Running out of food is no option in the South
By Ronda Rich
In the South, particularly to our women, food is more than a mere means to survival.
It is a strong means toward our identity and the anchor that firmly secures our renowned hospitality.
There are some of us who believe that the fluffiness of our biscuits is as important to signifying who we are as is the grandness of our hair.
That, of course, is saying a lot.
I believe I always have known this on some deep, hidden level. But, as is most things in our Southern culture, it was such an innate part of our women that I never had taken time to fully digest it mentally.
Then on the occasion of a recent soiree at my house, I found myself thoughtfully chewing on this delicious piece of Southern womanhood.
I invited the divas over for an afternoon pajama party. My friend, Kim, a talented designer, had completed a makeover of my bedroom.
She had been begging to do it, so, finally I said, "Go to it. Just don’t bother me to make any decisions."
The result was stunning so I threw a party to celebrate and firmly instructed the divas that all were to wear pajamas or gowns and robes.
Mama agonized for weeks over which was her prettiest gown.
For two weeks prior to the soiree, each time I was at her house, she would pull out another set from the cedar chest and say, "What about this one?"
So, the divas gathered in my bedroom for the party and everyone looked nocturnally lovely, including Dixie Dew, my dachshund, who was adorable in a pair of Noah’s Ark jammies.
Of course, this called for food. Like all Southern women I know, I was worried that I might not have enough.
A few days before, I called a couple of divas with a particular genius for baking, and asked them to bring something.
Something as in "one thing." I knew I was in trouble when Sue arrived first with huge silver trays laden with food.
That was the beginning of an avalanche of sugar and flour. It reminded me of Mama’s dinner table for company, which always includes fried chicken and roast beef, cornbread and biscuits, blackberry cobbler and chocolate cake, as well as several dishes of vegetables.
By the time a typical Southern woman finishes putting the food on the table, there’s very little room left for the china or the guests. Most women not raised in the South are more sensible. They cook just enough to do.
"Why?" I asked the divas gathered in my bedroom as they munched on the bounty. "Why do we Southern women always cook too much?"
The answers were varied.
"It’s how we show love," Debbie said. This was particularly interesting since her husband does the cooking at her house.
"It’s a courtesy thing," Louise pointed out. "You don’t want someone to leave hungry."
"It may be a bit of ego, but cooking for guests is an event to us," Shannon said.
Judy pointed out what we all know and why we subscribe to hours over the stove. "It’s tradition."
Nicole gave my favorite answer. "Southern women are horrified by an empty dish. If all the green beans are gone, then you didn’t cook enough. Nothing’s worse."
Whatever the reason why we cook too much, it’s certainly food for thought. Pan-fried in Crisco, of course