Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Pearls of Wisdom

I will be the first to admit that I don't know it all. In fact, the older I get, the more I realize that I don't know much of anything, in the grand scheme of things. But there are a few undeniable facts that I have learned in my thirty-some-odd (a lady never reveals her age) years, and in order to pad my community service hours for the week, I thought I would share them today. Charitable deduction, here I come. These pearls of wisdom, in no particular order, are as follows:

Anytime you leave your house looking less than presentable and hoping you won't see anyone you know, you will, inevitably, see multiple people that you know. They will look unusually fabulous during this encounter. Despite your ninja-like efforts to evade these folks, they will recognize you and want to chat. And possibly ask if you are sick, due to the deteriorated state of your appearance. Conversely, on the days you emerge looking like a supermodel, not a soul will see you. I'm almost entirely sure that is how the selfie came into existence--as hard evidence of good hair days even without a single witness.

Be very afraid.
On a different but equally important note, no matter how tempting, under no circumstances should you order shrimp (a.k.a. camarones) at a Mexican restaurant. I learned this in the extremely unfortunate quesadilla incident of 2003. There is a very good reason that diarrhea sounds like a Spanish word. Ole, indeed.

Any item that you lose automatically doubles in value. It really is true that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone. Where are you, super soft, perfectly worn-in Acapulco t-shirt from 1988?! I can't live without you, and I can't replace you, either! Come baaaaaack to me!

If someone offers you a breath mint, always take it. There's a good chance that they are just being polite and not fending off your offensive halitosis, but it's still better to be safe than stank.

Never chew gum while cleaning a toilet. This one was an especially difficult learning experience for me, and I would really prefer not to discuss it any further. Ignore this advice at your own risk.

Your mom is right. Always, every single time. Even if you don't know it yet. Arguing with her will only make you look dumb, so it's best to just bite your tongue and wait for the proof to come that she was right all along.

The only answer anyone wants to hear when they ask, "how are you?" is fine. No one wants to hear that you aren't fine, or that you are better than fine. Stick to the status quo. And even if you don't want to know the answer, you are obligated to ask how that person is doing in return. Pretend to listen for a second or two, smile, nod, and then you can be on your merry way.

99% of the things you worry about will never happen. That probably includes whatever it is you're worrying about right now. The things that will really jump out and bite you in the butt are the ones you never saw coming.

The quickest way to have someone prove you wrong? Defend them by telling other people, "she would never do that!" Then prepare yourself for the fallout.

I love to watch Wheel of Fortune at night after dinner. When it comes right down to it, life is a lot like Wheel of Fortune. You rarely know the answer to the puzzle right away, so you spin the wheel, try to make some guesses, and hope you never land on bankrupt. And get jump-up-and-down excited for vacations and new cars.

The older I get, the longer it takes me to get ready. Crimp, curl, spackle, putty. At the rate I'm going, by the time I'm 80, I will eat breakfast, start doing my hair and makeup, then watch Wheel of Fortune and go to bed. I'd like to solve the puzzle: you look mah-ve-lous, darling.

Now, there are plenty of other gems I could share with you, but my mother always raised us with the mantra that you never tell them everything you know and you always leave them wanting more. And so, on that note, I will simply leave you with some sage words that really sum up the seriousness of this life we're all living:

“When I die, I want to die like my grandfather, who died peacefully in his sleep. Not screaming like all the passengers in his car.” -Will Rogers

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Garden & Gun, Duke's Mayonnaise, and the Ties that Bind

I have become a big fan of Garden & Gun magazine, especially after discovering that, despite its name, the publication is not in fact about gardens or guns (I can't grow the former, and while I'm not opposed to the latter, I don't particularly enjoy reading about the subject). The magazine is a great resource for all things southerly, genteel, and charming. That's why it came as no surprise that last week, Garden & Gun put together a short article entitled "Why Duke's Mayonnaise Matters." And it certainly does matter, my friends.

Let's just start at the beginning, where all that goodness originated: Greenville, South Carolina in 1917. Eugenia Duke (now forever known as the Duchess of Mayonnaise) started making and selling sandwiches with her signature homemade spread to World War I soldiers stationed at Fort Sevier. Needless to say, the sandwiches, and that mayo, got rave reviews, and by the spring of 1919, Eugenia sold over 10,000 sandwiches in one day. A brand, and a business, was born.

Duke's mayonnaise has achieved a type of cult following in the South. It's the third largest mayonnaise brand in the United States, and even if many folks north of the Mason-Dixon line aren't familiar with this fine product, any good Southerner worth their salt will tell you that there is just something special about Duke's. I came across another article, this time from the Washington Post, with some pretty impressive anecdotes from Erin Hatcher, who oversees the brand's label (the article is here if you want to read it in entirety): "There was the man on his hospital death bed who asked for a tomato sandwich made with Duke's. There was the mother of the bride who, after the company made its switch from glass to plastic containers around 2005, demanded four glass jars with labels intact to use as centerpieces at her daughter's wedding. And there was the elderly woman from North Carolina. She wrote in hopes of obtaining just three glass jars, saying she'd like to be cremated and have her ashes places in the containers for her three daughters." Hatcher assured the article's author that she made good on that last request.

For me, Duke's is synonymous with that summertime delicacy, tomato sandwiches (which I only recently found out are also commonly called "sink sandwiches" because the best way to eat them is to stand over the kitchen sink and just let all the juices run right down your arms). Ripe, homegrown tomatoes, a fresh loaf of soft white bread, salt, pepper, and Duke's--that's how you really make a sandwich. For those of you who have been using an inferior product like--heaven forbid--Miracle Whip, come on over to the tasty side and use my mayo. You'll never go back. As further evidence that Duke's mayonnaise and tomatoes are the best pairing since Bogart and Bacall or Ben and Jerry, here is a quintessentially summer-in-the-South picture a friend of mine posted on Facebook over the weekend, aptly captioned "Southern nights:"

Photo by Jake Green

Duke's, fresh tomatoes, and a little candlelight. If that doesn't make you swoon, you might need to check your pulse. There's good reason for the battle cry: if it isn't Duke's, it isn't really a sandwich!

I could eat tomato sandwiches all day long. But sadly, those garden grown tomatoes don't last all year, which is why it's fortuitous that Duke's is also equally delicious in deviled eggs, potato salad, pimento cheese, casseroles of pretty much any kind, and even...desserts. The Duke's website has over a dozen delicious-sounding sweet recipes that are made with their spectacular spread. (The mayonnaise keeps cakes and baked goods moist, in case you were wondering how in the world the idea of mayonnaise for dessert came into existence.)

I have an early memory as a kid, in the kitchen with my mom, watching her put together some homemade chicken salad. She scooped a big spoonful (or three) of mayonnaise and began to stir all the ingredients together, explaining as she worked that you needed to be sure to use enough mayonnaise--after all, "it's what binds it all together." All these years later, I still remember that advice and consider it true, especially in the case of Duke's, in more ways than just the kitchen.