- Pecan Trees and Secret Family Recipes
- By Lea J. Moore
Upon moving my daughters and myself from the Oregon Coast to the depths of
the South, I swore to my family and friends that I would never let "y'all"
enter into my every day vocabulary. Nearly a year later, not only have I
added that particular contraction, but also "fixin'" and a few other "in"
words indigenous to the Deep South.
I have learned much in the past year: How to cook collard greens,
black-eyed peas and pork neck bones. In order for cured meats and salt
pork to make foods taste GOOD, they have to be boiled and rinsed at least
twice before they can be properly used. Bags of shelled, raw Spanish
peanuts (for my family famous peanut brittle) are impossible to find, and
it takes forever to shell raw peanuts by hand.
Pecan trees grow in almost every yard. Truck farmers can be seen all over
the city, carrying their wares down the residential streets, delivering
them to the front doors of housewives. Cornbread is a staple food - and
you have to leave out the sugar. Sweet potato pie harder to make than
pumpkin and recipes for it are nearly non-existent. The best recipes,
passed down from generation to generation, are heavily guarded secrets.
Hot boiled peanuts are sold - instead of espressos - at the neighborhood
markets. I love the South and its traditions, its connection to the good
things of the past. I am often awestruck by the friendliness of the
strangers I meet. The smiles of those I meet leave me with a warm, fuzzy
I have finally mastered the art of using Ma'am and Sir in normal
conversation. As a Yankees living among the native Southern People, it has
been a difficult year for my daughters and me.
Although I am in the process, I may never complete the transformation from
Yankee to Southerner to the satisfaction of those around me. I will always
carry many of my northern characteristics (like forgetting to put the
bacon in my green beans). The one "flaw" in my personality that fits
neither in the North or the South is my love for and acceptance of all
people I come in contact with, regardless of the color of their skin,
their gender, their creed, or the status of the bank accounts and living
quarters. That has been the cause of much gossip wherever I have made my
home. I have raised my children to be and feel the same way.
Not knowing the layout, or the level of segregation present when I moved
to this area, I rented a home in what could be considered one of the worst
neighborhoods in the city. We were the only Caucasian family for blocks
around. Finding ourselves in this position has been neither cause for
alarm, nor reason to move. Instead, it has presented us with an unusual
opportunity to live the beliefs that we profess. We love people - all
people. We believe in celebrating the differences of our cultures and
learning from them, not in trying to make everyone else be just like us.
We stand on our conviction that each and every person on earth should be
able to have the advantages every other person has. We should be able to
live, work, eat, play, laugh, cry and exist side-by-side, in harmony with
I see more racial segregation here than I have ever known to exist. Our
town is divided. East Side, West side, North Side, Fort Hill, Bloomfield,
Lake Wildwood, northeast, Unionville, Shurlington, Cross Keys - black,
white, Asian. People stay in "their own" neighborhoods. Fear and
oppression keeps them there.
I have often heard of people being stopped by police officers - on
suspicion of drug interactions - just because they visited friends in
neighborhoods not of their own color. They were on the wrong side of town
at the wrong time of the day. Even more prevalent is the arrest and
conviction of black men and women for being in the wrong place when a
crime has been committed. They are black and out of the accepted
territory, therefore they must be the one who stole, murdered or
Spring 1997, my friend lost a civil suit. He was suing for only enough to
cover the damages caused to his car when a woman ran a stop sign and hit
him, broadside. The citation she received for failure to yield clearly
acknowledged that she was at fault. Yet, when presenting her case to the
jury, the defense attorney overcame every possible reason for her to pay
for the damage she caused. My friend lost his suit because he wants to
become a pilot and he is black. The defense argued that he was trying to
get the money to pay for his flight school tuition and would not use it
for the purpose intended. The jury agreed
Where and how does integration begin in a city so addicted to its hatred
that if I mention that I live in the Fort Hill area I receive a cold look
and the tone of voice changes? (It is assumed that I must be fairly
stupid, a woman with no moral values and/or a drug addict or alcoholic.)
It begins with me.
It begins with you.
I live. I go to work. I pay my bills. I hang my wash out in my back yard.
I mow the lawn. I wave to passersby. I have coffee with my neighbors. I
answer my door with a smile. I don't walk fearfully, but confidently down
And I don't wave a flag that says, "Hey! Look at me! I'm great because I
live in a black neighborhood."
I live, and work and eat and sleep - like everyone else in the world.
I try to perfect that sweet potato pie.
Lea J. Moore has
been writing for 27 years. She is a Contributing Editor for
Suite 101.com and
is owner of Type As You Talk
and Career Pro Plus. Lea
is the mother of three teenagers and is married to a gentle and supportive
man who thinks her writing is the most wonderful in the world.
- © 2001
Lea J. Moore, All Rights Reserved