The road to Hell

…is said to be paved with good intentions.  Do good intentions become a slippery slope when lacking the mortar of manners?

“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”

Emily Post

My grandmother always told me that between thoughtfulness, consideration of others and my upbringing (read: the manners I was raised with), I could hold my head high among the most exalted company, even so far as to dine with the Queen.

Regardless, it’s tough for anyone trying to fit in to new situations or with new people.  Sometimes you don’t know the right thing to say or do.  Sometimes you feel that saying or doing nothing is better than failing by saying or doing something, if it’s the wrong thing.  Sometimes doing the wrong thing seems inevitable. And there’s always the damn fish fork to figure out.

Outwards in is the rule for using cutlery.  Maybe inwards out is the rule for interacting with others.

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While I’ve never dined with the Queen, my raising and grandmother’s advice has successfully carried me (albeit with some nervousness and occasional awkwardness) through interactions with people from all over the world.

If I couldn’t figure it out by watching, I politely asked.  And I listened to what was said. I learned. I smiled.  I tried again. I watched others and asked them about them. Who they are, why they are who they are.  People want to be heard.  They want to be liked.  Respected for their individuality.  Sometimes genuine care is far more important than the right words or the correct spoon.

I was in the catering business for a long time, and the best waiter I ever worked with once told me, “while there are rules for presenting and clearing plates, you ALWAYS opt for the action most gracious for the guest.”

I think that lesson, along with my Granny’s counsel, has always worked best for me.  And Emily Post’s guideline.  She’s the Queen of Etiquette, after all.   To have awareness and consideration for the feelings of others is a way towards communications. Communication is a path towards understanding.  And I think that understanding is an expressway to peace and good will, no matter how diverse people may be.

Being able to interact, with though and care towards others, is the road I aim to be on.  Whichever fork I take.

And yes, it would have been cool to dine with Emily.  I think I might just pull it off, perhaps even with a little grace. My Granny raised me well.

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A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to Sips and Vittles of the Modern South: C is for Cheerwine #AtoZChallenge

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C

C is for Cheerwine

[chir wahyn]

I’ll make a confession to y’all.

I have never actually had a Cheerwine.

Of course, I know all about them – they’re truly iconic to Southern culture – the “Nectar of North Carolina” as it were; but yeah, somehow or another, I’ve never actually consumed one of the fizzy, black-cherry “Legends.”

Not that Cheerwine’s gonna lose any sleep over my lack of commitment.  According to the owners, the Carolina Beverage Corporation of Salisbury, North Carolina, even without my meager contribution, they’ve managed to become the nation’s “the oldest continuing soft drink company still run by the same family.”

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For ages, you could only get Cheerwine inside the Carolinas, or smuggled out a case or a four pack at a time, like Coors beers of long ago slipped out of Texarkana by the “Bandit.”

But to celebrate their 100th year of production in 2017, Cheerwine has partnered with Pepsi Bottling Company  to distribute their elixir throughout the entire United States of America.

Their slogan: “Born in the South.  Raised in a Glass.”

Of course, while you can raise a Cheerwine as a toast, the beverage itself has no alcohol.  It was named because of its “wine red” color and that “cheery” feeling you “get” from drinking one.

However…

Insiders (that is, a former college roommate whose name I won’t disclose) have revealed that the lack of alcohol in Cheerwine can be easily remedied by mixing your cheery cherry soda with a little Captain Morgan Spiced rum, to make a drink called a “Captain Cheerwine,” or the “Whining Pirate.”

captain cheerwine

Hmm.  I’m seriously wondering how I managed to miss this one. I was pretty open minded about aquatic-themed mixed drinks when I was in college.

Oh well, if boozin’ up your bubbles is not your thang, you could still get a sugar rush.

In 2010, Cheerwine began a collaboration with fellow North Carolina-based Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, to produce a limited run “cheerwine-cream filled” variety.

I’m trying to imagine what a cheerwine-cream filled doughnut would taste like.  I think I’ll limit that to my imagination.

Unless you’d like to pair it with a “Pirate.”

Know this, though: Even if the soft drink reaches all 50 states, there’s one thing we can claim about our Cheerwine that the rest of the country cannot. It tastes like home. It tastes like North Carolina. – Jimmy Thomlin

 

 

 

A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to Sips and Vittles of the Modern South: B is for BBQ #AtoZChallenge

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B

B is for BBQ

[bahr-bi-kyoo]

BBQ. Three tiny little letters that represent enormously fierce fightin’ words south of the M/D line.

