It’s Always Warmer in the South

During this Presidential election year, we are being bombarded with the results of polls, surveys, and group interviews.

So, in that spirit of questioning, I decided to find the answer to a question that is, at least to me, much more interesting than what stand should we take on relations with Liechtenstein. My query: Are people in the South really more friendly than those in the North?

We’ll begin by establishing my credentials to conduct such a survey. I feel I have much credence as a judge of things Northern since I lived for 55 years in New Jersey (albeit it was in the southern, not the northern, part of the state), 4 years just outside of Philadelphia while I attended Villanova University, and 4-and-a-half years in an extended staycation in Washington, D.C.

I haven’t lived as long in the South. In fact, as I write this article, I have only been a resident of the Atlanta Perimeter for 52 days, 11 hours, and 22 minutes (and 5 of those days were spent on a Rock Legends Cruise with Greg Allman in the Atlantic Ocean). Now while I realize that amount of time doesn’t make me an expert on all things Southern, I believe it is sufficient for the purposes of my study.

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If You Like Hard Listening Music, Then the Rock Bottom Remainders Are for You

While most of Roy Blount Jr.’s public appearances involve his talking about his books or delivering a hilarious lecture on the people and the habits of the South, you can sometimes see him performing with the most literate band in all the land – the not-so-legendary The Rock Bottom Remainders.

The band, which took its self-mocking name from the publishing term “remaindered book” (a work of which the unsold remainder of a publisher’s stock of copies is sold at a reduced price), consists of some of America’s biggest selling authors including Stephen King, Dave Barry, Mitch Albom, Ridley Pearson, and Amy Tan.

At his appearance earlier this week in his home town of Decatur to discuss his new book Save Room for Pie: Food Songs and Chewy Ruminations, Blount briefly talked about the Remainders and his role in the band.

“I really have no idea why I’m there,” he said. “Some of the guys can actually play, but If I even pick up an instrument it goes out of tune”.

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Okra: Love It or Leave It?

While the phrase “meat and three” might confound a Northerner, a Southerner would know immediately what you are talking about – an entree of a meat dish (usually fried, barbecued, and/or smothered in gravy) with 3 side dishes, often accompanied by cornbread and sweet tea.

Of course, there are many southern side dish options – red beans and rice, grits, butter beans, greens, and creamed corn just to name a few. But just like the Civil War once divided the country, the relative merits of one Southern side dish often splits eaters in today’s South. And that love-it-or-leave-it-off-the-table dish is okra.

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Speaking Blountly, Always Leave Room for Pie

Can a book talk make you hungry?

Well, if it’s the recent food forum featuring noted Atlanta chef and former Top Chef contestant Kevin Gillespie discussing Roy Blount Jr.’s new book Save Room for Pie: Food Songs and Chewy Ruminations with the author, the answer is yes.

If you’re not familiar with Blount or his work, think the regional wit of Mark Twain or a more historical, but none-the less hysterical Dave Barry.

The discussion was held in Blount’s hometown of Decatur, Georgia, where Gillespie operates Revival, one of his two wildly popular Atlanta-area restaurants.

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The Science Behind the Big Bang Theory

When it comes to the image of a southern good ole boy, you couldn’t find one much more opposite than that of Sheldon Cooper, the extremely intelligent, rigidly logical, and completely socially inept breakout character of TV’s long-running, highly rated comedy hit “The Big Bang Theory”.

But in a ironic twist, Cooper, played by multiple Emmy winner Jim Parsons, was supposedly born and raised in Galveston, Texas, has a overly devout southern-drawling Evangelical mother, and a doting grandmother he calls by that most southern of sobriquets “Mee-Maw”.

For those few who aren’t familiar with the show, it revolves around the antics of Cooper and three other brilliant young scientists whose geekiness and intellect are contrasted for laughs with the social skills and common sense of the women they encounter in their lives.

However,  the real co-star of the show, after humor, is the actual science employed on every episode.

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Chewing Down on Hamburger Week

I realize when I started Southern Roots Run Deep, I promised that if I wrote about food it would have to be southern. But this was just too good an opportunity to waste.

The magazine Creative Loafing, along with the Georgia Beef Board and Caviar, was sponsoring Atlanta Burger Week, an event where almost 40 dining establishments would be offering a specific hamburger of their choosing for $5.

Now while hamburgers aren’t southern in origin, they are always in competition with hot dogs for the title of the all-American sandwich and the South, at least since 1865, has been part of the United States. In addition, hamburgers are on the menu at Waffle House and nothing is more southern than those eateries. Finally, hamburgers can be drastically altered by applying condiments. So you could southernize your burger by using any combination of such things as fried green tomatoes, fried pickles, fried chicken, Georgia peaches, Texas barbeque, or Louisiana hot sauce. With all these things in its favor, I felt I could participate in Burger Week and justify writing about it.

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Blues 101: Now for Some Morning Maniac Music

Live rock music has always been considered night music. But what if a 10 o’clock start meant 10 a.m., not 10 p.m?

Well, that was exactly the unusual situation that Kim Simmonds, one of Britain’s most heralded blues guitarists and the founder of the band Savoy Brown, found himself in recently in the Atlantic Ocean as the day’s opening performer on the Rock Legends IV Cruise., which offered live music from 10 a.m. until 1 or 2 a.m. each day of the 4-day trip.

“Tonight … Oh man I mean this morning we’re going to try to wake you up,” Simmonds told the crowd, which was collectively yawning and stretching before him in front of the 11th deck outdoor stage. “If you had seen me at 8 a.m. in the coffee shop, you would have been pretty scared. Looking at me drinking my coffee you would have thought, ‘Can this guy really play?'”

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