Having grown up in a suburb of Chicago, I eat my pizza with a fork, I always root (hopelessly?) for the Cubs, and I know that the lake is always East. During the winter, giant piles of icy, dirty snow surrounded our mailbox. During the summer, the smell of asphalt from road resurfacing projects was as common as the tinkle of ice cream trucks.
We moved to North Carolina when I was almost 13. A week after we arrived, I got braces. A week after that, I started 8th grade. Needless to say, I didn’t have much to like about North Carolina for a while.
Now, after living here for 7 years, I’ve decided that North Carolina is a very good place. Thus begins my (intermittent) series of posts discussing good things about the South.
1. The food.
Not to be a total fatty, but WHOA. Southern food rocks. Nothing is more refreshing than a Tervis Tumbler of sweet tea on a hot Carolina afternoon, and nothing says “Sunday” like a chocolate chess pie (Angus Barn recipe, of course) cooling on the counter.
Shortly after my family relocated to Cary, we discovered that in NC, “barbeque” is a noun, not a verb. Up North, on 4th of July, families go to barbeques. Up North, a barbeque is a social event involving checkered tablecloths, grills, and overdone hot dogs and burgers. “A barbeque” is not “barbeque”. NC transplants quickly learn that barbeque is a food–usually pulled pork, sometimes beef brisket or ribs. A pig pickin’ is the Southern equivalent of the Northern barbeque. When you go to a restaurant (or, more often, a barbeque joint), you can order a barbeque sandwich. Your sandwich will arrive in a plastic basket (probably) and will consist of a bun, some pulled pork with vinegar sauce, and coleslaw right on top. If you’re lucky, you’ll get some hush puppies, too.
Now I’m not much for grits or greens (turnip, always turnip) or boiled peanuts, but that might just be because I’m not a true Southern girl. When I’m teaching little kids to swim, I ask what their favorite food is and have them imagine reaching for it up in the sky, with the goal of getting them to raise their arms high out of the water to take strokes. Favorite foods typically include gastronomic delights like pizza, macaroni, corndogs, and ice cream. Jamie Oliver would be horrified. The most unique answer I’ve ever gotten came from a boy who, with all the intensity and excitement his little 5-year-old self could muster, exclaimed “OKWA!” Usually, I follow up the favorite food question with another question, such as “Are you gonna have that for lunch today?” or “Oooh, what flavor of ice cream do you like best?”. For my okra-loving friend, the best question I could come up with was, “Erm…what color is okra?” He responded, “Gweenish bwownish!” Um…gross? Like I said, it’s probably because I wasn’t born here.