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Bena Mae's Kitchen: Backward and Dimwitted


This is a stereotype that has been used against the south for as long as I can remember. And lately we have played victim to cable channels on TV for the outrageous exploitation of shows that are making big bucks by painting our entire region as an ignorant and illiterate bunch of layabouts with little ambition to make our lives better.
No organization is more guilty of this than TLC -- The Learning Channel, that may as well call itself “Trash for Cash.” Think about it, a name like The Learning Channel would conjure up the belief that it is a channel for “learning.” Learning to me is a way of improving my mind, to reach boundaries and areas of information that make me think and inspire me. To learn about people who live their lives by making life better for the unfortunate people without resources to help themselves.
Do they show the many organizations, college students and churches that work ceaselessly in helping the poor in remote sections that have been hit hard by poverty and neglect? No, and no again. But they’re going for ratings and it gives certain viewers a chance to see themselves as superior to other people. To say to themselves, “I at least have someone to look down on, someone who is beneath me.” It’s an ego thing, something they think is funny. They never see it as exploiting ignorance for the sake of making money for the studios. And for the studios, that’s the bottom line.
We constantly hear about the “dumbing down of America.” Whether this is due to the emergence of the Internet where you can hide behind a password and say anything you darn well please without recompense, or whether it is because of ratings that is the be-all and end-all of television production, your guess is as good as mine.
My point is, when a family that is obviously not typical of the lifestyle of southerners is thrust upon us as the way all people of the south live, it is not only outrageous, but insulting. And the stereotype of the south is etched even deeper in stone.
When a mother on “Toddlers and Tiaras” says she got pregnant so she could put her daughter in beauty pageants, I am appalled. When I see rabid mothers forcing candy down a child’s throat so she will perform well on stage, I’m thinking, where is Child Protective Services? What is the worth of these children when they outgrow their mothers’ overzealous ambitions?
When I see a family who lets chickens roam through the house, who puts up with a smart-mouth 3 or 4 year old, and a 15 -year-old unwed daughter carrying around a baby as though it is the most natural thing in the world -- and whose vocabulary has to be accompanied with sub-titles at the bottom of the screen (so we can understand it), I’m thinking, is this the new norm for television viewing. Lord, I only hope not.
How long will their 15 minutes of fame last, I wonder. And where are the Walton’s when we need them?

Corn and Ground Beef Casserole

1 pound ground beef
1 small onion, finely chopped
1-1/2 cups cooked rice
2 cups seeded chopped fresh tomatoes or 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cups fresh, frozen or canned sweet corn
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 cup crushed saltines
1/4 cup butter, melted

In a large skillet, brown beef and onion; drain. Stir in rice, tomatoes, corn, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and hot pepper sauce.
Pour into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. Combine cracker crumbs and butter; sprinkle on top. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.
Yield: 6-8 servings.