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It's not exactly accurate to say that I, as a born-and-bred Southerner, have a love-hate relationship with Dixie. It's more like there are times I'm passionate about the South, and times I'd like to just be friends, maybe see other regions.

The older I get, however, the more I'm willing to give some of the South's more harmless but annoying habits a pass. Maybe it's kind of like the beloved family pet who starts to forget the importance of actually being outside when it decides to "go outside."

Still, every now and then, like, about the time a Southern state almost elects someone credibly accused of being a pedophile or, frankly any time there's an election of any sort, I could stand a regional affection booster. Like, the book "S Is for Southern."

"S Is for Southern" is, according to the cover, "A guide to the South, From Absinthe to Zydeco." It's compiled (because it's impossible to believe any one person would know everything there is to know about Absinthe, Zydeco and all the stuff in between) by the editors of "Garden & Gun." That's one of my favorite magazines and has, actually, very little to do with gardens or guns.

It does have a lot of do with the South, with the food and the fun and the festivals and all the things that make this part of the nation so unique. Or maddening. But unique. For instance, thanks to "Garden & Gun," I know the best place for biscuits in Nashville is Biscuit Love. And I know you have to show up early because people in Nashville don't mind standing in line to eat.

It seems wisdom like that defies even semi-monthly publication, which helps explain why the editors brought together a bunch of Southern-centric topics. Then, they handed them out to noted writers like Roy Blount Jr., Daniel Wallace and John M. Barry, good cooks who can also write, and assorted other folks willing to wax eloquent on subjects like Red Eye Gravy and Dolly Parton in an effort to enlighten those not familiar and amuse those who are.

Thanks to the good editors from G&G who put "S Is for Southern" together, I know that, while Stonewell Jackson is buried in Lexington, Ky., his left arm's final resting place is Locust Grove, Va. Apparently, Confederate doctors decided Stonewall's arm was doing him a little more harm than good after he was mistakenly shot by his own troops while scouting a battlefield. Perhaps not a glowing tribute to Southern marksmanship or our ability to differentiate between friend and foe.

And I know that most comfortable of Comfort Foods, macaroni and cheese, may have made its way to the South thanks to Thomas Jefferson, who brought the recipe back from Europe. Apparently the Velveeta part came a little later.

You also get to read Blount muse about humidity, and its natural Southern byproduct, sweat. Or "glow/dew," depending on your sex.

Speaking of sex (well, maybe the editors are and maybe they're not), we're informed that "naked," means you don't have any clothes on, but "nekkid" means you don't have any clothes on and are up to something.

Of course, it's not all Nashville hot chicken and keylime pie (both topics). There is an entry on civil rights hero John Lewis, the Edmund Pettus Bridge and a story about the time one of the contributors met Harper Lee.

Which is to say, like the South itself, topics aren't all mint juleps and grits. OK, some of them are. Well, two of them, anyway. But you get the point. There are some difficult discussions in there, the sort of discussions we as Southerns must have with ourselves from time to time. It's been said the South is a place of great beauty and charm but a place that has its ghosts. And if we don't talk about them, someone else who doesn't love the place nearly as much as we do will.

But lest we end on too serious a note, I'll leave you with this. I now know, thanks to the editors of "S Is for Southern," that Mobile, Ala., was regarded by President Woodrow Wilson as the most distinctive American city he'd ever seen, and is the site of the first Mardi Gras celebration.

And how on Dec. 31, they celebrate the dawning of New Year by dropping a 12-foot-tall lit version of a Moon Pie as the clock strikes midnight.

I just don't really know how you top that.

Commentary on 12/29/2017

Print Headline: Southern thangs

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