A Bit Of Southern Tradition

I am not a southerner by birth. Wait, I was born in Texas so maybe I am a southerner by birth. I was however raised up in Illinois, which makes me a northerner transplant. But then after moving around to Iowa, then back to Illinois, then to Arkansas, back to Iowa, and then finally to my location for nearly 40 years, Tennessee, I think  I’m just confused.

I guess since I’ve been here that long though, this makes me a southerner by birth, then a northerner transplant, then transplanted back to the south where I probably in some sense belonged anyway.

Well, having been raised for the most part in Iowa and Illinois I had some adapting to do when I arrived in Tennessee. There were things I was unaccustomed to. For instance where I live now they let kids out of school for the fish fry. Whut? Fish fry? Yes, the next town over by 15 miles is billed as having the “Worlds Largest Fish Fry” once a year. The kids get out of school for a fish fry. Unheard of from my perspective!

They also let the kids out of school when the carnival rolls into town. Whut? Fair day? Heck when I went to school we didn’t get out for no damn carnival, nor any fish fry. Hell it took 3 feet of snow and ice to cancel school. I don’t know how many times I walked to school in snow so deep it went over my boot tops. There were no pussies allowed when I went to school dammit! We showed up come hell or high water. Clint Eastwood and John Wayne would have been proud.

So, I eventually adapted. I came to understand these strange customs in a strange land. I still think it ridiculous, but I get it. Or at least shrug it off these days.

Consider it no surprise then when I adopted the custom of the “New Years Dinner” What the heck is that you ask? The New Years Dinner is an unlikely conglomeration of pork jowl, black eyed peas, and greens, usually spinach. You see the jowl is a metaphor for good health. (Healthy as a hog.) The greens a metaphor for wealth. (Greenbacks.) The black eyed peas a metaphor for luck, why I don’t know. Anyway it has become tradition for us to have the customary New Years Dinner.

Well pork jowl, peas, and greens seemed lacking to me. So many years back I added cornbread to the dinner. Which made a perfect addition to the meal. It just rounds it off nicely. So again many years ago, when I was explaining this tradition to someone else, I explained all to them as I just have to you. Then they asked me what the cornbread was for? After 2 seconds of thought I replied, love. So there is our modified New Years tradition for what it’s worth.

But wait! There’s more! My wife was out and about and picked up some jowl for our traditional meal. This was prepackaged stuff “Cumberland Gap Hickory Smoked Jowl” This product was an absolute nightmare to cook. It popped grease 15 inches high and in all directions on low heat! I had to use some cling wrap to cover my jowl flipping arm and use a clear lid as a shield in my other hand. I have grease burns on both hands and arms and damn near lost an eye! I have never had such an unpleasant jowl cooking experience.

Then when it came time to make the cornbread we were short on corn meal. I just quickly adjusted the recipe a bit to compensate, so that particular disaster averted. In the end our traditional New Years meal was accomplished. Our years projection of health, luck, monetary fortune, and love met. Despite the trials, tribulations, and risking an Emergency Room visit.

Clint Eastwood and John Wayne would be proud. Now, where is the Aloe?

Happy New Year to all 🙂

 

 

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Praying Mantis

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Since I was a kid, the Praying Mantis has been a favorite annual insect to explore. The way they have no fear, after the apparent  “if this big thing hasn’t eaten me yet it probably won’t” moment… Then they will walk up your arm, and look you in the eye almost with an intelligent gaze. Or they will groom themselves, as if putting on a show. Or crawl up to the top of your head, and hang out a while. Mantis are pretty cool and fun to interact with.

Yesterday I was out in the shop, and heard my youngest “Dad! I found a little Praying Mantis!”  Sure enough there was a small mantis that could not have been more than a few days old. We oogled and ahhed over the little guy, took a few pics, then released him back to the wild.

Where we live the mantis color is mostly a bark colored camouflage look, although I did spot a classic green one yesterday on our front door. We gave this one a few moments of inspection before we let him go on one of the tomato plants. No matter how old I get, the mantis holds a special place in my memories. It is interesting to note, that my kids have the “bug” as well. Pun intended  : )