A girl of the American prairie by birth, I have spent the majority of my life in the South and while the wind and wide-open landscape that defines the Dakotas remains my heart, I find myself utterly entranced by all things Southern—the people, the land and waterways, the music and culture, and, of course, the gloriously diverse food that serves as that most fundamental manifest of the South’s legendary hospitality.
The banquet that is the Southern United States is a tableau set by her lands and waterways—a sweeping and seductive backdrop of tree veiled and shadowed mountain ranges once hurled, raw stone and seared, into the cool blue bliss of sky by an ancient and angry earth; lush green, mud-bottomed marshes that twist and entwine with the crystalline sugar crunch of simmering sister beaches; her land, sea and winds locked in an eternal Flamenco between stubborn coastal lowlands refusing ransom to the insidious thieves of jealous seas and lustful winds—hell-bent in their everlasting intrigue of erosion and abduction against her shorelines; and in the depth of her summers and in her southernmost points, a heat and humidity that compels the hoards of cicada, shrouded in the sweeping stands of Loblolly pines and the ubiquitous live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, to shriek their dismay in an accompaniment to a day gone too hot and still to be tolerated silently.
A languid grace in speech and carriage belies the irrepressible and resilient grit that defines those souls that inhabit the South. A people that reflect a veritable gumbo of cultures melded by the richest of roux’s in a smoky, silky, and singular fusion of individual cultures and traditions—representing traditions, flavors and histories from virtually every corner of the globe. Southern hospitality and Southern food have no peer anywhere on this earth.
When I pause to count my life’s blessings, I find that so many of my dearest friends—family, really—are either Southern by birth or by eager disposition. One of the very best of all of them, my friend, Bev Clark, a native of Mississippi (the pageant state of all things Southern) is not only the quintessential “Steel Magnolia” but also truest of Southern belles—complete with the requisite Baptist preacher for a daddy.
Unequivocally strong in facing some of the most tremendous challenges life can throw at a human being, Bev lives her life with a big love—a BIG love. At the very heart of a life well lived is her faith, her beloved husband, Jim, her little dogs, and, of course, her adoring circle of friends and family. Like I said, the quintessential Southern belle—a woman defined by grace, embracing all that is her corner of life with love, laughter and always, always with an elegance of spirit and strength that is the hallmark of the people of the American South.
And then, of course, there’s her food…(even my ferocious love of adjectives just fails me here!)
Be it a church gatherin’, work potluck, the rollick and roll of their renowned family get-togethers or just because Jim’s hungry (again)—Bev’s groceries have simply got to be some of the best that will ever cross your palate!
And friends, the truth simply don’t get no bigger than that!
One of my (many, many) favorites is her legendary grape salad—a heavenly (and only slightly sinful) marriage of the juiced pop and tang of seedless red and green grapes swathed in a most luxurious and silken cloak of vanilla-scented and oh, so slightly sweetened cream cheese and sour cream graced with a crown of molasses-spiced brown sugar and the honey buttered crunch of pecan bits.
At once fashionably fresh (it contains “fresh” fruit, after all) and yet elegantly and indulgently old fashioned—in a Junior League picnic kind of way—you have my word that “Bev Clark’s Insanely Luxurious and Oh So Southern Grape Salad” will fluently articulate the very best of Southern fare to every table it graces!
Bev Clark’s Insanely Luxurious And Oh So Southern Grape Salad
4 cups seedless green grapes
4 cups seedless red grapes
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 ounces sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup pecans, chopped
Take grapes off stem, wash and pat dry. Set aside.
In a small bowl, beat cream cheese, sour cream and vanilla until well blended. Add white sugar and beat well.
Add this mixture to the grapes and stir well—making sure all grapes are covered.
Mix brown sugar and pecans and sprinkle on top of grapes. (Bev cautions that, for presentation purposes, the pecans tend to lose their crunch and the brown sugar melts after a bit—unless sprinkled on just before serving.)