Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Shrinking South?

The Washington Post reports that D.C. is rapidly losing its Southernness.  And it's not just the District of Columbia alone but a large portion of northeastern Virginian.  Some noted Virginians seem ready to throw in the Southern towel altogether.  "I do think we've reached a critical mass of some kind," the Post quotes 72-year old former state senator Russell Potts as saying.  "We're not a real Southern state anymore."

Historians and linguists agree that the northern boundary of the South has moved somewhere down around Richmond which, perhaps not coincidentally, is where researchers have also drawn the "sweet tea line", a demarcation of where restaurants stop offering sweet tea to customers.  (Though, it seems, McDonald's is now doing what it can to break down this barrier by offering sweet tea nationwide.)

It is a curious evolution, for though Virginia still maintains its long, rich tradition of Southern country hams, its once-famed barbecue culture  (as I've discussed before) has long since faded into obscurity.

I, however, am not one to despair, for I contend whole heartedly that the state of Florida--which most commentators routinely write off as not Southern at all--is in fact one of the most Southern states we have.  Anyone who doubts that fact should try barbecue at Shorty's in Miami or Bono's in Jacksonville, Florida, or spend a football weekend in Tallahassee.  Or, pick up Diane Roberts's splendid book Dream State: Eight Generations of Swamp Lawyers, Conquistadors, Confederate Daughters, Banana Republicans, and Other Florida Wildlife, which I am about midway through reading and recommend highly for anyone who wants to get a feel for both the history and contemporary reality of the state of Florida.  Or, for that matter, just to have a rip-roaring good laugh, for she is wickedly funny.

If everyone out there would just agree with my contention, then we'd pick up Florida right off the bat and that would more than offset any geography lost by the defection of northern Virginia.

And, anyway, the rumors of the demise of the Southernness of Virginia may be greatly exaggerated to begin with.  What better to trust than the food we eat?  Safeway grocery stores, the Post reports, says that the group of its stores located between Culpeper, Virginia, and Frederick, Maryland, "posts the company's biggest sales of such regional offerings as fried chicken, ham hocks and other 'country meats,' collard greens and sweet potatoes."

So I say the jury is still out.

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