Some of these are not strictly Southern, but here is a smattering of traditions, terms, and foods I’ve been tickled to learn about since coming to Arkansas six and a half years ago.
1) A “Pounding”
When new folks are moving to a home in your area from out of state/country, such as a new pastor or a new position at the office, the community helps out by signing up to buy a grocery staple (in many cases a pound, thus the name) and bring it to a party or to move-in day. All at once the newcomers are blessed with a full pantry in their new home. What a GREAT idea.
2) The “Groom’s Cake”
Oddly enough the first wedding I attended in Arkansas was that of a friend from college (in California). She was from the church we moved to in Little Rock, and had a beautiful wedding on New Year’s Day, 2008. But I was in for a surprise at the reception: two cakes?? I mean, another cake is always a good thing, but having an official bride’s cake and groom’s cake was a totally foreign concept. I love it though! It’s an entertaining way for the groom’s personality to have a platform at what is so often a bride-centered event. In the six years since then I’ve seen Darth Vader cakes, cakes made in the exact shape and detail of a soundboard, and my personal favorites: simply huge chocolate cakes loaded with chocolate icing. Yum!
3) “Dirty Santa”
In California and lots of other places, it’s called “White Elephant”: the gift-giving game where you bring something to a Christmas party and everyone opens one and steals them from each other and has a general riot. Most of the time it’s up to the host whether you are supposed to bring something nice enough to keep, or total rubbish. Sometimes the distinction is not made, and the gifts comprise a little of both. (This would explain why I received an old Linksys router at my boss’s house this year.) I suppose it’s the rubbish-version of the game for which calling it Dirty Santa makes sense. Some people I have asked say that it’s Dirty Santa when you’re supposed to bring clutter, and it’s White Elephant when the gifts are to be “nice”. Alrighty then.
4) “Chocolate Gravy”
Similar to sausage gravy (or what the South calls “Biscuits and Gravy”), this extremely odd dish is just…chocolate gravy. On biscuits. Runny chocolate-ish “gravy” on plain dry biscuits. Great if you grew up with it I suppose, but this one I’m afraid I will never understand. (I did taste it.)
5) “Bridal Portraits” . . . weeks before the wedding.
This one really threw me for a loop. I felt pretty dumb. At that same New Year’s Day wedding there was a large, gorgeous framed photograph of the bride on a stand by the doorway to the reception. She looked exactly as she did in the service she’d just walked out of, but I couldn’t think how that photo could have possibly made it into that frame in the short space of time since her morning toilette. It was a morning wedding, after all. Did somebody take the photo and immediately have it rushed out to be developed, then get it in the frame and back to the church just in time? I was impressed. Mentioning this to the next person in line, I was informed of the tradition that is “Bridal Portraits.” Of course it wasn’t all done in a jiffy that morning. The photo had been taken weeks ago when the bride got all gussied up just like she would for the actual ceremony and went out for an official photo-shoot. Leaves more time for couples shots on the wedding day, and less stress for all. Huh.
6) “Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit!”
I couldn’t do a post like this without including at least one colloquialism. This is *so* my favorite, but I have yet to encounter the, uh, appropriate moment to use it…