Monday, May 20, 2024

The Rev. Manikka Bowman, left, and Aisha Francis record their “Chilly Grits” podcast. (Photo: Cambridge Community Television via YouTube)

“Eat the meat; spit out the bones.” “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” The language of the South gets a look saying by saying in a new podcast from the Rev. Manikka Bowman, former vice chair of the Cambridge School Committee, and Aisha Francis, president and chief executive of the Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology in Boston.

“Chilly Grits,” released in partnership with Cambridge Community Television, is on its second episode exploring Southern sayings that have shaped the hosts personally and professionally – including during their moves from Louisiana and Tennessee, respectively, to what they call “the chilly Northeast.” (In addition to being a staple of Southern cuisine, below the Mason-Dixon line “grits” is an acronym for “Girls raised in the South.”)

Coming to Massachusetts didn’t change the hosts – “I don’t care where we are, it’s the South in my house,” Francis says in the first episode to Bowman, who flies a Mardi Gras flag every year – but it gives them plenty to examine. “Regionalisms are real. It’s going to be fun exploring the extent to which we can claim some of these sayings as Southern or not,” Francis says. “I claim anything I learned is Southern, because I grew up with the South, and sometimes folks are like, ‘Wait, I’m from New York, and I say that too.’ Does that make it a Southern saying or not? We’re going to interrogate it.”

The hosts are friends active in the world of nonprofits with different filters to apply to the wisdom they carried north: Bowman, ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal tradition, leads Project Reap for professionals of color in commercial real estate and founded HarveyReed, a development firm; Francis has a doctorate in English literature from Vanderbilt and is on the board of trustees at WBUR.

The first episode deals with the more widely known “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”; the second digs into a saying common in Bayou culture, the lesser-known “Eat the meat; spit out the bones.” The hosts promise a future look at the use of “y’all” and its reclamation as gender-neutral and inclusive.

Episodes are expected twice a month. The podcast can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon Music and via video on CCTV’s YouTube and Vimeo channels.