The pride and shame of growing up southern

Today for lunch I had a tomato sandwich. Although, this was not just any tomato sandwich. Between two slices of honey wheat bread I slathered on Richmond’s very own creation, Duke’s mayonnaise, right before I stacked my sandwich a mile high with slices of a Hanover tomato that I hand picked from my dad’s garden. A little dash of pepper and lunch was served. What can I say, I’m a sucker for these things.

Homemade Hanover Tomato Sandwich

Homemade Hanover Tomato Sandwich

Mid-sandwich my mind starting trotting down memory lane. I remember being introduced to these by my grandparents whom I adore. My grandpa grew the tomatoes and my grandma made us the sandwiches at lunch every day during the Summer. I was lucky to grow up in a state with the perfect soil to cultivate such ripe, delicious tomatoes and the manufacturing power to create one of the greatest sandwich spreads known to man, Duke’s mayo. This dish will forever remind me of home. It’s Southern comfort food at it’s finest.

My mind began to drift away from my personal nostalgia and into what it means to grow up in the South. For me and many of the people I grew up with it meant home grown veggies, hard work, fishing, nature, wide open spaces, fresh air and hospitality at it’s finest. It meant having strong morals and close knit family ties. It meant having pride in where you came from. I will never be persuaded that there is a better place to grow up than the South, especially Virginia.

Unfortunately, as I have grown up and especially in recent times, I have become disappointed in my home region. It is as though pride in our culture has taken a great and mighty downward turn. It has become a place where people use God and the bible as a crutch on which they stand to justify their disdain for anyone different than themselves. It is a place that is rarely tolerant of people from different races, genders, sexual orientations, etc. It is a place that uses our history to drive their hatred. It is embarrassing. Unfortunately, I don’t see this changing anytime soon but I will continue to cling onto the hope that people will remember what it truly means to be Southern before it is too late.

It means being kind to your neighbors and loving them as if they are family. It means helping those in need even when you barely have two nickels to rub together. It means working hard, providing for the ones you love, and letting the rest fall into place as you enjoy peaceful nights surrounded by stars and fireflies. It means being proud of ones heritage and culture. It means being a decent human being.

I want to go back to Summers with my grandparents, eating tomato sandwiches, loving where I live with every ounce of my being. I want to be proud of where I am from and the positive heritage that comes from the beautiful state of Virginia. I know that I will always be a proud Southerner but until some of this hatred dies down, I think my pride will have to stay closeted only to reveal itself through food induced nostalgia. I finished my tomato sandwich and was grateful for the memories that came from growing up in the South.


7 thoughts on “The pride and shame of growing up southern

  1. amusingmaria says:

    You had me at tomato. And in a sandwich, with mayo! and salt and pepper? Yum. I was not born in the south (nor in this country) but a tomato sandwich is classic comfort food for me too. I don’t know where I picked it up but it is one of my faves. Did you get the chance to grow tomatoes this year?

  2. Heather @ Viral Upcycle says:

    Ahh.. I loved your post. It brought back a lot of memories for me too! I grew up in a small Mississippi town so I related very well with the fondest aspects of being a Southerner that you described. With all the police brutality surfacing, it does seem to be more of a divide. Having a black stepmother is something I’m grateful I was able to experience at a younger age. Unfortunately there will always be people that are intolerant of any other lifestyle that’s different than their own. Great post.

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