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Nov 2, 2007 05:38 PM

Southern Food [moved from South board]

I'm doing some research for a project and the crux of the question is "What is Southern Food?"
I'm really interested in asking some of you here what you consider Southern food to be.

All I know is fried green tomatoes (from the a movie! never had them) and fried chicken. I am heading out to some southern style restaurants this weekend, but i thought I could get some feed back from everyone here!


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  1. Wow... let's see... grits, collard greens, pork bbq, hushpuppies, fried okra, catfish, sweet potatoes (pie too), she-crab soup, boiled peanuts, brunswick stew, succotash, biscuits, chicken fried steak, pimento cheese, black eyed peas, etc. And you wash it all down with sweet tea and a Krispy Kreme!

    At least that's how it's done in Charlotte NC.

    1 Reply
    1. re: lynnlato

      Don't forget the bisquits and sausage cream gravy for breakfast. (Originally from Ks/Mo)

    2. You're going to get a million different answers from everyone on that question; asking "what is Southern food" is like asking people to describe the wind. To me it's always been more of a concept than any particular recipe. It's food that's created with fresh, local ingredients and cooked with lots of love, whether it's love for the people you're feeding, love of the land, or just love of food.

      I'm a child of the South - born and raised here and have been in the Carolinas my entire life - and I have a ton of great food memories. I think most Southerners do! I remember my grandmother making biscuits three times a day in a big wooden bowl of flour that stayed on the kitchen counter covered in a clean dishtowel. I remember my mom making us "hot dog pie" with cut-up franks baked in homemade cornbread with cheese on top. I also will never forget my grandfather's funeral at the family's little country church in Fuquay Varina, North Carolina, and the potluck that followed: fresh fried chicken, country ham, and veggies that had been growing just hours earlier.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Suzy Q

        "It's food that's created with fresh, local ingredients and cooked with lots of love, whether it's love for the people you're feeding, love of the land, or just love of food."

        I think that that could describe any U.S. region or any country for that matter... not just the south.

        1. re: lynnlato

          Then let me be more specific, if that suits your tastes.

          Butter beans, fried chicken, fresh biscuits, fruit cobblers, homemade ice cream, corn (on the cob and off), Coca-Cola cake, hummingbird cake, black-eyed peas, Frogmore stew, shrimp and grits, chicken-fried steak, cornbread...

          1. re: Suzy Q

            deep fried fish (grouper, yum!) and hushpuppies, collard greens, field peas, white acre peas, corn pone....fried gulf shrimp with tartar sauce (oh, now i am homesick...). ICED SWEET TEA! boiled peanuts. mmmmmmmmmm......

            1. re: alkapal

              Yes, one thing that I completely forgot was that Iced Tea (sweet), is served all year long, not just between Memorial Day and Labor Day, as some, in Yankee climes, choose to do.

              Thanks for that,


        I don't agree with these guys about everything but this is a good start.

        Good luck!

          1. re: Windsor

            Thanks everyone.
            I know it is such a vague question, so I appreciate the feed back i have received. I was talking to a friend last night who lived in North Carolina for a stint and she says that food from the carolinas is different then say Nashville, because Nashville is closer to
            the midwest?
            Is this true?

            1. re: paprgrrl

              That's an interesting question about food in the Carolinas vs. Nashville. My brother has lived in Nashville for years, so I've eaten there often. One difference I've noticed is the BBQ. The Carolinas tend to be more chopped/sliced pork, where there seem to be more rib joints as you get into west Tennessee toward Memphis and Kansas City.

              1. re: Suzy Q

                Yep, they are more seafood-based, and quite significantly more so as you get closer to the coast. Don't know about North Carolina, but in most of South Carolina, rice-and-gravy" is often served in place of mashed potatoes-and-gravy (at Thanksgiving and Christmas as well). I guess it is just a nod to history. Rice plantations made South Carolina rich from Colonial times until around the 1830's.

                1. re: deibu

                  You have that backwards! In other parts of the US, they serve mashed potatoes instead of rice for some reason.
                  I never heard of serving mashed potatoes and gravy at Thanksgiving until I saw it when I was close to 30 years old! Why would you have white potatoes and sweet potatoes at the same meal?

