Thursday, December 24, 2009

Southern Word of the Week - Toboggan

(n.)It's cold outside boy, go put a toboggan on your head.

(n.)I just got a new John Deere toboggan to keep my ears and head warm.

A toboggan is a knit hat, usually covering the head and ears. A toboggan is not a sled, at least it isn't south of the Mason-Dixon (unless they're from Maryland). Those from the north will sometimes ask why you want to wear a sled on our head, but if they are in the South ignore them.

In.the rare case we go up to Maine, New York or the like, we'll call our toboggan a "winter hat." Otherwise a toboggan is a toboggan, and a sled is a sled. "correcting" us is like telling someone from the U.K. they should not call french fries chips.

So wear your toboggan with pride and don't let anyone make fun of you for calling it as such.

Merry Christmas! Happy (belated) Hanukkah! Happy New Year! Look out for changes and improvements to Okra Cola in 2010!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Barbecue - Part 2

So now that we know what barbecue actually is we have to go over the finer points of BBQ joints.  Everybody claims to know of or live near the "best" BBQ joint ever.  Now this place may not be somewhere you've heard of, do not fear; I have seldom had bad barbecue and seldom had good barbecue at a nice restaurant.  It's called a joint for a reason.

My favorite joint is up the road from me a bit and it is Leo and Susie's Famous Green Top Barbecue.  A place I've been eating since I've been able to eat solid food and walk.  Knowing how peoples allegiances lie in the barbecue world I refrain from saying it's the "best" but do recommend it to everyone I talk to.  I have had Top Hat in Hayden and enjoyed it and even had really good barbecue in HARLEM!  Yes Harlem and the bartender even fixed me some sweet tea.  It is good stuff, if you ever can get there Dinosaur Barbecue is it. 

I'm bound to get a "my joint is better than yours" in the comments, but I'd rather have suggestions.  Just give us a link or at least the name and city it is in or near.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Southern Word of the Week - Ill

(v.) Mama's ill so be careful what you say 'round her today.
(v.) Don't get ill with me, I'm just trying to help.
(n.) I would say take it to Mrs. Jones, but she's taken ill and ain't usually up for visitors.

Ill usually means sick, but it can also mean that someone is upset or having a bad day.  It can also be interchanged with the seldom used cross, as in "don't be cross with your brother."

Emphasis is often on the I of the word and could be heard as eel.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Southern Word of the Week - Hollar

(v.) Gimme a hollar  the next time you want to go huntin'.

(v.) I think they're gonna break up.  They hollar at each other all the time

(v.) I'll hollar at y'all to come inside when dinner's ready.

To hollar at someone means to "catch them later" or to get back in touch with them soon.  Also can be yelling at someone hatefully or getting the kids inside if there's a storm coming or if dinner is ready.

Sometimes people go down in the hollar for some reason and you can holler at them to come on out of it.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Barbecue - Part 1

If somebody tells me to come over for barbecue, or a barbecue, I expect slow cooked pork butt or ribs.  I have learned now to ask if it is a grill out with hamburgers, hot dogs or brats.  All too often the latter is what the gracious, yet somewhat misinformed host actually meant.

Barbecue or BBQ, in the South means to cook meat slowly in a smoker or via an indirect heat method outside.  Typically it is done in a pit or on a smoker usually with hickory in my neck of the woods.  If you are simply cooking burgers and dogs then that is a "cook out" or you are "grilling." 

Barbecue is barbecue and everybody thinks their recipe, or dad's or uncle's, is the best.  People take it seriously, very seriously.  If you don't belive me just check out the new TLC series starting tomorrow (12/03/2009) Barbecue Pitmasters

I really enjoy smoking.  I typically do ribs with my own secret rub but have not conquered sauce yet so to some racks I add Big Bob Gibson's Red Sauce to the ribs for the last 30 or so minutes on the smoker. 

