When we moved to Georgia, Vidalia onions provided one of our first lessons in Southern pronunciation. For other clueless people from “out West”:
Vidalia = V-eye-day-lee-uh
Those famous sweet onions take their name from a remote hamlet where extra vowels are a time-honored tradition. And the colloquialisms! Funny names for familiar things are a regular delight. Shopping carts become buggies, a potbelly is a “dunlap” (because your belly dunlap over your belt!) and you get brown-bagged bottles of booze at the package store.Three years after our arrival, I occasionally still struggle to follow along. Some Georgians pick along like bluegrass banjos, and others muddle and stretch their words like taffy, with almost no change in inflection. I’ve gotten good at nodding and uh-huh-ing at appropriate intervals when I can’t understand someone. (Though I still get caught sometimes. Awkward…)
Southern expressions are good fun, though, and the locals love to trot them out for company. For instance, you could be “scared as a long-tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs,” or perhaps just “singin’ spirituals” if you know you’re in real trouble. Your idea sucks? “That dog won’t hunt.” Raining while the sun’s out? “The Devil’s beatin’ his wife!” (Cringe.) Out of money? “Too broke to pay attention.” Hungry? “My belly thinks my throat’s been cut!”
Then there’s the classic “bless your heart,” which is usually fine when addressed directly (“You’re too kind!”) but catty at best when referring to others. (“She backed into my mailbox, bless her heart!” i.e. What a *$^&#@ moron!).
As with the vernacular, more often than not I misunderstand Southern food. Obviously we’re in peach country, and the aforementioned Vidalia onions, sorghum syrup, and pork products are a big deal. Whereas Southern belles bake sweet onions with a bullion cube inside, my brain darts immediately to salsa. In this case, peach and onion salsa.
I’d recommend this on grilled white fish or pork, but chips are the easiest vehicle. Stock up on that summer produce while you can, because I’ve got more delicious misunderstandings on the way.
- 2 peaches, pitted and diced
- 1/3 cup finely diced sweet onion
- 1 Tablespoon minced cilantro
- 1/2 of a jalapeno, seeds and membranes scraped out with a spoon, minced
- juice of 1 lime
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and ideally refrigerate a few hours to allow flavors to mingle.