Recently, I had the great pleasure to hear one of my favorite writers who spoke at a fundraiser to establish an Interventional Radiology lab at Thomas Hospital, my local hospital. Julia Reed- writer, cook, entertainer extradinaire, hilarious person, cool girl, the list goes on. Presently, Julia writes a Southern culture/lifestyle column for Garden and Gun, as well as entertaining (in more ways than one) books full of stories and recipes from the Mississippi Delta. Julia says that Southerners are always considered by non-Southerners to be great story tellers and bourbon drinkers. She is a great story teller, but grew up drinking Scotch because that’s what the local bootlegger sold in the dry Mississippi Delta. She says everyone in the Delta drank scotch. However she does use bourbon in her pecan pies, which this Southerner thinks is the only way to truly make a proper pecan pie.
In her book, But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria!, Julia writes, “Not being in bourbon’s camp is sort of like saying you don’t like blues or jazz or Creole cooking…” Bourbon, blues and jazz are some of the South’s greatest cultural contributions to the world at large. Hard for a Southerner to bravely admit to not liking one of these! In her newest book South Toward Home, Julia lists her “entirely arbitrary Southern Playlist” including I’ll Take You There by The Staple Singers, Baby, Please Don’t Go/Gloria by Van Morrison, Turn on Your Love Light by Bobby “Blue” Bland, The Band’s The Weight, Ode to Billie Joe by Bobbie Gentry, What’d I Say by Ray Charles, Edgar Winter’s I’ve Got News for You, Polk Salad Annie by Tony Joe White, Tom Petty’s Here Comes My Girl”, and the iconic Sweet Home Alabama by, of course, Lynyrd Skynyrd. Julia’s taste is not all in her mouth! This playlist is a party in the making! Her joyful living is contagious.
In But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria!, Julia writes and she recounts the story for us of her Plymouth-style Thanksgiving dinner where she served what would have been close to the original food served that first Thanksgiving Day. She writes, “…it didn’t have much of anything we now equate with the Thanksgiving table. There was no stuffing (the dearth of flour meant there was no bread to make it with), no rolls (ditto), no potatoes (most Europeans still thought they were poisonous), no pumpkin pie (pumpkin and winter squash were served boiled), not even any cranberries (they’d yet to be introduced).” There was fowl of some kind, lots of venison, mushrooms from the forests, corn, watercress from the creek banks, and seafood from the coastal waters. So what was Julia’s menu? Grilled oysters, venison and duck sausages, duck, wild turkey (she says “just in case”), shrimp and crab dressing, a cornbread dressing with chanterelles, corn pudding with caramelized leeks, and a watercress salad with pecans. Oh and everyone had to wear either a feathered headdress or Pilgrim hat. Sounds like a really fun Thanksgiving celebration!
Some of Julia’s philosophy of life includes recognizing how fragile, precious and short life is, to treasure everyday, to “make your own fun” which she saw people doing while growing up in the Delta. She says life is funny even in the worse of times, so laugh. It’s truly the best medicine. Thank you Julia for sharing yourself with us for such a worthy cause!
Thank you Kathy, Pat and Linda for your help in making this blog post possible.