Southern Fruit Salad

recipeI once heard a journalist ask a man who had lived in the South for only a year, why he moved back west.  The man replied, “Because I got tired of seeing human suffering on a

daily basis.”

That man’s quote has resonated with me for years, and I have grappled with his sweeping generalization that the south is an insufferable place to spend one’s life.  Indeed, there are other beautiful places to live, and like most, I have wondered what it would be like to live on the west coast or in the Rockies or some tiny, coastal village in New England, but at the end of the day, my roots run too deep to ever stray far from home.

The truth is, I love my South and all the things it means to me.  Many folks don’t realize the South’s cultural contributions to this country, or why traditions mean so much to us.

Where else in the United States can you travel to the birth of jazz, gospel, country, rhythm and blues and rock-n-roll music?  What other region has produced the likes of so many famous Americans, both at home, and abroad:  Martin Luther King, Margaret Mitchell, James Brown, Faulkner and Tennessee Williams, Billy Graham, Andy Griffith, Elvis, Michael Jordan, Sam Walton, Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton, the Wright Brothers and Oprah Winfrey.

We have deep agrarian traditions in the south and a distinct dialect that always leaves visitors asking, “Will you say that again?”  Southerners are good-natured folks, so we usually oblige.

Have you ever considered our culinary contributions to the world?  Fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, cornbread, sweet tea, hushpuppies, pecan pie, okra and sweet potatoes, gravy and sorghum molasses, barbecue, catfish, bread pudding, cobblers, chow-chow relish and fried green tomatoes, pinto beans and butter beans, muscadine jelly, and bacon… in every dish that hits the table.  Praise the Lord and Amen, because we always say three things in the south: we say grace, sir, and ma’am.

Some days, I encounter folks that remind me of life in the South when I was growing up in a much simpler time.  Last week, my friend and I had lunch with Mrs. Jana Grimes.  It was a lovely afternoon, having lunch on Mrs. Jana’s side porch filled with vintage wicker furniture, a swing, and surrounded by a yard full of hydrangeas, irises, and hostas.  These are the flowers of a southern woman’s yard, and as children, we knew not to mess with the flowers.

Mrs. Jana embodies the essence of southern hospitality and charm.  She’s always gracious; the kind of lady that makes you better  just by knowing her.  She’s a fine cook, too.  My friend and I cleaned our plates!

The recipe this week is so simple.  I won’t insult you with its ease of preparation or it’s simple ingredients; anyone can make this dish.  But like Mrs. Jana and her beautiful flowers, this recipe is a southern staple.  Every family makes it differently and calls it different things, but if you walk into a southern lady’s house and a bowl of this fruit salad is on the table, it might just take you back to your childhood, too.  Enjoy!

Southern Fruit Salad (Mrs. Jana’s rendition)

6 oz box strawberry jello

2 cups Marshmallows, stirred into warm, prepared jello liquid until dissolved

Once cooled, add:

12 oz cottage cheese

16 oz cool whip

Once stirred, add to taste:

Pineapple

Maraschino cherries

Grapes

Bananas

Pecans

mandarin oranges

coconut flakes

***Mrs. Jana says this recipe, “Makes a whole lot!”

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