Answers from Mississippi

16 Things People ALWAYS Ask When They Know You’re From Mississippi.  I admit, I’m keen to read things about Mississippi and ponder about my own views and experiences.  So, let’s have a light-hearted post, shall we?

01.  “I have no idea what you are talking about… but probably it’s something about state-level football?”  would be my response to this question.  I’m going to surmise from her photo that it’s possibly a game between State & Ole Miss?  To be honest, only recently, as in the last year or year and a half, do I even know which is which.  If people said State, I didn’t know if it was Mississippi State University or University of Mississippi.  And only recently did I pay any attention as to now know that the egg bowl is something to do with football.  If it’s between these two, I’m still uncertain.  Really, that’s a whole different world up there.  Down here, as far as schools and familiarity it’s The University of Southern Mississippi, universities in New Orleans and one in Mobile.

02.  “Umm… I don’t really know, but I’ll guess that it’s because they have/had a wealthy slave owner as their mascot and since sippin’ mint juleps on the pawch is too Georgia… he would drink a hot toddy?  Which is something about whisky & butter… or something?”  would be my answer.  I do know it’s in reference to Ole Miss, but only within this past year.  It’s funny that none of them know why they’re yelling it.

03.  “Some really gross condiment that I would guess is made with tartar sauce or mini chopped up gherkins, but gets over promoted here.  *rolls eyes*.”  I appear to be incorrect about the ingredients, but no one that I know personally likes the stuff, though it does seem to be rather popular.

04.  “I don’t know what this is… is it a Delta thing?  Because that’s a totally different world up there.”  While technically not a Delta thing, it is from the extreme north of Mississippi… just the east, and yeah, I don’t know anything about it.

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Baptism time!

05.  “Well, the really religious are REALLY religious, and the not so religious… aren’t.”  There are loads of people who attend church, but that doesn’t make them REALLY religious.  Southern Baptists aren’t supposed to go out dancing or drink beer, but most of them do.  Hell, I was even invited to a Mormon high school kid party and they were allegedly going to have pizza and soda, which is a super no-no.  So… I’m going to say that while a lot of people here identify with a Christian religion and do go to church, the majority aren’t setting up revival tents in the August heat for three weeks and forgoing soda, beer, dancing, sex, or anything else.  Those people would probably be in the minority.  More so than us that don’t attend a church or associate with a religion.

06.  “Yes!  The food here is DAMN good!”  Sure you’ve got thinks like tripe, chitlins, pickled pig parts, squirrel brains and other weird things that I won’t touch.  But the people who eat them swear by them.  Besides fancy french cuisine is not that much different.  They use pig parts to flavour foods and eat tripe, sweet breads are animal organs, pâté is organ meat and calf brains may not be smothered in gravy, but it’s served fried in butter over there.

Like I said, I don’t eat that stuff, but it does bother me that when people who do consume fancy French food, which is really poor people French food that the wealthy overtook long ago, turn their nose up at the south’s “backward” food choices.  The French are partly where this stuff came from, y’all.  The fancy French, the poor enslaved Africans, some from the Spanish, and for the northern parts of states, the German or Italians, throw in some Irish and Scottish in there too, and the Indigenous peoples in some circumstances.  And the fact that 85 – 90% of everyone in the south was starving to death after the Civil War and you’ll come up with just about anything to eat.

Homemade fried okra

Fried foods came from the African slaves cooking for themselves and cooking in the big houses.  Gumbo came from them as well.  Organ meat and necks and such came from the French.  It all has a history and it all melded together over the years to create “southern” cuisine.

There is quite a bit of food I would suggest, so I’ll do that in a later post, which I will link to.

07.  “Why, yes.  I have.  But I don’t really like it.”  I know more people who have never tried deer meat than who actually consume it.  My dad and sister actually love it.  And I think some member of The Friends family like it; some or all of her brothers?  And then a guy we know who’s always tromped through our land since he was a kid and kind of takes care of it now, since it’s in his area and we’re 15 – 20 minutes from it.  He and his family like it.  And that’s about it that I know personally, as far as Mississippians go.  Or that one guy who’s originally from Indiana and beams with pride at being referred to as a redneck, but lives here.  Yeah, he likes deer meat too.

