By Sam Burnham
I have had a bit of an internal struggle this week. I have wrestled in my mind over what topic should be tackled with this week's post.
I thought about the protest sparked by a certain mediocre and overpaid professional football player and how he claims to be trying to attract attention to an issue when he is just attracting attention to himself - attention that his career has been unable to attract for him. But I wondered why I should give him any more attention than he's already giving himself.
I thought about addressing the recent Anti-Southern actions of the NCAA in removing playoff competition from the state for the coming year. I think that might be a task better suited to the pen of a Carolinian.
But I was blessed to have a reader share an old New York Times article with me. The date of publication is February 23, 1982. It is an acknowledgement of a correspondence sent to the NYT in response to an article of February 10th of the same year. The article covered the epic filibuster held by Huey Pierce "The Kingfish" Long of Louisiana, in which he spoke on the Senate floor of the glories of Southern cooking for over 15 solid hours. One of his biggest points was on that sweet nectar that we all know as potlikker.
The poor Times writer, being a New York Yankee and therefore sentenced to a lifetime of eating bagels and cream cheese, spelled it "pot liquor" which all Southerners know to be two completely different things, both of which are frowned upon by both the Southern Baptist Convention and our grandmothers.
In February of 1982, Georgia was blessed to have in office our greatest lieutenant governor in state history. This man would go on to be the greatest governor of my lifetime thus far. After his two terms on West Paces Ferry Road, he would try to retire. But, in its only decent act as governor, an unmentionable appointed the great Georgian to the Senate where he furthered his legend as a proper heir to one of the seats once held by men like Toombs, Gordon, Brown, Colquitt, and Russell. His name was Zell Miller, known affectionately to everyone (except of course the Southern Baptist Convention and our grandmothers) as "Give 'em Hell Zell". Zell Miller is an old Marine from Young Harris, a true traditional Southern Democrat and one of his many gifts is that he knows how to talk to New York Yankees. I'll let Zell take it from here:
(The entirety of the aforementioned Times article)
In an article on Senate debates on food that ran on this page Feb. 10, mention was made of a 1935 filibuster in which Huey Long lectured his colleagues on the merits of potlikker. Due to an unfortunate consultation with a dictionary, that great Southern delicacy was referred to as ''pot liquor,'' prompting the following communication from a regional authority on the subject:
I always thought The New York Times knew everything, but obviously your editor knows as little about spelling as he or she does about Appalachian cooking and soul food.
Only a culinarily-illiterate damnyankee (one word) who can't tell the difference between beans and greens would call the liquid left in the pot after cooking greens ''pot liquor'' (two words) instead of ''potlikker'' (one word) as yours did. And don't cite Webster as a defense because he didn't know any better either.'' Sincerely, ZELL MILLER Lieutenant Governor State of Georgia
And we could never have said it better.
*Note: any references to "Zig Zag Zell" in the comments will be unceremoniously deleted with extreme prejudice.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire