Jackie Garvin Adds Southern Comfort Through 'Syrup & Biscuits'
Twenty-five years ago, my parents - long time residents of New Jersey - traded in the only state we ever knew for one completely foreign to us, namely Georgia. Yup, my parents up and headed south as the Yankee way of life was no longer tolerable and nor was the climate. They haven’t looked back since and, although I wasn’t quite certain that they were making the right decision at the time, I unequivocally understand why they did it now.
There is much to be said for the Southern lifestyle and people -- including how easily folks find their manners, readily feed you, and invite you in to meet the family. The slower pace seems to leave room for the “human connection”. Never was I struck by this realization more than during my last visit when I brought my youngest son to a local McDonalds for lunch, only to spend a good amount of time observing the warmth and welcoming demeanor of this fast food restaurant’s manager towards his patrons. He circulated among the tables as if he was overseeing a “five star French bistro”, ensuring that everyone was enjoying their lunch and happy. If that doesn’t say it all about Southern living and hospitality, nothing does.
Southern belle and mom blogger Jackie Garvin is, no doubt, quite familiar with this type of courtesy, community, and charm having grown up in Alabama. Her Southern roots at the basis of all that she blogs about in Syrup & Biscuits, Jackie’s pride and passion come out in every dish she cooks up and every post she serves to her enormous following. Obviously, goodness like this can’t be contained, which is the reason I’m inviting you to join Jackie in the kitchen through her interview below.
What is your full name?
What is your personal mantra?
“Be good and do right.”
Tell us about your life, including where you live, number of children and anything else you would like to share.
Originally from Mobile, AL, which I still consider my hometown, my husband’s job transferred us to the Tampa Bay, Florida area in 1985. We raised our family here that consists of two daughters and a son. My Southern heritage is important to me. Moving from a town that has a distinctive Southern personality, culture and lifestyle to a town that isn’t identified as Southern, I worked hard to make sure my children understand and appreciate their Southern heritage.
A little over a year ago, my daughter who has our only two grandchildren, 7 year old boy/girl twins, relocated to Boston South Shore. They lived 14 minutes from us and moved 1400 hundred miles away. Because we’re a close family, that move was a hard transition for all of us. I’m not sure we’ve completely adjusted yet.
Do you believe you have a “life’s purpose?” If so, share it.
My life’s purpose is different now than when I was raising my children. During that time, I had no doubt that my purpose was to be a loving, nurturing mother and teach my children family values, traditions, faith lessons and how to get along with each other day after day. Now that the children have fledged, my life’s purpose isn’t quite as crystal clear. I struggled with that at one point and couldn’t get a firm grasp on what my purpose should be. After much meditation, thought and prayer, I believe it’s to be a positive role model for my adult children, a loving and nurturing grandmother to my grandchildren, a good citizen and a good steward. Without the day-to-day responsibilities of raising children, it’s time for me to demonstrate through my actions, the lessons I taught my children.
Finish this sentence, “The best part about being a mom is _____.”
……the ability to nurture a child through the stages of complete dependency to independence.
What is the name of your blog? When was it launched?
My blog is Syrup and Biscuits and it was launched in 2011. The title is a nod to the breakfast my granddaddy ate every day of his life: cane syrup and biscuits. I started the blog to chronicle wonderful recipes and food memories before I forgot them and they were lost forever. Surprisingly, the blog grew in popularity and caught the attention of readers at a rate I didn’t expect. The publisher of my cookbooks, Skyhorse Publishing, found me through my blog and asked me to write a cookbook for them. My first cookbook, BISCUITS: Sweet and Savory Southern Recipes for the All-American Kitchen was release September 2015. My current title, Sweet Potato Love: 60 Recipes for Every Season, was released September 2016. Both are available wherever books are sold.
What is the primary focus of your blog and what do you hope to accomplish through it?
The primary focus of my blog is Southern food, lifestyle and culture. It’s a vehicle for me to celebrate my beloved South.
List any awards you have won.
Reader’s Choice Award, Southern Food Network
Blue Ribbon: Blackberry Cobbler, Just a Pinch
Baking Competition finalist: International Biscuit Festival
Best Seller (BISCUITS): Amazon
Are you a Brand Ambassador and if so, for which companies?
I’m not a Brand Ambassador per se but I’ve worked with several large brands such as White Lily, Equal, Johnsonville, Tyson and others.
Do you blog for other blogs or sites?
In the past, I’ve contributed to several sites including The Bloomingdale Patch (an AOL publication) and several smaller sites with a southern focus. Currently, I focus on writing for my blog and my cookbooks. I think I have several more cookbooks in me!
My largest platform is Facebook with over 278,000 readers. On Pinterest, I average 1,000,000 impressions monthly. I contribute to many different boards in addition to my own which results in a lot of exposure. Instagram is a platform that doesn’t drive much traffic to your blog but it’s a fun and enjoyable platform. The dynamics on Twitter have changed significantly since I started in 2011. It used to be a great place to interact with brands. I don’t find that to be the case so much anymore. It seems that brands are mostly there for promotion.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to those who may be interested in beginning a blog?
1.Do your homework and investigate SEO (search engine optimization), hosting companies, blog platforms and themes before you jump into blogging. All those things aren’t the fun part of blogging unless you have a background in all that geeky stuff. You’ll save yourself a lot of headache and work by starting off right. When I started in 2011, I never imagined that anyone other than family would read my blog. Therefore, I just jumped in head first without any thought for the future of my blog and writing. After my blog really took off and gained a following, I realized that people will read what I write, therefore, I want to give my blog the best SEO positioning to attract the most readers. That required me to redo a lot of the stuff I did wrong. I’m still working on all that. A few weeks ago, I switched hosting companies and had my blog redesigned. Currently, I’m working on updating old posts.
2. Be your genuine self and reflect that in your writing. You are worthy. There’s no need to copy anyone.
Are you an entrepreneur or professional beyond your blog (and outside of being a mom)? Please share.
My writing has become a full time job. In 2009, I sold my business and retired after a successful career as a nurse, corporate executive and entrepreneur. I’m as busy now, perhaps even busier, than when I worked outside the home in addition to raising my family. It’s a different kind of busy and it doesn’t carry the stress of a hectic lifestyle. Basically, I do anything I want to do and nothing I don’t want to do. What a glorious station in life!
Do you support – either formally or informally – a particular social cause?
I was on the board for our local YMCA for many years. I believe in that organization and their tag line says it all, “Building strong kids, strong families and strong communities.”
Currently, I volunteer for the Family Promise organization. Their mission is to assist and support homeless families with children. The organization partners with local churches and provides a faith-based environment for the families as they transition through the process of homeless to homed.
When all is said and done, how do you want to be remembered?
As an honest, trustworthy, kind and genuine person who can sling together some mighty good grub.
From the simple, like Roasted Strawberries, to the more complex, like Chickens and Spiders (I’m not kidding), Jackie Garvin is bringing country home for each of us through Syrup & Biscuits. Isn’t it nice to know that - even if your own parents didn’t move South - you always have a big ol’ Southern welcome waiting for you through Jackie and her incredibly tasty blog? I think so.