December 2nd, 2010
11:00 AM ET
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You can't out-cook a ghost.

Goodness knows I have tried. I've spent hours, days, weeks, months in pursuit of the perfect biscuits, hauling ingredients from my husband's native North Carolina to our Brooklyn apartment, putting my lard-smeared hands on every text I could find and cornering octogenarian in-laws at holiday dinners. Moreover, I have rolled, beaten, patted and whispered to endless dough batches, made my own butter and buttermilk (the mention of that effort earned me a high-pitched "Sh*t, girl!” from none other than Paula Deen, and I will never get tired of telling people that), gone ice-less so as to accommodate more flour varieties in the freezer and I swear unto the heavens, I never, ever twist the biscuit cutter.

Still, I come giddily bearing the star of each batch, butter-slathered and piping hot, and study my husband's face as he takes the first bite. He's appreciative and unfailingly complimentary - a Southern gentleman, after all - but deep down, I know it's never going to measure up to the ones his long-departed Memama and her housekeeper Nettie rolled out on a linen pillowcase and served to him as a child. I've learned to be okay with that.

Grandmothers are canonized in Southern cooking, and while it's taken as read that your own cooking, with rare exception, will pale in comparison, willful deviation...doesn't go over so well.

Eatocracy recently hosted its inaugural Secret Supper in Atlanta at Chef Linton Hopkins' Restaurant Eugene. Hopkins is a James Beard Award-nominated, fourth-generation Atlanta resident and newly sworn-in president of the Southern Foodways Alliance, a group founded to "document, study, and celebrate the diverse food cultures of the changing American South." Chef Hopkins and his wife Gina not only work closely with the farmers from whom they source the restaurant's food - they are founding partners of the Peachtree Road Farmers Market. Gina sits on the board of Georgia Organics, their hospitality director Judith Winfrey is the co-operator of Love Is Love Farm, and Chef Hopkins has been instrumental in getting Georgia farmers, like Crystal Organic Farms, to reclaim true heritage crops like pimentos, the growth and production of which had been taken by large agricultural companies.

This reverence for the terroir and culture of the region's cooking was evidenced in every aspect of the menu - from artfully crafted and sourced country ham, green tomatoes pickled just in time to snatch them back from an early frost, playful riffs on Southern standards like pimento cheese, pickled shrimp and soulful creamy heirloom grits to lovingly slow-cooked ribs, quick-cured trout plucked from a nearby river mere hours before, carrots just forty minutes out of the ground, borne to the dinner by a farmer in attendance at the dinner, and a sweet send-off with cake made from sorghum - a Southern crop Hopkins is doing his best to evangelize and revive. It was, by the accounts of all in attendance, a love letter to the cooks, farmers and soul of the South.

Attendee, Atlanta food writer Christiane Lauterbach found resonance in the menu’s message on the identity of Southern food. “What we want is beautifully sourced ingredients – not stuff that you just get from the grocery store. Stuff that – you know the farmer, you know the cow, you know the pig. That evolution is very meaningful.”

Atlanta Journal-Constitution food writer and chief dining critic John Kessler agreed. “Bacon is our calling card. Everybody likes bacon, but there’s so much more to Southern food than that. What do they say in Italian? Cucina povere – poor people’s cooking. What Southern food is, is that. It is food that is very close to the agrarian tradition. It’s close to the earth.”

And yet...

That food is no more Southern than braised Kangaroo. 'This is antipasti down South'? No, it isn't. There is no antipasti down South – antipasti is *Italian*.

If the author thinks that foodie crap that happens to be served in the South has a 'distinctive Southern sense of place'... Well, then the terms cuisine and cooking have no meaning anymore, you can just call any food whatever you want with equal meaning. Or lack thereof. - DerekL

I agree 100% What we see here is some New York Yankee's idea of Southern cooking. Who eats bacon for supper unless you are serving breakfast for dinner?