                  1. re: MakingSense

                    1. Because they're both REALLY good. 2. Because that's what you grew up with, which makes it somehow sacred.

                    Of course, the widely preferred way of preparing sweet potatoes is the deal with brown sugar and marshmallows, which I have never really liked, so I have abandoned the practices of my upbringing and serve only mashed Irish potatoes for TG dinner. Still, I feel the lack of SOMETHING orange on the table - can't completely escape my raisin' - so I cook some winter squash and serve that.

                    1. re: Will Owen

                      I was joking, Will. Growing up in South Louisiana, a day without rice was a day without sunshine and we ate potatoes pretty rarely. Mostly potato salad.
                      I always loathed T'giving sweet potatoes with the icky marshmallows and now I love them just with salt and pepper. My kids still won't touch 'em with a stick.

                      Just a regional difference between the coastal, rice-growing South and much of the potato-eating US. We've now added potatoes at T'giving for my mid-Western son-in-law who was crushed at his first with us when he found only rice.

                      1. re: MakingSense

                        Having been someone's Midwestern son-in-law (ummm, several times!) I can relate. "What the hell am I gonna put the gravy on?" Actually, in our family rice and gravy was a fairly common accompaniment to pork chops. NOT pork roast, NOT pork steak, just pork chops. And not much of anything else. I had to leave home to find out about arroz con pollo...

                        You will notice that I said "Irish potatoes", which is a Southernism of the same sort as "English peas". It indicates that the other kind of potato or pea has equal (or better) status in the local cuisine - especially true of peas, of which the English variety is damned hard to grow much south of Illinois, if you want to eat them fresh.

                        1. re: Will Owen

                          Grew in in KC with Missouri cooking ancestors. We had Pork chops, Rice and Gravy at least once a week for the first 21 years of my life.
                          Always pork chops. True.
                          There's a whole series of edge cities like Louisville,St.L, KC, DC, Tulsa, Houston and others that kind of circle the outer ring of the South and provide transitional cuisine between different regions. Different from the deep south for sure. And I don't know what you guys do with Florida.

                          1. re: Will Owen

                            Yep, peas are things like crowders and black eyes. Green peas came in cans because they didn't grow in the Southern heat.
                            There were quite a number of unfamiliar foods, among them apples which don't grow in the Deep South. I never did appreciate, and don't much to this day, the Yankee appreciation for them. We read about bobbing for apples, apple orchards, taking them to teachers, etc., in school books and they were as strange to us as reading about building snowmen, sledding and even leaves changing color in the Autumn.
                            The only apples in the stores were terrible cold-storage things and we couldn't see why anyone would choose them over the terrific local figs or citrus that was just coming into season in the Fall or the new crop pecans that just fell off the trees in our yards.
                            Local sweet potatoes were cheap and fresh but the white ones came from far away.

                        2. re: Will Owen

                          Will, we never put marshmallows on our sweet potatoes .We would usually open a can,and add brown sugar and butter to them and that';s it.Or we would by yams or sweet potatoes and roast them in the skin,and just put some butter on them.We would also have mashed potatoes for TG dinner.My dad grew up in Hot Springs,Arkansas in the 1920s and 30s,before moving back to Milwaukee,during the Depression.
                          Only southern food we ate at home was like blackeyed peas,cornbread, mustard,collard and turnip greens,and on occassion my dad would buy a can of poke greens.And of course we had fried cat and other fish and fried chicken and spareribs and ham.
                          Since both my grandparents were German,they made I think more of that type of food.
                          My great grandparents moved to Hot Springs in 1911 to due great grandpa's health.
                          You don't have to put marshmallows on sweet potatoes,and I'm sure southern cooks back in the 1880s or earlier didn't either.I think it was a way to promote marshmallows,just like the now familiar green bean casserole made with french's fried onions in a can.
                          We NEVER had it at Thanksgiving or any time. We would have canned aspergaus,drained of most of the liquid,put into a baking dish,covered in Hollandaise sauce,and baked.Or it might be some other veggie,but no bean casserole.
                          I like rice and make rice and chicken,but don't know if I would have it for Thanksgiving though it would be okay with me.
                          We had fried potatoes and onions at home,and sometimes my dad would add bacon to them as well. The ones with bacon added he'd call Polish potatoes.

                  2. re: paprgrrl

                    I find more similarity between Nashville and Memphis, than Eastern Tennessee and North Carolina. Factor in Eastern South Carolina and it changes again.


                2. I would check out John Egerton's Southern Food book. Just about everything you ever wanted to know about the history of Southern food is in there. Plus there are recipes too!