The closest I’ve ever lived to the South is Hollywood, FL near a Winn-Dixie. I was born in Norfolk, VA and lived on the East and West coasts until I was ten years old which is when we finally settled on the West. I’ve also lived in two mid-western states. Although, nowadays Minnesota is starting to distinguish themselves as the North. But I have never lived in the South. However, all I have to do is get on the phone with my cousin from Georgia and in an instant ya’ll, I have a southern accent.
The other day when we were shopping at Zara in the Mall of America, my cousin from Georgia saw a scarf and exclaimed to her daughter, “It’s monogrammable!” Yes, that is a word - in her vocabulary. And yes, that is something to get excited about. Apparently, in the south, items are more attractive if you can monogram it. I love it. Take something ordinary and make it fancy.
Here’s why I love monogrammed gifts: First, you have to be organized if you are going to give anything monogrammed as a thoughtful pinch. The turn around time is usually two weeks but some stores are feeling the “Millennial-Instant-Results” pressure and turning around a monogrammed item within in a week or even days. So if you are organized like my cousin, it means you have already purchased your pinch weeks prior to actually wrapping it up to send or give. Finding gems - items that are not common - and having it monogrammed is beyond thoughtful. It means the person who gave it to you is an organized-gift-giving-extraordinaire. Second, I love monogrammed items because I don’t ever buy myself something and then have it monogrammed. So if you see me with something that has my initials or my last name, you can bet it was a gift. Monogrammed usually means it is something that I wouldn’t splurge on or treat myself to because I’m too practical. And last but not least, another reason to covet the monogram is all about simplicity. While still being stylish, there is no need to put a name label on it because everybody will know who it belongs to. Southerners love their monograms and I’m lucky to have a cousin who loves to give thoughtful pinches.
I like many of the southern customs and traditions. One I like a lot is eating black eyed peas, collard greens and ham on New Years Day. I’ve been trying to do this ever since I learned about this tradition. I must say, 2017 was the first year that I ate, on New Year’s Day, real, homemade black eyed peas - the kind that do not come out of a can. The kind that involve ham hocks, soaking and slow cookers. There is a BIG difference. Yum. And this year the greens were outstanding! According to About Food - the saying goes, “Eat poor on New Year's, and eat fat the rest of the year.” The black eyed peas loosely resemble coins and expand in volume once they are cooked which can symbolize expanding wealth. Good luck usually means monetary gain - this is where the collard “greens” come into the picture since they resemble cash. “Peas for pennies, greens for dollars, and cornbread for gold.” We missed out on the cornbread this year but I won’t forget next year. My cousin came for a visit during New Year’s so her southern cooking came in handy. Maybe this will be the year!
There is one southern tradition that I’m certain is not well known. Years ago, my cousin started a tradition of sending a bag of Southern Straws for every birthday and Christmas. This bag of goodness is something I hide and save just for me. Usually, I’m surrounded by lots of treats on my birthday and Christmas so if I open the bag right away it would be a waste. The gift would be lost in the shuffle of sinful calories. Instead, I put the straws away. Months later when I’m searching for the perfect snack, I find the bag and eat the whole thing in one sitting. Yes, I get sick but that’s how I roll. These cheese straws are just the right combo of cheese and heat. Addicting. I always send a picture of the bag via text to my cousin with the caption: ”Come to Mama.” Then a follow up text telling her that I’m sick from eating the whole bag.
Since I’m not sure if we’ll ever end up in the South, it’s nice to know that my family out there continues to keep me southern by sending me all their thoughtful pinches. I’m about as happy as a pig in mud ya’ll.