There are plenty stories out there of people making life-changing transitions, moving to a new place, taking on a different lifestyle. Sure, there are the Year-in-Provence-or-Tuscany variety, but I can also think of several Midwesterners tackling the Deep South, not to mention the Wild West. Where I think my story is somewhat unique, and hopefully shareable, is my age when my family moved south.
The year was 1974 and I had lived the formative first ten of my years in the northern Minnesota town of Cloquet. Excepting his college and Army years, my father had resided his whole life in that small mill town, and brought his MIchigan bride back there to start our family. Eventually, the harsh winters pushed while dreams of enjoying their boat more than two months of the year pulled, and my parents decided to move us to the Sunshine State. Except that, during a visit the previous November to her aunt’s in Delray Beach, my mother had balked at the unseasonably steamy heat and heard from her aunt about the relative changing seasons of the Northwest Florida Gulf Coast. In fact, this great aunt of mine (there will be future posts about her) knew some prominent people in the Pensacola area and that is where the fates decided we would land.
There are times when I envy people who have deep roots in a particular place, extended families and friends’ families who have shared the same history for generations. Yet there are also advantages to having known several places, and, to borrow one of my wife’s favorite phrases, to living life in chapters.
Gradually, during our most recent chapter in Texas, many events have drawn me back to contemplations of the South. My wife, a solid Midwestern girl herself, has nonetheless written two cookbooks with chefs from New Orleans and just completed a project with a couple from Memphis. We were married on Pawleys Island, South Carolina, under the perfect care of her friends, the great Low Country chef, Louis Osteen and his gracious wife, Marleen. I finally made it to Oxford, Mississippi to a Southern Foodways Symposium. And we agreed upon Flannery as a name for our daughter when she was born just over a year ago.
Perhaps partially because I am a new father and that brings new ways of thinking about one’s place in the world, I feel more closely aligned to the South than ever; but of course I will always be one who came to the South and will never be wholly of the South. That, threaded mostly through food, is the perspective of this blog.
Time now to hit the publish button, propel myself into the blogging world and to go get some supper. I hope you will enjoy my posts and respond when the spirit moves you.