gas station a couple of miles from my house.  Yes, a gas station.  Usually there is a choice of 2 or 3 meats - these can include baked or fried chicken, catfish, meat loaf, pulled pork, chicken fried steak, and any other number of succulent Southern fare.  Sides can include the aforementioned collard greens and mac & cheese, as well as baked beans, mashed potatoes (with gravy, if you wish), candied yams (YUM!), green beans, mixed vegetables, corn, lima beans, and whatever other offerings are available that day.  I usually get 2 meals out of one plate lunch.  Fried chicken is my favorite.  The cost?  About the same as a fast food meal, but SO much more satisfying!  My New England soul only feels a little guilty that it comes in a non-recyclable styrofoam container.  Don't tell the Town of Amherst!

3.5 - As I was editing this post prior to publishing, I realized that I had not included gas station fried chicken as a line item on this list.  That would be a grave omission.  The fried chicken at the Fast Break is unsurpassed in crispy, juicy, salty, Southern-fried goodness.  Pair it with their candied yams and collard greens and it's my favorite Southern lunch.  No contest.

3. Fried Green Tomatoes - Yes, please Idgie!  I made them once - I think I used this recipe but if not, this one is awfully close.  They are crunchy on the outside, tangy and juicy in the middle and just the perfect compliment to a pulled pork sandwich or a BBQ plate.  I prefer them to fries!

2. Barbecue - Where I grew up, barbecue was a verb.  It meant to cook outside on the grill.  Here, if someone says they're having a barbecue, or they're going for barbecue, it is synonymous with pulled pork.  Often, this is preceded by smoking a butt.  A Boston Butt, that is, also known as a pork shoulder.  In my town alone, I can choose from no less than three barbecue joints for my pulled pork, and it very well could be more.  Mississippi BBQ is smokey, saucy, spicy, and succulent.  Think ribs, without the  bones.  I haven't made my own BBQ because it's a lot less hassle to order from the Little Dooey, (where I can order a side of excellent fried green tomatoes!) often touted by the ESPN guys on College Gameday weekends.

1. Caramel Cake - My favorite!  It's another Southern delicacy that I have not attempted to make.  I
went to a ladies' fellowship where someone performed a demo of how she makes her famous caramel cake.  I even came home with a recipe, but it is so involved and requires a lot of time, equipment, and know-how that even after watching her do it, I'm reluctant to try.  It's not the cake part - it's a simple yellow sponge.  It's the frosting.  Cooked caramel frosting.  If you're a candy-maker, this might not be so intimidating to you but I've never made candy so I find it somewhat daunting.  Luckily, I have my choice of purveyors from whom I can purchase this most perfect of Southern confections.  It's what I request for my birthday every year now.

So there you have it.  Kate's top 8 Mississippi foods.  Did your favorite Southern delicacy make the list?  Tell me in the comments, and feel free to share your favorites!  Even better if you include recipes!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Extreme Mommyhood

Following Time Magazine's article entitled "Are You Mom Enough," there has been a maelstrom of activity in the blogosphere and on social media websites about the article, its title, and mostly its sensationalistic cover, portraying a 3 year old boy standing on a chair while breast feeding. The implication of the title along with the cover photo is that if you're not nursing your toddler, you must not be "mom enough." There is so much wrong with this view that I can't possibly express all of it in one blog post, but here are a few of the main points.

1. Rule #1 of feeding your child is just that - feed your child. Whether you're breastfeeding or bottle feeding, whether your child is eating solids or not, whether he is a snacker or a big-meal eater, feed your child. Yes, do all of the research and make an informed decision. But ultimately what matters most is that your child gets the nutrition that she needs in order to be healthy.

 2. We've all heard that "breast is best" and I believe that with all my heart and soul. But for some women it doesn't work, for a variety of reasons. Some don't have enough supply. Some find it too painful. Some have to take medications that preclude nursing. Some are not educated about the benefits of breastfeeding, so they bottle feed because they don't know any better, or because it's the family expectation. There are as many reasons for this decision as there are children. The choice to breastfeed or bottle feed is an individual choice for each mom and child relationship, and how I choose to feed my child is not open for criticism or judgment by anyone else. See Rule #1.

 3. Breast feeding beyond the first year is not abnormal. Worldwide, the average age of weaning is between 2 years old and 7.5 years old. I think the uber-sexualization of breasts in the U.S. and other first-world countries has had a negative effect on breast feeding. When I posted a link to an interview with the ladies who posed for the Time article on my facebook page, one of the comments in response was: "But when the boys start liking boobies you should stop feeding them with them. When they start riding motorcycles. They need to get off the BOOB." Really? You're worried about a 3 year old being sexually attracted to the "BOOB?" Give me a break. We as a nation need to be more educated about breast feeding so that when moms make that choice, they have all of the relevant information and they're not making the choice based on societal pressure.