So remember, if you are grilling out please use the appropriate term.  It ain't barbecue unless it's low and slow.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Southern Word of the Week - Hosepipe

(n.) Hey son, go get me that hosepipe please.  These tomatoes look like they need some water.

A garden hose and a hosepipe are the same thing.  I thought everybody used the term hosepipe until my officemate brought it to my attention that it was a wierd term.  He saw it as a redundant statement, a hose which carries something through it, and a pipe that does the same thing.  I had never seen it that way, but I see it as saving a syllable. 

Plus I see a pipe as an inflexible tube that carries a great deal of substance through it and a hose as a flexible tube that carries a smaller amount through it but much more flexible.  So a hosepipe will send less substance through it than a pipe, but be more flexible like a hose.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

We start noshing on Wednesday evening with my Grandparents-in-law for a non-traditional meal, and then Thursday at lunch for a more traditional meal and Friday I'm cooking and having my folks over so this will probably be the last post of the week.

This is the first Thanksgiving I've ever done at my house but I'm not too worried.   I'm smoking a turkey (not grilling or BBQing it, more on those definitions later) and my wife is cooking the old standby of green bean casserole which I actually like since my family didn't cook it very often.  Mom and Dad are bringing seven layer salad, spinach dip and a pecan pie.

So since I have to work for a bit on Friday and can't start the fire until about 9:00am Mom and Dad are coming around noon to snack on spinach dip and Bloody Mary's.  I like Bloody Mary's especially before a cold football game and after having one at Pat O's in NOLA I like to fix mine like theirs.  It seems like they put every pickled veggie in there: olives, pickled okra, pickled green beans and maybe even a pickled onion.  I have also had them where they rimmed the glass in a spice mixture.

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to it and hanging out and watching what is shaping up to be a very interesting Iron Bowl. 

If you are going to fry a Turkey this week please read these safety tips!!!

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!  Make sure you give thanks for you have and sometimes we should give thanks for what we don't have.  I'm thankful for my wife and daughters, all of my family and in-laws, my music friends and all of y'all for reading the blog!

What are you serving or fixing for the holiday?  Do y'all have weird traditions or food for Thanksgiving?  What are you thankful for?  Share recipes and blessings in the comments.  Peace.

ADDITION (12/14/2009)
Stuffing is in the bird, dressing is made in a dish like a casserole.  Stove Top stuffing can be made into dressing, but please don't call it stuffing unless it is stuffed into something.  You can have Stove Top stuffing/dressing, cornbread stuffing/dressing and even oyster stuffing/dressing; there are many regional differences.  My family hardly made stuffing from scratch so that is probably why I didn't mention it to begin with or have strong feelings about it.  Thanks Tim (Martha) for the reminder!

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Southern Word of the Week - Sweet Milk

Sweet Milk
(n.) Hey Jeanie, could you get me some more sweet milk at the store when you go out?

Butter milk is butter milk, goats milk is goats milk and sweet milk is, well . . . milk.  Plain old, run-of-the-mill, fresh-out-the-carton/jug whole, 1%, 2% or skim milk.  I do now people that call anything but whole milk, milk colored water, but either way as long as its plain milk you're talking about then it is also sweet milk.

By the way, if you need butter milk and all you have is sweet milk you can add one tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice to a one cup measure then add milk to the one cup line.  Stir and let stand for 5 minutes then use as you would butter milk.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tomato Sandwiches

You can call them tomato sandwiches, 'mater sammiches, whatever; I'll just call them delicious. It is literally slices of tomato on bread and I think most people add mayo and a little bit of salt and pepper. I can't believe this a foreign concept to some folks!

I think the best tomato sandwich is one with homemade sourdough bread and a fresh tomato from your garden or patio that's still warm from the sun. Buying or planting tomatoes in the spring are one of my highlights for the year. I love being able to pull a few off for salads, sandwiches or just on a plate with a little salt.

