July 11, 2010 12:18 PM   Subscribe

Next month is the husband's birthday, and I already have a few things in mind to buy him. What I need help on is something that is not for sale. Southerners of the US and the Yankees that love them, may I pick your brain?

I really want to give my husband the Southern treatment.

Let's say for a moment that that's an actual thing.

(Also, I understand that not all Southerners do this, and not all Yankees do that.)

The best that I got from my internet search, and the one thing I actually took from it, was that I should always try to have dessert (which I am definitely going to put in to practice, I know he will love that :)) That was exactly the kind of thing I was looking for.

What are some things that make your Southerner feel more homey or more comfortable or things you do that remind them of the south?

What are some things that a Southern wife/spouse/SO might know, that their Yankee counterpart might not know?

I know I'm asking for generalities, but like the dessert thing above, generalities are exactly what I'm looking for.

Also, your best crab cake recipes are welcomed.

Thanks in advance, I really appreciate it.
posted by Grlnxtdr to Society & Culture (57 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Please do pardon me if the term "Yankee" offends anyone. Not intended.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 12:23 PM on July 11, 2010

Fried green tomatoes
shrimp and grits
pork belly

As for things other than food:
posted by TheBones at 12:26 PM on July 11, 2010

Good iced tea, with a touch of lemon, to drink on a shady porch with a ceiling fan.
posted by gemmy at 12:34 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Since the South is a large region it would probably help to know where your husband is from. Richmond and New Orleans are miles apart in geography and cuisine. Also, depending on where you are, some things may not be available locally.

Desserts: pecan pie, banana pudding, Moon Pies, and Goo Goo Clusters
Drinks: sweet tea, Firefly sweet tea vodka, bourbon.
Food: biscuits and gravy, country ham, fried chicken, shrimp and grits, fried okra, etc.
posted by Frank Grimes at 12:37 PM on July 11, 2010

Do you currently live in the South, or up North? From reading between the lines, it sounds like you're looking for gift ideas that might help remind your husband of where he grew up. If that's the case...
- Several places in Memphis TN will Fed Ex pulled pork and ribs to your doorstep. Perhaps start with Corky's Barbecue.
- Or you could order a box of MoonPies. :-)
- Tickets to a local baseball game
- Arrange a fishing trip
- Perhaps music that might appeal to his Southern roots
posted by browse at 12:41 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sweet tea.

Where in the south is your dude from? What feels like "home" to him is going to depend on deeper regional stuff. Being from Louisiana, the whole Georgia peach thing doesn't really resonate with me. But if you could somehow stage a crawfish boil? I would love you forever.

If he's from Texas, cooking up a big batch of proper chili with no tomatoes or beans would probably drive him wild.

If he's from Appalachia, digging up somewhere to go check out bluegrass bands might be more apt.

Things that remind me of home (with no rhyme or reason or obvious connection to a birthday surprise): porches with ceilings painted blue-grey, ceiling fans, red beans and rice, irises, the sound of cicadas, being called "cher" (that's pronounced "sha", not like the pop icon), coffee with chicory, tubing/canoeing. That particular humidity of dusk in summer before the mosquitoes come out.
posted by Sara C. at 12:41 PM on July 11, 2010

If you think he's being an idiot or he's just said something foolish, use the phrase, "Well, bless your heart!"
posted by carmicha at 12:41 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

He is from the Maryland/Virginia/Carolinas area.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 12:42 PM on July 11, 2010

Sweet tea (maybe try making sun tea). Unsweet cornbread. Pineapple upside down cake.
posted by dilettante at 12:42 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can't speak for everyone, everywhere, but I'd avoid the Firefly sweet tea vodka unless you know he is a big fan of novelty vodkas or whatever. I'm a southern transplant to New York, and anytime anybody wants to impress me with their yankeefied knowledge of the south, they always mention that stuff. Whereas I had never heard of it till I moved here, and it has no associations of home for me whatsoever.

I've always found, in terms of hard liquor, that the south tends to be more of a bourbon or whiskey place, less of a vodka place. The smell of bourbon is incredibly evocative for me, but I can't even think of a time that I saw anyone drinking vodka when I lived in the south. Except for crappy sorority girl drinks like mudslides - again, not terribly evocative or nostalgia-inducing.
posted by Sara C. at 12:46 PM on July 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

We live in the North :)

And my cornbread is crap. Too dry, every damn time. Can someone tell me the secret to cornbread?
posted by Grlnxtdr at 12:46 PM on July 11, 2010

He is from the Maryland/Virginia/Carolinas area.

