There are certain rules that must be observed if you are a proper Southern woman. I have many of them. But for Mother’s Day, I will offer the top ten rules that must never be violated. Some of them involve food and some of them just involve common sense, which many people seem to have forgotten about these days. Here we go.

1. It doesn’t cost a nickel to be nice. This is from my own mother, who told me this many times and she was absolutely right. That doesn’t mean you don’t have the courage of your convictions. It just means that you don’t have to act like a complete pill about it.

2. Never serve barbecue or fried chicken at a funeral reception.  You always want to send the dear departed off in a proper manner and that involves silver, real glassware (no plastic cups – ever) and restrained food such as finger sandwiches and dainty sweets. However, if someone has not gotten the memo on this and brings a bucket of Kentucky Fried, you must refer to Rule 1. You thank them profusely, place the bucket in the middle of the reception food table and then just shut up about it.

3. Every Southern woman must have a deviled egg plate, even if you don’t like deviled eggs. There is no sadder sight at a luncheon, than deviled eggs wobbling around on a regular plate. We have a bazaar at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church every Labor Day weekend and my deviled egg plated somehow found its way into the offerings I was giving to the bazaar. It got all the way into the social hall before I realized it. I almost had a heart attack.

4. Always say thank you. This small bit of civility seems lost on some people today. You buy a Diet Coke at a convenience store. The clerk hands you change. Say thank you. And definitely stop talking on your cell phone long enough to look the clerk in the eye to say thank you. It’s just common courtesy. If you don’t, then you risk being just common and there’s nothing worse in the South. My mother would sometimes refer to someone as being “common as kraut.” You might as well call someone a devil worshiper. If you’re tempted to do that, please refer to Rule 1.

5. Never eat fried chicken with a knife and fork. You just look silly.

6. Never discuss money, politics or religion with anyone other than your family. It will just get you into trouble and will be socially awkward. Acceptable topics in social situations are the weather, your children, everyone else’s children and football.

7. Always share a recipe. It’s a way of connecting like no other kindness. If the recipe includes three ingredients or less, even better. That’s the Southern way. Just consider sausage balls and artichoke dip, two of the South’s favorite foods. Three ingredients each. You will score extra points if one of the ingredients is cream of mushroom soup.

8. Always use Duke’s Mayonnaise. There really is no substitute. But if you find yourself in a social situation where Kraft Mayonnaise is discussed, please refer to Rule 1. And definitely no Miracle Whip.

9. Never eat watermelon before July 4. It’s just bad luck. This is from my sainted late father-in-law, Paul. He also had a rule that you never put photos of living relatives on the wall. It was just sure to kill them off. Poor Bunny had to buy extra tables to hold all her photos.

10. Never, ever let any occasion pass you by without offering food. In the South, it is the ultimate way of showing respect, love and kindness. From the cradle to the grave – whatever the occasion is – if you do not show up at someone’s door with a casserole you are just not operating with a complete set of brain cells. And always offer your best stuff. A bucket of chicken and a bag of chips are not acceptable. But if you should find yourself opening the front door after the birth of your third child to find someone cheerfully handing over a bucket from the Colonel and a bag from Golden Flake – always, always, refer to Rule 1.


  1. Fran Osteen
    Fran OsteenReply
    May 14, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    Catherine- just wanted to tell you again how much I enjoy your blog. Keep them coming!

  2. Sarah
    May 16, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    loved your blogged – pinging you

  3. Elva Thompson
    Elva ThompsonReply
    May 23, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    This is great. I could add a few but you did a super job.When I was young, an aunt always ,on hearing of a death, immediately carried a case of cokes and a bag of ice in a cooler to the home.Extra ice is always welcome in the south. Later, she would cook and carry food. Pound cake was the first thing my mother made and carried.

    • Catherine Mayhew
      Catherine MayhewReply
      May 23, 2012 at 5:23 pm

      I love those old traditions. Nobody does funerals the way Southerners do.

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