This may be a little highfalutin' but sometimes I combine the humble tomato sandwich with a Tyler Florence recipe for a grilled cheese. Sourdough bread with pesto sauce (I buy mine, but have made it before with walnuts, easier to find and cheaper than pine nuts) and thick slices of mozzerella and tomato, on a panini press, or if you don't have a panini press, in a cast iron grill pan pressed with a foil covered brick. Yummy!!!

How do you like your 'mater sandwiches and which varieties of tomato do you like to use for sandwiches, salads, sauce etc.?  Let us know in the comments!

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Bacon is all the rage right now and you all know I prefer to do it in a cast iron skillet but our friend Alton Brown has another, very interesting idea for no turn, no shrink bacon.  Cooking our beloved cured pork belly in a waffle iron.

The link below is to the Lifehacker page that has embedded video that skips right to the hot bacony action.

link via

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Southern Word of the Week - Buggy

After getting a write up at I was inspired to define a new Southern Word.

(n.) Hey mama, go get me a buggy; I can't carry both gallons of milk and this loaf of bread.

A buggy, to those outside the south, is a shopping cart.  In the U.K. they call it a trolly which is more like our term rather than the generic shopping cart.  The people that call it a shopping cart probably also call a Coke a soda, and a Kleenex a facial tissue.  Not that there's anything wrong with that, its just not how we do it. 

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Bless your heart

Everybody in the South has at least heard this expresstion before; Bless your heart, bless their heart, bless his or her heart.  It's an expression that makes you sound less like your talking bad about someone.
"That Jimmie knows how to repair engine blocks, but he ain't got a lick of buisness sense, bless his heart."
It can also convey sympathy.
"You've just been through so much lately with your dad passing and your son's surgery . . . bless your heart."
It can be used multiple ways and you'll hear it anywhere from the grocery store, to the beauty shop to the tire store.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009


Biscuits down here are like dinner rolls, they are versitle and can but stuffed with or covered with almost anything. Bacon, egg and cheese biscuits, biscuits and gravy, fried chicken and biscuits; biscuits with sorghum syrup, jelly, preserves or even red eye gravy.

I spent while looking for a good recipe, believing Alton Brown's was a bit too specific I used the one on the White Lily package, which was good, until I made my mother-in-law's recipe. 
1 pkg. dry yeast
¼ c. warm water
2 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. baking soda
5 c. self-rising flour
1 c. shortening
2 tsp. sugar

Put yeast in warm water to dissolve.  Add buttermilk and soda to yeast mixture.  Mix flour and shortening and sugar together until coarse.  Add milk mixture.  Roll and cut into biscuits.

Bake in hot oven 450 – 475 degrees, approximately 10-12 minutes.
May be stored in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
The secret as I was taught by a co-worker is to cut in the shortening by hand, until it looks like meal, then press it together in your palm. If it holds its shape, then crumbles when tapped it's good to go. Enjoy!

I have no idea what the yeast is supposed to do. It doesn't spend any time rising, but I guess with the heat the yeast does get to work a bit before being killed by the very hot oven. Also I use instant yeast (bread machine yeast) and it doesn't have to be activated with the warm water, so I go without the water and add the yeast directly to the dough. I also add a largish pinch of kosher salt. I've wanted to omit the yeast and check the results, but I'm sacred it'll be a waste of a large amount of flour.

Got a better recipe? Have another recipe that involves biscuits? Got a biscuit fact? Put them in the comments.

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Friday, October 23, 2009


This past weekend we had my daughter baptized and had friends and family gathered for the event. A few Yankee transplants, one being the Godmother, were discussing squirrel and the eating thereof. They were speaking in disbelief that one would eat them. Knowing my grandmother-in-law and her culinary background I grabbed her to explain how to cook squirrel.

She explained that you boil it until it falls off the bone, then pick it apart and serve it with dumplings like you would chicken and dumplings. At that point they knew that eating squirrel was for real.  Nannie also mentioned you could serve it with gravy possibly over rice or biscuits.

