A few days ago, I curled up on the front porch to read the October issue of Southern Living.
I had a Tervis Tumbler of Diet Coke in my hand and my black labs playing at my feet, a scene that was surely being recreated on porches all over the South that crisp autumn weekend. As I leafed through the recipes, renovations and travelogues that comprise every Southern mother's favorite magazine, I ran across a sentence that caught me off guard:
"Appalachia is having a moment right now."
I was taken aback. I mean, I've seen plenty of claims that Southern culture is trendy this year. Still, no matter how often I hear that hipster New York restaurants are serving up fried chicken and pork rinds or that bourbon is this year's spirit of choice, I always make a subtle distinction. Those things are part of the larger Southern culture, and it's a lot easier to imagine "city-Southern" having a broader appeal. It's a whole lot easier to talk to non-Kentuckians about Derby than about dulcimers, that's for sure. Moonshine and old-timey fiddle music and soup beans and handmade furniture -- the things celebrated in the Southern Living article? Well, those things are set aside for us mountain folk.
I was raised to revere my Appalachian heritage. It was an act of almost defiant pride to celebrate the artisans and educators and writers and dreamers and fiddlers and builders
of my extended family. Some of my earliest memories are of Appalachia Day, theAlice Lloyd College
Homecoming festival which proudly features many of those very artists. I've always been extremely proud of this rich heritage, but I guess I've always figured that it wasn't something that outsiders would find too interesting. There's always been something about the mountains that lend themselves to seclusion; feeling "set apart" seems our geographic birthright.
I guess that, much like the late, brilliant Christopher Hitchens, I've always kept two sets of books. I'm a Southern girl with my city friends and a Mountain girl with my family. It's a pretty common practice; I think a lot of us assume that nobody else is interested. Douglas Roberts, author of the Southern Living piece, put an interesting spin on it:
"Appalachia is that rare part of the United States dedicated to the study and celebration of itself. And it's easy to believe on a drive through the area that this is the true heartland -- a still-intact petri dish of the independence, ingenuity and authenticity of the American spirit."
Maybe my heritage doesn't have to be revered
quite so much. Maybe I should focus instead on enjoying it a little more. Maybe Appalachia
having a moment, and maybe that's a celebration of the fun aspects of our culture. You can't get any more hip or fun than the Avett Brothers, who basically play the same brand of mountain music my granddaddy did. Every Appalachian family has a big jar of moonshine hidden in the kitchen. Maybe it's time to bring it out and sip it. Maybe it's time to add soup beans to my Cajun-low country-Southern fusion kitchen repertoire; that
sounds interesting. Hell, maybe it's even time to take back the idiom, as they say, and acknowledge that I'm a Hillbilly Girl at heart. At the very least, I'm going to enjoy Appalachia's moment. Y'all have a lot to learn from us.