The Geography Ninja

Scenes from a Southern Summer

Between our Memorial Day Weekend trip to the Delta region of Mississippi, our upcoming trip to Memphis, and including an unexpectedly long visit to Austin, it seems as though this summer was to be spent in the South.  Of course, I live in the South, so I am always here.  But in trying to get this site up and going, and in trying to get myself motivated to continue my Geography projects, I decided that these two trips bookending my summer provided the perfect excuse to highlight my favorite region of the world.  As a Texan, my loyalties are split a bit between the South and the West.  But, my family has lived in the South for generations and having studied Southern culture (as well as Mountain culture) last summer, I can clearly see the strong currents of Southerness which still flow through our family traditions.  In addition, my current residence in deep East Texas further solidifies the South’s hold on me.

I know, I know – there are many things about the South that still need work.  But, it is home and no one can argue with that.  Home is always the ultimate destination.

Since my Mississippi and Austin posts are long overdue, as is my Around the World in 80 Books post, I thought I’d at least share some of the books I’ve been reading during my regional focus on the South these past few months.

To prepare for our Mississippi trip, I started reading Delta Blues: The Life and Times of the Mississippi Masters Who Revolutionized American Music by Ted Gioia.  I have long been a fan of what I will now call Austin Blues – or the Rhythm and Blues of Stevie Ray Vaughn and the like.  But, I knew virtually nothing of the origins of the Blues.  It is incredible how much I have learned from this book, and I highly recommend it.  It will definitely be featured in a full length review when I have finished reading it.

Next was Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty.  I have read some of her short stories, and I am generally a fan of Southern literature, but this story eluded me somehow.  It seemed to encapsulate the place well, but I cared nothing for any of the characters.  Perhaps that was her point.  I may post a full length review of this in time.

In preparation for our Memphis trip, I am reading The World in a Skillet: A Food Lover’s Tour of the New American South by Paul and Angela Knipple.  This book takes a look at how various immigrant populations are adapting to, adopting, and altering traditional Southern cuisine.  I have signed up for a tour based on the book during the NCGE conference, so I’m eager to read up on this topic before my tour.  It’s next week, though, so I should get to work.

Finally, I am reading The Most Southern Place on Earth: The Mississippi Delta and the Roots of Regional Identity by James C. Cobb.  This book is quite intense and intended for academics.  It is quite dense on details and has provided an amazingly thorough background on the region.  I have just reached the chapter on the Civil War.  I can definitely say I’d recommend it, but it isn’t exactly light reading.

Of course, there are the obligatory works of Faulkner, which I’ll read after visiting his home in Oxford.  I think books make great souvenirs, so I’ll buy a few there.

As for the cookbooks I’ve been looking through – of course, I’m starting with the recipes from my grandmother, my mom and my aunt.  Casseroles, fried okra, skillet baked cornbread and my all time favorite, Red Velvet Cake (which my sister made for my birthday – just like my Mimi used to do).  A few others I’d recommend (and will post on later) are:  Tupelo Honey Cafe: Spirited Recipes from Asheville’s New South Kitchen by Elizabeth Sims and Chef Brian Sonoskus and Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread and Scuppernong Wine: The Folklore and Art of Southern Appalachian Cooking by Joseph E. Dabney.  I bought both of these in Asheville last year, but haven’t really begun to dig into them, yet.  They both look amazing, though.

Stay tuned for more posts – I promise I won’t wait months again!  Happy travels. M

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