Dining in the South

Good morning, and ya'll come on up to the 'Net porch. We'll have to go inside for we are clearing our huge yard of trees and they have 2 humongous piles of trees, limbs and stumps burning. They began yesterday, or as daddy used to say - yessintiddy - and they burned all night. It would have been a great time to have a wiener roast and make smores but we slept right through it. Maybe tonight we'll do that and wouldn't that be fun.

I think as soon as we get the yard all fixed up, the new pond dug in the front yard and the house clean, I'll have a supper and invite friends to celebrate with us. Because I have been laid up with foot surgery, the house is a bigger mess than usual. It is never all straight for I am a pack rat of books, magazines, yarn, and cloth. I just never seem to have a place to put it all but am working on it. In fact, since I can somewhat walk on both feet, I cleaned out and straightened up what was on 2 shelves in my pantry and plan to do just one task at a time until I get most everything put up or thrown away. Now I know this is an impossible dream but I can dream for that is free and maybe it will inspire me.

Neenie Stuart used to tell mama not to worry about her house always being clean for she had 3 children and a husband to mess it up. If she had company don't apologize for if they didn't understand nothing she said would make a difference and if we could live in it, they could stand it long enough for a visit. If not, that was their problem. Mama took that to heart for Neenie was all-knowing and kept it clean and mostly sanitary. That's kind of the way I look at it but.....

I can remember when we would be having sit down at the table company for dinner or supper and mama would get in a tizzy. Tablecloth had to be washed, starched and ironed along with the napkins and the "good" dishes gotten down and washed along with the good glasses and silverware. Now we didn't have fine china, crystal and sterling silver but we did have good dishes, good glasses and special stainless steel and all this had to re-washed and dried.

Not only that, but we had to sweep, mop and wax the heart pine floors, clean the bathrooms and even wash the curtains sometimes. The furniture had to be dusted and polished, the knick-knacks dusted or washed and everything put back in place and not touched. I never saw any company give a white-glove inspection but it was ready if they so desired. Mama always took a broom and tied an old towel around it and made sure there was no dust on the walls or spider webs in the corners. It would be a clean house from top to bottom, and all for the company.

She would begin to cook days before the company was to come and eat and we all had to pitch in and help. She usually had a roast or fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, butterbeans or peas, creamed corn, a salad of some type, hot, homemade rolls, pound cake with a fruit topping and pure, whipped cream. Of course there were always homemade pickles from cucumbers and/or spiced peaches and sweet butter for the rolls. Sweet tea, coffee or milk would be wash it all down. Talk about good, it was scrumptious.

Most, if not all of this would have been grown and canned or frozen by us or if you were lucky enough to come in the summer, all the vegetables would be fresh from the garden that day or the day before. We only bought those items we could not grow ourselves and that wasn't much. Mama would make her own mayonnaise sometimes and if we had a lot of tomatoes, which we always did, she made catsup and tomato relish. I sure wish I could sit down at that table again for I don't cook as well as mama did.

We would have to bathe, put on clean clothes and mind our manners when company came but we had to do that everyday, company or not. Being raised by a good, Southern mama meant you were clean and minded your manners each time you sat down at the table. The table always set correctly no matter what we were eating. You did not put your elbows on the table, wear your hat, read, sing or chew with your mouth open. You said pass the chicken, please, did not reach across the table and when you had eaten all you could hold, you had to say excuse me before you left the table. If there was only 1 of anything left, you had to ask if anyone else wanted it before you ate it. The rules were important to mama and daddy and became second nature to us. We were always a little surprised when our friends didn't have the same manners we did.

One of my brothers, I forget which one, rearranged the silverware one time at his home when one of his children had placed them on the wrong side of the plate. When the child asked why, he replied that mama said it had to be placed correctly at every meal for that was "manners." I am sure my brothers and their wives taught their children what mama taught us for I know I did. If we hadn't and taken them home for a visit, our mama and daddy would have been sorely disappointed in us.

This seems like a lot of trouble for company but Southern hospitality is an important part of who we are in the South and I hope we never forget it. You may not have expensive china, crystal or sterling silver or fine linen tablecloths and napkins but you use your best and make sure it is clean and spotless. The food does not need to be the most expensive cuts of meat or fancy vegetables but it does need to be the best you have and homemade if possible. Fresh flowers don't have to be from the florist but a vase of flowers or fall leaves picked from your yard look absolutely amazing as they grace the center of the table.

Clean hands, shiny faces, and combed hair and a welcoming smile arethe icing on the cake so to speak. Company is important and being hospitable is a blessing to us in the South. So why don't you come on down and share it with us. There is always tea and coke in the refrigerator, coffee ready to be made and most times something sweet although now it may be a store-bought cookie at our house.

Nuff said,

The Georgia Peach


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