A tiny portion of my book collection

08.  “Yes.  Does that mean that they actually do read?  Not really.”  My entire family loves to read.  Most of the people I am friends with or know love to read as well.  Several are even librarians.  My uncle is a Mississippian by birth, so is his wife.  Do they read?  No.  Do they know how?  Of course.  A better question to ask is not if Mississippians can read or if they are educated, but to ask about the school systems.  There are a lot of rural and impoverished areas in the state.  Schools lack funding, and also teachers.  They do the best they can, but it’s a sad predicament.

09.  “It’s called manners.”  No, really.  It is considered good manners to respect your elders.  So you don’t back-talk them, you don’t let them stand when you, being younger, could give them your seat, and you say yes ma’am or no ma’am.  Otherwise, it is also considered back-talk or sassing.  Really though, ma’am is like Madam in French or Señora in Spanish or Frau in German.  Though Germany has done away with Fräulein, and young, unmarried women are now referred to as Frau, the other two countries have their versions for young, unmarried women; Mademoiselle and Señorita.  Southerners don’t have that middle distinction, which I find lacking.  You’re either a girl or a ma’am.  I may be 35, but I am unmarried and not of an age to be a Madam or a Señora, Dame or Frau, (depending on the region it is late fourties to early sixties when an unmarried woman will be called by an older title) so it rather irks me to be referred to as ma’am, since I am not married and I am not in my fifties! Though most southerners like it and would be upset, in my scenario, to be referred to as Miss.  They see that as too curt, and therefore rude.

10.  “We never personally experience snow they way you do, but yes, it has been known to snow here.  More frequent in the north and middle parts of the state.  Less here, and at weird random times… like in April.”  Seriously though, no one that I know has ever experienced a white Christmas, though it’s something I think that all of us want.  The northern parts of the state, and even the middle, where the capital is, generally do get some semblance of snow during the winter months.  However, down here, we might get non sticking snow flurries on New Years Eve, or a snow storm or an inch, possibly two, in April… or maybe January.  Possibly February.  Not every year, but we do get super excited.

Does that mean we are delusional to think our snow equals yours, you person from the far north?  Or that we could handle feet upon feet upon feet of snow for six months solid that we have to shovel everyday to free our cars or that it gets all dirty and gross on the streets?  No.  But does that mean we can’t be happy about seeing frozen precipitation falling in a sub-tropical climate where sometimes winter resembles a tropical island?  No.  We can and will be happy, whether it flurries for five minutes and doesn’t stick or if it’s six-foot drifts that my dad experienced that one time in his youth.

Snow! March of 1993

This writes up a little snarky, but it’s because it’s a long, drawn out dialogue between the extreme north and the extreme south of the US.  Even people who spent their entire lives here in the extreme south of Mississippi will move up north, spend one winter there, and then tell all us back home that we’re stupid because we don’t know what snow really is.  We know what other people get, and we know what we get.  A lot of northern people want to holiday in warm locales.  They want what they don’t have.  Do we tell them they are stupid?  Nope.

I think my favourite experience was the New Years even it flurried for about 20 minutes and didn’t stick at all.  There was a guy from Slovakia going to school here and he would visit our coffee-house.  He is someone who grew up with for real snow, every winter.  But, he didn’t mock any of us locals for oohing and awwing over the flurries and he delighted in our cheer and found the scene to be beautiful as well.  And that is why he rocks in the snow debate.

11.  “Because it’s fucking hot here!”  That is my answer for all things cold or things pertaining to ice.  It’s really, really fucking hot here.  I get people not understanding unless they’ve been here.  And I get that people complain about their own regions and think it can’t get any worse except where they are.  However, all I can ever think when I hear or read about it is “Oh wow… if only the weather here were like that now!”

I visited my aunt in Montreal during July.  Her friends were complaining about the heat wave.  I get it, it’s unusual for them.  It was 80 degrees and 40% humidity and they were practically dying from it.  But I couldn’t help but interject; “Well, at home, right now, it is 98 degrees and 90% humidity… and that’s normal.  So this feels FANTASTIC!”  My aunt snickered, because she remembers the summers here.

Ice is very important. It’s in all three of these drinks!