BBQ, barbecue (barbeque if you’re prissy, a chef or a Yankee) or ‘cue (if you’re likely to be wearing a trucker hat at this moment), is more than grilled meat.  It’s a war between states, religions and generations over what it is exactly, who makes it best and how to get baked bean stains out of a white shirt.

It’s regional divides harking back to the Civil War over sauce (Memphis, North Carolina, North Alabama White. Tomato-based.  Mustard-based.  Vinegar-based. My apologies to you lovely people in the Heartlands, but Kansas City does not have a dog in this hunt), cooking times, ways to cook (dare I even utter, “Big Green Egg, sotto voce?”), coals (hickory, applewood, oak, mesquite) plus the whole whiny dichotomy of noun verses verb.

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BBQ can be a simple pork sandwich slopped with Daddy’s sauce.  And again, I say simple: entire families have split asunder over over this gastronomical delicacy.  What kinda meat? Is it pork?  If so, chops, loin, babybacks, butt or the whole hawg? “Inside” meat, moist and juicy or “outside” meat, slightly charred?  Is it beef brisket (Texas style, the way my Mom makes it) or even chicken, smothered in “red” or “white”?

What’s it on?  A hamburger bun, thick-sliced and lightly toasted homemade bread, a Kaiser roll, a split chunk of cornbread or just a piece of Wonderbread straight off the loaf, served on the side to soak up the juice?

sandwich with sauce

Sauce.  Yeah, I mentioned it before in passing but let’s not even touch on what style of sauce.  That’s just a bit too personal, like your walk with the Lord or whether or not you got drawers on under them jeans. I mean how is your meat sauced?  Is it slathered on top?  Marinaded or dry rubbed?  All smoked and chopped and stirred up first in a pot with some extra spicy before loadin’ on the bread?

Pickles?  Go ahead, put ’em on, but be prepared for folks to start mutterin’ about the “slippery slope.”

Coleslaw?  That’s different.  Sure, you can serve it on the side, with the baked beans, corn on the cob and Brunswick stew, but you can also pile it high on top of the sandwich, right under the bun.  It’s so good that way!  And if you do a slaw stack (and your granny’s not flipping in her grave), is it Mayo-based (Duke’s of course, there is no other) or a vinegar-based cabbage salad?

My heavens, as a good Southerner, are you even allowed to eat those divinely yummy (but slightly heretical) pork BBQ Sundays? That’s “nouvelle” cuisine at its most controversial.

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But BBQ doesn’t stop there, oh no, no, no.  We’re just scratchin’ that pig on its ears.

BBQ also means to grill: pork, beef, chicken, shrimp, sticks of veggies, Spanish mackerel…umm tuna steak? Never tofu.  Really.  Otherwise, if you can skewer it up or keep it from slippin’ through the grates, you can set a fire about it.

And a BBQ, “the BBQ” is also the instrument of the flames. The pit. The grill.  The Webber.

“Burton McNeely Hallsworth the third, you and your daddy fire up that there barbecue – we’ve got folks comin’ over and we need to smoke up a mess o’ ribs.”

The mechanism that delivers the meaty manna can range from a $9.99 K-mart Hibachi to a re-purposed oil drum.  Some are built-in brick fire pits that take up half the back yard.  Some of them are so huge you can tow ’em behind the truck on a trailer.

grill

Honestly, in the Deep South, gas grills are considered by many to be a little “sissy,” but that doesn’t stop good ol’ boys (and gals) from investing tens of thousands of dollars in some chrome monstrosity with multiple levels, warming drawers and a steam tray.  Personally, I always feel those fellas are overcompensatin’ a mite but I’ll leave it at that.  In my family, they use a charcoal grill complete with an aluminum chimney to nurse the coals to the proper color and ash before spreading them with a practiced flourish to the exact micro-density required to perfectly cook the protein du jour.

