I came down here a year-and-a-half ago from New York. I grew up in the South, but I went to college and grad school up North (my parents thought the Yankees got me). Coming back to the South was, in the best sense of the word, coming home. All of the things that I remembered fondly from my childhood were still here—the friendliness, the afternoons on the water with a Tervis tumbler full of something, the epic church lady food—but now we have awesome breweries, clothing designers, and a food scene that has never been better (or more popular). So it’s with a heavy heart that I head back up North. The thing is, until I came back, I didn’t realize everything I missed while I was gone. These are only some of the things I’m going to miss. If you’re reading this from north (or south or east or west) of the great place we call the South, you’ll understand.
1. There is only one mayonnaise and it's called Duke’s. Please join me on this one. There is no ‘mater sandwich, no BLT, and certainly no egg salad that couldn’t use some Duke’s. In fact, I’ve got a jar stashed away in my luggage to bring with me. A girl has to have priorities.
2. Monograms. I had them on my towels when I went to college in Arizona. People don’t understand our need to slap a monogram on just about anything. I bought a handbag the other day and there WASN’T AN OPTION TO MONOGRAM. That personal touch on tea towels, cocktail napkins, and linen things in general is one of the most charming things about the South.
3. “Bless your heart.” Three little words, but big ones to me. They come from your family, they come from the convenience store owner, they come from waitresses, doctors, and people from all walks of life. They can be used passive aggressively or alternatively, with sincere compassion. Whatever the context, you won’t hear that anywhere but the South, and I’m feeling sorry for myself just thinking about it.
4. The prettiest cities in America. With many apologies to picturesque beach towns in California, small towns in Iowa, and San Francisco in general, I’d like to say, one of the best things about being in the South is that you’re always only a few hours away from somewhere pretty enough to make you cry. Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans, Asheville, Charlotte, St. Augustine, Franklin, Austin, Wilmington, Charlottesville (I can keep going, but I won’t): We’ve pretty much cornered the market on charm. But, again, just one Southerner’s opinion.
5. Sauces. I went to food school and everything and bechamel and hollandaise are great, but comeback sauce? It's no match. Let's not forget white sauce from Alabama, fiery vinegar sauce from Memphis, and mustardy Carolina sauce. I’m getting hungry just thinking about them.
6. Tailgating. I went to a Big Ten university. Those people think they know how to tailgate. They do not. End of discussion.
7. Wearing dresses. Bear with me on this one. When I moved down here, I had one dress. And it didn’t fit. Dresses were not part of my vocabulary, despite my Southern mother’s best attempts. But some madness came over me in the last 18 months, and so it is with a suitcase brimming full of dresses and heels that I leave the South. Did anyone make me buy the dresses? No. Did I realize that I’d rather look nice than frumpy? Yes. Did I also realize that a dress is the shortest cut to an outfit because it only involves one piece? Happy accident.
8. “Miss.” You know how that lady at church is “Miss Ashley” or the woman that your mama drives to yoga is “Miss Francine”? I don’t know. I guess I don’t have a concrete reason to miss this, except that it’s charming as all get out and it makes me feel like I’m part of a community.
9. Kindness. I was visiting my parents one Christmas down here in Alabama, and I was waiting in line at the Walmart (don’t even get me started on how much I’ll miss easy shopping), and it was taking just FOREVER. And I realized, when I got to the cashier, it was because she was asking everyone how they were doing. And they were telling her. And she was responding. And suddenly I wasn’t mad anymore, because “friendly” is something that we do better than anyone, in my opinion.
10. The old and the new. This one is a big one for me. I think for a lot of us. We have our historic homes, our traditions, our legacies. We have trees older than America down here, you know? But we also have fantastic movers and shakers, artists, musicians, brewers, chefs, writers, entrepreneurs, and pretty much everything else. They’re reinventing the South, but with respect to our rich heritage. And that—respect—seems to me one of the most Southern things of all.