Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Cake Pull or Ribbon Pull - A Suthun Tradition?

In my travels and travails, I've unearthed a Southern Tradition which I had no idea even existed. It's called the Cake Pull (no, I'm not speaking of actually pulling a cake, like a tractor pull, let's keep it high class shall we?) The Cake Pull, also known as a Ribbon Pull, is found at the rehearsal dinner, or at the Bridesmaids' lunch, or at the wedding itself right before the cake is cut. (I suppose it really doesn't matter so long as there is cake. There should always be cake! In fact, there is a nice cake in our fridge right now - toffee with a chocolate frosting...but again, I digress...)

Usually there is one ribbon for each bridesmaid but I've seen mention that in some weddings, they invite all the single and unattached ladies in attendance to come up to the cake and take a ribbon found sticking out of the bottom of the cake. (Makes your RSVP just a little more important!) At the same time (a prearranged signal, perhaps a gong, siren or starting pistol), they all pull the ribbons out from under the cake. Each ribbon is attached to a charm and each charm (usually all different) as well as being covered in tasty goodness, has a special meaning for the future. (There is usually one ring among the charms of hot air balloons, rainbows and angels. The ring means that the one who received it will be the next to marry, proving once again the prognostication abilities of baked pastry and butter cream icing. ) Here are a few more charms and their meanings for those taking notes:
Popsicle: Life of sweet surprises
Horseshoe: Good luck will find you
Airplane: Life of travel and adventure
Crown: You'll be treated like a princess
Nail Polish: Enjoy fun nights out
Text Happy Face: Good news soon
Corkscrew: Lots to celebrate
Key: Love holds the key to your heart
Angel: Someone will watch over you
Star: You will always find your way 
Castle: You will live happily ever after
Sunglasses: Life of leisure
Shoe: May you always find one that fits
Mermaid: You are a free spirit
Ship: A Life of Adventure and travel
Saxophone: A Life in harmony

The charms can be silver or gold and after the icing is licked off (can't let all that sweet goodness go to waste) the charms are either kept by the ladies as a nice memento of their participation in the wedding, or are donated to the bride to make a charm bracelet. (That's right, the bride wants a bracelet of charms covered in leftover frosting and bridesmaid saliva. How memorable...)

You'll find this tradition mostly around New Orleans and some in Georgia, but in truth, the tradition has its roots in Victorian England, where the charms were used to advertise the wealth and position of the family giving the wedding. In the months and years after the wedding, each time the charm was shown by the ex-bridesmaid to their friends, there would be stories of the size of the cake, the number of bridesmaids, the food and perhaps even the location. The better the charms (gold being the most admired) the more prestige perceived and the more embellishment by the story teller.

I don't get to many weddings around these parts, but I have to say that I'm a bit upset that there is no alternative for the men. Perhaps a barrel with ropes hanging out of it and each man pulls out the rope, at the end of which is a nice cold non-light beer. (Always Non Light Beer.  Always.) The one who gets the IMPORTED beer would be the next to ...well.... get another beer. (It has been pointed out that the typical Suthun Wedding guest might not be open to IMPORTED beer. I must explain: I speak of Non-Light Beer imported from some exotic location such as Pennsylvania.  Yeah, that's imported!)

Ah. Tradition.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Silver Savior - the Rear View Mirror

Once again we are drawn to the ingenuity of the Southern Inventor and Repairman.  Here is the situation:  We've all been there.  The rear view mirror has come loose.  Now, back when I was a younger man, I would probably have searched high and low for a special glue made to glue the mirror back to the windshield.  I'm sure it exists.  After all, what did they use to stick it up there to begin with?

But the Suthun Man is not so foolish as to waste his time seeking adhesive gels which may or may not exist.  He's already got the 8th wonder of the world right there in the tool box.  That most Silver of Saviours (yes, the European spelling if you please) DUCK TAPE. (I hear some of you out there saying that it should be DUCT tape, but that is just not so.)

Our Suthun Repair Man (woman?  Can there be a Suthun Woman with repair skills of this level?) has taken his roll of Duck Tape and used it to put the mirror back in place.  Since he has no way of securing the mirror to the windshield, he's secured it to the Sun Visors!  Enough to hold it in place...along with a little more to make sure it doesn't hit the GPS device...and  he (or she) is set.

My only question here is what do you do when someone gets in the car who needs to re-position the mirror?    I can only guess that there is a roll of Silver Goodness in the glove box.  All good cars and trucks in the south come so equipped.  Well....they should.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

When you need BBQ done PDQ

Recently I went to a catered affair where they served Barbecue Sandwiches.  In fact, that is the very sandwich pictured above.  You can just imagine the stares I got as I whipped out my camera phone and lined up the shot.  One person even asked, "Pray tell, good sir, why dost thou capture this fine sandwich in a photo?"  (Ok, so they may have said this a lot different and with a couple of expletives, but the effect was the same.) 

This, in my untrained opinion, is SOUTHERN Barbecue.  Neighbor Bubba, aka Lord of All Things Barbecue, (not to be confused with brother Bubba, the retired schoolteacher, "Programs! Programs! Get your programs rat-cheer! Can't tell your Bubbas without a program! Sorry, I digress..) tells me that there are several types of barbecue identified by their region.  These include South Carolina, North Carolina, and Memphis just covering the South (There are always others, he says, but not worth mentioning.)  Then you got Kansas City Style, Texas Style and maybe even Western (which covers everything else west of the Mississippi that is not Texas.)

