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The Front Porch Which is more "southern": a Faulkner symposium or a barbecue joint? From this porch swing, there's no easy answer because everybody we know agrees that southern cultures range widely, embracing everything from literature to down-home cooking, from the highbrow to the lowlife and back again. Some of us might even argue that the very question Which is more "southern "? is a very southern thing to ask, perhaps the most southern thing of all. Why else would telling about the South become our collective obsession? Ever since the leaders of the Confederacy lost their bid to make the South a distinct nation, hosts of successors have labored on the task of southern selfdefinition , hoping to pin the region down in words, to fix it on the map, to put clear lines around it once and for all. Southern diversity resists such experiments, but that hasn't stopped anyone from trying. This issue of Southern Cultures contains a choice collection of efforts, ranging from the culinary to the erudite, from pop culture to the icons of literary criticism. The proposed "central themes" tend to cluster at each end of the conventional scale that runs from high culture to low, but we leave it to our readers to decide which end is up, so to speak. After all, we know a lot of Faulkner lovers who swear that the master's prose approaches the sublime just because it's almost as rich and juicy as a plate of their favorite hickory-flavored ribs. Just what is it about barbecue that brings out the poet in so many of us? Like many southerners, Jonathan Bass is high on the hog and thinks he has the answer. SiĀ« scrofa has been a staple of the southern diet for centuries. Brought by the European colonists, pigs raised themselves on the open range and were served on the tables of masters, slaves, plain folk, and visitors alike. On the road in North Carolina, for example, the famous antebellum tourist Frederick Law Olmsted reported that the fare at one inn consisted of no less than "seven preparations of swine's flesh [and] two of maize," with side orders of "wheat cakes, broiled quails, cold roast turkey, coffee and tea." Pork is still a characteristic regional favorite, ranging in form from the most pungent chitlins to the choicest country hams. Is 298Southern Cultures the hog an apt symbol for Dixie? Maybe we should run one up a flagpole and see if it gets more salutes than the much beleaguered Confederate battle flag. Speaking of which, our "Not Forgotten" section features a letter from a North Carolina teenager reporting on sectional politics in November 1860. The crucial question for youngJohn Steele Henderson was not "Union or disunion?" but "Which side had the best barbecue?" His letter suggests a new explanation for the upper South's political uncertainty about secession: the secessionists knew how to eat but couldn't draw a crowd in the rain, while the unionists had the masses but couldn't get their pit to cook right. Ambivalence about the Confederacy is still with us, of course. How many of you knew that the percentage of southerners who actually own a Confederate flag is not much higher than the percentage of nonsoutherners who do (11 versus 9 percent)? This issue's edition of "South Polls" reviews opinion data about Confederate emblems and finds that feelings about the battle flag run a lot higher than the fallen banner itself. Now what kind of symbol is that? Maybe we should salute the Zeitgeist instead. Known to its friends as "the spirit of the times," this foreign-sounding "nomad" was recently spotted heading southward by author Paul Harvey. The signs are that country music is gaining fans, southern athletes are winning titles, and migrants of all races and origins are flocking to southside destinations. Just last year the lifestyle mavens of Money magazine tagged our own little corner of Dixie as the best place to live in the U.S.A., something we in Chapel Hill have always bragged about but didn't necessarily want the rest of the world to know. If that wasn't...


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pp. 297-299
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