Aside from the nursing issue, there is the "Attachment Parenting" issue. What is attachment parenting? Basically, it's paying attention to the needs of your child and meeting them as they arise. This gives them the confidence and assurance that their parents love them as they grow up and gain independence. Attachment parenting is NOT:
 - Giving your child everything she wants when she wants it
- Spoiling your child
- Allowing your child to do whatever he wants
- A lack of discipline or refusal to say "no" to your child
- Nursing your child until she graduates from High School (although Kindergarten is not out of the question!)

Attachment parenting is using your instincts. If your baby is crying after you've put her to bed and your every instinct is telling you to pick her up and hold her and snuggle with her, then by all means do it! Even if you're tired and want her to sleep through the night. Even if the latest parenting book, your well-meaning friends, or your doctor told you to let her "cry it out."

Doing what you KNOW is right for you and your child, in spite of what other sources are telling you, is part of attachment parenting. Most importantly, mothers need the support of other mothers - not criticism, unsolicited advice, conflict over parenting decisions, or competition - SUPPORT. After all, being a mom is perhaps the hardest, most rewarding thing a woman can do. Let's not fight over who's right or wrong about how to do it. What's right for you may not work in my family and vice-versa. That doesn't mean we can't stand up for each other the way that boy on the Time cover literally stood up for his mother's milk.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Peach Ambition

In my last blog entry, I stated that I planned to do some canning this summer. Well, wonder of wonders, I actually did it! I spent the better part of my morning messing up my kitchen canning a slew of peaches! How many are in a slew? I'm not exactly sure. And, why is it called canning when you’re actually using jars, not cans? Shouldn’t it be called jarring?

I started with this many peaches:

Which, I thought, would yield quite a lot of canned peaches. Well, by the time I blanched, shocked, peeled, cut, simmered, and jarred all those peaches, my final yield was:

2 quarts and 3 pints! I thought it would be more, but these will sure taste good in the winter! Besides, it’s only the beginning of peach season, and I have LOTS more jars. I can, if I choose, buy more peaches & can them, too. Can’t wait to taste the fruits of my labor! (pun intended… HA!) What do you plan to can, preserve, sauce, or jam this summer?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lazy summer days

This summer, I'm not taking any classes. This is strange to me, because I have taken 2 classes every summer since I started graduate school, back in 2007.

This summer, my daughter is in preschool, full-time. She's been in preschool at least part-time for about 3 years, but never during the summer before. I would keep her home with me, but we had to pay for summer at her preschool in order to ensure her spot in the fall. Doesn't make any sense to pay for full-time preschool, then not send her. Besides, she's such a social creature - she has way more fun with her friends at school than she would have at home with me every day.

This summer, I don't have a job. The last summer that I didn't have a job was 2003 - the summer that I met my husband in a Red Sox chat room. I had a summer job lined up, but then it fell through and by that time, it was too late to get another summer job. Thus, I had all the time in the world to hang out in an online chat room and lay the foundation of my relationship with my future husband.

So what are my plans?

First: catch up on sleep. I did not know that I was so tired until I didn't have to get up at a prescribed time for the last 2 days. Yesterday I slept in until 10:00am. TEN A-M!!! That is very, very late for me. This morning, I was up and at 'em by 9:30. If I keep going at this pace, I'll be getting up at 8am by Friday! Then I can drive my husband to work and my daughter to preschool and actually have the car for the day. Oh, didn't I mention...

This summer, we only have one car. We had a second car until very recently, but it died a sudden death about a week before we left for our vacation in May. We will need a second one once fall classes start in mid-August, but until then we are planning to get by with the one.

Second: do some canning! If you have never had a fresh, Chilton County (GA) peach, you are missing out on one of the great joys of summer in the South. They are the sweetest, juiciest peaches I've ever tasted, and this summer I intend to buy a slew of them and can them! Then on those chilly, rainy Mississippi "winter" days, I can taste a bit of summer. (I put "winter" in quotes, because I grew up in Massachusetts. The winters here barely qualify - they're more like very chilly, wet, long, rainy fall).

Third: Bake. At least, I want to bake enough bread so that we don't have to buy it at the store. I tried to make some in the automatic bread maker yesterday and it failed to raise. I should have known better - my Gram taught me how to make bread by hand, and that's how I should do it! I also want to make muffins for breakfast and cookies for snacking on and try my hand at some of the Pioneer Woman's recipes, specifically her knock you naked brownies. I also really want to try making brioche, seeing as how I searched for a brioche pan for over a year and I finally found - and bought - one, but I have yet to use it.

Fourth: This is the one that I'm most hesitant to put into writing because it is the most difficult for me - clean and organize - my kitchen at the very least. HELP!

In addition to the above, I have also planted a patio container garden. I'm starting small - I have mint (transplanted from Gram's brook up North), basil, sage, rosemary, thyme, tomatoes, and crook-neck summer squash. I can't wait for those tomatoes & squash! Hopefully next year I'll add some lettuces and maybe some cucumbers.

What are your summer plans?