Kentucky Seven (My Southern Heritage)

Memphis, TN. 1998. Mom and I have just come back from a trip to Costco and are unloading the back of her fire engine red Suburban or, as my daddy calls it, the tank. Arms full of paper towels and blueberries, she asks me to grab some forgotten item. Laundry detergent, I think. I’m already halfway up the steps, so I turn and holler, “I’m fixin’ to get it as soon as I put this stuff down.” My mother’s eyebrows shoot up to meet her graying hairline. “What did you just say?” “I said I’m fixin’ to get it in just a second,” I reply, rolling my eyes in impatience. With a deep inhale, she intones disapprovingly, “Jennifer, in this family, we speak proper English. ‘Fixin’ to’ is not in the dictionary.”

The International Dialects of English Archive has a label for the way people talk back home: Kentucky Seven. Twangier than Tennessee, faster than Georgia, and with a hint of the Midwest sneaking across the Indiana border, it’s a hybrid dialect. Louisville sits smack on the Mason-Dixon line, bridging the gap between North and South, between y’all and you guys (ever the geographical middle child, we settle for the compromise “you all”). Linguists say the city lies on the isogloss between the Southern and Midland dialects. All I can tell you is that we yes-ma’am and no-sir with ease, but we wouldn’t be caught dead near an ain’t or a fixin’-to. When asked if we’re a Southern or Midwestern city, the jury is hung. And we don’t pronounce it Looeey-ville, or Lewis-ville. It’s Loo-uh-vul. Swung down South, with a Kentucky twang, and a heavy dose of pride in our quirky hometown: the city with an identity crisis.

louisville, kentucky, flag, zelda-and-scout, jennifer-harlan, jen-harlan

Providence, RI. 2011. It’s the beginning of my senior year at Brown, and I’ve signed up to be a peer adviser to a gaggle of eager freshmen, something my school calls a Meiklejohn. A French professor and I have been paired up and assigned a trio of advisees: a varsity lacrosse recruit from Florida with the easy swagger of a high school star athlete and a secret passion for architecture; an econ and applied math double major from Westchester who, with her pearls and “Elect McCain” bumper sticker and investment banking dreams, is not exactly a typical student at my very liberal school; and a sweet, nervous, international relations major whose father’s suicide made her a multi-millionaire at the age of 8 and who spends several sunny afternoons talking to me about how her uber-ritzy Swiss boarding school didn’t prepare her for the vigorous class participation expected at an elite American university. On this particular afternoon, I’m meeting with advisee number two, who has questions about math requirements and business grants that I feel completely unqualified to answer. She arrives with her boyfriend in tow (fellow Westchester kid, fellow undergrad — they met at a bar mitzvah at age 13 and are on track for a Hamptons wedding by age 23). His Meiklejohn is a flake, unresponsive and unhelpful, so she’s wondering if I will take him in as my foster advisee, adding him to the tiny flock in my care. The early September sun sinks behind the brick buildings on the green as we spend a half hour discussing activities fairs, roommate issues, and where to find the best burritos on College Hill. Suddenly, she turns to her boyfriend and bursts into giggles. “You’re just so Southern,” she informs me. “It’s great.” I’m confused: Between my lack of accent, my liberal sensibilities, and my matriculation at this particular New England university, “so Southern” is not a descriptor I’m used to. I ask her what prompted this conclusion. “You’re just so nice,” she explains. “You’re, like, happy. Optimistic.” “So people in the Northeast are all depressed pessimists?” I laugh. She and the boyfriend exchange a wry look. “Yes,” they both reply.

I did not come into my Southernness easily. I think I inherited the denial from my parents: ask them where they’re from and the South is usually not the first thing that comes to mind. This despite the fact that my mom was born in Virginia and spent several formative years in Houston, while my dad spent every summer in Lafayette, LA making jambalaya with his Cajun aunts and father. From the moment we were born, my sister and I were told emphatically that we were Californians. One uncle referred to us fondly as “California chicks,” a reference I found particularly confusing as a toddler whose realm of knowledge included ample barnyard animals but not much slang. My brother is a proud Jayhawk, having spent the crucial first year of his life in Kansas. It wasn’t until I was sitting on a plane flying home for Thanksgiving my junior year of college that I realized I have lived in the South for over two-thirds of my life. Seventeen years to be exact. One quarter of my blood is Louisiana Cajun, well-seasoned and spicy like Tabasco-laced gumbo. Another quarter is Georgian, sweet as the iced tea my grandma drank riding around Atlanta in the back of her father’s lending library. Now a good chunk of me is Yankee, Boston-bred since the days of the Mayflower—we’re talking DAR material here, Harvard professors and Vassar debutantes. The final quarter is made up of D.C. doctors and New York singers, owners of candy stores and nurses at mental hospitals. So I must admit that the math doesn’t lie: Factor in 50% blood, 70% lifetime, and 2% drawl, and you’ve got a bred in the blood, not born but raised, cornbread-loving, bluegrass-living Southern girl.

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Paris, France. 2011. My roommate Hayley and I are sprawled across the sofa bed of our hotel room. It’s our first week in the new city and we’ve spent the evening sucking down cheap wine and chocolate pudding cups. The ethernet cord is stretched taut from the table across the room to Hayley’s computer, which she’s using to Skype with her mom back in Yosemite. She introduces me and, after effusive greetings and a “thanks for being Hayley’s friend,” her mom asks where I’m from. I reply confidently, “Louisville, Kentucky.” She stares at me blankly. Thinking there’s a connection problem, or maybe she just didn’t understood my lazy Loo-uh-vul vowels (I’m used to being met with bewilderment when I pronounce my city’s name correctly — one friend dubbed it “the land of the univowel.”), I repeat, enunciating, “Loo-ee-ville, Kentucky.” She lets out a big whoosh of a sigh. “Louisville, Kentucky. Well, that is…” Completely stymied, she searches for the words. “That is, uh, somewhere else,” she finally stammers. This woman spends her summers in Thailand, took each of her children to a Third World Country when they were ten so that they could see how different people live and what other cultures feel like. And yet it’s my corner of America that’s got her at a loss for words.

There’s a range of reactions I’ve come to expect when I tell people I’m from the South: why don’t you have an accent, you must love fried chicken, do you ride horses, where is that again? As humans, we like to put people in boxes, neatly sorted, labelled, and filed away. If you were to believe convention, Southern is a synonym for backwards, conservative, Walmart-shoppin’, consonant-droppin’, and morbidly obese. By the same convention, New Yorker equals rude, loud, self-centered, close-minded, promiscuous, materialistic, and obscenely wealthy. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all the “Loo-ah-vuhl what now?”’s, it’s that nobody, and no place, fits the rule. We are all of us weird and complicated, squirming out of one box and into another, straddling two or three or five dozen at once. Here at Zelda & Scout, we’ve decided to throw them all out the window. Boxes are overrated.

Bless your heart, New York. You tried to make a mint julep.

This post is the first in an ongoing series titled “Bless Your Heart, New York,” in which we ever so sweetly remind the Big Apple of the things they are doing oh so wrong. Bless their hearts.

Dear New York,

I have a bone to pick with you. Lately I’ve noticed a trend in what one might term “nightlife locales.” More and more often, I’ve come across cocktail menus with artisan offerings featuring my favorite Kentucky spirit, that delicious elixir known as bourbon. Now I’m all for experimentation, and my homesickness is soothed by the familiar notes of homespun liquor in a cosmopolitan drink (not a Cosmopolitan drink — that would be gross). And in my travels, I have on occasion even come across a familiar old friend, one with whom I’ve spent many a May afternoon: my dear mint julep. I’m always thrilled to see good ole minty on a menu, like catching sight of an old friend across a crowded room full of anonymous hipsters. And so, brimming with enthusiasm, I order up an ice cold julep. I eagerly await my cocktail, dreaming of humid summer nights at the track and bright sunshiney barbecues. It’s been too long. I can’t wait to be reunited!

And then my drink arrives.

There are many things New York does well: bagels, pizza, incredibly cheap Chinese food. But by and large, this city’s attempts at the mint julep, a gold standard among cocktails, are, well, pathetic. Bless your heart, New York, but you just are not getting this right. Here are some signs that you may be woefully off track.

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Juleps done right, at my Brooklyn Derby party this year

  1. If your julep contains no ice.

Early Times, the official julep sponsor of the Kentucky Derby, calls for a julep to start with a heaping cup of crushed ice, which is then rapidly stirred until the glass is frosted. Like the touch of a Disney princess, the creation of a mint julep should cloak the vessel in the sheen of a winter wonderland, with baby icebergs floating amid the leaves of mint. Lukewarm is an adjective that should never be applied to this drink.

  1. If your julep contains lime.

I want to tell you a story. Her first Derby in New York, Scout was feeling homesick and set off in search of some appropriate festivities. Her roommate worked at a bar that was hosting a Derby Party, so Scout decided to join her. On approaching the bar, she saw two large vats of pre-mixed drinks: one labeled Mint Juleps and the other Mojitos. She chose the julep. At first sip, she could tell that something was amiss. She looked down and discovered a green slice of lime floating in her purported julep. Shocked, confused, and mildly outraged, she concluded that the bartender must have misheard her or mixed up the drinks, so she asked for a sip of her friend’s cocktail to verify the mistake. Turns out, she had the same thing. The vats, despite their signs, were identical.

A mint julep is not a mojito. Lime, lemon, or fruit of any kind has no place in your glass. If you want fruit with your bourbon, order a Manhattan. Otherwise, unless it’s green and leafy, it stays in the fridge. You have been warned.

  1. If your julep contains any alcohol other than straight Kentucky bourbon.

There are some who claim that bourbon manufactured in the state of New York is legitimate bourbon. I am not one of those people. And woe be the mixologist who tries to spice things up with a little rye or, god forbid, some non-brown liquor (again, people, this is not a mojito!). The mint julep is a classic, a king among cocktails, a true American beverage. Take your experimentation elsewhere.

