I miss the South. I miss warm grits melted with cheese and dotted with firm, pink shrimp. I miss slow cooked greens and fatback and sweet and crumbly cornbread. I miss excessive hospitality and humidity and conversations dotted with those little “bless her heart”s. Oh God, I miss sweet tea.
Though the South is not everything. I live in the North because I like it more. Because I need the throb of city life and stripped-of-sugar sass. I need fast-paced and driven. And I really can’t stand pastel.
But what I love about the things I love about the South is that they’re things that for the most part I can bring to Brooklyn. People I love, weather I like, food I could eat until I become obese. Dinner parties.
Jamie and I sat on the back porch, with late afternoon sunshine across our shoulders, dipping strips of fried eggplant and chicken gizzards into buttermilk garlic sauce and drinking Firefly (sweet tea vodka for those of you never blessed). I had just dismembered two chickens, which really meant I had torn apart two chickens with my bare hands (it’s a learning curve) and the pieces were soaking in a salty brine upstairs. We were lazy, off of work, waiting for the third member of our party to join us. Absolute laziness.
My morning had been spent lying on a towel in the backyard, sunning my pale and pasty legs, reading the last five pages of at least three magazines, and working on poetry. I asked Jamie, “Do I look tanner?” “No,” he said.
We spent a few nice hours sitting in the backyard until at seven, we thought we should start dinner. I remembered having told people we would eat at seven.
Jamie pulled chicken from the brine and rinsed it in buttermilk and dredged it in flour mixed with jerk seasoning, cayenne, and salt. I started washing greens and chopping bacon. Ben arrived; I handed him a bowl of unwashed greens.
There emerged, like a picture: biscuits rising next to the stove, corn cobs steaming, a pan of greens and bacon simmering in potlikker, hot oil with a glassy surface, ready to bubble over chicken. We played Gillian Welch and Allison Kraus and other twangy things, clinked ice in glasses.
The meal, at 9:30, finally coming together. We set the small wicker table outside in pitch dark. We lit some candles, heaped up chicken, biscuits, greens, and corn. Plenty of paper towels. That fried chicken, crackly, salty, and so moist on the inside it ran with juice, was the best of my life. I could have eaten the whole piled high plate by myself.
We sat in the almost dark, feeling the day’s heat radiating from the concrete below us, laughing, talking, gossiping – that is Southern too.