Growing up in the Deep South, I was surrounded by great food. It was and still is at the center of all family gatherings. My sisters and I had the privilege of eating fresh vegetables from the garden almost every meal. We always ate buffet style: Squash, okra, green beans, and collards colorfully decorated the stove top. Of course, at least one of them was hand-battered and fried in my dad’s secret recipe. I never realized how special it was until I didn’t have it everyday. (Ahh, adulthood!) The thought of starting a garden is daunting.
However, I haven’t always valued the things that have signified my Southern roots. I’ll never forget the first time I was taunted for my accent. I tried desperately in college to change it. Around certain people, I would talk less and softer just to avoid being called out. I hated it. I’ve since then managed to pronounce certain words correctly, but my vowels are still slow and long and Southern as sweet tea. People point it out occasionally.
And then it was my small town I grew up in that I never wanted to admit I was from. I’ve always lived by the mantra, “Just because you’re from a small town doesn’t mean you’re small minded.” I didn’t want to be stereotyped by a classist. I’m intrigued by other cultures and consider myself to have a broad worldview. I used to cringe when someone asked the question, “Where are you from?”
My town is infamous for landmarks like The Booby Trap and the Carrie Lawson case where theorists claim her body was dumped in the depth of Smith Lake. Apparently, that’s where all bodies are cast, probably by the hitman that you can hire for just a case of beer. (Seriously, this is a known fact.) Most recently, we became famous when National Geographic aired a special about the “Sipsey Wilderness Creature.” The hour long docuseries is of a man recalling his experience with an animal that is as closely related to Big Foot as you could find. Walker County doesn’t exactly have the best reputation.
But what I see when I think of my childhood is my cousin and I crafting mud pies and topping them off with wild flowers; playing hours outside until dark; leaping from hay bale to hay bale with my sisters; sneaking vanilla wafers from my great grandmother’s cookie jar; and my dad making us pick vegetables from the garden in the sweltering summer heat. (Have you ever “looked” peas? It’s pretty dreadful!)
Goodness, I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
My childhood home sits beautifully in a large field and the cows peacefully in the neighboring farm.
No, I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
I see that now, and I’m not so ashamed of my Southern drawl. I’m still going to say “y’all.” It’s a part of me, and, apparently, it’s not going anywhere no matter how hard I try. And as for my small town, I’m not sure I’d be who I am without it. I wouldn’t value simplicity or relish in the small things.
This Thanksgiving, I’m going to attempt to make my great aunt’s fried apple pies, not just because they are mouth watering good. But rather, because they symbolize tradition, love and hard work – treasures I want to preserve.
I’m thankful for my Southern roots. That may be the first time I’ve ever said that.
In honor of Thanksgiving, tradition, and family, I thought I’d share with you two recipes from two sweet Southern women, Callie Blount of Luv Cooks and Laura Chancey from Humble Pie. They both formed their love for cooking at an early age while learning and watching their grandmothers in the kitchen.
For the Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies above, click here. See below for Laura’s Spicy Chocolate Sweetie-Pie.
Chocolate Pie Dough
What You Will Need
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter
- 1/2 cup ice plus 1/2 cup water to make super cold ice water
What You Will Do