Got a squirrel recipe or story?  Share them in the comments.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Everybody in the south either has a truck, or has access to a truck.  Oftentimes its a pickup truck, but not always.

My first car was my dad's 1977 Cheverolet Suburban.  The color scheme was red, white and rust, and my friends called it . . . The Tank.  It got me to school and I could haul anything in it.  My dad still uses it to carry garbage to the dump and pull his car trailer.  He always said he drove a pickup truck before it was fashionable and my mom used to make him pull behind where she worked when he picked her up so her friends wouldn't see her getting into it. 

Down here even the girls want a pickup truck for their first car.  They have cute vinyl graphics that say, "Cowgirl Up" in pink or "Silly Boys, Trucks are for Girls."  So whether it's an S10, an Explorer, an H2, a Suburban or just a old full size truck enjoy it, you never know when you will need one.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fried Chicken

I love fried chicken, but I didn't know that anyone actually made it from scratch until I was a senior in high school (yes over 10 years ago) when I met my future Mother-in-Law and her fried chicken.  I did lose a piece of dental bonding because of it, but that wasn't her fault.  So people do still fry chicken and it doesn't just don't come from a bucket contrary to popular belief.

Fried Chicken is kinda like barbecue (more on that another day) because it seems like somebody's Mee-Maw's chicken is the best and you haven't had fried chicken until you have tried hers.  It's also versatile, it can be dinner one night but a leg straight out of the fridge the next morning is equally satisfying.  Lot's of people even pack cold fried chicken for picnics along with 'tater salad and chips. 

I've never done my own but I have found fellow southerner Alton Brown of Food TV's Good Eats and his recipe looks pretty darn good.  It involves a cast iron skillet, buttermilk and shortening.  You could put a soul food spin on it by maybe dipping a piece in hot sauce after frying and serving it over a waffle, and yes, he even adds syrup! 

Next you need to make biscuits and I think I've been cleared by the family to publish the super secret biscuit recipe.  Look for that in the coming weeks.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Everything I know about football, I learned from my Momma

It's true, and it may have some people wanting to pull my southern membership card.  My mom was cheerleader so she grew up watching football on the sidelines plus she had two older brothers who watched or listened to Auburn football.

My dad was a racecar driver.  Any given weekend you could find him on the streets of downtown Birmingham and later legally at Lassiter Mountain Dragway, an 1/8th mile track near Gardendale, Alabama.  He enjoyed racing and even though his dad played football as a child my dad took more after his mother and shunned the sport. 

You see she was from outside London, England and was born in India so her idea of sport was proper football (soccer) and cricket.  So when I was about 8 or 10 or whatever age I was, I was taught the rules of football by my mom.  I still don't understand all the stratergery in the game, but I appreciate the knowledge she passed on to me.  That knowledge probably helped me not get beat up for not knowing how football worked.  I did eventually gain a respect for soccer, but I only enjoyed playing it, not watching it. 

Later I went to a prominant southern college with a large history of football playing and learned to love it even more in college than in high school, and I did enjoy going on in the high school games and knowing what was going on.  Sometimes it gets monotonous, but when you get in a crowded stadium and your team is on top, there is nothing quite like it.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Southern Word of the Week - Mash

Mash - To push something.  Typically a button or potatoes. 

(v.)You can turn the buzzer off if you mash that button right there.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sweet Tea

I love sweet tea, its something you can usually count on somebody to have on hand.  If you didn't grow up down here you probably think its too sweet and/or too weak, but I do know one Guatemalan girl who said she wished she could take a couple of gallons of Milo's tea back with her. 

It was suggested by a Yankee friend of mine that it should be called "sweetened tea."  I said that if she had tea with lemon would it be lemoned tea, or just lemon tea?  Iced tea is iced tea, but if you order it down here you will be asked, "sweet or unsweet?"

