“We’re getting to the short rows now.” …………. Huh? ……. I worked, what they called “the graveyard shift” (7p.m.-7a.m.), for what seems like a zillion years (actually 30). I was (am) a mother-baby nurse and chose to work the night shift in order to be at home as much as possible with my children. The children grew up, but I loved the people I worked with and the more relaxed pace of the night-time hours, so I stuck with it. I retired from my nursing job in September, though I currently still work a few days a month.
The first part of the 12-hour shift would always whiz by as we’d be assessing moms and babies, teaching parents how to take care of of their new little acquisitions (babies), helping mom’s learn to breastfeed, etc. But often, around three or four in the morning, fatigue would settle in as the hustle-bustle slowed down. Sometimes every minute seemed like an hour in those wee hours of the morning and I would struggle to just keep my eyes lids propped open.
A long time ago, in the midst of one of those early morning “sinking spells”, I first heard the expression “We’re getting to the short rows”. I’d grown up in the Midwest, but moved to the South shortly after Scott and I were married. This common southern phrase sounded quite foreign to me. “What are you talking about?” I asked and suddenly I was a bit more awake as I listened to the fascinating explanation.
My co-workers shared that “getting to the short rows” was an old southern tobacco expression. Some of these friends had spent summers working in nearby tobacco fields as a way to earn spending money. It wasn’t an easy job, as the summers here in North Carolina are usually long, hot and dry. These gals were no “southern belles” sitting on white-columned porches fanning away the heat and sipping on mint juleps. Oh no, they educated me about picking tobacco and it boils down to, in simple words, plain old-fashioned HARD WORK!
They explained that tobacco fields were usually planted on a diagonal. The work would start in the center of the field early in the morning. After working in the hot sweltering sun for a good part of the day, the workers were always quite elated when they’d begin to see “the shorter rows” toward the corner of the field. It meant their work would soon be completed.
After hearing this explanation, I understood my friends were encouraging me that morning would come and I would make it through the long night. And I did. After that, when 3 or 4 a.m. would arrive at the hospital, I’d tell my weary co-workers, “Don’t worry, we’re getting to the short rows now”. It always made me feel like a bonafide Southerner!
We’re getting to the short rows now before Christmas, aren’t we? It’s time to pare down the “To Do” list, simplify and focus on what really matters at this time of the year; celebrating the birth of the Christ child and enjoying time with family and friends.
That’s why I’ve got a super easy, super quick (but incredibly delicious) recipe for you today These Southern Praline Bars can be thrown together in less than 20 minutes and everyone goes crazy over them. They’re a perfect treat/gift if you’re feeling like you’re getting to the “short rows”.
- 18-20 whole graham crackers about 2 sleeves
- 1 ½ cups dark brown sugar packed
- 1 ½ cups butter 3 sticks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups roughly chopped pecans
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a sheet pan (13x18) with foil allowing the foil to overhang pan by a few inches on the long sides.
- Place graham crackers in single layer on prepared pan. Cover the entire pan. You will have to cut a few of the crackers to fit.
- Melt butter in a medium-size saucepan. Add brown sugar and whisk mixture together over medium heat. Stir continuously until sugar is fully incorporated. At first the butter and sugar will seem to separate. Just keep whisking till smooth.
- Bring mixture to a rolling boil, add pecans and continue cooking, stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Be careful as mixture will bubble furiously when you add the vanilla.
- Working quickly, pour mixture over graham crackers and spread to cover with a knife.
- Bake for 12 minutes. Entire surface should be bubbly. If not, bake a bit longer. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
- Using foil, transfer bars to a large cutting board and cut into squares. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.