News from the Tennessee Valley Columnists


Tomato gravy, biscuits and fatback

How a pine knot picked up the South Alabama name of "lightard" has been an ongoing discussion at our house for years.

"Let's go out into the woods and pick up some lightard," Regina said, way back, when we needed fat pine to start the logs in the fireplace.

"Pick up what?" I asked.

No, she couldn't find the word in the dictionary, but she assured me that everybody in Covington County of a certain age knew that it was aged pine pieces rich in tar, and would burn easily.

I finally found the word "lightwood" in the dictionary, which means "dry wood, especially Southern pine, which burns readily with a bright light."

It makes more sense than "pine knot," she said, a reference to the name lightwood carries in Blount County.

Then, there was the time she told me about being a child and going down in the sandy backwoods near the Conecuh River and riding gophers.

"Gophers are big rats," I said.

"Wrong," she replied, "They are great tortoises."

So we went back to the dictionary and called the contest a tie. They are both. She rode the turtle type.

I had never heard the phrase, "Get your ducks in a row," until after we married. She had to interpret for me.

So, last weekend when we were in Andalusia, which is about as far south as you can get in Alabama, I again came face to face with more of her heritage.

I had told her I never heard of Blount County people eating tomato gravy on biscuits.

Wanting early breakfast on Saturday, I found the "Lil Kitchen," where menu choices were bacon, link sausages or fatback, eggs, plain grits or cheese grits, and toast or biscuits and tomato gravy.

"So you finally had some tomato gravy," she said, when I reported on the "Lil Kitchen." She assumed that because it was on the menu I ordered it.

"Nope," I said, " And I didn't have any fatback, either."

"Too bad," she said, "You can't get a breakfast like that just anywhere."

She's right.

Tom Wright Tom Wright
DAILY Executive Editor

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