Or I’d read about a heat wave hitting Germany and it was 82 degrees, while I was holed up in my house under a blasting a/c because it was 99 degrees with a heat index of 105 with 100% humidity.  Or how an Irish priest visited and said he never understood the fascination for ice… until he came down here.  Where he’s from they can just stick drinks in root type cellars in the ground, because the ground is cold.  I admit, I found that fascinating because I can’t imagine that.  Or that Scandinavian family who were suffering from heat exhaustion while waddling through the pudding-heat on the River Walk in New Orleans.  I bet they didn’t realize what the weather would be like until they got here!  I still think about them.  I hope they’re OK.  I’m sure they are.

This really only becomes a problem, in my opinion, when people in other places in the states want people to live without air conditioning and they want to extend daylight savings to get in more daylight.  It’s because they assume that all the US is exactly like their little spot in the country; where unless they’re experiencing an 80 degree heat wave, the weather is perfectly fine & lovely.  They’ve not been down here & can’t possibly understand that going without air conditioning would be a completely different experience than what they are used to.  They wouldn’t be able to do it, so why make us?

12.  “Eh… yes & no.”  I’m not even talking people who were not born and raised here, or the people who left and came back.  But just born and raised Mississippians.  Some are really nice and some are complete assholes.  You never really know who you’re going to meet.  I seem to have met the same ratio of nice vs snarky lots of places that I have visited, so I couldn’t tell you for certain if we have a higher ratio of nice people compared to other states.  And you definitely can’t judge a book by its cover here.  You’ll see a “scary redneck” and he’ll be the swellest, nicest guy.  And you’ll see another one and he really is a scary redneck who you do not want to just wander up and talk to.  The guy in the nice suit and expensive car?  Again, he could be super nice and down to earth or a scary racist misogynistic asshole.  But then I suppose the same could be said for all over the states.

13.  “Fried catfish tastes like butter.”  My sister and I say everything tastes like butter if it’s good.  Does it makes sense to other people?  Probably not, but it would still be my response.  Take shrimp scampi.  It’s sautéed in butter, right?  It has that butter taste.  There’s something about catfish that has that butter taste.  So not like eating a stick of cold butter, because eww.  But the buttery goodness of something sautéed in butter or cookies baked with butter.  Or bread with melted butter.  But it’s really just the catfish that has that butter taste.  I think of it as a fatty fish, but it’s lean, white, & firm.  But the butter fat taste of the fish, with the cornmeal and the frying oil just means it’s all a party in your mouth!

New Orleans, Louisiana

14.  “Yes, but not many.” would be my answer.  Because well, the largest city I’ve been to are Los Angeles & Montreal.  I have been to big cities, by southern standards, like Mobile, Birmingham, Jackson, New Orleans, Atlanta, Baltimore, Memphis, Charlotte.  But I’ve never been to New York, Chicago, San Francisco, London, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Shanghai, etc.  I have a friend, from here, who’s lived in New York for the past six years.  About five or six people I’ve known have lived there at some point.  Some have visited major cities in Europe, some multiple times.  One of my uncles frequently travels to large European and American cities for work related classes and such.

The Cousin, The Sister, & my tiny self… in no shoes!

15.  “Yes… and also no.  It depends, really.”  While I was growing up, you couldn’t keep me in shoes.  It’s too hot for shoes most of the time, one wants their feet to breathe.  But, now a days people just wear flip-flops or sandals most of the year.  The term Grocery Store Feet, which is from when grocery stores were tiny and had dirt floors and your feet were dirty because you didn’t wear shoes, was a real thing when I was growing up.  Most kids I knew had dirty feet, not from dirt floor grocery stores, though I did visit one of those once, but because we were all outside, playing, without shoes on.  Not so much for adults though, then.  But it is not uncommon to see people without shoes on, in the grass, at some festival or while hanging out in a park, because why wouldn’t you?

16.  “I would like to, but…” would be my answer and I wouldn’t want to really explain, because my explanation would go something like this.  I’ve never lived anywhere but in this house, in this town.  I never can seem to get hired for a job, and when I do, I can’t seem to keep it.  I might not ever have the money to travel to these places, much less move there.  Plus, I’ve never been there… what if I don’t want to live there.  Right now there are ties for me here.  My family is here.  I also have no money to my name.  But, I suppose if all my ties were gone, I might leave.  I would certainly leave this house.  I don’t know, I’m not there yet.  The weather has always been too warm for me…. Travel.  Yes, I’d love to travel more!

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