Thursday, October 1, 2015

Southern Loss and Feeding Habits

Last week I did not get a chance to post.  My wife and I were devastated by the death of our 17 yr old grandson.  It was a long and difficult week and we are still learning to live with the loss and the hole left in the entire family. Posting on my little blog seemed rather trivial at the time and took a back seat to other more important thoughts.  

Death is a subject not easily dealt with no matter where you live but I won't go into the subject of death today.  During our long stay with family, I noted an interesting twist on an old custom and I'd like to share it with you. 

In days of old, like back when I was a kid, when there was a loss such as this, the family would be visited by neighbors and friends each carrying a covered dish.  The single covered dish was the standard in 'neighbor' comfort food gift as it took little time to heat, and serve.  It was a way for the family to not have to think of cooking and the fridge was usually filled to overflowing with these gifts of love. The gift usually came with the tag "Just return it when you're through."

I fully expected this to be the case and was a bit surprised at the new twist.  The first person to show up with food, left several bags of Sub Sandwiches from a chain Sandwich shop. They also left large bags of chips. They were all huge sandwiches and enough variety that everyone was fed and fed well. A little while later, someone showed up with a huge bucket of chicken again from a national chain. Accompanying this was, of course, cole slaw and mashed 'taters. This happened all week long, each time a chain fast food and always enough to feed an army.  I don't think anyone brought a covered dish. 

It's also not clear to me whether this is a new Southern take on an old tradition, or a modern change that is nation wide. I may have to do some research on this.  Perhaps I can get some posters to tell stories on what happens in their neck of the woods.  

Thursday, September 17, 2015


The Chimney is done and the self-made Chimney Cap is in place!  It took me less time than I had thought, but more work than I had thought.  A little background for our new readers:  Over a year ago, I had to attack my living room and tear out a section about 12 x 12 feet.  I worked most of the summer tearing out and then replacing joists, floor and walls. It was long hard work and my wife and I did it alone. The stress landed me in the hospital exactly 1 year ago this last weekend, which caused me to have to put a hold on these final parts of the project. Most importantly, was the chimney to my fireplace.

You'd think I would have got to that this summer, but if you'll read last week's post you'll see references to rain, and slippery roofs and reasons to put off the chimney install to the right weekend. Ok, so now we're caught up and you, like me, can marvel at the wonder the concept: This last weekend, the chimney was installed!  (Yes, I'm going to say that a few more times, I'm very proud of my accomplishment, so bear with me.)

I thought I'd share my efforts in preparation for the install.  Y'see, I needed a part to finish the chimney (look up there, ain't it keen?) and couldn't seem to find one anywhere. The part I needed was the ring that held the chimney pieces together.  (You can see it as it originally was installed here.) I had spent the day in the hardware store looking at 're-workable' stovepipe parts and found this: 
This is  a piece of stove pipe made for standard wood burning stoves which I knew I could use.  You see those three ends each has a separate collar held on with just a couple of rivets. It's a simple job for me to cut those rivets off and refashion the collars for my own use in assembly of a triple wall chimney (yeah, no one carries them anymore and the company has changed owners, so there's no way to find one, let alone replace it. Gotta re-manufacture it - a Southern Tradition in itself.) One collar for the inner chimney, one for the center chimney and the third to help the other two fit properly. Like this: 
Inner Chimney w/collarCenter Wall w/collar
And then of course the outer wall.  
There is still a lot to do on this project, but for the moment I'm going to be insufferable.  I've been walking around work showing off my pictures of the chimney like a new father showing off his offspring.  (I'd hand out cigars if they weren't so expensive!)

In truth, I feel I may have garnered more points to become a true Good Ol' Boy, a card carrying member of the True South. I showed off my ability to think through a problem, refashion something for my own use and I got a chance to fix things up right!  But more than that, I got to use an angle grinder to cut metal and throw a large plume of sparks out across the roof of my house. Very satisfying.  
The next day I took this pic of the storm collar and chimney cap combination with the rising sun shining off them.  I can hardly wait for the next rain storm!  

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Chimney Repair and Metal Fabrication

It has been a summer to remember.  Heat and rain and more heat and more rain. Normally we would have heat all summer and then rain as the hurricane season hits the southern Atlantic. This year we have had a lot of rain all summer long - every weekend in fact.  

The rain and heat have kept me indoors and the major repair work standing still.  The next step to the work is to replace the chimney but in order to do that I have to be able to get up on the roof and as sure footed as I like to believe I am, I am not going up on the roof in the rain.  In addition, I expect the chimney will take me at least a day and a half if not two and there hasn't been a weekend without rain this entire summer. (Ok, I take that back, there's been two weekends, but I was out of town on both those weekends. Go figure.) 

Even as the summer comes to a close, I am eyeing a time when I can finalize the chimney and get the house finished. I've spent all summer looking for the one part I need to repair this and have finally come to the realization that I will need to get it fabricated. 

But where? How?

