Field Peas, a Southern Good Luck Charm [The New York Times]
Eating a bowl of black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is not the nation’s sexiest food ritual. Peas are not as beloved as Thanksgiving turkey. They lack the easy appeal of Super Bowl guacamole or the religious significance of a Hanukkah latke. But for a day, a broad swath of the nation stands united in its belief that black-eyed peas simmered with cured pork and served with soupy greens like collard or folded into rice for some hoppin’ John promise a year of luck and money.
I already knew OutKast; I loved their first album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, in part because of the clever way they interpolated funk and soul into rap. ATLiens, however, sounded unlike anything I’d ever heard or imagined. The vocal tones were familiar, but the rhyme patterns, the composition, the production were equal parts red clay, thick buttery grits, and Mars. Nothing sounded like ATLiens. The album instantly changed not just my expectations of music, but my expectations of myself as a young black Southern artist.
Beginning in 1808, a young man begins keeping a secret, ciphered journal of his life with terse detail of his days. Astronomical observations, interpersonal relationships (to put it mildly), weather notes, and the minutiae of a planter's life in 19th Century North Carolina were collected into these volumes that were nearly lost, decoded in 1979 and mostly forgotten again. The Coded Life of William Thomas Prestwood.
"Here’s what was off-limits, according to many of the people I grew up with: books about witchcraft, the writings of Anton LaVey, Ouija boards, New Age crystals, pentagrams, albums with backward masking, and the music of most heavy-metal bands. ... Yet here’s what was okay to enjoy, according to those same chums and acquaintances: The Omen. The Amityville Horror. Rosemary’s Baby. The Exorcist. These movies passed muster because they didn’t encourage people to dabble in the dark arts; they warned people." The Exorcist And The South's Love Of Devil Movies.
The Great Hog-Eating Confederacy
Early Southerners ate a rather limited and unvarying diet. At table the famished guest seldom found more than bacon, corn pone, and coffee sweetened with molasses. Pioneering sociologist Harriet Martineau complained that “little else than pork, under all manner of disguises” sustained her during her visit to the American SouthFor the most part, slaves observed the same diet as poor white farmers. Though many kept gardens, and thus supplemented their rations of pork and corn with a wide variety of vegetables, they had otherwise little opportunity to augment their diet.. Another traveler griped that that he had “never fallen in with any cooking so villainous.” A steady assault of “rusty salt pork, boiled or fried … and musty corn meal dodgers” brought his stomach to surrender. Rarely did “a vegetable of any description” make it on his plate, and “no milk, butter, eggs, or the semblance of a condiment” did he once see.Christine Baumgarthuber is a writer for The New Inquiry and runs the blog The Austerity Kitchen. [more inside]
"How do you like your blue eyed boy, Mr. Death?" Harry Crews has died at the age of 76. He was an author, a teacher, a boxer, a raconteur. But mostly, he was a writer.
"Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic."
Flannery O'Connor reads A Good Man is Hard to Find aloud at Vanderbilt University in 1959. [more inside]
Wes Freed (some images NSFW) is a painter who combines Southern gothic subject matter with an outsider art style. He's best known for his work with the great Southern rock band Drive-By Truckers and has designed most of their album covers, posters, and merchandise.
Lewis Marshall "Grandpa" Jones was one heck of a banjo player and storyteller best known for his role on Hee Haw. Those Delmore Boys? Lord can they sang,sang,sang. Merle? Hell he invented a whole new way to pick. Want to learn how? Drawn together by their love of traditional gospel music, they became country music's first supergroup. The Brown's Ferry Four. Their complete recordings.
A second Edgar Oliver story was posted [mp3] on The Moth Podcast yesterday. Recorded in January, 2006, he calls it The Apron Strings of Savannah but the Moth people call it The Story of How Edgar Became Edgar.
Slugburgers, hamburgers in which the meat has been supplemented with bread, meal, or crackers for filler, come from a triangular region that cuts across northern Alabama, northern Mississippi, and southern Tennessee and roughly corresponds with the Tennessee Valley. They're called slugburgers in Moulton, Alabama; Decatur, Alabama; and Corinth, Mississippi; doughburgers in Tupelo, Mississippi; and breadburgers in Cullman, Alabama. This regional take on the hamburger became popular during the Great Depression, when the price of meat made it necessary to use fillers to extend supply. Though the exact origin of the term is disputed, it is most commonly held that Slugburgers got their name from the coin used to pay for them: when each burger cost 5¢, you could pay for one with a nickel which was then also called a slug. Corinth, Mississippi, has held an annual Slugburger Festival since 1988. Take a photographic tour of the Slugburger Trail. [more inside]
Tree of Bees? Hills that move? A reflective humorous post about living in Southern California via mockable.org
Transcripts of a troubled mind tells the life and times of Breece D'J Pancake, a brilliant young writer from South Charleston, West Virginia. In a raw, stripped down style, much of his work focused on the people and the language of the Appalachia He committed suicide at the age of 29 and left behind a small, but powerful collection of stories
Jerry Clower (Wikipedia article) started telling his funny stories to boost sales when he was a seed and fertilizer salesman. He went on to become a successful comedian and Grand Ole Opry star. [more inside]
Anthony Powell is a photographer based in Antarctica. In addition to his photography, he's shot some excellent time-lapse video of the Southern Lights and a Day in the Life of Antarctica.
