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The Southerner’s Handbook: A Guide to Living the Good Life

Because I was born in the South, I’m a Southerner. If I had been born in the North, the West, or the Central Plains, I would just be a human being.

-Clyde Edgerton

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 3.20.42 PMWhy is it that as Southerners, we are not only proud of the fact that we are Southern, but we’ll tell you exactly how Southern we are? For example:

“I’m from South Carolina, but Mama grew up in Mississippi and Daddy played football for Bear Bryant.”

“Mama used to put the whole ham hock in her white beans.”

“Daddy’s dog Toddy’s great-great-grandpuppy won the Retriever Olympics.”

There are so many things that are unique to the South. Men wear seersucker suits with white bucs. Grandmother’s silver (pronounced sill-vuh) is always polished and ready for company. We’ll come close to catfighting over who makes better pimento cheese.

Garden & Gun Magazine has just published The Southerner’s Handbook: A Guide to Living the Good Life. If Pappy fought in the Civil War, Uncle Jimbo played for The Bear, or you just know you’re not supposed to wear white before Easter, this is your book.

Ten of my favorite highlights:

1. Big Bad Buttermilk Biscuits: Oxford’s own John Currence spills the beans and tells us how to make them. Now I know for a fact that the pepper is what makes them so good.

2. The Hard Truth About Cowboy Boots: They hurt. Real bad. Michael Jackson bad. Then you wonder how you ever lived without them. Note from The Southerner’s Handbook: “If bigger boots stretch some over their lifetime? Thicker socks.”

Boots are the only comfortable option in the Grove.
Boots are the only comfortable option in the Grove.

3. Putting Pen to Paper: Your mama should have told you to always write a thank you note. Included are tips for picking the perfect stationery, how to embellish sparingly, and how to seal the envelope. Yes. There is a proper way to lick.

4. Get Invited Back: Southerners are known for their hospitality, built on a foundation of good manners and reciprocity. Such a simple concept. Shockingly hard for some folks to execute. Bring a gift, pitch in, go with the flow, give some space and again… SAY THANK YOU.

5. A Hat For the Derby: Derby hats are so tricky. I have never risked wearing one because I’m afraid I will look like Duchess Fergie’s daughter at the Royal Wedding. After reading The Southerner’s Handbook, I MIGHT feel comfortable going there. Maybe.

Steeplechase. No hats.
Steeplechase. No hats. Just big glasses.

6. Drink Like a Southerner: Former Oxford resident Jonathan Miles tells it how it is. “My argument today, proffered with the warbly certitude one derives from a second glass of bourbon, is that Southerners drink better than Americans elsewhere.” Truth fact. Miles goes on to explain “The One and Only Mint Julep” and gives THE recipe for the ultimate Southern cocktail. NO NUTMEG.


7. Fall Off a Horse: Have y’all ever fallen off a horse? In 1995, I became a card carrying member of Camp Nakanawa’s Dusty Bottoms Club. Wish I could go back in time and tell my 12 year old self that there actually IS a proper way to fall off a horse. That reminds me of a Southernism: “If wishes were horses, we’d all take a ride. If horse turds were biscuits, we’d eat till we died.” I may or may not have heard that one as a child.

8. Stocking Your Home Library: Square Books owner and former Oxford mayor Richard Howorth lists five books that every Southern home library should have.


9. Silver With a Proper Shine: There is an art to polishing silver, and don’t you DARE put it in the dishwasher. The morning of my wedding, my parents hosted a brunch for 50 out of town guests in our home. Polishing silver is better for my nerves than champagne (no one likes a drunk bride!), so I polished silver on my wedding day. Did I mention it was already polished?

10. The Church of Southern Football: I think the title speaks for itself.

David DiBenedetto, Editor-in-Chief of Garden & Gun and Donna Levine, Managing Editor of Garden & Gun will sign copies of The Southerner’s Handbook: A Guide to Living the Good Life at 5 p.m. on Friday, November 8th at Square Books. Many Oxford writers are contributors to the book and are scheduled to appear.

–Emily Gatlin, Editor-in-Chief, HottyToddy.com

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