I've called all the metal fabrication shops in the area and  none are open on the weekend.  They're happy to see me during the week, but no one is available on the weekend.  I guess my next step is to take time off from work just to get this little thing made.

But then the Southerner in me takes over. That "we can find a way" attitude that gets things done by thinking through and doing, not getting someone else to do it.  Ok, so what's the answer?  Even the lovely Mrs. suggested that there had to be some ready made pipe or piece I could refashion, so I spend a day walking through the big hardware store looking at things that might work and bingo - I find it.  A piece of stove pipe with a couple of ready made pieces attached to it that can be cut off and refashioned around my chimney with just a little work.

In less than a day I've done just that. The collars are made and ready for installation along with the chimney itself.  Southern Genes?  Maybe so, but let's hold off on judgement until I get this project done!

See you next week! 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Atlanta - The Cosmopolitan South

I've lived in many cities in my life.  Denver, Los Angeles and even Reno Nevada.  Each has it's own flavor and as much as I enjoyed living in each of those areas (each for their own reasons) I absolutely love living in the south.  You know this already, though, didn't you?

Nashville, where I live and work, is called the 'Mid South.'  Places like Mississippi and Louisiana are called the Deep South.  The further south you go, you get deeper and deeper until you hit the gulf.  Then, there's Florida.  Yes, Florida is 'the south', but they don't have the southern accent so I just don't include them.  My blog, my rules.  But as usual, I digress. 

One of the most fun places to visit in the South is Atlanta, Georgia.  (Bubba Pronunciation Guide: et-LANN-uh, JO-juh)  Atlanta is considered to be a shining jewel of the south, a cosmopolitan city the likes of which you cannot find elsewhere. 

When someone first told me that Atlanta was very 'cosmopolitan', I figured it was where they published the magazine.  (No, really.) I later found out that Cosmopolitan means "familiar with and at ease in many different countries and cultures."  Atlanta is quite cosmopolitan! What makes it so 'cosmopolitan' is the wonderful mixture of southerners and transplants from across the globe, living in small tight knit groups within the matrix of a single city. 

This mix gives you incredible restaurants with 5 Star Michelin ratings sitting almost elbow to elbow with restaurants specializing in African, European, Australian cuisine and maybe even Caribbean with a Southern flair.  Anything is possible.  It makes Atlanta 'Cosmopolitan' with a capital 'C' AND a place to visit - here in the South!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Shine and Shinney

Not too long ago I was reading up on some Southern phrases and such and came up on one I had forgotten. Shinney. Pronounced like "mini" this single word brings to mind someone going quickly up a tree. "Shinney up that tree there and get that kitten for me, bubba!"  But shinney is a Southern word with a distinctly Southern meaning that's been around longer than most can remember. 

In the literary classic "To Kill a Mockingbird" Scout recounts of baked gloriousness:
"Miss Maudie Atkinson baked a Lane cake so loaded with shinny it made me tight."
Sounds like my kinda cake! A Lane Cake is a layered white cake that has both a bourbon soaked fruit filling as well as a bourbon butter cream frosting. Proof of Age obviously required.

Shinney, as it turns out is a Southern word for Bourbon or Whiskey. I found this out after a bit of research (read: trip to visit neighbor Bubba.) When I also asked about the etymology of the word, Bubba looked at me like I had insulted his momma.  So I said "History, Bubba, History of the word."

There is little known about the word shinney as it pertains to Bourbon.  Bubba was quick to tell me that shinney means "Bourbon" and not just any whiskey, though most good ol' boys would use it either way since at one time there was no distinction.  Now, in case you didn't know, there is a very important difference between bourbon and whiskey.

The simple answer is that bourbon is always whiskey, but whiskey is not always bourbon. If a bit confusing, note that a strict set of federal trade regulations defines what's what.

Whiskey spelled with an "e" is a distilled spirit made from fermented grain and usually aged in an oak barrel. The various types (rye, rye malt, malt, wheat, bourbon and corn) each require different ingredients and distilling processes in accordance with specific alcohol trade regulations, called the Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits.

Bourbon is the most popular type of whiskey in the U.S. It was traditionally distilled in and around present-day Bourbon County, Kentucky. While bourbon whiskey has its roots in Kentucky, and continues to be primarily produced there, it is now manufactured in distilleries all over the United States. Manufacturers must meet the following requirements in order to advertise their whiskey product as "bourbon":

It must be produced in the U.S. from a grain mixture (called "mash") made up of at least 51 percent corn. It must be distilled to a maximum strength of 160 proof, bottled at a strength of at least 80 proof, and barreled for aging at no more than 125 proof. It must be aged in new, charred oak barrels. To qualify as "straight bourbon," the spirits must meet the above requirements as well as being aged for at least two years and containing no added coloring, flavoring or other spirits.