He might like some Cheerwine, then.

As to the cornbread, use the recipe from the back of the bag of Martha White's bolted white cornmeal. Cook it in a cast iron skillet, and make sure you heat the greased skillet in the oven before you put the batter in it. Note that this cornbread should be drier than the sweet stuff; it's for eating with beans or soup or soup beans, and should be able to soak up liquid.
posted by dilettante at 12:52 PM on July 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

Nthing sweet tea. Biscuits (oh, how I miss biscuits). Sitting on the porch at sunset. Hand held fans (the cardboard kind on a stick). Crickets and frogs singing (I know more a rural than a southern thing, but it reminds me of home). Barbecue, homemade potluck church food. People just generally being nicer in public.
posted by kimdog at 12:54 PM on July 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Cornbread. Leave out the sugar. I'm also thinking Shrimp and Grits.. Ironed sheets. Oscillating fan.
posted by raisingsand at 12:55 PM on July 11, 2010

Secret to cornbread: 1) Recipes call for flour and cornmeal. Whatever the total volume, make it out of equal parts flour and cornbread (e.g., if it says .75 cups of one and 1.25 cups of the other, use 1 cup of each. 2) Use a pyrex pan, not any kind of metal, especially not one of those olde tyme iron pans which corn-shaped indentations.
posted by carmicha at 12:56 PM on July 11, 2010

Have talked to him and asked him what he remembers and loves about the area? That could give you clues.

I grew up in Baltimore. Steamed seafood (no female crabs though, ever!) with Old Bay, Utz potato chip, hot sauce, snowballs with marshmellow, skate parties, swimming, lemonade, BBQ, fried fish, baseball baseball and more baseball, hiking in the woods, fishing and backyard parties were popular.
posted by new brand day at 1:06 PM on July 11, 2010

Also, watermelon and turnip or collard greens.
posted by new brand day at 1:07 PM on July 11, 2010

If your husband is from the Carolinas, for this month only, Krispy Kreme is selling Cheerwine filled Krispy Kreme donuts.

They are magnificent.

And only available in NC this month.
posted by Comrade_robot at 1:10 PM on July 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

I came in to also mention Cheerwine. People in North Carolina go insane for this stuff.
posted by k8lin at 1:13 PM on July 11, 2010

Barbecue is good, but make sure it is the right regional style. If you can find some magnolias (either foliage or blossoms) to decorate with that would really make most southerners feel at home. I am not sure what new brand day has against female crabs; you can't make she-crab soup without them!
posted by TedW at 1:19 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Go to Junior's Juke Joint, and look under recipes. If you truly love him, you will throw a hog roast.
posted by timsteil at 1:20 PM on July 11, 2010

Oh, homegrown tomatoes on white bread with Duke's Mayonnaise! If you do anything with mayo in it make it Duke's, and if you don't grow your own tomatoes, really good ones are at roadside stands all over GA right now. Local peaches are also in season.
posted by TedW at 1:23 PM on July 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

I've never tried making them at home, but how about boiled peanuts!
posted by rancidchickn at 1:25 PM on July 11, 2010

Berger cookies?
posted by new brand day at 1:29 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

One last thing; what kind of music does he like? Southern rock, country, blues are all popular here and can really set the mood for an occasion. It would be especially cool if you can hunt down some music he likes but doesn't have a copy of.

Also, boiled peanuts are easy; most recipes call for green peanuts, but the guys who sell them off the street year round use dried raw peanuts, as green ones are only available in the fall. There are a lot of recipes out there but plenty of salt and plenty of time are the main ingredients. Just remember that they can have the same affect on your GI tract as other legumes! Given the area he is from, fried peanuts might be good, but I would get them commercially rather than fry them myself.

OK, I'll stop now.
posted by TedW at 1:34 PM on July 11, 2010

Yes, sweet tea. Also, if he's a meat eater, country ham and boiled peanuts. Collard or mustard greens with vinegar - mmmmmmm.

