In the Southern states there is a base instinct, bred from years of rural legends, milked with every stereotype and brought up every time the temperature dips and the rain approaches.
This instinctual drive for sustenance and laying-by harkens back to our pioneer days, when a grocery store filled with survival items was nothing more than a dream in the back of a businessman’s mind.
As the wind picks up, the rain turns to sleet and the sleet to snow … you better know if you have milk and bread. If you DON’T … woe be unto you. This is where the “sins of the father” and the ‘‘mind me!” of the mother come into play. For you shall surely starve over the course of two days, even if the power stays on.
As Sharpsburg settled in for January’s Winter Storm “HAHA JK,” I gathered several of my longtimers — those who’ve seen a thing or two, remember most of it and will make up the parts they missed, and I polled them: What is the source of the legendary “Milk Sandwich”?
The responses I received have been censored for delicate stomachs, most of the names have been changed back to protect the innocent, and if there’s a mistake, we’ll blame it on the reader, since the writer wasn’t paying attention. Without further ado, here are various tales of dubious worth:
THE LEGEND OF THE MILK SANDWICH
“Why, it’s for that Freench toast,” said Bill Vault. “Take the bread, the milk, and you ought to have an egg. Take a loaf bread, mix you some egg and milk — don’t forget to crack the egg now — soak it, throw it in the pan, and you got food for weeks. Can’t have Freench toast without breads ’n’ milk.”
"Don't they know to crack the egg?" I asked.
"Some people like crunchy Freench toast," he reminded me.
“Lawd, I’ll never forget my first Georgia snow,” said Bubbles, a lady friend one county over. “It was about 10 years ago … I think … and I was taking Poodles to get her nails done. As I was driving I saw erry’one running to the store, and they were fighting in the aisles. I never saw that where I came from, but I learnt quick. That year, we were out of power for a WEEK and almost had Poodle sandwiches. But we ate all the bread and drank the milk, so it’s just what I do now.”
“Bread ’n’ milk?” Major asked. “Hell, milk ’n’ breads is the SWISS ARMY KNIFE of foodstuff.” Major was a major in the U.S. of A. armed forces before he retired after 44 years of dedicated service. However, it left him with the bad habit of YELLING parts of every sentence. Major was a good shot, but an even better shouter. “All you gotta get before the storm blows in is MILK AND BREAD. Don’t need nothing else. It can make almost ANY MEAL YOU NEED TO SURVIVE. That’s why people RUN TO THE STORE AND ACT A FOOL.”
“Milk is the key,” said Mrs. Betty, the most Southern of Southern ladies. “The bread is just because you’re there, and you can make sandwiches and French toast from it.” She nodded to Billy and Major, an acknowledgment they beamed at. “We get the milk so we can make SnowShakes. About three handfuls of snow, half a glass of milk and a teaspoon of vanilla. Stir it, shake it if you’ve added a little extra,” she winked, “and set it outside for 30 minutes. Pure heaven the first time you have it and easy as pie to make.”
Samuel Sharper is probably the oldest man in Eastern C’wet-a, and he ain’t made it four score or more just on smarts alone. The man has a practical streak about a country mile wide, and he’ll show it every and now then, and on this night, he did not disappoint:
“My gran’diddy moved here ‘afore the war, and built a cabin on the hill. It was a good cabin — Granny had a kitchen off to the side, and it had space for all of the family plus some. But it was cold — bein’ on top of the hill, we got the wind. One year a storm came up. Ice going sideways. It got cold in those years — not like today. We didn’t see 70 degrees until March. So the ice was coming sideways, and Granny got worried about Sandwich, her prized dairy heifer. We only had one — Granny’d only had the first set of twins by then, so they hadn’t got the second yet — and she hollered at my daddy to go get the cow, to bring her in.
“So Daddy runs outside, dodging the ice, and got the cow, brought her right on into the sitting room. And the storm’s just ablowing, and blows for three days. It’s too cold for water — it’s all froze, and the babies were getting mighty fussy, and right before it got too bad, Granny said to Daddy, ‘Milk Sandwich now, and we’ll be alright,’ and he ain’t ever forgot. Daddy had about five wives, so every one of his youngins heard the story of ‘Milk Sandwich.’ If you tell a story enough, it just sticks in your mind, no matter how little sense it makes. I figure Daddy had about 20 kids — and all of us remember his advice: ‘The only thing you gotsta do to make it through the storm is justa milk Sandwich.’”
Blue Cole is a writer and humorist from Sharpsburg, Georgia, where he lives with four wives, one child, and various wee creatures. Visit www.bluecole.com for novels, essays, and more.