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Coca-Cola and Peanuts – Eat your Drink!

Soda, peanuts and salt! Oh my! I have heard my daddy mention that he poured salted peanuts in soda when he was young. It has always sounded like a southern thing to me, and I was quite intrigued by the idea. So today, in my dedication to southern nostalgia, I went on two missions. The first was a quick fact-finding mission into this custom, and the second was a trip to the closest convenience store to gather my ingredients.
My online research gave me some important information. First of all, pouring peanuts into soda bottles seems definitely linked to the South. And what drink is this custom moth associated with? I couldn’t really narrow it down, but the drinks most often mentioned, and by order of frequency to the best of my memory: Coca-cola (never Coke!), Pepsi, RC Cola and Dr Pepper. I am pretty sure these beverages all have a southern pedigree.
Having braved a tornado warning, which is becoming more of a “southern thing” than it used to be, I returned from the gas station with my breakfast. Well, I don’t believe it is a traditional southern breakfast, but at 10:00 am, I hadn’t eaten yet, and I was missing my usual morning caffeine. But to be more culturally accurate, I will say that I returned from the store with my snack.
Now a few more points about cultural accuracy. I believe goobers and soda was, in the past, a treat most enjoyed in the afternoon, kind of like British tea. And it was especially popular on hot summer days in the south, a time and place that is NOT conducive to the drinking of hot British tea. And originally this treat would be consumed from a glass bottle.
I purchased two sodas. One was a Coca-cola Classic in a plastic bottle. If you have access to the Soda Giant in a glass container and want to try this, even better. The second bottle was truly a classic: RC Cola in a glass bottle. My local convenience store sales a variety of old-fashioned drinks in glass bottles. And my purchase included, of course, some snack-size plastic baggies of salted peanuts.
At home, I decided to try the Coca-cola and save the RC for another culture study. After cutting the top of the peanut pack, and spilling a few too many of the goobers on the table as I tried to pour them into the slender opening of the bottle while my eleven year old son watched, I explained to him that this was a treat his Dan Dan used to enjoy, and I asked him what he thought as we looked at the little round nuts bobbing on top of the fizzy Coca-cola. His response: “Interesting. I’d like to try it.” He’s surely a southern-born and southern-bred boy with an adventurous appetite.
I took a swallow. It truly allows one to eat their drink. A little salty. A little sweet. The fizzy bite of the soda. Not bad.
Vince got a little in a separate cup. He liked it, and asked for more peanuts. About a third of the soda was left in the bottle when I went to take care of a few things. Some salty goobers remained floating in the top. When I came back about an hour later and took another swig, it took me a bit by surprise. I actually liked it even better after the nuts had soaked up some of the soda and softened just a bit.
This is one of my experiments with southern culture, nostalgia-style! I hope you’ll try some. And if you don’t love it at first, well, just try soaking your goobers a bit. And I mean that in a very southern, lady-like way.

SOUTHERN VOCABULARY

goober-a peanut
According to the American Heritage Dictionary it is a regional term and derived from a Kongo word (nguba).

Moon Pies Awaitin’

I have a box of MoonPies in my file cabinet at work. Most of my files are on top of the cabinet but my MoonPies are safe. I bought them one day at the grocery store after I had been plotting my plan to regularly try “something southern” on a regular basis and write about my cultural journey, enlightening myself and my (future) readers through the experience.

So the What and the Why of the MoonPie:

What is a MoonPie? It is a . . . well not quite sure how to describe it. It is a sweet treat with a marshmallow cream in the middle, a layer of a graham crackery, cookie-ish sort of crust on each side of the cream – and then the whole thing is covered in a chocolate coating.

So why write about MoonPies? Well. I am not sure how southern they are, but I am pretty sure that this combo is a “down here” kind of treat. My daddy used to joke about how my mom wanted AN RC COLA AND A MOONPIE, and I have heard that phrase batted around enough to think that it is some kind of southern marriage, like the two have to go together like chicken and Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup in Cousin Sue Lynn’s casserole. I have tried a MoonPie, and I have tried RC Cola once or twice, but never together.

But it is on my list of must-try Something Southern things to do.

Southern Nostalgia for a Slow-paced Life

People say that the South is slow-paced . . . laid back. Images of people relaxing on a wide front porch and sipping sweet tea. Maybe we do live at a slower pace than “Up North.” Or maybe whomever would say it now has never followed a southern soccer mom around for the day. I think maybe one reason I am writing this blog is that I am in love with the idea of the easy-going, tea-sipping, veranda-enjoying image of this region, but it is an elusive love, a life-style I long for with a frantic nostalgia. A love that is looking for that magnolia tree with a wrought iron chair beneath it, the scene beckoning me to come and have a mint julep while mamma fries some okra and whips up some meringue for her banana puddin’.

Well, “Bless my britches!,” am I drowning so deep in nostalgia that I have lost my senses? Maybe so, but I’ll keep dreaming of porch swings and corn pone as I look for more comforting southern moments for myself and my family.

