Culture Note: Southern Style with a Yuppie Overlay


It's mawning in America.

With President-elect Bill Clinton and Vice President-elect Albert Gore headed for the White House, it's cool to be Southern. Honest. Marylanders, who tend to forget they live below the Mason-Dixon Line, should embrace their geographical destiny once and for all.

"Clinton scares me," a Glen Burnie voter observed as he left the booth last week, "because he's Southern."

Hey, hon, take a deep breath. Relax, as Vice President Dan Quayle once said, inhale. Stop and smell the magnolias. Draw out those syllables when you talk. People will soon recognize that "y'all" is not only charming, it's politically correct because it's gender-neutral.

Trust us, this won't be like 1976. Instead of Willie Nelson, low-life singer, this crowd goes for Willie Morris, high-tone writer. Grits and peanuts will be replaced by chicken enchiladas and gourmet short ribs.

Nope, no Jimmy and Rosalyn Redux. The Clintons and the Gores are younger, hipper and cuter -- the consummate baby boomers from the New South, a place where frozen yogurt can make you rich. The black-sheep brother is already in recovery -- very '90s. Miss Virginia would be right at home at Pimlico.

And we're positive that Chelsea, after she spends some time with the Gore daughters, will blossom.

You see, we'd like to think the country is ready to shed its last acceptable prejudice -- regionalism. Let's bring those hawgs, dawgs, gators and Cajuns into the fold for good. Let's ease up on women with big hair and fake nails who, like Tammy Wynette, always stand by their man no matter how thick the molasses gets.

And let Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey play some good guys in the movies, for once. Busey definitely has the thighs to play our president-elect, and Tommy Lee Jones is almost intense enough to play James Carville.

The point has been made that "Double-Bubba," as the Clinton-Gore ticket was tagged, becomes offensive when recast reflect ethnicity or gender. But people are still cracking wise about the "cracker-ocracy," apparently unaware that This Is One Of Those Words You Don't Get To Use Unless You Are One.

(Both the authors of this piece are half-crackers on their father's side. Besides, neither Mr. Clinton nor Mr. Gore qualifies for this soubriquet, anyway. A Rhodes scholar from Arkansas and a preppy St. Albans grad? They wish.)

Look, we could bluff here. We could start talking about Faulkner and the South's reverence for culture. We could make a case for Southern feminism -- more Confederate women disguised themselves as men to fight in the Civil War than did their Yankee counterparts, according to some historical accounts.

But we're not going to gild the lily. The real Southern trinity is church, football and cookin'. And we only put church first out of politeness. Football should lead the list.

Southern cuisine, however, may have the most to offer the world. How do you think Mr. Clinton got those thighs? We personally expect the biggest domestic policy debate under his administration will be whether to put sugar in the cornbread.

Thanksgiving turkeys will be placed next to cornbread dressing, onion pie, drop biscuits and Coca Cola fudge cake. Christmas stockings will brim with Mason jars of home brewed guava jelly and the famed nut cookie, the Arkansas Traveler. We also expect the Clinton administration to use urban development grants to bring Krispy Kreme doughnuts to Baltimore, as well as an agricultural policy that encourages larger okra crops.

The luckiest thing you can eat is at least two tablespoons of black eyed peas on New Year's Day. Ask Mr. Clinton what he ate last New Year's Day. Then ask President Bush.

Bonus Recipe: Black Eyes

3 ham hocks or 1 smoked neck bone

6 cups water

1 pound black eyed peas

1 small onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper pods

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 sprig fresh basil

Wash and sort peas. Boil meat in six cups of water with the onion, pepper pods and basil. Add salt and peas and simmer one hour or until meat and peas are tender. Add more water if necessary.

Repeat every Jan. 1, for at least four years. Maybe 16. Who are we kidding? Four.

Laura Lippman and Melody Simmons are reporters for The Baltimore Sun.

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