It’s not a Southern party unless you’ve got …

Here in the South, we are in the middle of that lovely season when every day week DSCN3432there’s a tea or reception or shower or some other similar gathering where you show up and bless everybody’s hearts profusely and come away with 1) a new egg salad recipe, 2) details from Person A on where she bought those adorable shoes and 3) details from Person B on what Person A did after she bought those adorable shoes and who she did it with. And there are at least two food items that MUST be present to make it an official DSCN3435Southern party. Both of those items are in this photo. Southerners were raised on
these two items; non-Southerners have never heard of them and don’t really understand them. Can you spot them in this photo? Bonus points if you can name the Muscle Shoals, Alabama, party classic that is not present in this photo but no Muscle Shoals tea/shower/reception is complete without. The flower arrangement is essential Southerness, too. Sadly, my mother did not bestow upon me the love-of-gardening gene and all I know is that this arrangement has some green leaves and pretty flowers and looks really nice? On the other hand, I can tell you every single detail about every single food item on that table. Priorities! But also possibly the reason my jeans seem to have a little trouble zipping up lately. Sigh.

The Last Sausage Ball

(Photo by Mary Carton, Tuscumbia, Ala.)

You know how when you and your husband go to a party and you’re, like, “Oh, this food looks so good but I can’t eat it all so would you split a plate with me and we can share everything?” and your husband’s like, “Sure, sweetie. Whatever you want” although he’s remembering the time you said you didn’t like hot wings and then you ate the whole basket but a party is different because you want to taste a little of everything so you take the plate and fill it up with things you know you’ll like and things you’ll know he’ll like and then you’re working your way around the plate and you come to a sausage ball and you break it in half and eat your half and it’s really really good but because he’s busy eating the pork tenderloin slider he can’t eat his half of the sausage ball and it was so good that you really want him to have a whole one, you tell him, so you quickly eat the remaining half and then go back to the table only to find NO MORE SAUSAGE BALLS and then your husband realizes YOU HAVE EATEN THE LAST SAUSAGE BALL right in front of him? This is what that moment looks like.

Let Me Eat Cake (Pops) & Donuts!

Hmmm … is there anything better than a sweet not-good-for-you-at-all treat? No. There is not. And lately I’ve gotten to sample some especially yummy treats. On the left, how about some cake pops? My friend Susan C. was the first person I knew who ever made cake balls. That was about two years ago, and now that everybody’s got them, I sort of think she invented them. And now we’ve gone on to cake pops — fun little round bites of moist cake dipped in candy coating and sprinkles that you don’t even have to get your fingers messy when you eat them. Our neighbor brought these over to us to thank Husband JP for bringing in her garbage can when she forgets — he’s thoughtful that way. And then, on the right, we have a box of  Chattanooga’s Julie Darling Donuts. These are absolutely positively without-a-doubt the best doughnuts ever — with the possible exception of a hot just-glazed plain Krispy Kreme. I don’t know what’s in them that makes them so good but they are so good. I have to slice pieces off over the course of several days so I don’t just dive in. Julie Darling even showed me how good a true jelly doughnut can be. I never liked the usual version — a glop of tasteless gel-like colored stuff in the middle — but Julie Darling’s jellies are stuffed full of the real thing and the contrast of tart strawberry puree with the sweet icing and rich doughnut is simply … perfect.

Baby Showers

When our friend couldn’t wait to tell us that she was going to be a grandma for the first time, the three of us couldn’t wait to start planning a surprise shower for her. We sneakily scheduled the party for our regular book-club night and pulled off the surprise with style — she truly never saw it coming. Other than her face when she realized what was happening — priceless! — the best thing about our shower was the decor. My friend who volunteered her home for the book-club meeting/surprise baby shower created a baby-boy-blue wonderland that we all oohed and ahhed over and didn’t want to leave. (And now I really should drop the pretense that we talked about the book that night, although we did spend a couple of minutes on it, I think.) She’s a master at using things she already has — mixing vintage with contemporary — to set the mood and then adding her own special touches. Her blue-frosted cupcakes were don’t-let-a-single-crumb-go-to-waste good. And when she kicked off the evening with a pitcher full of yummy icy-blue goodness to sip before we sat down to a cool and refreshing chicken-salad supper, we knew we were in good hands as we welcomed our friend into the Sisterhood of Really Cool Grandmas. And you can join, too, as long as you have Really Cute Grandchildren. And don’t we all? Plus, we’ll even waive the iniation rite of having to sing all verses of the “Thomas the Tank Engine” song.