I moved to Charlotte in 1998 after spending my whole life in the North, living in fun places like Michigan, Ohio and North Dakota. Most of those years were spent in Ohio; I was Buckeye born and Buckeye bred. However, I can assure you that when I die, I will not be Buckeye dead. I love North Carolina and suspect I may be here for the duration now. Of course, no matter where I have lived, it's the people who are a part of my life that I always treasure the most. That’s what I appreciate the most about where I live now, and it’s definitely what I miss the most about where I used to live. But, beyond the people, there are some things that I really miss about living in the North, as well as things I love about the South. Here are some that come to mind, in no particular order.
THINGS I MISS ABOUT THE NORTH
1. Tea. I mean real tea. The first time I went to the Waffle House I ordered tea with my waffle. They brought me sweet tea. In the North, they know what tea is. It’s hot and unsweetened. If you want it cold, you ask for it "iced" and if you want it sweet, you sweeten it yourself. Enough said.
2. Major league baseball. Yeah, I know they have major league baseball in the South somewhere. I understand there’s a team in Atlanta. But if you live where I do and want to go to a game, you have to make a weekend of it. I want a major league baseball team that I can go to see play in the evening and then return home at a reasonable hour to sleep in my own bed. Is that asking too much? (Sure, I could do that with NASCAR, which is in my backyard, but that’s not a real sport.)
3. Lemon meringue pie. I can rarely find this in restaurants down here and when I do, it’s just not right. There are three main parts to a good lemon meringue pie. There’s the crust, the filling and the meringue. At least one of those parts always seems to be wrong.
4. Fast food. By fast food, I mean food that is served shortly after you order it. That’s how they do it in the North. In the South, the only difference I’ve noticed between fast food and non-fast food is that I wait for fast food while sitting in my car.
5. Apple cider. Real apple cider. You know, the non-translucent kind that tastes like squished apples.
6. The possibility of having a white Christmas. In Cleveland, Ohio, the probability is 40%. In Charlotte it is 0%. The last time they had a white Christmas in Charlotte was in 1947.
7. Snickerdoodles. Actually, I’ve met several people in the South who know how to make wonderful snickerdoodles. And they all come from the North.
8. Root beer stands. Loved going to the root beer stand on a scorchingly hot summer day and getting a frosty mug of root beer with 5” of foam on top. Haven’t seen one since I’ve moved here.
9. Mulligans. Best cheeseburgers anywhere I’ve been are in Canton, Ohio. I’ve been looking for something close since moving to Charlotte and have come to the conclusion that I’d be more successful searching for the Holy Grail.
10. A short grass mowing season. As I recall, in the North, mowing the lawn was a summer activity. In Charlotte, it is not a seasonal activity; it is a way of life.
AND, THINGS I LOVE ABOUT THE SOUTH
1. Banana pudding. I didn’t know what banana pudding was until I moved south. In the North it is banana flavored instant pudding. Down here, it involves real live bananas and vanilla wafers. Some people bake it with meringue on top. My friend Dick Little tells me you can tell an authentic Southern restaurant if it lists banana pudding as one of the vegetable sides. (He also converted me to Duke’s as the only legitimate mayonnaise in the world.)
2. Okra. No, I’ve not gotten into livermush or grits. (Livermush is one of a long list of foods I’ve never tried but am certain I don’t like. And grits, well I did try one once, and that was enough.) But okra is a winner with me. I don’t do it fried. To me, once you batter fry anything, it tastes like fried batter. I love the squeaky-spongy way okra feels when you chew it and wouldn’t think of cooking up a pot of vegetable soup without throwing some okra in it.
3. Corn season. Yeah, they have corn in the North, but you can’t go to a vegetable stand and buy fresh, locally grown corn, picked in the morning so there’s still dew on it, until nearly August. It starts in June here.
4. Y’all. English is so much more precise when we can differentiate between second person singular and plural. When I speak to a crowd and say “you”, people can assume that I’m not talking to them, but some other “you.” But when I say “y’all”, there is no question that y’all best listen up.
5. The Waffle House. Some of you know that this was one of the reasons I moved here to begin with. Love their waffles, cooked extra crispy. The first couple years I lived in Charlotte I went to the Waffle House on Independence Blvd. every Friday and sat at the counter watching the cook. How did he ever keep track of all those elaborate orders coming at him at once, without writing anything down? It was very humbling to realize that there was no way in hell I could ever cut it as a cook at The Waffle House.
6. Fraser Firs. They definitely make the prettiest Christmas trees. In the North they are rare and cost an arm and a leg. In the South they are the norm.
7. Spring color. Spring comes early in the South. And it takes your breath away. I know they have flowers and blooming stuff when spring finally arrives in the North, but…
8. Being able to take morning walks all winter long without freezing my fanny off.
9. Fresh peaches. The kind where you bite into them and the juice drips down your arm, past your elbow and would go all the way to your armpit if you didn’t stop it.
10. Putting kindness before honesty. People in the south are basically kind. And they highly value kindness. If you want the brutal truth, they’re not all that reliable. But if you’ve done something really stupid and you want to feel okay about yourself, they’re good to have around. Although, I have learned that sometimes Southerners may disguise their contempt for individuals with kind words. For example, in the North they might say a person is ****ed up. In the South they say, “bless her heart”, which pretty much means the same thing. But it sounds so much kinder.