Love,

Zelda

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A Mable’s Smokehouse feast

Now there are a few spots in New York that have managed to get the julep right. My personal favorite is Mable’s in Williamsburg (to be fair, one of the owners is a Louisvillian, which gives them a slight advantage). Their juleps are ice cold, with a well-tuned balance of bourbon and simple syrup, and a fresh mint garnish adding a splash of color. They pair fantastically with the pulled pork and the macaroni and cheese, both equally delicious.

If, however, you’re more the do-it-yourself type, here is my favorite, foolproof julep recipe. A guaranteed hit at Derby parties, happy hours, or Saturday evenings in general. This is a serious beverage, and as such requires some overnight prep, but the actual assembly process could not be easier and will get you a delicious, crowd-pleasing libation every time.

The night (or at least several hours) before you plan on serving your juleps, make your simple syrup. Boil one part water/one part sugar together for five minutes. (I usually start with two cups of each, and then go from there.) If you can, I recommend using cane sugar, like Trader Joe’s sells. It gives the julep an extra kick of brown sugar flavor, with notes of pecan pie. But plain old white sugar will do the trick as well.

Set the mixture aside to cool. Once it’s no longer hot to the touch, pour it into an easily refrigeratable (and preferably pour-friendly) container along with 8-12 sprigs of fresh mint. Let sit overnight, or for at least 8 hours.

When you’re ready to make your juleps, remove the mint from the syrup. Fill your glasses with crushed ice, and pour in the syrup and bourbon until full. I usually go for a three-fourths bourbon/one-fourth syrup ratio, but you can adjust to taste. Stir to blend (and to get that glass nice and frosty). Garnish with a sprig of mint and enjoy!

[A note on bourbon: As I said before, unless it hails from the Bluegrass State, I don’t consider it bourbon. My personal julep favorites are Eagle Rare and Bulleit, both very drinkable and relatively affordable.]

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Derby Party, Paris style, 2013

Got a bone to pick with dear New York? Something got you face-palming and wringing your hands? Shoot us an email at zeldaandscout@gmail.com and let us know about your greatest bless-your-heart moments.

Just Folks: Kelsey Goldman


Mondays on Zelda & Scout are all about you! In a series we call “Just Folks,” we talk to Southerners who have found their way to New York about where they’re from, where they are now, and what home means to them.

This week, we’ve got the other half of the dynamic duo behind this here blog, Scout (aka Kelsey Goldman)!

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Name:

Kelsey Goldman

Hometown:

Louisville, KY

Age:

24

Current City:

Brooklyn, NY

Who are you and what do you do?

Attempting to make it the non-profit art world. Museum worker by day, slinging burgers and craft beer at a bar in Tribeca by night. Self-identified nerd. Lover of British comedy, Harry Potter, Kentucky basketball, international sports competitions, kitchen sock-sliding, and cake.

Time North of the Mason-Dixon line so far?

Two years in New York, four in Baltimore (though I’m not sure that counts)

What brought you to New York?

I moved to New York for grad school, and for the opportunity to pursue a career in the art world. Also so I could tell myself I attempted to live in this crazy city at one point in my life.

What’s the most common reaction when people learn where you’re from? What’s something about life in the South that you have to explain to non-Southerners?

The reaction varies — anywhere from “Why don’t you have an accent?” to “Really? You don’t seem like you’re from Kentucky.”

My tip for non-Southerners: When you say you’re having a barbecue, you actually mean a cook-out. Barbecue means there’s going to be barbecue, i.e. slow-smoked meat with spice rub or sauce, not burgers on the grill.

Describe life in NYC as people at home picture it. Describe life in NYC as it actually is.

Before you move here, you imagine a sort of aesthetically pleasing amount of struggle, broken up by beautiful autumn days that look like something out of a Nora Ephron movie and summer evenings in Central Park, watching free Shakespeare plays. Those days do exist, but they’re often overshadowed by walking out of the subway into the pouring rain without an umbrella, just missing the train and watching in despair as it pulls away from the platform, twelve dollar gin and tonics at Midtown bars you never should have been at in the first place, or the fact that in order to watch free Shakespeare you have to wake up at the crack of dawn and commute for an hour, then wait in line for three in order to get tickets. There are good days and there are bad days. When the good days are happening, you can forget about the bad, but when the bad days come it’s hard to remember the good ones.

Where do you consider home? Why?

Louisville, no doubt. It’s where I was born, where I grew up, and I got to watch it evolve and become this incredible place that I miss everyday. But I adopt places. I have a soft spot for Baltimore, Prague, and Maynardville, Tenn.

Do you miss where you’re from? Do you see yourself going back?

Well, I helped start a blog about it so…yes, eventually. I think I may want to live somewhere after New York, back in the South, maybe Atlanta, but eventually head back to Louisville.

Do you consider yourself a Southerner? Do you consider yourself a New Yorker? Why or why not?

