by Emma Wilbury
A buddy from NY recently asked me to describe a southern Christmas. Well, the South is a mighty big place but I believe I will conjure up some images of what it's like down here in coastal Georgia, where we live.
The cool, dusty blue light of December sun brushes the tops from the marsh grass and also the camellias are blooming in Old Savannah. Wreathes of real holly and evergreen hold on the large solid doors of the old mansions and you will hear the bells on the bridles of the mules and horses as they pull tourists, huddled in carriages, through the dappled streets and round the lush, shady squares. Carolers can be heard in City Market. It's not humid this time of the year so their voices carry far and clear.
Within the river in Bluffton, SC, old women work furiously to shuck and pack the briny oysters just pulled from the cold May River. It's oyster season, by gosh, by golly, and that we low country folk can't get an adequate amount of them. I drive over there because I will make an oyster pie for Christmas dinner. It has been my assignment. I buy double the amount when i need. Eat half of them on the way home. I carry my own oyster knife from October until April but it is since I really work that bad boy.
We southerners worship at the altar from the deep fryer. Recently, I've been handed the extra duty of frying the turkey for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. (This procedure frees the oven for additional important operations for example cobbler baking and also the final heating of my grandmother's homemade yeast rolls.) I love to sizzle those turkeys. I inject them with melted butter and cayenne. I fire up that burner outside and grab a beer. I lower that bird into the bubbling cauldron and stare at it, hypnotized, until it's time to draw him back out and onto the serving platter. I am happy as well as in the moment.
Then, like anywhere else, we sit back and enjoy the family, the laughter of the children, the smells that comfort and the sounds that remember. And, of course, the meals. There's the beef roast that's been poked, trussed and timed by my uncle like he's on some critical mission from NASA. The crab dip that my grandmother used to make however is ready by my aunt. The spiced pecans. And, after the presents have been opened, the boiled egg custard, the bourbon candy and pralines.