covered dishes

by Traci Barr

It is said that true Southern hospitality
begins in the kitchen,
where you can find the makings
of a covered dish
or a cast iron skillet filled with corn pone
or a heaping of poke sallet,
poisonous until cooked,
Geechee red peas, sweet tea,
barbecue and Frogmore stew, too;
a little okra or gumbo,
some grits for good measure –
perhaps for a family picnic or a church social,
attended by true Southern gentlemen
and their antebellum lady guests.
 
Is there enough for everyone at mealtime?
Of course there is…
this is the South,
a place that stands apart
more than any other in America,
a place of moonlight and magnolias and manners;
a place of live oaks and Spanish moss;
a place with a history of plantations, Textile League baseball,
bo weevils, King Cotton and cotton mills,
buildings where work was done that mattered to folks;
buildings where cloth was once cranked out by the country mile;
buildings that now provide trendy, loft-style living
for the presumably trendy newcomers
who can afford to occupy them.
 
I am an outsider and take an emic approach to the South itself.
From the many fields of bletted, landrace Carolina Gold;
to the Low Country, flavored with a little Gullah terroir;
to the Upstate’s peach orchards, all sticky and sweet;
the stories of the South are told in its food.
I would go so far as to say that Southern cooking
is the mother cuisine of this country.
But, as I sip that last drop of savory potlikker
left behind in a vessel of braised collard greens,
I sometimes wonder what really goes on down here,
below the Mason-Dixon.
 
Because, while you are taking a bite,
dainty as it is,
of that genteel pimento cheese spread,
which I have spent time making just for you,
you are thanking me and saying,
in the very same breath,
 
“Bless your heart.”
 
And I am not quite sure y’all
are necessarily wishing me well
when you say that to me.

 

One thought on “covered dishes”

  1. Like this one. Spunky. Words smooth and as a Damn Yankee who came South, actually by accident, I have heard “Well bless you heart” once to often to believe another truly cares.

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