But before I forget, there’s another BBQ entirely.

shrimp

Creole BBQ.  It’s got nothing to do with grills or tomato-based sauces.  Creole BBQ is a heady blend of salt, black pepper and spices (rosemary, thyme, paprika) pan sauteed with fresh shrimp still with the heads, tails and shells, at least a pound of sweet butter, diced green chilies, minced garlic, a squeeze of lemon and a hearty dash of Tabasco, served in a bowl with a hunk of French bread for soppin.’

Despite the galaxy’s vast reaches of technology and ideology imbuing this culinary zeitgiest, in my mind  (arguably) the best inventions to come along in the entire history of barbecue?

wetwipetums

I try to avoid barbecue potato chips. They’re my weakness.

 – Gwyneth Paltrow

A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to Sips and Vittles of the Modern South: A is for Abita #AtoZChallenge

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Honestly, I think the Blogging from A to Z Challenge is the Devil.  Every year at the end of March it lures me in with its sweet words and easy promises and every year I leap from the bridge of common sense into the blog bog with high hopes and good intentions, only to flop miserably around the letter M, crushed motionless (see what I did there?!) by time and responsibilities.

“This year shall be different,” I say! (yeah, I really don’t believe me either).

I do actually tremendously enjoy the theme I {attempt} to write each year through my alter-ego, “The Hellacious Belle,” regarding A – Z topics on life in the Modern South.  This year, I’ll gonna try to shepherd you through a maze of materials of which I possess a tad bit o’ knowledge:  Food and Drink (or, Sips and Vittles, as I’ve so dubbed them).

Allons-y: the Letter A!

A

A is for Abita Turbodog Beer

Quite a long time before swanky craft beers and artisan gastropubs were a way of everyday life in the Deep South, there was Abita.

Abita Brewing Company was founded just outside of New Orleans in 1986 and quickly became the go-to-brew of my panhellenic party peeps during my early collegiate days at the University of South Alabama.

To be transparent, I’ve never been much of a beer gal.  I’ll enjoy a “canoe” beer (WARNING: Adult Content in the link), like Coors Light or Amstel, while sunning at the pool or fishing (it’s actually fairly de rigueur in these parts) but a hearty, heady, hoppy half-pint never much floated my boat.

That is, with the exception of Abita’s finest (IMHO) the legendary Turbodog.

abitaturbodogglass

And don’t ask me why, because I can’t tell you.

I just find this beer pretty damn tasty.  Abita credits it to pale, caramel, and chocolate malts and Willamette hops giving the ol’ T-Dog its rich body and color and a sweet chocolate, toffee-like flavor.

I credit it to memories of roadtrips with my sorority sibs, sunny Gulf beaches, barbeques and boating, captured through a glorious, golden Instagram filter of happiness.

Here’s raising a glass to one of my favorite pups!

(And for you brave culinary adventurers, a recipe from Abita’s Website for Turbodog Barbequed Alligator Legs)

Chef Greg Collier – Red Fish Grill

Makes 6 appetizer portions

The Alligator Legs

1 gallon water
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon liquid crab boil
2 tablespoons Creole seasoning
5 pounds alligator legs, skinned

Combine the water, salt, onion, crab boil and Creole seasoning in a large, heavy pot over medium heat.  Bring to a gentle boil, add the alligator legs and simmer until the meat begins to fall off the bone.  Drain and pick the meat off the bones.  Set aside.

The Barbecue Sauce

1 tablespoon butter
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 ounces Abita Turbodog (3/8 cup)
9 ounces ketchup (1 1/8 cup)
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon Crystal hot sauce (or other hot sauce)
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
6 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until they are soft, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens, about 20 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to an electric blender and puree.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Toss the alligator meat with the barbecue sauce and arrange in a baking pan.  Bake for 15 minutes.
Serve warm.

Note:  In Louisiana some specialty markets and supermarkets carry alligator meat.  Alligator legs and meat are also available at http://www.nafood.com

 

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A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to the New South: Talkin’ the Talk

~My theme for this month’s Nano Poblano challenge is Motion~

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It’s the oddest thing.

For people who, as a rule, talk pretty slow and sometimes move even slower,  Southerners seem to pack a lot of action into their vernacular.

You see, I don’t just up and go to the store, I’m fixin’ to go to the store – by adding the helpful phrase “to fix,” I imply that I somehow prepare myself mentally, physically and spiritually to journey to Publix verses you Yanks just getting in your car and driving over.  Way more descriptive action = same result.

