Friday, October 12, 2012


On this October 18th, 245 years ago, surveyor Jeremiah Dixon and astronomer Charles Mason completed the plotting of the 233 mile line known to us all, naturally, as the Mason-Dixon Line. Historically speaking, it settled the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland.  During the earlier settlement of the country things got a bit messy with lands granted to various families.  Stop here: this is where it sometimes “gets to me”, that bit about “lands granted.”  Broadly speaking, the English swept up what the French and Spanish didn’t particularly claim – though they had a few wars later over it all – and just stated, more or less: “Never mind who lives here now, all this is ours to do with and give away as we like.”  Talk about divine right of kings! Talk about coming in and taking over! Whew!

But to continue: the claims of Penns of Pennsylvania and the Calverts of Maryland overlapped significantly to the point where Philadelphia was technically within the Maryland colony. So out they went with their rods and chains, letting Philadelphia sit a good fifteen miles above the new border, and marked the line for posterity.  The line now forms the boundaries of four states: Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware.  The Delaware-Pennsylvania section of the line is relatively small, and the rest of their border is a twelve mile arc. That arc in itself is an interesting topic for another essay.

A born Yankee – a New Yorker from “Nu yawk”, although I don’t really sound like that – I never ever expected to live below the line, much less have my whole family living down South. One lives in the suburbs of Houston, one the suburbs of Charleston, and now the other two are near Charlotte. Jobs are the great movers of families these days. Needless to say, I never gave the line a thought other than to know that it separated us from them, culturally speaking and gastronomically speaking. Ooh – the gastronomy down here is superb!

Why do adults tell children outlandish things? I know my Father was highly indignant later on in life when he learned that chocolate milk did not come from brown cows. His Mother was born in West “By God” Virginia. Many times when I was little she told me that the Southerners would love me because my name is Lee. Well, good grief! How long can a kid believe something like that?!  I don’t know how many Southerners like me, but I like a whole lot of Southerners that I’ve met so far. They are charming, gracious people. Sometimes, living where I do, I am mortified at what they have to put up with from pushy Northerners. It’s the same feeling I got a few times when we were traveling in Europe and “Ugly Americans” - maybe they were Northerners! – were less than polite, shall we say, to a shop clerk or the hotel staff.  Maybe I just don’t want to be tarred with the same brush.

Reverting back to gastronomic delights, and I frequently do, I leave you with this prayerful poem by the late, big and big-hearted actor, Victor Buono. 
The last lines say it all. 

A Dieter's Prayer

Lord, my soul is ripped with riot
incited by my wicked diet.

"We Are What We Eat," said a wise old man!
Lord, if that's true, I'm a garbage can.
To rise on Judgment Day, it's plain!
With my present weight, I'll need a crane.

So grant me strength, that I may not fall
into the clutches of cholesterol.
May my flesh with carrot-curls be dated,
that my soul may be poly unsaturated

And show me the light, that I may bear witness
to the President's Council on Physical Fitness.
And at oleo margarine I'll never mutter,
for the road to Hell is spread with butter.

And cream is cursed; and cake is awful;
and Satan is hiding in every waffle.
Mephistopheles lurks in provolone;
the Devil is in each slice of baloney,

Beelzebub is a chocolate drop,
and Lucifer is a lollipop.
Give me this day my daily slice
Cut it thin and toast it twice.

I beg upon my dimpled knees,
deliver me from jujube's.
And when my days of trial are done,
and my war with malted milk is won,
Let me stand with Heavenly throng,
In a shining robe -- size 30 long.
I can do it Lord, if you'll show to me,
the virtues of lettuce and celery.

Teach me the evil of mayonnaise,
And of pasta a la Milanese
and crisp-fried chicken from the South.
Lord, if you love me, shut my mouth.


Oh yes!  Amen to that!




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