While it all looks good, I've never seen anything like this served on any down home southern table. I am afraid this has got too far out of hand and has given the emperor a new set of clothes. - Popeye

Southern grub huh? I agree the fare looks attractive and wouldn't have minded being one of the guests, but southern it ain't. Please stop fu-fu'ing things up to the point of unrecognition. - huh?

Commenters on the live blog of the event took grave offense to the notion that this would be presented as Southern food. It is at odds with their notion of what the cuisine has always meant to them and their family, and respondents to our accompanying stories Reclaiming the soul of Southern food and How well do you know Southern food? accuse chefs like Hopkins, Charleston's Sean Brock and Roanoake's Josh Smith of cultural and culinary treason for their reverence of ingredients over dishes and their seeming disloyalty to the specter of the Southern grandmother.

That's why we are hosting the Secret Suppers. While we cannot (yet) physically feed everyone, we believe passionately and firmly that the best discussion takes place around a dinner table. Food fuels ideas, feeds minds and well as stomachs and is a catalyst for passionate dialogue about culture, economics, race, gender and, yes, the dishes themselves. As attendee, chef and author Virginia Willis says food, “will allow us to connect what we’re putting in our mouths with what is happening around the world.”

We want to hear from you - pull up a chair, take your place at the table and share your thoughts on the state of Southern cooking in the comments below and we'll share some of the most thoughtful and provocative responses in an upcoming post.

Type with your mouth full - maybe even have a biscuit.

Read more about the Eatocracy Secret Suppers and see all the dishes that were served



soundoff (598 Responses)
  1. Biscuitmaker

    Do I see the term "biscuit cutter" in this? The only biscuit making tradition I know abhors cutting biscuit out. Rather, a dollop of dough was pinched off by floured hand. Part of the working of the dough was the rolling and shaping of that into a biscuit. I was taught how to do this by my grandmother (born 1891), who represented 150 years of a very rural Southern cooking tradition. Some of those fancy town Southern biscuit makers might have used a cutter, but I think the hand-formed method was the choice of rural cooks.

    December 2, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Reply
    • tj

      Amen no southern woman I know of would ever use a biscuit cutter. My poor mama never id make great biscuits but my aunt made them just about every day of her life. Flour from a flour can, she didnt use lard but Crisco, it was better for you. And because she worked that dough everyday her hands were the softest I think I have ever felt. thanks for helping me remember.

      December 2, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Reply
    • Kasey

      My one granny did indeed use her hands to squeeze out blobs of dough, but the other used a cutter, mainly because her biscuit dough was worked into thin layers of buttery flaky goodness and she didn't want to handle it more to avoid tough dough. Who knows? Perhaps she was a bit more sophisticated southern?? But she was definitely southern.

      December 2, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Reply
  2. NCBoy

    Grits, BBQ, cabbage and cornbread the Holy Grail or aka Last Supper in the South

    December 2, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Reply
  3. Ben

    I am originally from Louisiana and I think of dishes such as Gumbo,Crawfish Etouffee, Shrimp Po-Boys, Boulettes, Dirty Rice... I really don't see Texas as the South. It is more Tex-Mex and stuff. It is all about being a Texan – whatever that means. :-) Louisiana at least has more history and cultural pride. Which makes more sense in my opinion.

    December 2, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Reply
  4. Otterinbham

    Heck, in my modest Southern city there are three different restaurants that were Beard finalists. What more proof do you need?

    December 2, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Reply
    • Paula Deen

      Well those awards are regional. It's not like they are competing with real NorthEast restaurants.

      December 2, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Reply
      • Otterinbham

        No need to be a snob, especially since you're wrong. Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham is only one of five top restaurants in the country.

        December 2, 2010 at 10:53 pm | Reply
    • I Believe I Can Fry

      Not only that, Otter, but there are SO many great "hole in the wall" places here for true Southern or Soul Food! Might have to get some lunch from Bright Star, Niki's or a Green Acres tomorrow!

      December 2, 2010 at 8:36 pm | Reply
      • lorelei

        "I Believe I Can Fry." Cute.