SOUTHERN VOCABULARY
corn pone – corn bread made without milk or eggs
Perhaps I’ll have to find a recipe to try – I have never had it, and I don’t think it is commonly made these days – It is an old South dish! Oh, and by the way, I’ve never really had a mint julep either. Sweet tea is more my style. Night, y’all!

bless my britches – a general statement of surprise employing a delight in alliteration
Do not interpret literally , as in “may good things happen to my pants.”

The South Survives Irene & a Little Earthquake Shake

Here in the Piedmont of North Carolina, the clouds from Hurricane Irene have left us. It seems the South has survived her lament, but I heard of one tragedy yesterday. A man passed from this life when he suffered a heart attack while trying to board up his windows as the hurricane approached his coastal home. I would assume that there were other tragedies, but this morning the news is focused on New York – the center of the modern world is not as experienced with hurricanes as we are in this part of the country. I believe their experience is ranked at, or close to, zero.

Some people in my southern town actually felt the earthquake that surprised our region a few days ago. On that day, as people discussed the approach of Irene, one good ol’ southern boy said “I don’t know what’s up with this crazy weather we’ve been having. An earthquake today. This hurricane coming. Maybe God is trying to tell us something. People better get it together!” My husband replied, “I know that’s right.”

I think that the above conversation is an indicator of a common southern belief, a belief in the fact that God speaks to us through the storms of life, both the actual and the figurative. So as a little Carolina Grandma might say, “When God speaks, make sure you’re a listenin’!”

Seeing “The Help” in the South

My intentions are for this blog, Something Southern, to be a mostly light-hearted examination of all things southern, but recently, on the same day that I began to set up this site, I saw the controversial movie, The Help. Now, generally,when a book has gained a lot of attention, I enjoy reading the book first and then seeing the movie, but I have apparently been living under a piece of Carolina blue granite (Y’all know what I mean? Like living under a rock – being out of touch), and hadn’t heard about the book until the movie was being promoted.

I had told my mom that I would take her out to celebrate her birthday. She reluctantly agreed to the idea to go see The Help as our outing, but I think in the end she was glad that we went. I definitely found it to be a moving and soul-stirring movie, one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. Of course, I’m usually going to the movies with my youngins’ and admittedly don’t get to see that many “big girl” movies. But still, as a southerner, I can say it is a must-see movie.

Apparently author, Kathryn Stockett, a privileged white woman, received a lot of criticism for daring to write about the experiences of black maids in the South. From the styles and interiors of the movie, I believe it was set in the 1960s – definitely close to that time period. So Stockett did not grow up poor. She was never a black maid, and she was not even an adult in the time in which the movie was set. But guess what, that’s what talented fiction writers do. They get in the skin of their characters, whether the skin is similar to their own real skin or a variant shade, and they take on the heart and soul of an experience outside of their personal reality.

So now that I have defended Stockett, let me say that the movie revealed the way black maids were treated by some of their white female employers, and the type of abuse and dehumanization depicted in The Help is totally without defense. When watching a spoiled white housewife debase her “help,” I looked at my mom, who was a teen in that era, and said “Did people really act that way?” I knew the answer but it was still shocking to witness. She nodded “yes” silently as we continued to watch.

When we had first entered the movie in a theater here in North Carolina, in the mid-size town where we live, knowing the theme of the story, I couldn’t help but look around and do a little racial profiling of the audience. It was almost all white. One African-American couple sat right behind me. The theater was pretty crowded and fairly dark, but they were the only people of color, if I may use that phrase, that I could see in attendance. I’d guess that they were in their late fifties or early sixties, so surely they had seen and lived through their share of racial discrimination, more than I, or even Ms. Stockett, could fathom. As the story played out, there were moments of pain, moments of sweetness, and things that made the audience burst into laughter when the strong black women were able to laugh at themselves, make fun of their employers, or get a little, shall we say, “sweet revenge” against some of the wicked words and treatment directed their way. The black couple behind me laughed too, but did I imagine it, or was there a little reserve and some unsettling history that tinged their laughter as they sat in a movie audience full of white people experiencing this along with them? Could the people around them really empathize with the plight of those women who lovingly raised white babies while being treated as less than human while their own children were taken care of by someone else or going into adult life with none of the privileges and many more dangers and obstacles than their young charges would ever know?

This movie gives a classic, memorable look at good versus evil. It has white heroines and mahogany heroines. (I think mahogany is sometimes more fitting than black and such a lovely word for some lovely women.) It shows the South for its history of struggle against hatred and prejudice. It shows the universal history of one group attempted to dehumanize another, with the end result revealing that the human spirit has the ability to rise above mistreatment and take on a triumphant sort of strength and beauty that is both human and beyond human.

I work in an elementary school. Some schools here in the South don’t look the way they used to when I was growing up. Some schools look about the same. My own children go to a school that is mostly white, just like I did. The school that I work in is maybe 10% white, with the majority of students being either black or hispanic. Just yesterday, two little boys worked in a center together on their first day of kindergarten. One was African-American. One had parents from Mexico. They worked beautifully together. Better than most adults. As they put together a puzzle, the little black boy said, “He’s my new friend. We help each other.” And they did. A different kind of Help. And so good for the heart to see.