It took me a while, but I do (consider myself a Southerner). I know that I am because the things I miss about home are so similar to the things people I’ve met miss about other Southern places. I think there is something, I’m not sure what, about Southern places and people, and I miss that thing…and I don’t think I will ever consider myself a New Yorker.

Which food/drink/song/book/movie/artwork/quotation/gif/etc. defines New York for you? (choose as many or as few as you’d like)

Food – Maple Bacon cookies from Schmackary’s

Drink – Lunch IPA from Maine Beer CO, which I didn’t try until I moved here, or Mud iced coffee

Song – “Strong as an Oak,” Watsky; “Famous Flower of Manhattan,” The Avett Brothers

Which food/drink/song/book/movie/artwork/quotation/gif/etc. defines where you’re from? (choose as many or as few as you’d like)

Food – Everything Muffins, or Brie Bernadette

Drink – Pappy Van Winkle or pretty much any brew by Country Boy

Song – “Hey Rose,” Houndmouth, and any song by Ben Sollee.

What is the best cure for homesickness?

Sometimes I go to Central Park and pretend that it’s Cherokee Park, just to get that Frederick Law Olmsted landscape fix. Mabel’s Smokehouse in Williamsburg is the best barbecue fix. Also showing up at any sports bar during basketball season and finding some other Kentucky fans to commiserate or celebrate with, depending on the day.

The Real McCoy (My Southern Heritage)

In my family, I’m the city girl, the one who grew up surrounded by concrete and art and good shopping malls (You’d be surprised how much the caliber of your shopping malls increases when you move to the state’s metropolises, and how much this matters as an adolescent girl). I had cousins in small towns in Eastern Kentucky and suburban Oklahoma. To them, I was different. I didn’t talk like them, I didn’t dress like them, I didn’t go to church like them. But my Southern story is part of theirs, and theirs is part of mine, and they all start over a century and a half ago in the deep dark hills of eastern Kentucky. The history of my family is the copper still in which my own Southern identity was brewed. So, a little history lesson.

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The flood wall welcoming me to my mom’s hometown of Pineville

My mother’s family are McCoys, as in those McCoys, of the Hatfields and McCoys…and recently Kevin Costner. Back in the day, the McCoys lived mostly on the Kentucky side of the Big Sandy river, while the Hatfields lived mostly on the West Virginia side (The perfect set-up for a bitter rivalry, water dividing them and all — a terrestrial dividing line is never a good way to put a kibosh on tension).

The History Channel series is actually a fairly accurate retelling of the feud, though if you ask my family it’s slightly skewed towards the Hatfields, but I suppose we’re biased. The feud has all the makings of the greatest of tragedies — murder, star-crossed lovers, local government corruption, swine ownership disputes (ok, maybe that last one’s a little out there) — but it ends up reading a bit like a Post-Bellum Appalachian Soap Opera.

It begins with a murder. In 1863, Asa Harmon McCoy was discharged from the Union Army due to a broken leg. Many of his neighbors, and some of his own family, saw Asa’s military service as treason. His detractors included one Jim Vance, the uncle of the Hatfield Patriarch: William Anderson ‘Devil Anse’ Hatfield. On January 7, 1865, Asa was murdered by a group called the Logan County Wildcats, believed to include both Vance and Devil Anse Hatfield. In historical hindsight, this event is actually seen as separate from the feud itself, but still, it’s important in setting up the dramatic tensions between the two families.

Chapter Two: Dispute over the Ownership of a Hog. Things really kicked off in 1878 when Randolph McCoy claimed that a pig in the possession of Floyd Hatfield was rightfully his. The dispute was taken to the Justice of the Peace (a Hatfield) who ruled in favor of his kinsmen. Two McCoys retaliated by murdering the main witness (a relative of both families—every family has a black sheep, but sometime they have to share). The murderers were later acquitted on the grounds of self-defense.

Next, we come to the star-crossed lovers. Roseanna McCoy entered into a courtship with Johnse Hatfield, leaving her family and running away with him to West Virginia. She eventually returned (they were on a break), but when the couple tried to rekindle their relationship, the McCoys had Johnse arrested for outstanding bootlegging warrants. Overhearing her family’s plot, Roseanna rode through the night, Paul Revere style, to warn the Hatfields of her lover’s impending doom. Johnse’s family rescued him before he could be charged, and he repaid Roseanna for her troubles by abandoning her, pregnant, to marry her cousin Nancy in 1881 (told you it was a soap opera).

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The story gets convoluted from here, with the two families going back and forth for another decade of beatings, firing squads, pawpaw trees, arson, betrayal, and revenge. A dozen people were killed and several injured. Eventually, the violence grew extreme, and the McCoys fled to Pikeville to escape the Hatfield raids that were terrorizing men, women, and children alike. The law intervened, several Hatfields were hung, and the two clans ultimately decided to call it a draw and moved on with their lives. The last official trial was held in 1901, but a formal truce wasn’t declared until 2003, signed by the governors of Kentucky and West Virginia and officially putting the bloody episode to rest.