Also, in response to a post above, sugar isn't supposed to be in cornbread, so no need to leave it out!
posted by pecanpies at 2:05 PM on July 11, 2010

As someone currently residing in North Carolina I can attest to North Carolinians ridiculous love of:

+ Cheerwine
+ Dukes Mayonnaise
+ Vinegar Based BBQ
+ Boiled Peanuts

Also, sipping sweet tea on a hot day under a ceiling fan.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 2:05 PM on July 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Hm, my people hail from a different part of the south, but I think that sweet tea and biscuits are fairly widespread. And extremely delicious.

Many people think of Maryland as more mid-Atlantic than Southern food- and culture-wise, so it's handy to know that you also are looking for Maryland stuff. (When you mentioned crab cakes as a southern thing I was kinda confused).
posted by ishotjr at 2:07 PM on July 11, 2010

He is from the Maryland/Virginia/Carolinas area.

Danger! Danger! Crabcake regionalism alert!

I'm from Baltimore and hate hate hate hate HATE the way crabcakes are made in NC. Where's his mom from/where's his ideal crabcake from?
posted by desuetude at 2:19 PM on July 11, 2010

Surreptitiously asking where his fave crabcakes are made, he said Maryland.

So, mid-Atlantic southern?

Thanks so much for the responses so far. Very helpful.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 2:29 PM on July 11, 2010

If the south is from his childhood, maybe wear a dress with a fitted top, pinched waist and a wide flowing skirt. Maybe that's more vintage than southern, but that's the type of image that's in my head.
posted by CathyG at 2:34 PM on July 11, 2010

I grew up in MD. As far as crab cakes: LUMP MEAT! No other! The best crab cake should be huge lumps of crab meat barely held together by everything else. Whenever I eat crabcakes elsewhere they're always 80% bread crumbs 20% crab and it drives me crazy. I like mine broiled rather than fried too, but either way is legit MD.
posted by lockestockbarrel at 2:43 PM on July 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I second the suggestion to ask him what is evocative of home. Sometimes people don't follow the stereotype. I was born and have lived all my life in New Orleans, but I absolutely hate gumbo, and while I love seafood and Gulf shirimp I seriously prefer Alaskan crabs to the smaller ones we produce here.

And seasoning. Crab boil, genuine Louisiana Tabasco sauce, Tony Cachere's seasoing which you use instead of salt. Again it's not universal but a lot of us like our food to bite back.

On the alcohol front, it is definitely bourbon rather than vodka. I would consider a fifth of Jack Daniel's single barrel proof of True Love. (And while it's OK to mix regular Jack Daniel's with Coca-Cola, mixing single barrel with anything is a sin.)
posted by localroger at 2:45 PM on July 11, 2010

Surprise him with something fun, like: "Baby, if you look in my purse you'll find a Moon Pie with your name on it. But watch out for the gun, because I can't remember if I put the safety on."
posted by Short Attention Sp at 3:02 PM on July 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

And ugh to the recipes with overpicked crabmeat with too much breadcrumbs. Plus diced red pepper and celery and onion and parsley WTF North Carolina??!

Use lumb crabmeat. Go through it for shell, but be very very very careful not to break it up too much.

As a binder, mix mayo, dry mustard, a dash of Old Bay, a beaten egg, dash of Worcestershire maybe, cracker crumbs. Use just baaarely enough to be able to form them into cakes. Fry gently in oil for about 5 min per side, or put under broiler turning once.
posted by desuetude at 3:11 PM on July 11, 2010

A lot of this stuff can be bought at Cracker Barrel, if you have one near. Moonpies and most of the other specific old time products in particular.
posted by SMPA at 3:34 PM on July 11, 2010

Don't boil the teabags when you make the sweet tea. And remember there's a reason some of us call it southern glucose.

Potato salad, coleslaw, fried chicken, cooked collards, baked sweet potatoes, WATERMELON....oh, and pork skins are good. Also, RC colas with a bag of peanuts on the side used to be just the thing years ago.

Also, ask your husband what "nabs" are or your local equivalent. He'll know. As in-I'm hungry-think I'll grab a pack of Nabs....(here, Lance crackers are one brand.)

Definitely Duke's mayo, also.

Also, hamburgers with chili and slaw are called North Carolina style.

