Monday, 21 June 2010

You can have this barbecue sandwich when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands.


If you were to slip a little truth serum into my lemonade and ask me what one adjective best describes me, I'd say "Southern." I'd capitalize it like that, too; maybe even spell it out. And If you slipped truth serum into my vodka, I'd say it like this: "Suth-uhn." Because when I'm drunk -- or surrounded by my family -- I stop trying to hide my accent.

I'm well-traveled, I like to think. I've been a lot of places. I've bought a lot of postcards. And whoo boy, have I taken a beating about my accent. I just go ahead and preemptively apologize for it these days because if I don't, people think it's a joke -- the way I drop the "ing" off of every word and cannot pronounce the long "i" sound. The first time I went to Oregon, one of my dad's coworkers made me the butt of a three-day joke about sweet tea. "Swayt Tay," he kept saying over and over, while everyone laughed and laughed. I was a kid; I didn't know only Southerners drown their iced tea in sugar. I didn't know people pronounce "Sweet Tea" the way it is spelled.

There are a lot of un-Southern things about me, for sure. My political views and religious leanings are a good jumping off point.

But I say "Yes, ma'am" and "No, sir" and even my best friend's parents, whom I've known since I was 13, get a Mr. and Mrs. in front of their first names. I listen to country music in the mornings with the windows down in my little pickup truck while I'm driving my dog to Loretta's or Kurt's or Frank's to get a gravy biscuit. It takes me ten minutes to get through the checkout line at the grocery store because pleasantries are always necessary, even if I'm only buying bread.

And the things I say in every day conversation! "I'm fixin' to do this" and "I couldn't give a lick about that." I love Scout Finch. Have I ever told you that? She's my favorite. I talk just like her.

The best thing about the South, though, besides that everyone is really pretty nice when they're not trying to baptize you or shove you into a Sarah Palin rally, is the barbecue. People in the South take barbecue as seriously as the Bible. And oh, it is delicious. And oh, it is plentiful.
You can't drive far in any direction without landing at a barbecue place of some kind, serving a sauce recipe that's been handed down for four generations.

The best barbecue in all of Georgia lives in my little town. It's called The Smokehouse, and it's only a wooden shack for ordering and a wooden shack for eating, only open three days a week, and people will drive 150 miles one-way on a weekend just to eat a sandwich and a cup of brunswick stew. It takes at least half an hour to get your food on Saturday, and no one ever complains. They just crowd into the shack with the slamming screen door and the one ceiling fan, and talk about how long it took them to get there, how they discovered The Smokehouse in the first place. People shake hands when their order is called, too. Like it was a pleasure to meet you and now we're friends forever. Barbecue Buddies.

The second time I came home from Europe, it was a Friday and I drove straight from the airport to The Smokehouse.

"Where ya been?" April, the order-taker, asked me.

"Just got back from England," I told her. "On my way home from the airport."

"England!" she said, as if I'd told her I'd come straight from Narnia. "Like England with the queen and all? Princess Diana?"

I nodded.

She actually poked her head through the window, to survey me properly, and then whispered, "I hear they're all inbred over there."

I laughed and it ricocheted off the two-by-fours. "That's funny," I told her "because that's what everyone in America thinks about the South."

"Well, the rest of America can all go to hell," she said. "Pardon my French."

"I went to France, too," I grinned.

She said, "I don't even want to talk about that."

Then April pulled her head back in the window. I'd been gone two months. I hadn't ordered. It didn't matter. "Pork sandwich, cup of stew, brownie, sweet tea with extra ice!" she shouted.

"You like it over there in Europe?" she asked, taking the exact change I offered for my meal.

I did like it over there in Europe. I love it over there. I long for it.

"Yeah," I said. "But I missed it here. Y'all can understand what I'm sayin'."


Jennie said...

I love this. And sweet tea.

True story: Once we went out to eat and Joe asked for sweet tea, and the waiter was like, "uh, we don't have sweet tea because this is the NORTH," and we murdered him with our eyes.

Jennie said...

Also! I feel like I have to add that you told us all about your southern accent before we met you and then we met you and your southern accent was not very southern. Were you hiding it? Don't ever hide it! I love southern accents. That is all.

Heather Anne said...

When I used to have to drive in horrible traffic everyday, I would think to myself, "It's a good thing I can't really do magic, or I'd Avada Kedavra all these bastards!" Which is the same thing as murdering people with your eyes. So it's a good thing I don't have that ability too.

You can call me, 'Sir' said...

Actually the royal family tree is verrrrrrrrrrrrry straight and tall, if you get my drift.

And I'll bet you probably do.

