Any child who grows up in the Deep South can pretty much be guaranteed two things: that you’ll learn and use “sir” and “ma’am” and that your mom will subscribe to Southern Living magazine.
For as long as I can remember, my mom has had a subscription to the ubiquitous Southern culture magazine. There was always a stack of back issues on our living room coffee table, in a basket beside my mom’s side of the bed or stuck between the cookbooks in a cabinet above the oven.
My parents are computer savvy now, so I don’t think my mom saves as many issues anymore since she can easily look up a favorite recipe or idea online. But stuffed in the drawers of the bedside table in the guest room, I bet you could easily find an issue from the ’80s.
It’d be hard to guess how many Southern Living-inspired meals I was served during my childhood. I grew up before anyone worried about low-fat and low-carb, and my mom used generous amounts of butter in a normal Tuesday night dinner.
We feasted on the magazine’s holiday-themed desserts and summer-inspired salads. In fact, Southern Living recipes are so much a part of my family’s culture that I recently confused one for my grandmother’s original recipe. I was searching for a particular potato casserole recipe—one that had a cornflake topping (Gourmet? No. Delicious? Yes).
“Do you have Nanny’s recipe for potato casserole?” I asked my mom. She couldn’t remember one my grandmother had made, and after a few more details from me, said, “Oh, that’s not Nanny’s. That’s a recipe I found in Southern Living years ago.”
As a teenager, I remember occasionally flipping through the magazine during moments of extreme boredom and swearing that I’d never be interested in what variety of daffodil bulbs to plant in my front yard bed. But then, as it’s bound to happen, I slowly started becoming more like my mother.
I remember the first time I cooked a real dinner for four girls when we were all single. And the time I planted petunias in the tiny plat of dirt right outside my first condo. Suddenly I could see how it’d be useful to know a little more about cooking, gardening and interesting towns just a few hours’ drive away from me.
My style today is a bit more modern than my parents’, and bulgar is a staple in my pantry. Because of that, Southern Living isn’t the homemaker’s handbook to me that it was to women of my mother’s generation. But even though I love Dwell and Eating Well, I will always identify with Southern Living.
When I lived in the Northeast for a few years, I always picked up a copy when I saw it in a bookstore. It was like running into someone in New York City who used the word “y’all.” It felt familiar.
And last spring when it was time to plant the pots on my front porch, I turned to the magazine that I knew could tell me just what to do. And then I called my mom to see if she’d read it, too.
For a limited time, subscribe to Southern Living magazine and get 13 issues for just $10.