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New Trend: Salt on Watermelon

Good News & Good People is a column by Local Pulse Lifestyle Editor, Dana Hairston Hof. that explores the culture, traditions, and people of the South.

Photo: Cojo Gomes

God of watermelon and sausage gravy, the children are wayward. We have tried Lord, but the Internet has interfered with our oral histories and traditions. We can no longer be a witness in this barren technological wasteland. 

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Have mercy on our Crisco-covered souls.

It’s dramatic, I know. But hear me out. This blasphemer of Southern tradition posted the following words on a blog entitled, “Southern Kitchen”… 

“Sprinkling salt on watermelon is the NEW TREND that’s going viral in the South.” 

You read it right. New…trend. Say what? How am I not supposed to be dramatic about this? Honey, the only thing going viral is ignorance. 

The post prior to this one got 16 comments and 3 shares. What’s your guess on how many comments and shares this nonsense got? Hold the line…

5,900 and something comments and 12,300 plus shares. Bless it to pieces. 

You think people are not paying attention but you post a picture of a sea turtle, a new puppy, or something so stupid that it goes against the core of humanity and you’re gonna find out how many people “aren’t paying attention.” 

And that’s not all. They’ve got a RECIPE. Child, a recipe. For sprinklin’ salt on a melon. Mercy Alive.

Somebody tried to ChatGPT one over on us. Artificial Intelligence, come get your system and its users. 

The author goes on to say that she is unaware of the origins of this tradition rooted in Southern culture, which sent me down the Alice in Wonderland hole of curiosity.

Why DO we salt our watermelon when it comes off the vine as perfection? (Really, the question should be why do Southerners do anything that we do? Most of which makes no good sense at’all)

There are origins stretching back to Japan and a South Carolina newspaper dated 1910. But since the Internet is CLEARLY full of lies and lost history, I will not quote them verbatim. 

But supposedly, and this is where I’m gonna start a fistfight on the front porch, some say that a little bit of salt on a sweet melon draws out the sweetness. I’m gonna confess right now in front of God and everybody, you’re wrong, but as me and my Mama say, “You do you, baby. You.Do.You.” 

I am just not a salt-on-my-watermelon kind of girl. In fact, I do not like salt on much of anything. I think it’s the way my taste buds were made. Or I’ve burnt them down to nothing with gallons of Diet Coke and key lime pie. 

Now Tajin on a cantaloupe? Give me all the spicy dried chili and lime you’ve got. Thank you, Horacio Fernández.

Regardless of if you like watermelon with salt or melon with pepper, I’d be willing to bet if you’re Southern then you’ve got a memory of one or the other. Summer in the deep South just isn’t summer without ‘em. 

The Pinterest era swept me into the madness of matching outfits to party favors, but in my childhood and many generations before, a summer gathering was nothing but a front porch sit with a watermelon triangle and some sweet tea. 

One of my former neighbors even hosted an annual watermelon party. She simply cut up a bunch of watermelons and put ‘em out on folding tables. All the neighbors came over – you didn’t dare miss it – and with red juice running down our chins, we visited a spell and then went home. I’ve been to a lot of soirees and shindigs, but to this day Mrs. Spitzburg’s watermelon social reigns supreme. We weren’t there for party frills or the accouterment. We were there for the people, to fill our souls with sunshine, our bellies with something sweet, and to have a sincere connection.

With the summer season winding down, maybe we should partake in another “new trend”: simplified hospitality. One where we don’t make a fuss or worry too much about the Joneses. We just cut up some good fruit, ice some tea, and BYOS. Bring your own shaker.

Whatever your summer or kitchen memories, write them down along with the accompanying recipes and traditions. Preserve them. So, just like the bellbottoms and mullets before them, salt on a watermelon or a front porch sit will never be considered a new trend.