North Carolina BBQ is heavy on the vinegar, which makes some people gag and run screaming into Tennessee, where it's less vinegar-y. Still, I went to the RibFest here last week and I'll be damned if it didn't all taste like heaven on a bone, vinegar and all. Also, I thought sweet tea was an abomination when I first arrived in Virginia lo those many years ago, but now I see drinking unsweetened tea like it's a form of self-hate. Why would anyone do such a thing to themselves?

me said...

I've said it before, I'll say it again; and just go ahead and make it my HeatherAnne motto:

I love what you write, I feel like I've picked up a book and I didnt get to read the whole thing.

I can only say, I eat up your words!

I want to read a story, a book, a movie; on the Smokehouse.

And, I now live in South Carolina.. it is South :) My mom was down helping us move, and asked at the restaurant "do you have sweet tea".. we laughed and the waitress had a hard time not giggling :)(our family loves us some sweet tea) But anyway..long comment shortened.. where is Smokehouse and how far for me?!

Sarah M

me said...

..oh and? Toy Story 3? I literally sobbed. Not fair Pixar. Not Fair.


Jamie said...

This is just everything I love about living in the South. My favorite thing you've written? Possibly.

Heather Anne said...

Oh, Sir! Vinegar-y sauce is my favorite! (And yeah, I know all about that Royal Family tree. You used the exact right amount of Rs.)

Sarah M! That's the first time I've seen you use the M and not the G! Where do you live in SC?

Heather Anne said...

Jamie, you live in the South too? How's your accent?

eclectic said...

You should NEVER hide your genuine accent! You are lovely, so if the accent is yours, then it's lovely too.

I cannot listen to any Southern accent -- Deep South or Texan drawl -- without immediately copying it myself. The legitimately accented speaker then (understandably) assumes I'm mocking him/her, which I TOTALLY AM NOT! It's just that when I hear it, my brain adheres to it, melds into it, and then sends it out my mouth without permission. Maybe I'm secretly Suth-uhn?

Heather Anne said...

Oh, I would speak in my real accent just to hear you do that!

Ashley said...

I am not familiar with the South at all, but I am deeply familiar with Texas. It is another country.

My dad has this thick accent that I can't really hear, but when people first meet him, they're like, oh!

It is because of Texas that I appreciate beans and cornbread the way I do, and also it is because of Texas that I say "I'm going to fix dinner," and then my idiot high school friends say things like, "What, was it broken?" Shut up, whores.

P.S. This post was amazing, as usual.

me said...

Near (ish) Columbia..
Yeah, gotta start trying out the M..though I still prefer the G :)


Joe G. said...

I would like to say two things.

1. Southern accents are fun. Not as fun as British accents, but whenever I have to call someone at a Southern school for the work, I look forward to it a little bit.

2. I'm so glad The Collective is in my Google Reader again.

Abigail said...

I don't have a problem AT ALL with Southern accents, but I don't look forward to those calls, Joe, because there is so much extra chit chat (and also slow talk).

Also, Sarah G., I think I prefer the G as well. Maybe here you can always be Sarah G. It is a nickname, after all!

Never That Easy said...

I love accents - ALL accents - so if we ever happen to meet, please don't hide yours. Also? It might be my new life goal to be somebody's Barbecue Buddy.

kat said...

did you know they drink sweet tea in buffalo too? but there they call it "sweetened."

Jamie said...

I live in the southern part of North Carolina, and my accent is a faucet. Mostly I can turn it off to deal with clients and customers (I've actually been hired for a job over other candidates because I didn't "sound south"), but I get out here in the country where I live and all of a sudden I'm dropping "g's" and saying "fixin'" and drawling all kinds of extra syllables into words.

There's nothing better than when the waitress at the local barbecue shack (vinegar forever!) calls me sweetheart and knows the order by heart.

scott said...

According to Peefer, I have a slight Texas drawl. He should know. He's Canadian.

This post is adorable.

Hello, Collective.

scott said...

(subbing to follow-ups. pay no attention.)

peefer said...

This is a lovely little story.

Wow, that could sound flippant and condescending, but it's not. Perfectly perfectly not.

peefer said...

Scott's drawl is stronger after two beers. I think he was trying to hide it from me. Along with his axe.

kat said...

so scott, does peefer have a canadian accent?

scott said...

Real Answer: Peefer does have a Canadian accent, but it's subtle.

Awesome Answer: Although he's lived in Canada for years, Peefer still has what I can only describe as an oppressively thick Cambodian accent, though, if you get 8 or 9 Cosmotinis into him, you can hear a slight earthy lilt of socialized medicine in his Karaoke voice.

Kelly said...

I apologize on behalf of Oregon.

~Tim said...

This post includes all of the reasons we love Heather Anne.