Southern Women are like Teacakes

Southern Women are like Teacakes

So…my particular academic context is smack dab in the middle of the South, and if you even think about going out of town on anything but an interstate (which most people don’t), you’ll quickly see you’re in the real South, with cotton still being grown, and tobacco, and all.

But within the ivied walls and the surrounding neighborhoods, professor population is heavily weighted toward transplants from elsewhere. They think they’re in the South because it’s humid, but they don’t realize they’ve met almost no Southerners in the 20 years since they’ve had tenure here.

And in this context, at lunch at a conference the other day, one of the women at the table told us: “Southern women are like teacakes.”

I have not yet decided what this means. My first instinct was a culinary curiosity about her origins, because, really, not many people have ever tried a teacake where I come from. But it could be her familiarity with teacakes was second-hand–most of us who read have heard of teacakes, just like we’ve hard of porridge and hardtack, and we’ve heard of them enough to have vivid mental images of what they must be like.

Kind of like Southern women, in fact.

I have not yet decided if someone who doesn’t recognize a Southern woman (hello y’all!) when she’s talking to her should make these kind of pronouncements. But, of course, someones often do, so…what do YOU think it means?

Also, what kind of dessert would you like to be?

I think instead of teacake, I would like to be something that is dark chocolate, rich and smooth, with just a hint of travels in it–some unexpected spice, not too common–and, of course, an overdeveloped sense of risibility, maybe a pink Peeps bunny sitting upright in the middle of its elegance. Something like that.

Please feel free to invent this dessert for me and mail it RIGHT to my door. That would be so cool to have a dessert invented in my honor. In fact, the other day, we spotted some 24 Hours as a Millionaire/personal concierge/travel channel fantasy thing on Hawaii on T.V., and I said: “You know, what they should do, is do this in Paris. And what I would ask my personal concierge is to take me to Christian Constant and have him invent a special chocolate just for me AND WITH MY NAME ON IT SOLD IN HIS STORE.”

And SΓ©bastien said, kind of like Christopher Robin, only with that one eyebrow he can raise: “???

Which makes me suspect that if we ever catch a white fish and get three wishes to share, we will end up with a sausage stuck to our noses.

What about you? No, not the millionaire thing or the sausage/fish thing. What dessert would you be? Or are you good with teacake? Or whatever women in your region are like.

  • I would like to be something foofy with lots of chocolate and mint. I think. I may change my mind in a few minutes.

    How, exactly, are southern women like teacakes? Does she mean “flat, circular and roughly 15cm in diameter” (wikipedia)? I mean, you don’t just spit a simile out like that, you follow it up with an explanation. What is wrong with that woman?

    May 3, 2007 at 3:01 pm
  • Buttery? Crumbly? Umm…British? In which case I’m going to blame it on that whole casting a British woman to play Scarlett scandal back in the 30s. And did I PROVE I was like a teacake by not asking her what she meant? It was one of those table conversations where 3 different people always seemed to be talking to me at once, so I never got a chance. But I feel sure she would say, if she learned that a Southern woman was her auditor, “See, that’s what I mean! If she weren’t like a teacake, she would have spoken up!” And I would be left still bemused and with that over-developed sense of risibility again.

    Foofy with lots of chocolate and mint sounds GOOD. Smart choice. Maybe I will be that tomorrow.

    May 3, 2007 at 3:12 pm
  • What the hell is a teacake??? I DO NOT want to be teacake, sounds WAY too delicate. Not what I think of myself or any other Southern woman I know for that matter. I’d be dark chocolate bread pudding, with a tiny amount of dark rum sauce drizzled over top. Oh wait, that sounds too good. I’ve made white chocolate bread pudding before, but not dark chocolate . . . that sounds heavenly. I know what I’m making this weekend!

    May 3, 2007 at 3:47 pm
  • I had to wiki it, too. This is what I think–this woman has an idea of a teacake as “light and frothy and delicate” that is not at all what a REAL teacake is, in which case, she can be compared to a lump of basalt or something. But perhaps she does know what a teacake is, maybe we should give her the benefit of the doubt, and she was meaning something like “indestructible, and a pleasure to have tea with to boot.”

    If I were a dessert–well, it would have to be a complex dessert, because I’m not easily understood. Something with several steps and different flavors that combine wonderfully, but also something that either you like it or you don’t, because that’s how most people seem to be with me. Or, even better, something that you’re not sure about at first but after a while you decide yes, you do like it, it was worth the effort. Not being someone who makes complex desserts, I’m not sure what that is. It also needs to have a soft center, which is thoroughly hidden from the outside and comes as a complete surprise.

    If anyone knows what that dessert is, let me know. πŸ™‚

    May 3, 2007 at 4:40 pm
  • Sarah

    If by teacake she meant *Tunnock’s* Teacakes, why, that is not bad at all. Graham cracker-esque cookie, mound of marshmallow cream, covered in chocolate, super sweet – they’re not the most sophisticated treats on the planet, but they’re pretty darn good, in a comfort food, serious sugar fix sort of way. And they come in a cute foil wrapper. They’re kind of like puffy Moon Pies. I could see how Southern women might be compared to a Tunnock’s Teacake. It’s now how I would choose to describe us, but I wouldn’t mind the analogy. Ok, and I admit I’m grasping at straws here. She probably didn’t mean Tunnock’s Teacakes at all.

    As for my dessert identity choice, today it would have to be sticky toffee pudding. Though in most cases I would choose something chocolate, sticky toffee pudding is AMAZING. And frankly, I’d like to think that I, too, am AMAZING – that’s right, AMAZING with all caps. πŸ˜€

    Also, SO TRUE about the whole people thinking they’re in the South just because it’s humid thing. I encounter that in Atlanta constantly.