The first thing I typically taste at a restaurant is the sweet tea and I can usually get a pretty good read of the joint by this alone.  I can tell if it is from a concentrated tea mix and if it is I know that the meal probably isn't going to blow me away. Many "fancy" restaurants don't serve sweet tea, but will serve iced tea with a small jigger of simple syrup, sometimes with mint, to add to your tea without having to do the sip and stir.

Here's how I make sweet tea.  First you'll need.
  • Hot Water
  • 3 - 1 quart tea bags (I use Red Diamond - 2 Decaf and 1 Full Caf)
  • 1 - 1.5 cups of sugar
Mix the sugar, water and tea bags when the kettle whistles then let it cool 30 minutes or until just warm before adding cool water.  I usually leave the tea bags in the pitcher but you can remove them if you'd like.

Wikipedia says the first recipe for sweet tea called for green tea, but I suspect it was made with whatever tea was available and I've only had it made with black tea.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Southern Word of the Week - Stove Up

Stove up

(v.)Daddy can't go play ball with us, he's all stove up (not able to move well due to aches and pains) from pullin' weeds in mamma's flower garden yesterday.

Stove up usually means you can't do something because you spent a lot of other time doing another strenuous exercise.  One becomes stove up more often as one gets older.

Have you been stove up?  Let us know in the comments.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

All about Y'all

From Wikipedia: "Y'all, archaically spelled "You-all'", is a contraction of the phrase "you all", and is pronounced as one syllable. It is used as a plural second-person pronoun."

Some folks in different parts of the country say you guys, some say you all, we say y'all.  Many people spell it ya'll.  In fact that's the way I spelled it until about 2000 until being told I had been spelling incorrectly for 20 years by my creative writing teacher.  Since I tend to think language is always evolving then I can give a slight pass to this spelling since ya can be a colloquially shortened form of you.

However there is a billboard company in town that has a billboard up that says, "Hey Ya'll" on it, which I think is tacky since they are a pretty large business and much of that business is to spell things correctly. 

If you are watching a movie or reading a book and they use y'all when only referring to one person that is an incorrect usage.  If I ask y'all to come over to one or more people I'm probably asking you and your wife to come have dinner.  If I say "all y'all need to come over" then I'm probably talking about all of us and friends we have in common to come over for an event. 

Y'all got any more to add?  Post them in the comments.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Okra Cola

A few people (mostly friends because hardly anyone knows about this blog) have asked why the name Okra Cola.  I thought it was a unique name but where I got it was listening to a morning show in the '80's (I was a young 'un) The Magic Morning Zoo on Magic 96.5 FM in Birmingham.  They often did fake commercials in skits and one of them was for Okra Cola. The name was about all I can remember.

Looks like the name came from an SNL skit with Steve Martin.  Either way I like the name, and I was young when I heard it so cut me some slack. [END EDIT/ADDITION]

It just kind of popped in my mind when I signed up on Blogger. If you think about it okra is a very southern food; fried, pickled, boiled (yuck) and there is a very famous cola based in Atlanta. 

So there ya go, Okra Cola: Southern living, language, libations, food, music and anything else I see fit to post was born. I hope y'all enjoy.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Very Southern Sentence

My office mate at work who is originally from Philly offered a very southern sentence he thought of while he was in Home Depot one day.
"Where's all y'all's sawzalls at?"
I thought it was brilliant, and its even better that he was a yankee!  He is actually part of the inspiration of the blog since he wants to know about how things work down here.  I'm kind of his southern culture coach.

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Corn Cob Pipes

There are few things more southern (some would say country or hillbilly) than a corn cob pipe, or at least a stereotypical person smoking one (usually a farmer in overalls). I found that the Missouri Merrschaum factory is the world's oldest and largest corn cob pipe manufacturer. They have many styles and amazingly they are suggested as a starter pipe by people who smoke  briar pipes which can become very expensive. Corn cobs can be had for less than $5!

