Monday, May 12, 2014

The Southerner's Handbook: A Guide to Living the Good Life by the Editors of Garden & Gun

Ever wondered what the difference is between bourbon & whiskey, how to wrestle an alligator, why people get so worked up about an Alabama vs. Auburn game, how to make the perfect Mint Julep, what the difference is between mustard or tomato based BBQ or what to do when you're hosting a party and you'd like everyone to leave without being offended? Well, there's no better authority on such items as the good people of the American South and few better references than the one and only Garden & Gun Magazine. I came across this book at Costco while on a trip to visit some family in one of the South's most prominent and historical port cities, Charleston, South Carolina. In my humble opinion, The Southerner's Handbook is to card-carrying Southerners what The Official Preppy Handbook (or it's reincarnation True Prep) has been to self-declared prepsters for years. It's an anthology of all the best parts of Southern heritage, from our deep-rooted traditions to the recipes we've treasured for generations, preserving our history for the future and sharing our secrets with the rest of the world. From Kentucky to the Florida Keys, Georgia to Texas and everything in between, The Southerner's Handbook is an inside look into the South, a magical land where the dirtier the bar, the better the blues and people would much rather line up for a good pig roast than a posh night club.

The Southerner's Handbook is divided into chapters which contain several vignettes written by various contributors and each of these little ditties reads like a story told round the campfire. From how to be the perfect host to how to shoot a gun, all the important bits are in here. Though I suspect it would take many more volumes to cover everything (I've heard there's an Encyclopedia of the South?), this is an excellent primer for enjoying many great traditions whether you grew up with them or you're just interested in hosting next year's Derby party. 

I definitely recommend this book for pretty much everyone. If you're a Southerner, it should take pride of place on your bookshelf or coffee table. If you're not a Southerner, give it a go anyway - I bet you'll find something in it you'll like! I'm passing it on to my husband to read next - he's Irish and yet I think he'll particularly enjoy the chapters on drinks and sports, though I suspect he'll get the most benefit from the piece about betting on a winner at the Kentucky Derby. I myself look forward to having The Southerner's Handbook around as a reference for customs, traditions, places to visit and recipes. What a gem of a book - I'm so happy to have found it!

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