So why is this important? I think we cling to history for two reasons: to remember the things we did wrong, the things that shouldn’t happen again, and to remind us that we come from somewhere, from something larger than our own individual experiences.

I didn’t grow up in the same small towns as the rest of my family. I had posh boutiques and hip restaurants and 600,000 neighbors instead of 1,600. But the roots of our stories are the same. There’s beauty in being from something, in being one tiny speck in a larger constellation of historical events and cultural touchstones. And to me, that’s what this blog is about: We’re all Southern, even if we all got there differently. My Southernness is different from my mother’s, or my grandmother’s, or my cousins’, but that doesn’t make any of them any less valid or valuable. An identity isn’t just one specific thing: whether it’s a person or a region or a family story, everything has multiple sides. The McCoy part of me is just one ingredient in the cocktail of my identity. When I was younger, it was the bit that was hard to swallow, but as I age, it goes down smooth.

August Playlist: Highway Cruisin’

Every month we hope to bring you about an hour’s worth of songs that are helping us get through our big city lives. This month we’re picturing a southbound road trip: you can ride with us on Spotify or Youtube

As vehicularly challenged Brooklynites, we often find ourselves missing the open road. So for this month we’ve crafted our perfect soundtrack for driving south on I-65: windows down, sunroof open, wind in our hair, destination unknown. In assembling this playlist, we might have felt a little homesick for Forecastle, our hometown music festival, and thus many of the artists on this list represent a certain brand of southern rock, bluegrass, folk and country that reminds us of home. Whether you’re out on the road or underground on the subway, this playlist should help you roll on through the last dog days of summer. Pairs well with a tall glass of ice-cold sweet tea and a hand on the steering wheel.

Hold On: Alabama Shakes (Athens, Ala.) –  Start the car, roll the windows down, and ease on out of the driveway and onto the open road. This whole song feels like you’re pulling away from the sedentary life and starting on an epic journey into the unknown. Plus if Brittany Howard’s vocals don’t give you the strength to power through your quarterlife crisis-induced ennui, then we don’t know what will.

When My Time Comes: Dawes (Los Angeles, Calif.) – Ok, so maybe the lyrics to this song aren’t exactly uplifting, but there’s something about them that feels like a sense of purpose emerging. This song has a sense of possibility; maybe right now the world sucks or you’re just not getting what you want out of life, but there’s something better around the corner. It’s pulling onto the highway with the midsummer sun in your eyes. You can’t see the road ahead, but you know that just beyond the horizon there may be something greater than right now. Plus, we’re suckers for an a capella harmony closing out a song.

Lover of the Light: Mumford & Sons (London, U.K.) – It wasn’t so much a question of whether or not to include Mumford on this playlist as which Mumford & Sons song to include. We both have a bit of a thing for good-looking banjo players (especially Scout — cough Winston Marshall cough). With its escalating beat and roiling guitars, Lover of the Light is perfect for the open road; plus, if nothing else, the music video is an excuse to look at Idris Elba for four plus minutes (as if you needed an excuse).

Hey Rose: Houndmouth (New Albany, Ind.) – This is not the last you will hear about Houndmouth on Zelda & Scout. We love them. Together we’ve seen them a combined 15 times. They’re pretty much our favorite band of ever. Hailing from New Albany, Ind., across the Ohio River from the Z&S homestead, Houndmouth mixes a hard rocking sound with a Southern twang. This particular song is a favorite of ours, highlighting the mellow vocals of bassist Zak Appleby, with a bouncy beat that’s bound to get your toes tappin’.

Sleep When I’m Dead: Wheeler Brothers (Austin, Texas) – We discovered this group when they opened for the aforementioned Houndmouth two summers ago. From the first twangs of the ukulele, filling the Belle of Louisville on a steamy post-Forecastle July night, we were hooked. This quintet out of Austin is made up of real-life bros Nolan, Patrick, and Tyler Wheeler, as well as their brothahs-from-anothah-mothah AJ Molyneaux and Nathan Rigney. In our metaphorical road trip, this is when we start to hit the open highway, with nothing but asphalt and rolling hills for miles. There’s no stopping us now.

Jebidiah Moonshine’s Friday Night Shack Party: Audra Mae & The Almighty Sound (Oklahoma City, Okla.) – If you haven’t heard of Audra Mae and The Almighty Sound, you are seriously missing out on some amazing, Southern-infused rock. This wild romp of a song will have you out of your seat as soon as it hits the chorus: It is pure windows down, chanting the words, hands clapping, good ole fashioned hoedown throwdown music. Basically, this is the song that goes on all of Scout’s party playlists…if only she could convince her guests that a song with the name Jebidiah in the title is “really fun I swear.” Also fun fact: Audra’s great-great aunt is none other than Judy Garland. So there’s that.

Cocaine Habit: Old Crow Medicine Show (Harrisonburg, Va. / Boone, N.C. / Nashville, Tenn.) – These guys are another Forecastle favorite (we told you we were nostalgic). You’d be hard-pressed to find another group that has done as much to bring bluegrass-folk to the masses as this septet. With infectious energy and tight harmonies, they always sound like they’re having a fantastic time, jamming on a back porch somewhere and riffing on classic Americana. This playful, lesser known track keeps us rolling right along into Harlan County.

