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The Southerner’s Handbook: A Guide to Living The Good Life

By Cassie Livingston
In Bayou Pages
Jan 1st, 2014

By The Editors of Garden & Gun | Review By Casey Matthews RGB_Southerner-s-Handbook

As a Southern ex-patriot who now lives in the frozen Midwest, I find myself fielding questions about what it is like to be “Southern.” A colleague of mine teaches William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” and refers to Emily as a southern belle. I have told him on more than one occasion that a southern belle does not kill a man and then keep him in her bed for years; in fact, we don’t call those women “belles,” we call them Crazy Aunt So-and-so and talk about them at family get-togethers. I am also frequently asked, “What happened to your accent?” While I do not have an obvious accent, my students will attest that I use the pronoun “y’all”, and when I become animated, my accent does creep into the conversation. While I have grown to love so many things about Cleveland (but not Ohio State- your mascot is seriously named after a nut), I will never forget my Southern roots. The Charleston, South Carolina based magazine Garden & Gun recently published The Southerner’s Handbook: A Guide to Living the Good Life, a book that is truly everything Southern. Divided into six parts—Food, Style, Drink, Sporting & Adventure, Home & Garden, and Arts & Culture—The Southerner’s Handbook is a fantastic encapsulation of Southern life. Part One: Food discusses the true importance of food. In the South, food is more than sustenance; food becomes a unifying force, which brings friends and family together at one table. At the crawfish boil, it is not necessarily the crawfish that is the best part, it is the camaraderie and conversation that make memories. There is a small essay on the importance of cast iron cookware, a staple in any Southern home, and several recipes for fried chicken, grits, greens and pecan pie. Part Two: Style contains essays ranging from cowboy boots to manners to seersucker and the all-important Derby hat. Part Three: Drink offers many recipes for refreshing spirits and a few educational anecdotes in praise of bourbon, and of course, sweet tea. Part Four: Sporting & Adventure is a sportman’s paradise of articles about all things outdoors. There are even articles about how to wrestle an alligator and how to talk to a game warden, both of whom are always best to avoid. Part Five: Home & Garden is a mixture of articles that discuss cultivating flowers and tomatoes (as after a certain age, Ouiser from Steel Magnolias taught us, Southern women are expected to grow tomatoes) to collecting antiques to make our home a showpiece. Finally, Part Six: Arts & Culture brings together jazz, Southern expressions, country music, and of course, the religion that is SEC rival games. The Southerner’s Handbook would make a wonderful holiday or birthday gift to any long-time Southerner or a transplant from the North who made the move south. It is helpful and humorous, and becomes another small reminder about why so many other parts of the nation have a fascination with the South. So, while the snow piles up outside my house, and my Mississippi husband takes our boys for the “other” kind of tubing, I will be curled up in front of the fireplace watching Duck Dynasty waiting for spring. Casey Posey Matthews graduated with her Bachelor of Arts degree in English Education from University of Louisiana in Monroe and her Master’s of Arts degree in English from University of New Orleans and is now an English teacher at Beachwood High School in Cleveland, OH.