Monday, December 28, 2009

New Years in the New 'Old' South

New Years in the South is different than anywhere else. They do things differently than the rest of the country. Mainly it's in the way that they treat family, which if you know Suthunaz, their family is anyone they know. It's that 'extended family' thing that's goin' on. New years is as much a time for family (EXTENDED family) than anytime else. Oh sure, you can go out and get a nice dinner and then a show with just about any type of live entertainment you want. Country, Punk Rock, Classic Rock - Nashville even has its own Coyote Ugly! Now that's a way to celebrate!

Growing up, I remember watching Dick Clark on TV and drinking sparkling Grape Juice out of paper cups. When I got to be an adult, my celebration changed to a night out on the town and good champagne in glass flutes. When I got to Nashville, I attended one of these big New Years Extended Family Celebrations and when the big clock on the wall had struck 12 and hugs and kisses were passed out, there came a time for eating. It was here that I discovered something no one has written about in Suthun Celebrations.

A table was brought out, with steam tables and heat lamps keeping warm what we had to eat: Black Eyed Peas and Cornbread. I thought this was unusual, but everyone else dug in, so I had to ask. Seems this is a big tradition in the US South, so I happily complied.

Eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day is thought to bring prosperity in the coming year. The peas are typically cooked with a pork product for flavoring (such as bacon, ham bones, fatback, or hog jowl), diced onion, and served with a hot chili sauce or a pepper-flavored vinegar.

This traditional first meal of the new year can also feature collard, turnip, or mustard greens, and ham. The peas, since they swell when cooked, symbolize prosperity; the greens symbolize money; the pork, because pigs root forward when foraging, represents positive motion. Cornbread also often accompanies this meal.

These "good luck" traditions date back to the American Civil War better known in these parts as the War of Northern Aggression. Union troops, especially in areas targeted by General William Tecumseh Sherman, typically stripped the countryside of all stored food, crops, and livestock, and destroyed whatever they couldn't carry away. At that time, Northerners considered "field peas" and field corn suitable only for animal feed, and didn't steal or destroy these humble foods. It was these 'leftovers' that gave rise to the traditions we see today.

Every day I live here, I love the south more.
Happy New Year to you all (or it is Y'all...I can never tell) Oh and save me some Cornbread and Black Eyed Peas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Decorations Suthun Style

Tis the season to be Jolly, tis the season to hang Holly, or, in the case of my Suthun friends, other more interesting decorations seem in order. Take, as a starter, this great Christmas Tree....made out of standard 55 Gallon drums.

Suthunas make do. They see the need and fill in. Can't afford a tree or maybe you want something a bit different this year? Then make do with what you have a 10 foot step ladder.

No outdoor decorations handy? Then fill in with something else red. Say a volkswagon Bug...

(One really has to marvel at the feat of engineering which put that VW Bug up on that wire. )

Monday, December 14, 2009

Suthunuz and Snow

When I first moved to the South, I had visions of Thanksgiving in sandals, outdoor barbecues on Christmas and basically spending all my time in short sleeved Hawaiian Shirts. I never knew it got so cold here! The first time I stepped out of the door and found a light dusting of snow, I thought I was having a flashback.

Yes, Nashville gets snow, COLD snow. When I left Colorado, I gave away my wool lined snow boots, my down filled parka and my heavy ski gloves and here I am now freezing my heiny off. (And I haven't got a lot of heiny to lose!) Yet another part of living in the south which I had to learn to love.

In Colorado when it snows you get this beautiful light powder. When it snows in the south, it gets ICY. The snow is wetter here and under that snow can be a sheet of solid ice that will knock you on your aforementioned heiny! (Again, not fun, very little heiny to land upon, and ouch!) The snowflakes are so heavy they don't glide softly down to the ground, they drop to the ground like soft hail, and can nearly knock you off your feet with the impact.

Now, if the weather is going to be bad, whether in Colorado or Nashville, you don't want to be on the roads, so it's a good idea to stock up on some comfort food before it hits, maybe some snacks, and of course, some movies. So, the wife and I head out to the store only to find that EVERYONE is at the store! But the only thing they are buying is Milk and Bread. That's it, just bread and milk. Seriously. Grocery Carts full of bread and milk. Really. Right after the announcement that the snow is coming the stores fill up, people buying 3 and 4 gallons of milk and matching bread. It's like some sort of apocalyptic (or is it apoplectic?) memo of which I was not privy.

Yet, it gets stranger. I turned on the TV that first fall and was watching the weather when I heard them say that the prediction for the next day was for snow. At the same time, they began listing those schools who would be closed. Did you catch that? They were closing the schools in anticipation of snow! When I was a kid in Colorado, snow would have had to pile up and cover the capital rotunda before they even CONSIDERED closing schools, and even then it was a coin toss. I was in awe of these suthunaz.

At the time my brother (Bubba) had just started teaching high school in Denver, so I had to call him and tell him all about it. He thought I was joking. It became a yearly tradition for me to call him the first time this happened each year. Every year he laughed. (He laughs at me a lot, but I'm sure it's just because he's so jolly...maybe.)

I have learned over the years that Nashville had a very bad ICE storm the winter before I arrived in Nashville. The storm came across so quickly and so heavily during the day that students ended up stranded in the schools overnight because the buses couldn't drive on the ice shrouded roads. The school district took it on the chin and made the decision to close the schools when the weather report looked bad. Can't blame them. (My kids had nightmares of school during the day. Can you imagine being told that they had to SLEEP there overnight?)

The only problem now is that Bubba has retired from teaching and when I call him about the schools being closed, he really doesn't care. He still laughs though. Go figure.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Suthun Ingenuity

One of the things which makes being a Suthunah so exciting is that Suthunahs are untouched by the idea of what an item is used for. They can look at anything and find yet another use for it.

Take for example, the above picture. Out at the park, wanting a hot meal, and no grate on the grill. No problem. Look around and there in the far corner, some homeless guy has left a shopping cart. Shopping carts are made of....Bingo.

What I also love about this is that they didn't take the time to cut the shopping cart apart. (And we all know they had a truck full of tools with which to do it.) They left the shopping cart intact, perhaps knowing that once they completed their rural meal, they'd release the shopping cart back into the wild to allow it to continue it's life of duty to the homeless.

I just hope they washed it real good beforehand.