Hot Summer Night: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (Waitsfield, Vt.) – So you’ve made it to Jebidiah Moonshine’s, and you’ve been there a while. The booze is flowing, the fireflies are blinking, and things are getting a little steamy. Grace Potter’s voice just oozes good times. Sure this song may technically be about winter, but it’s sultry and sweaty and sexy. You can feel the breeze in your hair and the sticky summer air hitting your skin as you dance on the roof of Mr. Moonshine’s shack, basking in the light of a harvest moon.

Bull Rider: Norah Jones & Sasha Dobson (Brooklyn, N.Y. / Grapevine, Texas & Santa Cruz, Calif.) – You’ve had a rough night. Moonshine, dancing, people called Jebidiah and the like. The AC is fighting a losing battle to keep up with the mercury, and you’re in desperate need of a cool down. Norah Jones and Sasha Dobson are your soundtrack into the sunrise. There’s something really comforting about hearing their mellow voices serenade you with the mantra, “Live Fast, Die Young.” Let the sinking moon light your way through the rolling hills as you creep further into Appalachia.

Truth No. 2: Dixie Chicks (Dallas, Texas) – Talk about formative, the Dixie Chicks’ brand of bluegrass/country girl power is what we grew up on. This is the soundtrack to the car rides of our childhoods, driving out to the lake or slurping down popsicles on the way home from summer camp. It’s abandoning the highway for a dusty back road, crossing the state line with your hand thrown in the air in triumph. We need more of these badass ladies in our lives. Reunion tour please?

Rattle My Bones: The Secret Sisters (Muscle Shoals, Ala.) – Yet another Forecastle gem, we stumbled upon these ladies on a muggy July afternoon, lying in the grass and sipping on watered down bourbon. This song off their second album, Put Your Needle Down, was made for singing along, with a steady beat that will keep you going on those long stretches of rural highway. Plus the music video is Folsom Prison meets Modcloth. We’re big fans.

At The Beach: The Avett Brothers (Concord, N.C.) – Nothing says summer like sand in your toes and sea salt in the air. The Avett Brothers are one of Zelda’s all-time favorite bands, and this song is one of their sweetest. It’s good, old-fashioned family fun, steeped in the ocean breezes of the Outer Banks. Corn hole on the sand by day, bonfires by night, where your only worry is whether to make one batch of margaritas or two (Hint: The correct answer is three).

Something, Somewhere, Sometime: Ben Sollee & Daniel Martin Moore (Lexington & Cold Spring, Ky.) – This song is Scout’s current summertime jam, if cello and acoustic guitar can be considered a jam (when played by these two, they totally can).The stripped down orchestration paired with the tight harmonies hits you right in the heartstrings, pushing your foot just a little further down on the gas pedal as the miles roll away under your tires. The destination doesn’t really matter here: You’re just chasing the horizon.

Natural Disaster: Zac Brown Band (Dahlonega, Ga.) – The ultimate slow-build, Southern-fried power ballad of a closer. The whole damn world slows down as you roll to a stop, but nothing can keep you still for long. There’s a whole lot of world out there to explore. Very few songs sound as much like a Southern road trip to us as this one. Maybe there’s a thunderstorm rolling in, wind whipping the trees and the clouds billowing in. But you’ve got a cooler full of drinks, miles of road ahead, and this playlist on your phone. Ain’t nothing stopping you now.

Happy listening!

Love,

Zelda & Scout

Just Folks: Jennifer Harlan

Mondays on Zelda & Scout are all about you! In a series we call “Just Folks,” we talk to Southerners who have found their way to New York about where they’re from, where they are now, and what home means to them.

This week, to kick things off, we have one of our founders, Ms. Zelda herself, Jennifer Harlan!

just-folks, zelda-and-scout, zelda, jennifer-harlan

Name: 

Jennifer Harlan

Hometown:

Louisville, KY

Age:

24

Current City:

Brooklyn, NY

Who are you and what do you do?

Currently I’m a Bushwick-dwelling journalist, with aspirations towards more creative non-fiction. I’m also a Red Sox fan (a rare breed in this city), a total Francophile, a Shakespeare lover, and a compulsive baker. Since graduating from college, I’ve taught small French children to speak English, baked and decorated fancy cakes and other goodies at a cake shop in Paris, and made many, many cups of coffee. Also I can quote every line of “The Princess Bride” by heart.

Time north of the Mason-Dixon line so far?

11 months, 49 weeks, and 6 days, but who’s counting

What brought you to New York?

After I graduated from college, I moved to Paris for a teaching program sponsored by the French government (see adorable children above). The program was a one year gig, and although I probably could have stayed on at my school for another year, I knew I didn’t want to be a teacher. I wanted to be somewhere where I could pursue more writing-related endeavors, and I missed my family and my friends in America. After Paris, I knew I wanted to be in a big city — and I had always said I wanted to live in New York at some point — so when a friend messaged me that spring about a room opening up in her apartment, I pounced. The job thing I didn’t figure out until I was already here, which was stressful, but 11 months later I’m working at one of my favorite publications in the world, so things are working out pretty well so far.