Here's a guy with a lot of info on these pipes and shows us a bunch of different pipes made by Missouri Meerschaum.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Southern Word of the Week - Tump


(v.)Billy, did you tump over (spill or tilt at a severe angle) your glass of milk?
(v.)When the game was over they tumped the Gatorade bucket on the coaches head.

Many things can be tumped over but has to be at least the size of a drinking glass.  You can't really tump over a shot glass or a thimble full of liquid.  Dump trucks can be tumped though, especially on the highway.

I just had a friend say that tump is a combination of the turn over and dump; that should make it easier to remember.  Tump, tell me an interesting way you've heard this word used in the comments.  Thanks Dennis L!

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Harmonica & Orange Blossom Special

I play a folk instrument and talk about it any chance I get.  It's the harmonica and I found a girl on YouTube that does a killer version of Orange Blossom Special, usually a fiddle tune, but can be done well on harmonica.  The first person I heard do it was Charlie McCoy (Hee Haw music director and musician on Dylan's Blonde on Blonde).

Wow! Then I stumbled upon this girl the other day named Kaleena who was 16 at the time this video was made.

Wow again!  I just love seeing young folks pick up the instrument, plus you don't see many girls playing either.  I was 16 when I started playing (I'm 29 now) and discovered this song when I was about 20 and never have tackled it because it was a daunting task, but thanks to Kaleena I may try it!

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Cast Iron Skillets

People the world over use cast iron skillets. Bacon tastes better cooked in them, pineapple upside down cakes call for 'em and they're good to have around when bad guys break into your house. Well a few years ago they did not come pre-seasoned and I really had no idea how to season one I got as a wedding present. So I used the directions which had something about coating it with vegetable oil and put it in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or an hour or whatever. That method my friends does not work. So I scoured the inter-webs for a solution and here's what I came up with.

You have to have a fair amount of fat which will stick to every part of the pan and you need a lot of heat. So I lubed up the pan with shortening (you gotta have it for biscuits anyway) and set my gas grill to high and left it alone for about 10 minutes or so. INSTANT CAST IRON BLACKNESS! It looked like it had been owned by my Maw Maw! I was stoked and now I hardly use anything else on the stove. I have a skillet, a grill pan, a griddle and a cast iron, enameled dutch oven, all made by Lodge Cookware. It now all comes pre-seasoned, but sometimes you have to re-season it.  

Never wash it with soap and water! You may wash it out with water alone, but make sure you let it dry thoroughly, or put it on low for a little while to evaporate all the water. If I have some schmutz on it I usually get it warm or mostly hot then put a small amount of cold water in it to loosen up the gunk, then it wipes pretty clean with a paper towel. I've also used kosher salt to soak up some the grease then use a paper towel to do a mild scouring with the salt.

Put your cast iron tips in the comments!

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Southern Word of the Week- Fixin'


(v.)Momma's fixin' (making) fried chicken for dinner.

(adv.)I'm fixin' (about to) to go out to have some beers.

(n.)We're gonna have barbecue with all the fixin's. (side dishes or all the things involved in a traditional southern barbecue meal)

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Welcome to Okra Cola! A blog about Southern living, language, libations, food, music and anything else I see fit to post. I grew up in the deep south and I love just about everything southern. I welcome you and invite you to offer comments and suggestions.

A bit about me:
My paternal grandfather's family came over from England before this country was founded. He married a lady who was born in India to a very posh British family. So I'm only half Southern by blood. My maternal great-grandparents (all 4) came over from Slovakia in the past 100 or so years so I grew up on fried okra from her backyard as well as pirogies.  So I'm only 1/4 southern by having family down here for a long time depending on how you count it, but my Slovak grandparents adapted quickly to southern living and ideals so I consider myself 100% southern!

That's my south, my version of the way my family lives and has lived in rural Alabama. I think everybody has a version of it down here. Nobody was raised the same, but many aspects are similar. A lot of people have their ideas of the south and some of them disdain it, even folks who grew up here. I always say I'm glad people propagate the myth to keep those who don't want to be here out!

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