The Southern Foodways Alliance is one weighed-down church-supper table, full of oral history/blog projects like The Tamale Trail, the Boudin Trail, interviews and recipes from the Bartenders of New Orleans, photo essay/interviews from Birmingham's Greek-Americans, a mess o'homemade films, and a passel of event and BBQ-shack photos on Flickr, all smothered in the tangy-sweet academic goodness of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at Ole Miss. These folks get my vote for most flavorful, funkiest food-loving folklorists in the lower forty-eight. [more inside]
Bob Log III plays distorted trash grimey blues slide guitar with his hands, he drawls through a telephone attached to the bubble face of the motorcycle helmet he wears, and he drums with his feet. He is known to ask women to stir his scotch on stage with their breasts, which is sadly Not currently Safe for Work. Sometimes he asks them to sit on his knee, bouncing up and down on the blue glittery jump suit he wears whenever he plays. [more inside]
He's the candidate God would vote for, if God could legally vote. Not endorsed by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, or that Sam Harris dude. Previously.
Flamenco clearly belongs to spain. But so many immigrants came to France to find work or escape from the civil war that there is a small community of guitarists in southern France who are playing it with original voices. Bernardo Sandoval was the subject of a post in mefi music some time ago. Antonio "kiko" ruiz is about to come to the United States with Renaud-Garcia-Fons : their work can be seen here. Serge Lopez is another great guitarist who puts some guitar parts on his website. Salvador Paterna adds to the traditional sound of flamenco both the 'oud and the violin. They are all from or nearby Toulouse.
Red State Update with Jackie and Dunlap. Comic good ol' boys shooting the sh*t and having a few hundred beers, while using satire and dead pan humor on the politics of the day.
Just a small piece down the road from Christmas Town USA looms the empty Loray Mill, an icon of the old industrial South and a monument to the early labor movement. Gastonia 1929: the chief of police is murdered, the Communist organizer flees the country, and the young union balladeer is killed by a strikebreaking mob. (Hear Pete Seeger sing one of her ballads. [real media]) Much more on the area's rich and turbulent history at A Southern Primer. (Lewis Hine's child labor photographs previously discussed here.)
Mike Disfarmer had a photo studio in the resort town of Heber Springs, Arkansas throughout the 30s and 40s, creating images with an amazing blunt, unvarnished beauty and strength. Nothing speaks more eloquently about Disfarmer's artistry than the photographs themselves. His genius was the ability to capture without judgment, the essence of a people and a time.
Don't bump into a Southerner Paul Robinson on the ancient code of insult and revenge that is still prevalent in the American South
The Moonlit Road. A fine collection of ghost stories from the American South.
People who like this may also be interesting in How to Fake a Ghost Photo, or Haunted Mobile Homes.
People who like this may also be interesting in How to Fake a Ghost Photo, or Haunted Mobile Homes.
The Best Food You Never Had: Reading Jake Adam York's juicy essay on the art of the barbecue, I was once again sadly reminded I've never had the pleasure of tasting real, Southern U.S. open-pit barbecue. I have no idea whether it's better in Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Kentucky or Georgia; whether pork is better than beef; smoked is tastier than plain... Then I realized there are quite a number of other delicious foods (like fresh abalone sashimi; Alaskan king crab cooked live; a clam-bake on the beach; real wasabi; smoked sablefish; fresh unsalted caviar; an oyster Po'Boy...) I've never tried. It's an interesting gastronomic category: something you've read about and heard about and probably drooled over, that you just know you'd love if only you had a chance to try it! So forgive my curiosity: what's the best food you've never had? [Main link via Arts and Letters Daily]
The neo-Confederacy movement is a potent force in the Republican Party in today's South, as Trent Lott's comments about Strom Thurmond demonstrate. Trent Lott has neo-Confederate ties, as does John Ashcroft who praised Jefferson Davis in an interview with the Southern Partisan magazine. Associated with the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans, adherents of the neo-Confederate movement can even buy T-shirts gloating transforming the Republican Party into Abraham Lincoln's worst nightmare.