Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South

By Grady McWhiney | Go to book overview

IV
Hospitality

SOME years ago a professor at a northern university claimed that the experiences of certain travelers "do not support all that has been asserted about southern hospitality." He argued that often visitors had to pay for what hospitality they received in the Old South; "that it was not always extended in good grace and sometimes was with- held altogether."1

Certain Southerners doubtless were more hospitable than others, just as some people were more likely to be hospitable at certain times and under certain circumstances--when, for example, they had extra food, or beds, or a desire for company and news. One writer asserted that the southern plain folk "are hospitable to strangers, because they are seldom troubled with them, and because they have plenty of maize and smoked ham."2

More often than not it was the kind of food and how it was cooked and served that caused visitors to question the hospitality of antebellum Southerners and premodern Celts. Theirs was not the fare to which most outsiders, especially Northerners and Englishmen, were accustomed, and few travelers were as tolerant as the man who wrote: "we were happy at discovering a house, at which we were hospitably received by an old woman, who had little but the barest necessities to offer us. She soon set before us a meal . . . which . . . consisted only of pork fried with onions, tops and all. Her simple house and table furniture were worse for wear, and one of our forks had but one prong."3

Most antebellum southern meals, as a traveler noted, were "designed for tough backwoods stomachs"; typically, Southerners "ate

____________________
1
Paton Yoder, "Private Hospitality in the South, 1775-1850," Mississippi Valley Historical Review 47 ( 1960), 432.
2
Frederick Hall, Letters from the East and from the West ( Washington, D.C., 1840), 118.
3
Anon., A Visit to Texas: Being the Journal of a Traveller . . . ( New York, 1834), 247.

-80-

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Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Prologue xxi
  • I - Settlement 1
  • II - Heritage 23
  • III - Herding 51
  • IV - Hospitality 80
  • V - Pleasures 105
  • VI - Violence 146
  • VII - Moral 171
  • VIII - Education 193
  • IX - Progress 218
  • X - Worth 245
  • XI - Collision 268
  • Appendix - Sources on the Origins of Surnames 273
  • Index 278
  • About the Author 291
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