What’s the most common reaction when people learn where you’re from? What’s something about life in the South that you have to explain to non-Southerners?

Hands down most common reaction: “Why don’t you have an accent?” It’s like I’ve betrayed them somehow with my lack of twang.

Louisville is a very quirky city that defies categorization; since moving to the Northeast, I’ve come to think of it as Southern, but in many ways it does not fit with the rest of the region. I often find myself explaining to people that it is, in fact, a city, and a very liberal, artsy, foodie, cool one at that. I’ve basically made it my life’s mission to spread the word of Louisville’s awesomeness to the rest of the world.

Describe life in NYC as people at home picture it. Describe life in NYC as it actually is.

A friend once described it to me as “Sex and the City, but with cheaper shoes.” In general, I think people think it’s a lot more glamorous than it really is: everyone going out to crazy clubs every night, taking cabs everywhere, running around in stilettos. Then there are shows like “Girls,” which offer a whole new trope of New York life where we’re all disaffected hipsters who sit around reading Foucault, living off our parents’ money, doing drugs, and having lots of meaningless sex. Also, even when we have no money, our apartment manages to look like an Anthropologie catalogue, and it’s the size of a small house.

In actuality, New York is a very big, bustling city, and I find it can be hard to carve out your niche in it. People talk about how great it is that there’s so much going on in New York, so you have tons of options for what to do or see or eat, but I find it’s actually harder to figure out what to do when you’re overwhelmed with a deluge of options and no way of discerning which ones are better than others. I have never been clubbing in New York. I spend most nights in my apartment watching Netflix (or at work). Seamless is the greatest thing ever, but you often won’t be able to afford take-out. The theatre scene is fantastic, but you often won’t be able to afford tickets. Everybody is working all the time, on completely opposite schedules, so you won’t see most of your friends even half as much as you thought you would. And the Union Square Trader Joe’s at 5 pm on a Friday is the closest you will ever get to hell on earth.

Where do you consider home? Why?

Louisville is home, no question. Unlike a lot of my friends, I wasn’t born there –we didn’t move there until I was 11 — but I’ve lived there the longest out of anywhere in my life. It’s where my puppy and my kitty are, and I know every twisting street like the back of my hand. I’ve been lucky enough to spend a chunk of every summer there, until this one, so in addition to my old high school haunts I have friends and memories in the city from college and post-college. In fact, a lot of my favorite things to do and places to go in the Ville nowadays didn’t exist when I was growing up there, like Nulu or the Walking Bridge or Downs After Dark.

So Louisville is my one true home, but there are other places that I consider home as well, just not quite in the same way: Chocorua, New Hampshire; Providence, Rhode Island; Paris (France not Kentucky); Florence, Italy. New York hasn’t quite reached that level, but I’m working on it (the Polar Vortex did not help matters: in such a big and expensive city, nice weather makes a huge difference in how much I go out and interact with other humans).

Do you miss where you’re from? Do you see yourself going back?

Absolutely. I miss Louisville every day (although I also miss my other second homes, especially Paris — I’m totally a nester and tend to get very invested in wherever I am, which I suppose means I’m always going to be missing somewhere). I also feel like Louisville has grown in such exciting and interesting ways over the past several years. It still has a long way to go, and I want to help shape that process. That being said, I don’t think I’m quite ready to leave New York yet, and there are still many other places in the world I want to try (San Francisco, London, Amsterdam, maybe New Orleans?), and I have a sense, justified or not, that moving back to Louisville means settling down there for good, so we’ll see where my wanderlust takes me before then.

Do you consider yourself a Southerner? Do you consider yourself a New Yorker? Why or why not?

I do consider myself a Southerner, although it took me a long time to get there. I love bourbon and Southern comfort food and horse racing. I listen to more country/bluegrass music than I might care to admit. Even though I’m not a big sports person, I always make a Final Four bracket: that’s just what you do in March (Go Cards!). And I genuinely believe in being kind to people; it never hurts to be nice.

I don’t see myself ever really calling myself a New Yorker. I’m very proud of where I’m from, I like being a Louisvillian and a Kentuckian and a Southerner, and I don’t want to give that up.

Which food/drink/song/book/movie/artwork/quotation/gif/etc. defines New York for you?

Food: bagels, Shake Shack, red velvet snack cakes, and boozy brunch (quite possibly the best thing to ever come out of New York)

Drink: Stumptown iced coffee (I spent my first eight months in the city making and drinking a lot of this stuff), picklebacks, and Westbrook Gose (a Southern beer, but one I discovered in New York and am now obsessed with)

Songs: “New York” (The Milk Carton Kids), “Murder in the City” (The Avett Brothers), “Landslide” (Stevie Nicks), “Bleecker Street” (Simon & Garfunkel), “Sight of the Sun” (fun.), the “Inside Llewyn Davis” soundtrack

Books: It’s not its own book, but Joan Didion’s essay “Goodbye to All That.” Also “The Goldfinch” (Donna Tartt, especially since I read it shortly after moving here) and “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” (E.L. Konigsburg).