There are mainly two ways in which the meat gets the spice, wet and dry.  Wet uses a sauce and Dry uses a spice rub which is adhered to the outside of the meat before cooking.  Bubba uses a dry rub mixture which he combines under strict secrecy.  And most who use a dry rub, or smoking, also have a sauce much like the aforementioned sandwich, which is squirted on before eating. 

It is no secret on this blog that I am from the West. Colorado to be specific.  I grew up with Barbecue Sauce from a jar (yes, it's a sin, let's not get out the torches and pitchforks just yet) and the sauce was put on the meat as it cooked, giving it a sticky sweet and yet spicy coating. This falls into the Texas or Western style Barbecue and mmmmm my mouth is watering as I write this just thinking about the barbecue I ate growing up.   

But, let's return to the prior plastic plate o' pulled pork properly pictured (alliteration - Brother Bubba the retired English teacher will probably swoon.)  This, to my western eyes is Southern Barbecue. (Yes, neighbor Bubba will most likely hit me with a bag of briquettes, but I don't care!)  In this case, it means a plate of roasted pork which is then pulled off the bone and piled onto a bun. (They also had roasted and pulled turkey that day, but that seemed just wrong.)

The Sauce, a thin spicy mixture, is then poured (or in this case squirted out of a plastic bottle) all over the top of the meat.  I have a hard time with this kind of barbecue. First is, of course, that it is not the barbecue of my youth and my memory glands are complaining that "This is not barbecue...this is just meat and sauce."   My young brain wants sauce cooked on the meat!  But if my youth crazed brain would just step back, it would see that the two are not that much different.  All that is missing is the carmelization of sauce during cooking. I ate the aforementioned sandwich, even though the memory glands were not happy.  And, yes, it was a tasty dish. And yes, I got a lot of stink eye from those around me wondering what I might be up to next.

Unbeknownst to neighbor Bubba  I will most likely continue to cook my barbecue meats with the sauce slathered on it, hoping for that caramelized-and-almost-black-n-crunchy and oh-so-tasty coating that beckons from my youth.  Bubba (both of them) will just have to put up with it.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Southerners on TV

In recent months, I've begun to take notice of a pattern in the media, most notably television, in which the Southerner is depicted as something altogether different than the normal man. And by 'different', I mean 'STRANGE.'  At first, it would seem interesting to look in to the lives of those who live in The South, but then you see the show and one begins to think "Gee, are ALL southerners like this?"

I'm referencing a group of television shows (REALITY shows) which show a group of Southerners doing things that the rest of us just would not do.  Shows like these:

DUCK DYNASTY:  Though I haven't seen this show, I am able to glean from the commercials that it is about a couple of good ol' boys who turned a love of duck hunting into a million dollar business selling duck calls.  What I get from the commercials is that the guys would rather go duck hunting than run their business. Lots of big beards and hi-jinks ensue.

BAYOU BILLIONAIRE$:  This is the story of a man named Jed, out shootin' for some food, just to keep his family fed...  Oops. Sorry.  In a modern day rags to riches story, Bayou Billionaires tells the story of the Dowdens of Shreveport, La. -- a hardworking family of modest means who recently discovered their home sits on the fourth largest deposit of natural gas in the United States.  And that tag line says it all.  "They were always crazy..."  It seems the crazy antics of southern folks seem to make good television. Hijinks and uncouthery ensue.  (Is uncouthery a word?  Yes, I think it is...)


SWAMP PEOPLE:  Though it sounds more like a low budget horror movie, this is a show about a small group of people who make a living out on the swamp hunting one of the most dangerous creatures in North America: alligators.  Using nothing but their bare hands and hooks and high test line, these men - and women - catch hundreds of 'gaters each season (and the season only lasts 30 days!) Most importantly, we meet some really unusual characters, not the least of which are a couple of brothers who look like they just stepped out of that aforementioned low budget horror flick. 

Though all three of these shows take place not just in the south, but in Louisiana; there are others such as "Hillbilly Handfishin'" and a new show called "Coal" which are from other areas of the south.  Though I am in the South (and as we all know, not FROM the south) it seems important to note that though these folks may appear a bit odd (such as the aforementioned brothers) these are the salt of the swamp (so to speak).  Folks for whom the swamp is how they make their living, it is a part of their life. 

There is a lot of the South in these shows, but I caution the viewers to realize that these are not indicative of ALL southerners.  (I haven't caught a gater in...well, ever!)   It's the producers of these shows that want you to see these people and in some regards, hold them up to ridicule.  AND, since I have just read that the producers of Jersey Shore are looking for a bunch of southern rednecks for a NEW reality show about the south, I think we can venture a guess that this is a bit closer to the truth. Apparently Unusual = Good TV.  Strange and Wildly Weird = Great TV. These TV Producers will decide what your view may be of the South or Southern Rednecks or at least what it is on these shows.  TV.  Yeah...

Don't mistake my confusion with disdain for these fine Southern folks, for their traditions or for anyone from The South.  I really have no problems with these people or their shows and my wife and I are regular viewers of Swamp People.  My disdain is set squarely on those aforementioned producers who feel that 'Crazy' and 'Southern' go hand in hand and holding them up for ridicule is merely a way of making money.

I prefer to see these fine folks for the good suthun folks that they are.  Unusual, yes.  Different than the rest of us, most assuredly. I just don't want the rest of the world thinking that these are your regular me....or like I'd like to be...Or...oh never mind...