What Southern Folks Eat: Record-spinning, porch-dancing memories
Sometimes when I walk through an antique shop I’ll come
across a collection of vinyl albums for sale, and I’m immediately drawn to
them; I have to stop and look. I inevitably spot a familiar name from the past
on their interesting covers, like Rush, Queen, or Bruce Hornsby, to name a few
of my recent findings. My fingers instinctively touch the covers of the albums,
and I begin to flip, flip, flip through the stack to see what other treasures
might be hidden within.
I was in downtown McKinney, Texas, with my sister one fall
afternoon, and as we climbed the creaky wooden stairs inside one of the old
shops, we came across a booth filled with hundreds of well-organized albums.
Those old albums have a certain scent to them; can you conjure that in your
memory? It’s the combination of the vinyl and the old cardboard cover and the
paper sleeve that creates that familiar fragrance, similar to the scent old
books have. It’s a welcoming aroma to people like us who love these things and
the memories they trigger.
As I looked through the stacks, I found several albums by
artists I knew my mom had enjoyed when she was young, like The Beach Boys and
The Kingston Trio. Immediately, my mind drifted back in time to the stories she
had told me about the joy she found in music when she was a teenager. I loved
hearing how she spent time with her sisters and cousins dancing to other old
records I see when I visit these old places, as well as some that I own now
that were in her personal collection, such as Paul Anka and Dion. It makes me
happy to have these memories and to try to imagine what she was like as a young
Mom didn’t seem to mind telling me the stories. She told me
how she and her two sisters had to get up early on Saturday mornings to clean
their room, as they weren’t allowed to go do anything fun until they did so.
Once that chore was finished, she said, her cousins Mary, Jack and Bob would
come over, as well as some friends from school. The sisters would serve snacks
and Cokes on the enclosed porch of their St. Petersburg home, while the
different kids would spin their favorite albums on the record player Granddaddy
had bought his young daughters. Mom always seemed to enjoy reminiscing about
how they’d have happy, boisterous times dancing, laughing, and singing along to
their favorite ‘50s tunes together, and I certainly liked hearing about it over
and over again.
I’d ask Mom to describe the clothes they’d wear, trying to
picture my grown-up mother as a teenager. She told me about rolling the cuffs
of her jeans up and wearing lace ankle socks and saddle Oxfords or penny
loafers as they danced on the porch. She said she sometimes wore her poodle
skirt to dance in, which I was intensely disappointed she hadn’t saved for my
sister and me to play with. The show Happy Days made them look like the best
article of clothing a teenage girl could wear!
She said the boys would wear white T-shirts and jeans, or
“dungarees,” as my grandmother had called them. The guys who smoked would roll
a cigarette pack up into the sleeve of the T-shirt in what, at the time, was a
quintessentially cool look, apparently, along with the hairstyle they called a
“D.A.” which stands for something I shouldn’t write here in this column, but
that you probably all know, anyway. It always made me giggle when Mom said it.
My mom is no longer with us, and the 1950s are far behind
us. But anytime I spot the album or hear The Beach Boys sing “Barbara Ann,” or
Dion sing “Runaround Sue,” I remember these stories my mom told me, and I smile
at the memories. I’m grateful to have that window into her young life,
especially now that she’s gone. I am equally grateful that she passed her love
of music along to my sister and me, because it connects us through time, and it
brings us joy.
Maybe you will pull your record player out and dust off some
old albums to play on it, and walk back through time for a little while. Hold
on to those happy memories and enjoy the transcendence of music, which is one
of God’s greatest gifts, in my opinion.
Now, I have no idea what kind of snacks the kids dancing on
mom’s porch were enjoying, but here are two ideas that would do well if you
chose to have a porch party of your own someday… and I really hope you will.
Both of these recipes make easy-to-hold and fun to eat small
burgers that kids and teenagers will especially enjoy, but adults will want to
sneak a few, too. They’re delicious, and I feel confident that Betty, Barbara,
Mary, Bob, Jack and Ruthie, my mom, would have devoured these after hours of
dancing and having fun together.
Stephanie Hill-Frazier is a writer, food blogger and
regional television chef, whose on-air nickname is “Mama Steph.” She grew up in
Gulf County, on St. Joe Beach, a place she will forever call home. She is
married and has three young adult sons who are significantly taller than she
is. You can find more of her recipes at WhatSouthernFolksEat.com or contact
her at [email protected].