Also, google "pig picking cake." Simple and good. Also, ask him what a pig picking is. If you can get that kind of barbecue up there you are blessed.

One more thing (good heavens how could I forget) BANANA PUDDING MADE WITH NILLA WAFERS.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:39 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Before you start to prepare supper, slice a cucumber thinly, put it in a shallow bowl and cover it with white vinegar and lots of black pepper. Stick it in the fridge while you fix the meal, and serve it as a side/condiment.

Also: hush puppies.
posted by trip and a half at 3:50 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

A Lane Cake. A great southern cake and very special.

From Wikipedia:

A Lane Cake is a baked cake traditional in the American South. It is difficult to make and reserved for special occasions like birthdays and weddings. The recipe was first published in Alabama by Emma Rylander Lane in a cook book entitled "Some Good Things To Eat" (1898). It consists of four layers of white sponge cake separated by a filling of egg yolks, butter, raisins with a generous amount of bourbon or brandy. Modern versions may contain pecans, coconut and other ingredients in the filling. It is frosted with a white icing made from whipped egg whites and sugar.

If I was from South and you made me a Lane Cake, I would feel very special.
posted by fifilaru at 4:56 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Lockestockbarrel has it on crabcakes - as an honorary Marylander, I saw a lot of people being unhappy with crabcakes as the rest of the US knows them. Mostly crab...some mayo, some Old Bay, a cracker or two, and enough egg to keep everything together. Fry up and be happy. (I may be spotty on the recipe. I wasn't ever allowed to make them. Can you call his mom and ask her?)

If you can find some Old Bay potato chips, I bet he'd love those. It's one of those things that sound awful until you try them, and then you're a devotee.
posted by punchtothehead at 6:05 PM on July 11, 2010

South Carolina is likely too far south for him, but if it isn't, you might consider some battered and fried okra.
posted by slidell at 6:28 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, again South Carolina, call everyone older than you ma'am or sir.
posted by slidell at 6:30 PM on July 11, 2010

-- and Miss Sally or Mr. Fred.
(need edit window pls)
posted by slidell at 6:31 PM on July 11, 2010

I made JP's Big Daddy Biscuits for a family gathering. An originally Southern Georgia now-transplanted-to North Carolinian pulled me aside and told me they were *perfect*. I'm sure it's possible to mess them up, but since I made them successfully, it's going to be REALLY hard. I can burn water and destroy frozen pizza. So: these are eeeeeeeasy and apparently very appropriately Southern.

Biscuits are, by the way, appropriate for EVERY meal. With gravy or jam as breakfast, and as a side with lunch and dinner. Oh, but not dessert; if you add more sugar and make them desserty, they're a scone, and that's British.

Did anyone mention homemade ice cream yet? I'm not spotting it. Shame on you ALL.

If you've never experienced it, you may be unaware that Southern cooking tends to boil vegetables until they're mush (green beans, collards, kale, mustard greens, black eyed peas, broccoli, just about anything you can boil). A lot of people who've moved away from the South do *not* view this with affectionate nostalgia, however.

An alternative to boiling to death is to batter and deep fry. EVERYTHING. If bread crumbs and egg will stick to it, batter and deep fry that sucker. Within about fifteen minutes of me I could find fried mushrooms, onion rings, yellow squash, zucchini, okra, green beans, and pickles, just off the top of my head. And corn nuggets, mmmm. I could probably find fried cheesecake if I looked. You can deep fry EVERYthing.

Do people outside the South do funnel cake and corn dogs at county fairs (etc)? This seems like it would be more a ubiquitous fair thing rather than a Southern thing, but I've never been to a fair outside the South.
posted by galadriel at 6:37 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

My sweet Carolina Boy is meh on Cheerwine, but does love Mountain Dew. He hates mayonnaise, doesn't eat sweets, and is too busy drinking beer to have time to fuss with ice tea. His momma cooks everything to mush but he has learned to love well-cooked food and now recoils in horror from mushy greens and soggy potatoes, however he does have a few exceptions: cooked-to-death Lima beans, Dixie lee peas, and black-eyed peas.

He hates grits and cornbread, he does love biscuits and hush puppys.

A big treat for him would be something battered and deep fried because he knows how much I hate deep frying. Fried chicken, fried cheese, fried mushrooms, fried fish, any or all would be his delight.

