I’ve pondered this question more than a bit since moving to Georgia almost two years ago. I would argue Texas (my home state) is part of the south rather than the southwest as some other folks say. Then again, I was raised in northeast Texas (home of the old cotton plantations). The folks out in El Paso might have a valid argument for the southwest. And people in the deep South might argue with me on that yes-Texas-IS-the-south argument as well.
Because a few things are different from state to state.
Barbecue is a biggie. Georgia (and the rest of the southeast) is the land of pork. Yummy without a doubt. In Texas, we’re all about the beef—brisket most especially. And two barbecue side dishes I’d never heard of before moving here are chicken mull, sort of a clam chowder-y white soup served with saltines, and Brunswick stew. Now, I still don’t know exactly what’s in Brunswick stew, and maybe my first intro to it was a bad batch, but it reminds me of regurgitated baby food. Not. A. Fan. Other barbecue sides—like potato salad and fried okra—seem to be universally southern.
But that brings to mind one dish you find on the menu at many Texas barbecue joints—fried catfish. When I came to Georgia, I thought Hallelujah, I’m back in the land of catfish! Uh…not so much. Apparently, the rest of the civilized world is disgusted by catfish. But I tell you what, fry me up a batch of crispy filets, some french fries, and a whole mess of hush puppies. That, my friends, is heaven shaken in a brown paper bag and fried up in hot grease. Yes, ma’am!
The accents are a little different. Deep south is a bit more melodic and slower (if that’s even possible) than the Texas accent. A true southerner could tell you to F—k off, and in that accent, it would sound as if she was giving you a compliment. And if she says Bless your heart right after? The insult has been effectively neutralized. Oh, she still means it, but you can’t hold it against her. That’s a southern rule.
I also lived in Louisiana for a couple of years, and yes, it’s the south, but a different south made up of parishes and wild parties and beignets and chicory coffee and those fried meat pies that are so darn delicious that you could eat a bushel full of them (not that I have or anything).
So if the south is do darned diverse, what do these places actually have in common?
- A deep abiding love of family and faith (regardless of what that faith is)
- The ability to make friends in a two-person grocery store line
- Food that tends to make us too fat (but is SO day-um yummy)
- A smile, two-fingered wave, or hello greeting among folks who don’t know one another
- A place where men and boys still (mostly) open the doors for women
- “Yes, ma’am” and “No, sir” are still more standard than anywhere else on earth
- A kinship with one another, regardless of any beef or pork barbecue knock-down drag-outs that might ensue
So what do you think—is Texas the south? And yeah, feel free to weigh in on Maryland too, but you’re not gonna change my mind!
Today is National Library Day, which I just LURVE. When’s the last time you visited your local library?