Let’s face it. If you are a cardiologist or a weight watcher, you may not be a fan, but don’t misjudge too quickly. For many folks these are staples, for some just an occasional treat. But boy, oh boy, are they somethin’.
Although foodie president Thomas Jefferson was personally partial to salads, fresh vegetables and simple foods, he did serve up more elaborate fare for his dinner guests. Meals incorporated his passion for French cuisine with his own regional dishes, including fried chicken, sweet potatoes, greens, Virginia ham and especially sweet corn, all of which came from his massive estate.
Let’s identify these Southern favorites which top their hit parade:
Moon Pies: basically your chocolate-covered s’more, sold at convenience stores and gas stations, washed down with
RC Cola or Dr Pepper (never sugar-free);
Fried Chicken: anyway you bread or fry it, it’s a classic;
Chitlins: not for the faint of heart, these pigs’ intestines are boiled, then fried and usually served with vinegar;
Calabash Seafood: a technique of frying lightly breaded seafood, usually scallops and shrimp, originated in the port fishing town of Calabash, NC;
Collard Greens: boiled with vinegar, and a big ole ham hock;
Fatback: the poor man’s bacon, literally all fat, eaten like bacon, and also used for flavoring vegetables;
Biscuits and Gravy: buttermilk biscuits and sawmill gravy, which is country white gravy;
Liver Pudding: also called livermush, made with chopped pig’s liver, leftover meat scraps and mixed with cornmeal, then formed into a loaf, sliced and fried; Northerners called it scrapple;
Fried Green Tomatoes: popularized by a movie with the same name, they have been a part of southern cuisine for centuries; sliced green tomatoes (never red), coated with cornmeal and fried in bacon grease; don’t spare the salt;
Chicken Fried Steak: steak pounded thin, then breaded and fried, smothered in white pepper gravy;
Shrimp and Grits: grilled or sauteed shrimp served on a bed of grits, cheese or plain; grits are also served as a hot cereal or side dish with anything;
Cornbread: who doesn’t love cornbread, an American favorite; lots of butter, eaten warm;
Hushpuppies: cornmeal batter, dropped into hot oil and eaten with fried fish, oh, yeah;
Barbecue: don’t ever argue with BBQ lovers; this popular meat, beef or pork, is prepared differently by region, served in a sandwich or on a plate with hushpuppies and coleslaw; red sauce or vinegar; Texans have their own version (don’t argue with them anyway);
Ham: anyway you slice it, it rocks; red–eye gravy (not made with eyes, by the way) is a way of life;
Catfish: breaded with cornmeal and fried in a cast iron skillet, usually served with hushpuppies and coleslaw; good eatin’;
Pimento Cheese: a rich spread made with, you guessed it, pimentos and cream cheese; often a sandwich filling;
Chicken and Dumplings: lots of variations, but basically a chicken stew, with dumpling dough plopped on top, covered and simmered until the dumplings are done; Sunday dinner at its best;
Fried Pork Rinds: sold in the chips section of most supermarkets, crispy and salty, they’re can also be homemade;
Fried Okra: tops the hit parade of vegetables; breaded with cornmeal (what else) and deep fried; even if you think you don’t like okra, this is the best; they should be their own food group;
Green Beans: fresh, if possible, simmered in bacon fat;
Boiled Peanuts: young, raw green peanuts work best, boiled and salted;
Cornmeal Breading: on anything;
Sweet Tea: washes down everything, made with real sugar;
Note: the author has published a separate article on Southern desserts, so they are excluded from this article but include: whoopie pies, chess pie, sweet potato pie, pecan pie and pralines, banana pudding, peach cobbler.
Perhaps no American president enjoyed down-home Southern cooking more than Jimmy Carter. A typical Sunday breakfast might include ham with red-eye gravy, cheese grits, eggs and hot corn bread; he was also partial to okra, barbecued spare ribs and fried chicken. Apparently dinner guests at the White House enjoyed the Southern cuisine when they showed up, expecting something a bit more formal. And of course, boiled peanuts.
So, how about it? Never been south of the Mason Dixon line? No problem. Most big cities have an abundance of soul food and Southern restaurants. Make it a point to go exploring.
Author Dale Phillip, a Midwesterner, first became acquainted with southern cuisine when she lived in the South for eight years. She favors fried green tomatoes and okra, buttermilk biscuits without the gravy, and shrimp and grits. A self-confessed culinary coward, she has never tried liver pudding or chitlins. Please visit her many articles on Food and Drink, and her blog: http://myfriendlyu.blogspot.com/
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