November 12, 2012
I had the honor and pleasure of being a guest author at the prestigious Dahlonega Literary Festival this past weekend, and I had a great time. If you’ve never been, you should mark your calendars now to attend next year at about this same time. It’s a reader’s (and a writer’s) paradise.
The featured speaker at the big Saturday night dinner was a gentleman named Nick Wynne, a University of Georgia Ph.D., historian and humorist. The guy’s hilarious, and being a Southerner, much of his material was centered around food and how we cook it.
We’ve been praising the Lard down here in the South for a very long time. Food and its preparation have been elevated to the level of a religion in these parts. In fact, Nick pointed out right off the bat that battle lines have even been drawn over the pronunciation of the word “pecan.” In my family, we say “puh-KAHN,” emphasis on the second syllable. In his family, it’s pronounced “PE-can,” using a long “e” in the first syllable. All of this discussion, of course, cropped up because pecan pies will grace southern dining tables everywhere on Thanksgiving Day.
Wynne, a native of McRae, Ga., is married to a lovely Jewish woman from Michigan, so cooking has been a point of contention between them from the start. You see here in the South, we cook vegetables – any vegetables – well beyond the point of their ability to offer any nutritional value. We do that, and we throw in a hunk of fatback, streak-o-lean or (in a pinch) butter or Crisco. We cook them for days and to the point that they’re unrecognizable.
The fist time I traveled to New York and had dinner in Manhattan, I ordered green beans. They brought me these bright green, crispy veggie-tasting sticks. I nearly sent them back, as I was sure the waitress had heard me wrong. Foolishly, I also ordered cornbread with that meal. What they brought tasted like an unfrosted cupcake. Boy, was I homesick that night.
As I believe I’ve mentioned here before, I have cleaned up my cooking habits over the years and no longer offer a slab of fried meat, all those unhealthy vegetables and a gravy I.V. to chase all of it. But I must say, as I sat there Saturday night and listened to Wynne reminisce about the good old days when heart disease was just a fabled myth, my mouth began to water.
Old habits do die hard, don’t they?
Carole Townsend is also a Gwinnett Daily Post staff correspondent and author of two books: “Southern Fried White Trash” and her newest, “Red Lipstick and Clean Underwear” (released October 15). She is also a regular weekly guest on FOX News Radio station WYXC 1270 AM on Wednesdays during the Live Drive at 5. Townsend has been quoted on msnbc.com, in the LA Times, USA Today and the Christian Science Monitor, been featured on FOX 5 Television News and CNN, and is often a guest on television and radio shows nationwide. She currently travels throughout the southeast, meeting readers at book signings and speaking publicly at various events.