Movies: There are too many to count. When I was little, it was “Annie” and “An American Tail.” Now it’s “You’ve Got Mail,” “When Harry Met Sally,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” and “Annie Hall.” “France Ha” did a scary good job of encapsulating my first year here. And TV-wise, it’s “Friends” and “Sex and the City.”

Quote: “I remember walking across Sixty-second Street one twilight that first spring, or the second spring, they were all alike for a while. I was late to meet someone but I stopped at Lexington Avenue and bought a peach and stood on the corner eating it and knew that I had come out out of the West and reached the mirage. I could taste the peach and feel the soft air blowing from a subway grating on my legs and I could smell lilac and garbage and expensive perfume and I knew that it would cost something sooner or later — because I did not belong there, did not come from there…I still believed in possibilities then, still had the sense, so peculiar to New York, that something extraordinary would happen any minute, any day, any month.” -Joan Didion

Which food/drink/song/book/movie/artwork/quotation/gif/etc. defines where you’re from?

Food: Derby pie, macaroni and cheese, cornbread, green beans with salt pork, jambalaya, modjeskas

Drink: bourbon, either on the rocks or in mint julep form; Heine Brothers iced chai; sweet tea

Songs: “Louisville, K-Y” (Ella Fitzgerald), “Prettiest Tree on the Mountain” (Ben Sollee), “Palmyra” (Houndmouth),“Wagon Wheel” (Old Crow Medicine Show), “Chicken Fried” (Zac Brown Band)“City of New Orleans” (Steve Goodman), “Cowboy Take Me Away” (Dixie Chicks), “Moonshine Lullaby” (Irving Berlin), and of course “My Old Kentucky Home”

Books: “The Ballad of the Sad Cafe” (Carson McCullers), “Light in August” (William Faulkner), “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” (John Berendt)

Movies: “Gone with the Wind,” “Steel Magnolias” (the play more than the movie), “Waitress”

Quotes: “The Kentucky Derby is decadent and depraved.” – Hunter S. Thompson

“All the Southerners think we’re Yanks, and all the Yanks think we’re Southerners, and all the Midwesterners think we’re east. Everybody’s always wrong about Louisville. That’s kind of why I love it so much.” – Jim James

What is the best cure for homesickness?

Watching one of the aforementioned movies or dancing around your kitchen to one of the aforementioned songs (in my experience a good kitchen dance party can cure most of the world’s ills), barbecue and macaroni and cheese, a long phone call with your mom, and having one of those New York days that reminds you why you moved here in the first place: wandering around Central Park or rowing around the lake, getting rush tickets to a show (and cookies from Schmackary’s for intermission), hanging out with friends who have become your surrogate family, and finding a spot across one of the rivers where you can check out the night skyline (Long Island City and Hoboken will both do the trick).

I also always feel better when I wear my Kentucky necklace or any of my Kentucky for Kentucky gear. Especially when I worked as a barista, it was a great conversation starter and an excuse for me to talk about how great my hometown is.

On Pen Names

As we were preparing to create this blog, we spent a lot of time on the question of what to call it. Names are a big deal — defining, as it were — and we wanted to get it right. We wanted something that would convey the best of the South, with its multiple facets, as well as New York. And, this being a joint endeavor, we wanted something that would reflect our partnership: a dynamic duo linked by an ampersand.

There were a lot of contenders — Moonshine Lullaby, Southern Gotham, and Bergeron & McCoy to name a few — but eventually we settled on Zelda and Scout, in honor of two Southern ladies we love, one real and one fictional. To us, Zelda and Scout represent two sides of the South, both near and dear to our hearts. Zelda is the belle of the ball, an opinionated firecracker always out for a good time who is unafraid to speak her mind. She is cosmopolitan, full of sass, and spunky as all get out. Zelda Fitzgerald herself was also a New York transplant, moving to the Big Apple with her husband F. Scott in the heart of the Jazz Age, which we thought was particularly appropriate. Scout, on the other hand, is a tomboy: unpretentious, down home, true to her roots, but no less fierce in her convictions than Zelda. She is deeply invested in her heritage, both personal and cultural, and in the communities she is a part of.

Both women represent a loyalty and pride of place that we find inherent to the South; friends from Connecticut or Ohio never seem to have strong affinities for their hometowns, but get a Southerner started about their particular homestead and they’ll talk your ear off (just ask us about Louisville). They are juxtaposed and yet in many ways very similar: dynamic, vivacious, independent, defiant of social conventions, and each with a clear voice.

All of us have a bit of Zelda and a bit of Scout in us. Like any person, or region, they are multi-faceted and not easily pinned down. In our choice of pen names, we do not seek to limit or define ourselves and our stories. We are not these women. But in picking up their names and carrying them for a while, we hope to imagine them complexly and to honor the things that make them great.