But none of that explains the origin of the word 'shinney.' So, I turned to the source of all knowledge Southern, Neighbor Bubba!  Bubba  explains that shinney is the darker cousin of shine, and by that he means moonshine.  Used as far back as the days of the American Revolution, shinney was a quick way to ask for a  certain type of beverage. You headed out for a little backwoods "shine" or into town for a bit of shinney at the tavern.

Moonshine is usually made from corn, but in truth, and in history, moonshine can be made from anything including wood!  The vast differences in both ingredients and manufacture of moonshine made it dangerous during it's heyday, but these days moonshine has even become a bit respectable (though to be sure, still illegal.)

So, whether you make your own shine in the bathroom tub or drive down to the local pub for a shinney, you can now at least use the vernacular and espouse the etymology with confidence.  Just don't' drink and drive.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Bass Fishing and Southern Abilities

When it comes to southern pass times, none is more revered than bass fishing.  Bass fishing is more than fishing and has such a following that it borders on religion.  There are bass fishing television shows, bass fishing conventions, bass fishing stores where you can get special bass fishing equipment and even specific bass fishing boats.  There are bass fishing contests where contestants have corporate sponsors and spend their waking non-fishing hours discussing the fine differences between lures and rods.  (Yes, plural: rods!)

My son-in-l;aw has recently got himself a fishing boat and more than a handful of different rods and reels (I never knew you should have more than one!) Just the other day, he invited me to go along on a quick afternoon trip to the local fishing hole.  I had to say no.  When he asked why, I had to tell the truth, and hang my head as I told him.

I don't fish.  I mean, I can toss fishing lures into the water, or bait a hook, but in the long run all I end up doing it drowning the bait. I am a terrible fisherman. In the somewhat vast experience I have with rods and reels and fish and bait, I've caught only one fish, and that was purely by accident.

I was a mere lad of 9 or 10 at the time.  I had seen a nice big trout swirling about my line and went to pull the line to "present" the bait a bit better. Instead, I snagged the trout in the rear fin.  I tossed him back because it just didn't' seem fair. I've never fished successful before or since.

To be honest, I've not been fishing in more than 20 years which, in itself, may keep me from ever really being recognized as a GOB. (Go ahead, check the link, I can wait. Done? Ok, moving on...)

Southern men seem to be fishermen from an early age.  The son-in-law takes his 4 yr old son fishing and the little tyke's even caught a few fish of his own.  He will, no doubt, become a GOB. Me? I'm still drowning bait.  I live in between two large bodies of water and have a third within easy driving distance.  You'd think I'd fish regularly.  I don't even own a single rod and reel.  (Let alone several.)

It's just another of those southern things that I don't have, won't have, can't get but would love to have that would surely make me one of the Southern population. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Animals Animals Everywhere

The other day as I was leaving for work at about 0h-dark-thirty and I was forced to stop on my porch in terror.  Not a second out of the door and I smelled the unmistakable odor of skunk wafting across my neighborhood.  Not wanting to get doused with a skunk bath first thing in the morning I am always careful to check the shadows and under the car and along the gully in front of the house before I sprint to the car.

No skunk, thank goodness.  Once before I came out my back door in the early morning no-light and my flashlight caught a couple of beedy eyes in the back of the carport.  Thinking it was just our outside cat, I began to call it as I bent to put out some food.  I stopped because there by my foot was the cat.  As I looked more into the carport, I noticed movement and out moseyed a skunk.  Me and the cat both departed hastily.

Both times I was lucky, and the skunk was lucky, too.  Once a few years ago, a skunk got in under our house and the smell in the house was unbearable. We had to get an exterminator to take care of it.  (Not so lucky for the skunk that time.)

It's days like these that only enforce the fact that here in the south and in my suburban neighborhood, there are animals aplenty.  Not just the odd skunk or passels of squirrels.  I've had a raccoon spend the night in my shed, possums lurking along the road in the early morning and of course, the odd skunk (lucky or not.) My neighbors tell stories of deer in their back yard, and I've seen odd eyes staring out under bushes as my car lights hit them at night.

The South is full of animals and not just out in the country areas. Most of us learn to live with them.  I point to the Southerners living in Louisiana who deal with 'gaters on a regular basis.  They are both a consternation and a unique addition to our days (the 'gaters, not the Southerners!)

As man encroaches on the wilderness more and more, we find animals in our back yards more and more.  It's not a Southern exclusive by any means.  But my Southern Neighbors treat it like an other slight annoyance, they turn it into advantage.  This means turning them wild things into food.  

I watch a southern show about alligator hunting.  The 'gaters are hunted yearly to keep the numbers from becoming too high.  On one episode, a couple of the hunters went out into the swamp and hunted squirrels for a stew for dinner. They did not kill for sport, and used all the meat that day.  

It's this close proximity that makes this seem like a trip to the grocery store and southerners use it easily.  They don't hunt for sport, and you'll find that most proud southern hunters wouldn't be caught dead hunting big game, nor  putting their heads on the walls. 

I don't hunt, unless you count hunting for bargains at the local thrift store.  But I sure appreciate those who do.