One way to pamper him "Southern style" would be to sit out on the porch with him, sipping bourbon, or even better, make hot, sweaty love under the ceiling fan in the bedroom, before serving up fried chicken, corn on the cob, biscuits and gravy, and black-eyed peas.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:12 PM on July 11, 2010

I'm chiming in to say that I've found a lot of this stuff (Cheerwine, Duke's mayo, boiled peanuts) at my local Wegman's (in Virginia) but it's worth a call if you live near one. Wegman's seems to marry the north and south pretty well, at least in my store. Salt potatoes AND Cheerwine? Awesome.
posted by kerning at 7:12 PM on July 11, 2010

Re: cornbread- pour the oil in before you heat the skillet. When you add the batter it will sizzle a bit. The edges will be wonderfully crispy!
posted by Ochre,Hugh at 8:33 PM on July 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

Crab, boiled peanuts, fried pie, mustard-based or other non-New England slaw, sweet tea, cheese grits (when done right, as good as polenta, yes really), pecan pie, sweet potato pie, chess pie (I'd never heard of it til I moved from NY to TN), fried pickles, Kool-Aid pickles, okra (!!), fried green tomatoes, unsweet cornbread (personally to be honest, blecch), yeast rolls or biscuits with molasses or redeye gravy (again, not for me), fried chicken, region-specific barbecue, dump cake, green bean casserole, collards/kale and pork (Hoppin' John!), referring to supper in terms of "meat n' 3 veg" even when "veg" is macaroni n' cheese, hush puppies, and fries ha. And yes, bourbon.
posted by ifjuly at 10:08 PM on July 11, 2010

Oh, and vinegar pie. That's an odd one.
posted by ifjuly at 10:09 PM on July 11, 2010

Sweet tea definitely crosses all different regional variations. Besides what else has been mentioned, the other two I can think of from my family (Dad was from Arkansas, Mom's from Tennessee, & lots of relatives in Texas) are pimento cheese spread, coconut custard pie and watermelon.

Also yes to the Martha White recipe. Cornbread with sugar in it is cake, not cornbread!
posted by gov_moonbeam at 11:01 PM on July 11, 2010

Green beans cooked in a pressure cooker with a giant pork bone in them, fat still on it. The sound of the pressure cooker whistling away takes me right back, and the beans are delicious too.

And to me, cornbread isn't cornbread unless it's made in a cast iron pan that you never wash, you just wipe out with a paper towel and a little bit of Crisco. Just having a pan like that reminds me of home.
posted by ukdanae at 12:10 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

carmicha: "bless your heart"

Uh, watch out with this one. It also means "fuck you" or "go to hell" when those exact words are better left unsaid.

I always engage telemarketers so that the call takes as long as I can extend it (that reflects poorly on their evals). Northerner telemarketers hang up eventually. EVERY SINGLE telemarketer with a southern accent I've done that to has uttered, "Well, bless your heart" to me before abruptly hanging up on me. I consider that icing on the cake.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 12:19 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

All of these answers are perfect! Too many good to mark any as best. THANK YOU!
posted by Grlnxtdr at 5:19 AM on July 12, 2010

Oh, and ambrosia, anything with Rotel like say 7-layer dip, casseroles crusted with pecans or brown sugar or some form of cream cheese or other creamy fat, and--not the right time of year at all but so very Southern it mortified me the first time I encountered it--that thing they do come Thanksgiving with canned sweet potatoes, where they bake them with brown sugar and marshmallows (for god's sake!) on top until they get toasty. Chickory coffee. Grape soda too, depending.

Southerners, um, really like sugar. In just about everything except ironically enough their cornbread.
posted by ifjuly at 2:38 PM on July 12, 2010

"Bless your heart"... also means "fuck you" or "go to hell" when those exact words are better left unsaid.

Yep! That's why I like it!
posted by carmicha at 3:27 PM on July 12, 2010

Re: "Bless your heart"

When talking about a third party (e.g., "Oh, bless his heart."), it usually means something along the lines of, "He's an asshole" or "He's a fucking idiot."
posted by pecanpies at 3:52 PM on July 12, 2010

Uh, "bless his heart" doesn't necessarily mean someone is an asshole. It all depends on the context of the situation. A Southerner will know the diff.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:27 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

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