As Southerners, we may drawl our responses, but action bristles through our patois: dogs hunt, cousins kiss, possums are treed, biscuits are buttered. There are frequent calls to action: “Smile before your face freezes and you’re stuck like that forever,” “Do be a love and fetch my pocketbook,” “Eat that chicken! Folk are starvin’ clear around the world,” “Reach that there glass of wine and bring it to your momma.”

And then there are the idioms; truly enough literary motion to exhaust any listener:

“He’s so confused he don’t know whether to wind his butt or scratch his watch.”

“That room’s so small you couldn’t cuss a cat without getting hair in your teeth.”

“I’m feelin’ fine as frog’s hair, split three ways and sandpapered down the middle.”

“Run with the big dogs or stay on the porch.”

“Hon, you are barkin’ up the wrong tree.”

“He’s busier than a cat covering poop on a marble floor.”

“That skeeter’s so big he could stand flat-footed and screw a cow.”

A Southerner could be all relaxed and chillin’ on the porch swing, sipping some sweet tea or a coldbeer, but their conversation might as well be benchin’ a hundred in the gym.

“Afterwhile, we’ll mosey over.”

“Scamper off, littl’un.”

“Stop diddlepoopin’ around.”

“She is havin a hissy.”

“He was sweatin’ like a whore in church.”

While you surely  hear about all this activity, you actually very rarely see it.

Which is, I suppose, one of the things us folks down South do best, and that’s talkin’ the talk.

Just giving you some ponderin’ for your Monday.

I’m headin’ out now, seeing as I got more goin’ on than a one-eyed cat watchin’ two mouse holes, but you be sure and have yourself a nice day.

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A Hellacious Belle’s Pictorial Guide to the New South: F is for Frog’s Hair #AtoZChallenge

F

F is for Frog’s Hair

/frɒɡz hɛ-əh/

If you realize that you’ve never noticed hair on a frog before, that’s because it’s so very fine it can’t be seen.

 (ahem)

Down South, we use this as a common measure of an extreme level of “fineness.”

“How y’all?”

“Fine as Frog’s Hair!”

This can be further expounded (for things of an amazing and exemplary fineness):

“How y’all?”

“Fine as Frog’s Hair, split 3 ways!

(Now that’s pretty fine.)

My daddy, a very positive and cheerful guy, takes it one step further.

“Hey Jim, how y’all been?”

“I been fine as Frog’s Hair, split 3 ways and sandpapered down the middle!

“What do the old folks say,
She’s finer than frog hair split four ways” – Shooter Jennings, “The Deed and the Dollar.”

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A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to the New South: E is for Egg Salad Sandwich #AtoZChallenge

E

         E IS FOR EGG SALAD SANDWICH

/ĕg săl′əd samĭch/

 

An icon of Southern porch and picnic cuisine, the humble Egg Salad Sandwich gets a ton of press this time each year in its role as a snack stand staple of the Master’s Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia.

Along with its buddies, the Pimento Cheese Sandwich, the Master’s Club Sandwich and the Master’s Bar-B-Que, this (surprisingly) reasonably priced sammy has become a cult favorite with the golfing crowd and a legend of the Augusta culinary scene.

Since the Augusta National Golf Course refuses to release the exact recipe of the eggy tastiness lurking between two pieces of white bread and tidily wrapped in green cellophane, a slew of copy-cats have emerged; each claiming the key to making the perfect Egg Salad.

So if you’re bored, actually into golf or just want to see a really pretty golf course, put the Master’s on your watch list this weekend, pop into the kitchen and whip up some of these practically authentic treats (sand traps are optional.)

Oh, and brew up a jug of sweet tea.  Nothing washes down an egg salad sammich better.

Unless, of course, it’s a cold beer (/kōld’bir/  – said as one word, accent on the first syllable).  That works, even gooder n’ better.

KISSIN’ COUSIN TO THE MASTERS EGG SALAD SANDWICH

6 hard-boiled eggs, shells removed

1⁄3 cup or slightly more, to taste, of Duke’s Mayonnaise

3⁄4 teaspoon yellow mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Chop the eggs in a large bowl until just slightly chunky. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Serve on white bread.

“Oh man, Friday, I really wanted an egg salad sandwich and I was just obsessing about it and I was like, ‘Man, I’m gonna make one of those.”Andy Stitzer, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”

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