Friday, April 28, 2006

How to order Breakfast in the South

Now why would I want to blog about this? Because I was ignorant, yes, ignorant about this simple thing when I went into a Shake 'n' Steak (which are everywhere in the South along with tons of other extremely unhealthy but tasty venues, more about that later).

Elsewhere in the US, one usually sits down in a booth, picks up a menu, and a harried wait person comes over, demands your order, (heaven forbid you're not ready) and rushes off. Sooooo, I sit down, quickly choose my food and as soon as the waitress says "Hi" I'm ordering. She stands there for a second or two looking at me and smiling, and then looks puzzled and says,

"Um, is that it?"
"Yes, thank you."
"OK then, it'll be right out."

So it was that pause, and the puzzled look that I got several times that day. I finally asked my friends, who had lived in Tennessee a whole 1 year, what the story was. They laughed and said, "Oh, you didn't chat. You have to chat. You need to talk about the weather, your day ahead, your family, where you're both from...stuff like that."
"Yeah, a banking transaction here can take 45 minutes with all the preview sizing up chitchat."

Ah Ha! My first lesson in 'Southern Manners'. One of the complaints that Southerners have is that Yankees are so rude, but besides the obvious occasional New Yorker or Bostonian gruffness, it's hard to say what that exactly means if no one grabs you by the arm and shakes you. (Which Southerners are far to polite to resort to...)

P.S. The shake was the best one I have ever had in my whole life. Really. No pun intended.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Books I've read in preparation for Southern Life

I've heard lots of rumors about Southern Women, and the South as a whole. So, to add more fuel to the not-so-vast information I have about the Southern US, I decided to start reading alllll about it. This is my reading list so far. If anyone has suggestions, please comment.

The Civil War by Goffery C. Ward

The Southern Woman: New and Selected Fiction

Recipes from the Old South by Martha Meade

Chasing Redbird by Sharon Creech

Southern Women by Lois Battle

and finally we have a subscription to
Southern Living, which is like judging the whole North by Martha Stewart Living. And actually, if one wants a reeeeaaallly imaginary image of the South, Veranda is the periodical for you.

This list is pitifully small now, since I can only read so fast between buying and selling homes, packing, kids school stuff, and a zillion other things, but I'm trying, I really am.

Why? any sane person might ask, am I reading all about the Southern United States, a country which I have occupied my whole life? Because after visiting our new city a couple of times, I realized that, more than any other place I've lived, this is more like moving to another English speaking country. In my mind, if you are going to travel the world, learning about the customs of the people you will visit is mandatory if you don't want to be seen as an ugly American or a rude Jackass.

Photo from a European ad for an
"American Tourist" costume

We've also been supplied with various movies about the south by one of the docs my DH works with who is originally from Alabama. She also passed on a book called "How to Speak Southern" which is not in any way PC but I didn't feel at all guilty since it was a genuine Southern bell passin' it on.

Movin' on up...

too-ooo the top....

of a hill in Chattanooga...We have put on offer on a house. The house is large. To us, having lived in as small as 800 sq. ft., the house is very large. Compared to all the places we have lived, Chattanooga is very inexpensive. So we can afford a bigger house. Why do we need this big house? Because we have lots and lots and lots of stuff to go with our family hobbies. We need studio space for all our art and supplies. We need a study for our 50 boxes of books, we need storage in the garage for all our camping supplies, my DH needs space for woodworking and beer brewing. He also needs a place for all his medical journals and textbooks which I'm pretty sure he will never ever read after boards. I need places for my yarn and fabric stashes as well as 3 sewing machines (each with a different use acquired over the years). And yes, a big closet for my clothes collection. Collection? you might ask? I worked in a very expensive boutique for a while. Employee discount. 'nuf said. Oh yeah, kitchen gadgets. Mr. Gardener is also Mr. Kitchen guy. His hero is Alton Brown and he dreams of someday owning a really good set of knives.

We also need space for a dog, which we don't have yet. We need garden space for Mr. gardener, who suddenly, 5 years ago, discovered that good things to eat can be grown right out of the earth! Can you imagine?! However, DH is a dermatologist and therefore we cannot garden unless bundled in our snow suits with level 50 sunscreen on the tips of our nose sticking out of our ski hats.

Where have we been living? Underneath books, papers, journals, art supplies and everything else. Now that our house is on the market, we've put lots of things in storage. The kids keep saying,
"Mommy the house looks so clean, and bright! Can we keep it like this always?...
"Yes dear, in our new gigantic house with lots of closet and storage space..."
How big is it you ask?

In the beginning

Here we are, off to what amounts to another planet for our family. So I thought I'd start a new blog with an explanation from the one that came before:

......Continued from "the Adventures of Medical Spouse".....

Long, long ago, in a time far far away when Robb was applying for med-school, we said;

"We are never moving south of the Mason-Dixon line."

Long ago, when applying for residency we said;

"We are never moving south of the Mason-Dixon line."

Months ago when we were deciding where to go as a real Doctor, we said;

"We are never moving south of the Mason-Dixon line."

We just decided to accept a position south of the Mason-Dixon line.

We had been visiting friends just north of Chattanooga, TN. We had a wonderful time, very relaxing. We didn't really consider moving to the area. A few days after returning, I get a phone call:

"Mrs. Ecker?, This JJ, have you heard of Chattanooga Tennessee? We have a position for a Dermatologist there."

"Who is this really? Jane, is that you?"

"Jane? No this is JJ from Dr. placement people. Are you familiar with Chattanooga?"

"Um, we were just there last week..."

So off we go back to Chattanooga for an interview (they wouldn't let us just send Robb), where we met wonderful people, saw nice places to live and found a really good practice for Robb, run by terrific people. And TA DA! We are now moving to the
South. (ba ba ba bummmmm)

My friend from England said he had seen the news reports that the Civil War has been over for some years now, however little bits and pieces do seem to still crop up. The flying of the Confederate flag is still pretty common and there are some in the South who still regret not being able to secede from the Union.

Religion is somewhat of an issue, seeing as we are Jewish and there aren't many members of the tribe down there. However the Jewish community is very close knit and truly welcomes newcomers in like family. (This could be good or bad...) We know there is still alot of ignorance and bias about minorities of any sort, but hey, ever travel to rural Wisconsin? When the welcome wagon lady came to visit us right after we moved to Waunakee, Wisconsin, she asked what church we might like to be affiliated with. I told her I was Jewish and her response was, and I quote;
"Well, I don't think we have that kind of church here in Waunakee?"
However we have found folks to be mostly open to learning something if they wanted or if a situation came up with the girls at school.

On the other hand, we found that people really were warm and friendly in the South, and we ran into generosities and kindnesses we had never found in the North. Things move more slowly, sometimes infuriatingly so, but once you get into the rhythm of it, there is far less stress. My doctor, who lived in Memphis for some years, told me I would have to learn to speak much more slowly and some folks down there said our accents hurt their ears. Frankly, the feeling is kinda mutual, but I suspect we will all get used to each other.