Sometimes I wonder what our neighbors to the north think of us southern ladies. They must get awfully confused by how we are portrayed in movies, books, and lore. There seems to be two predominant stereotypes about southern women—the Southern Belle, and Daisy Duke.
The Southern Belle
I am sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that we belles love lace. And pink. And pink lace. Our Old English Roses china patterns and our Grand Baroque Silverware. After all, anyone who has even a passing familiarity with Southern Belle traditions can tell you that we are girlie girls. We love dressing up, and getting our toenails painted pink, and eating lunch at the Country Club. She can carry a proper conversation, and adhere to the most exacting social proprieties. It is also no surprise to most that we Southern girls love pearls, our mamas and daddies, and throwing a proper party.
And boy, can we throw a good party.
In most regions of the United States, the tradition of young ladies making their formal debuts into society is not uncommon. Coming-of-age rituals may be based on religious traditions, as is the case of the Jewish Bat Mitzvah, and the Mexican-Catholic Quinceanera. Among the purely secular celebrations are the Coming Out and Sweet Sixteen parties, and the Cotillion Ball or Debutante Ball. The Cotillion and Debutante balls are typically practiced only in the higher socio-economic brackets, and are grand events. And by grand, I mean sometimes over-the-top ridiculous. Rather than celebrating one young lady’s coming-of-age, these events formally introduce a group of young ladies into society. Usually, flower girls, escorts, ushers, pages, and attendants are selected for each young woman, and the events may be spread out over the course of days or even weeks. An important tradition in these events is that as each young woman is formally introduced, she takes a polite curtsy.
Except for debutantes from Texas. Texas debutantes take what they call a bow—although everyone else calls it the Texas Dip. I am talking about a bow so deep it seems implausible to do without mechanical assistance. A bow that takes the young lady so low as to touch her chin on the floor, her arms spread out to either side like a swan in flight. It is truly a beautiful and dramatic sight to behold, and a remarkable feat of balance and fitness, given that it is completed while wearing miles of tulle and perhaps 50 or more pounds of pearls and beadwork. Only a southern chick has the combination of both grace and grit required to pull this off. Which brings me to this….
Yes, our china pattern is covered in roses, and our bedrooms tend toward the pink, but the southern belle is not a shrinking violet, and best not be trifled with. Many of us have been well schooled in the traditions of hunting, fishing, horsemanship, and marksmanship. Although we would love to wear them while hunting, pearls and lace do not hold up well to tracking a deer through thick underbrush, deep sea fishing, or shooting skeet. Thusly, our wardrobes also consist of boots—riding boots, hiking boots, and cowboy boots—and jeans that have no bedazzling of any sort. Yep, jeans with no bling. If you have ever walked through a southern pasture in 110* heat, you will also understand the southern girl’s penchant for cut off denim shorts (to stay cool) and cowboy boots (to protect our legs from sand burs and snake bites). Also, it looks really cute. Cowboy boots are black or brown leather, are comfortable enough to run track in, have a proper boot heel, and are made in America. High heeled boots with pink flowers and fancy stitching are lovely, and we have those too, but they are for dancing and dressing up, not for hunting and riding. But they are also made in America.
The southern lady can catch, gut and filet a trout before preparing it for a fancy dinner party. She can shoot a buck at 300 yards, field dress it, and throw all 180 pounds of it in the back of the truck. If she rides, she can also carry her own saddle, muck out the stable, and haul hay. All while maintaining a perfect French manicure. She’s a pretty tough chick.
And she can throw a mean party.
So which stereotype is closer to the truth? Neither. Both are representative of our heritage, our lifestyle, and our capabilities. Southern women are crystal stemware and red solo cups. Mint Juleps and Sweet Iced Tea. Mercedes convertibles and Ford F-350 Turbo Diesels. Cut off denim, and antique lace.
We don’t have multiple personalities, and we aren’t confused. We’re multi-talented. Accept it and move on.
Some favorite Southern party fare, for both of the Southern women you may be hiding within you…
Like the Southern Belle’s and Gentlemen that drink them, the pretty name of this favorite southern drink belies its inner strength. It’s straight bourbon, with mint and a bit of sugar, over lots of crushed ice, to help fight the heat on a sweltering summer night in the South.
- 12 mint leaves
- 1 tablespoon of superfine sugar
- 2 teaspoons water
- 3 ounces high quality Bourbon
- Crushed ice
Place mint, sugar and water into a highball glass. Using a spoon and a chopping motion, “muddle” the mixture until the sugar dissolves and the mint leaves are broken up. Add bourbon and ice, and stir for a few minutes until very cold. Garnish with additional mint leaves, and a sprinkle of powdered sugar, if desired.
A traditional tea sandwich, this dainty little finger food can be kicked up a notch with a bit of jalapeno, if desired. If you want men to eat them, slap some crisp bacon on them, and don’t cut the crusts off…English cucumbers are the best to use—they are the long thin ones that have ridges running down them. Use regular salad cucumbers (seeded) if you cannot find them.
- 1 large English cucumber, peeled and grated
- ½ fresh jalapeno, grated
- 1 small (3”) onion, grated
- ½ cup watercress, chopped fine
- 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- softened butter
- one loaf of thinly sliced white bread
After grating the cucumber, squeeze out excess juice and discard. Mix cucumber, onion, cheese, watercress and salt (and jalapeno if using) in a bowl until well blended. Use a fork, not a mixer. Add enough mayonnaise to make a spreadable consistency.
Spread bread with very thin layer of butter.
Spread a thin layer of Benedictine on half of bread slices, and top with remaining bread. Cut crusts off sandwiches, and cut each sandwich into 4 triangles, 4 small squares, or 4 thin rectangles…Serve right away.
- 24 medium sized shrimp, headed, peeled, and deveined
- 24 small oysters (substitute whole water chestnuts if you don’t like oysters)
- 8 slices bacon, cut crosswise into thirds
- 1 cup soy sauce
- ½ cup brown sugar
Wrap each shrimp around an oyster, and wrap a piece of bacon around them, securing with a toothpick all the way through the three. Repeat with remaining shrimp, oysters and bacon. Place in a large zip top bag, and pour soy sauce and brown sugar over them. Marinate for 20 minutes. Drain well. Grill over hot coals for 5 minutes (or until browned), turn and cook 5 minutes more (or until browned). Alternately, if you don’t plan on grilling: place on wrack over foiled-lined pan in oven, and broil until brown on both sides, turning once.
**you can make these with chicken livers, water chestnuts and bacon, and it is called Rumaki…
For a casual outdoor party, make your cobbler in pint sized wide jelly jars. Top with the lids if not serving right away. Makes for handy storage and a fun way to serve the cobbler. Just top with ice cream or whipped cream just before serving.
- 2 pounds fresh or frozen peaches, peeled and sliced
- 3 tablespoons crushed tapioca
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¾ cup sugar
- Juice of one lemon
- 1 t grated nutmeg
- 1 t cinnamon
Short Crust (Pate Brisee)
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 T sugar
- 1 cup (2 sticks), cold butter, cut into I” pieces
- ½ cup cold water
Combine all of the filling ingredients in a large bowl, and set aside to let them come together.
In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar and salt a few times to combine. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add water, a little at a time, until mixture comes together into a dry dough. Pat out onto a floured surface, and roll to ¼” thickness.
Divide filling into 8 jelly jars, or into a 13×9 cake pan. Cut dough into round tops for the jars, or one big sheet if using a cake pan. Cut a few slits in the top with a knife. Bake at 350* for 45 minutes, until the filling is thick and bubbly, and the crust is golden.
Serve warm, topped with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.