    May 3, 2007 at 8:53 pm
  • So weird. All of this talk about being Southern, and Southern women, and what it means or doesn’t mean. Teacakes, huh? I think not. That just doesn’t even sound right to me.
    My comparison of Southern women and a dessert? Something that maybe looks delicate, but isn’t flaky at all. Something that is beautiful, inside and out. Something that appears light and insubstantial, but grabs you the second it touches the tip of your tongue. Something that you might not remember ten minutes after you meet, but will crop up in your mind later that night, next week, a month after, years down the road. It will stay with you as that one perfect dessert that you had, that you will always remember, that perfect combination of taste and smell and loveliness melded together in just the right package. Does a teacake cover that? Um, I don’t think so.

    And me? well I’m peach cobbler today. Made with fresh peaches, just picked, not soft and mushy. Tangy and fragrant and juicy. Warm cobbler, right out of the oven. And lots of vanilla bean ice cream on top, melting around the edges, puddling into creamy goodness. Yep, that sounds perfect for me today. Simple, but good. Today, that’s me.

    May 3, 2007 at 9:35 pm
  • I’m not quite sure what she meant by teacake either. I think of teacakes as those very plain sweet biscuits (biscuit as in an American biscuit, not a British biscuit, which is a cookie) that are sort of like a scone but not exactly the same. But I have a suspicion that she was thinking more along the lines of a petit four or just a fancied up white cake. In any case, when I think of southern women, I certainly don’t think of fancy “teacake”, unless we’re talking a tea cake with pretty icing on the outside and a tiny gun (or something equally tough) hidden inside. I think of southern women as perhaps being more aware of “proper appearances” on the outside but being tough as nails on the inside. Of course that’s a stereotype just as much as any other definition.
    As for me – I’m not sure what dessert I’d want to be. The first thing that came to mind though, is strawberry shortcake. Made the way I make it with a whole wheat shortcake. I’m pretty much a what you see is what you get kinda person, nothing fancy, but there are different layers to me. You could serve shortcake pretty much anywhere, from a picnic in the park to a fancy restaurant. It wouldn’t be a different dessert, but it’s comfortable in both places.
    And I hope you liked the chocolate peeps I sent you. Hehe.

    May 4, 2007 at 1:25 am
  • Amy, you could be a TRUFFLE! That has a soft center and a harder outside. Although it is fairly rare to find people who don’t like it. And, you know, most people by now have a STRONG SUSPICION when they see a truffle that something soft and yummy is waiting inside. But maybe that is truer about you than you know, too. πŸ™‚

    For further context, she was saying to the woman next to me: “Oh, I knew right away you couldn’t be a Southern woman.” And the other woman, vaguely offended, “How so?” “You’re so brisk and direct. Southern women are like teacakes.”

    SO, we know this: Teacakes are not brisk and direct. I was trying to decide what would food would be brisk & direct, and I finally decided a shot of whiskey. Or moonshine.

    I like your dessert ids. πŸ™‚

    May 4, 2007 at 7:44 am
  • I think I’d be Derby Pie – sweet, gooey, and chocolate-y, but with a bite of bourbon and pretty darn nutty. πŸ™‚

    May 4, 2007 at 12:17 pm
  • I make tea cakes…simple with butter, brown sugar,flour and eggs…in little muffin tins. Dusted with powdered sugar too. Well when you first asked I thought ‘chocolate mousse’…smooth and needs to be in a cool area and is french (i’m not…but)…then I thought ‘trifle’…many layers you know and you can see them all…and a little friuty πŸ™‚

    May 4, 2007 at 3:45 pm
  • fruity

    May 4, 2007 at 3:46 pm
  • OK, I am becoming increasingly convinced that a teacake can be anything and everything and no two are alike. So. I guess that’s okay then.

    Trifle and Derby Pie sound good, too! πŸ™‚

    May 6, 2007 at 8:57 am
  • Jill

    about the desserts, a few days late, I would be pie. Apple pie, the kind with tiny bits of candied ginger in it, but other than that nothing fancy. Warm apple pie With vanilla ice cream. I don’t think I’m flaky like crust, but I do like to keep all the soft parts safely contained (I’m Amy’s sister, after all) and comfortable, reassuring and straightforward with bits of unexpected spunk (the ginger).
    I just finished Blame it on Paris and thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you for the gift of your book. In fact, it kept me up till 1:30 one morning reading, which is saying something since I have a 2 month old baby girl and SHE was SLEEPING. Not my smartest moment, but I love reading late at night. Will there be another?

    May 6, 2007 at 2:00 pm
  • Jill, I am DEEPLY flattered you should have sacrificed sleep to read Blame It on Paris with a 2-month-old. Mine’s almost a year and I believe I’ve read 5 books since she was born. And I still crave sleep. Your daughter is SO cute. I get to see the pictures of her Amy posts.

    I don’t know about another memoir. The one I am tempted to write is more serious. But I’m working on a novel in France that I hope will be a lot of fun. (I’m having fun with it! I just hope others do, too. πŸ™‚ )

    Apple pie with bits of candied ginger! Now that’s an idea I’ve never tried. I normally don’t like too much ginger in things, but…that sounds good!

    May 6, 2007 at 7:53 pm
  • Deb

    Hi all! I’m a southern lady myself. I don’t know what desert i would be……..hmmmm. But, I do know that there is a beautiful magazine in the process of ressurection…….The Victoria magazine. Are any of you ladies familiar with this title? The magazine was out several years ago but stopped publication. It is being revived by Hoffman Media and i’m hearing it will be just as glorious and beautiful as always!

    May 24, 2007 at 9:54 am

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