        December 4, 2010 at 8:06 pm | Reply
  5. Nadia

    That's really funny people say that the portions are a problem in the south. I lived in Houston, Texas for 19yrs and moved 3 years ago(22 now) and I now live in Woodbury, Minnesota and trust me BIG portions are not just a problem of one state, it's a universal problem. I'm not sure about other countries because I have not traveled a lot but I would have to say that portioning is not top priority in many states, not just the south. And those of you poking fun at Texas. You suck :P

    December 2, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Reply
    • Ben

      Move to Louisiana, Alabama, Miss, Tenn, Florida, Georgia or S. Caro for Southern Food. Texas isn't Southern food... Seriously what southern food do you get in Texas? I live in Austin, TX right now and have lived in Tyler, TX and Dallas, TX. The only thing you can get here is good tacos and questionable bbq. lol...

      December 2, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Reply
      • Lestalk

        True Ben, but I am from West Texas, and I wouldn't consider the tacos in Austin to be real Mexican food either! LOL

        December 2, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Reply
  6. Meggie

    What, not one mention of boiled peanuts? I'm shocked! :) My momma calls them "redneck caviar."

    I don't think that Southern food is fancy restaurant material. It's more suited to family style dining or a hole in the wall that advertises down home cooking. Southern food, to me, tends to fall into the realm of comfort food – macaroni and cheese, succotash, country ham, grits, biscuits and gravy, BBQ, pecan pie, etc. And I live in Florida, so Cuban food, citrus, and seafood are also what I consider to be Southern food.

    December 2, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Reply
    • Ben

      Really so Emeril must be an idiot cooking cajun/creole food. He has made how many millions from his cooking shows? Hmm...

      December 2, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Reply
  7. NCBoy

    Southern cooking is all about the dripping can on your stove top, if you don't know what one is, then you don't know how to cook real Southern food.

    December 2, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Reply
    • Anita

      Amen!

      December 2, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Reply
    • Steve

      True dat!

      December 4, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Reply
    • lorelei

      Preachin' to the choir!

      December 4, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Reply
  8. God Hate Me

    Why don't you all shut up?

    December 2, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Reply
    • Snowbunny

      Settle down there lil' buckeroo...

      December 2, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Reply
    • Cricket

      If we shut up, what will you read?

      December 3, 2010 at 10:59 am | Reply
  9. James Dolan

    I have several friends from the South and on occasion they have forced me to go out for Southern food with them. I quickly relized that Southern food is not really a regional thing. In the North we have the same type of foods available it's just that you will only find them in the ghetto and nobody willing eats them.

    What is now being coined as Southern food is really just a way to cook with with the lowest grade of meats and highly processed foods such as grits. As talented chefs are embracing the slow food and local food movement, it seems that the Southernphiles are moving to low quality processed.

    December 2, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Reply
    • Kevin

      Interesting – okra, corn, tomatos, beans, squash, cucumbers, carrots, yep, all horrible low grade foods. Newsflash, if you eat food in anything other than its purely native form, it's processed to some extent. What exactly do you think cooking is (hint: processing)?. Exactly what sets grits apart from any other food? Do you eat flour, cornmeal, vegetable oil, olive oil, or anything along those lines? Yep, processed. Last I checked, everyone here eats the same cuts of meat from the same animals with some adjustments for regional availability (e.g., crab versus catfish).

      December 2, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Reply
    • NCBoy

      Occasion means more than once it sounds to me like you really like Southern food or you would not have eaten it so many times.

      December 2, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Reply
    • Pamela Cheers

      You are totally out of your mind! You don't to like Southern Food, but don't denigrate those who can make wonderful dishes that have become a part of award-winning restaurants.

      December 2, 2010 at 11:46 pm | Reply
    • TN_cornbreadgirl

      What are you talking about? Grits a highly-processed food? It's basically just dried corn that's been ground into small pieces (in a local stone mill if your lucky). How is this different from flour? And if you're right to compare Southern food to "ghetto food". That's called Soul Food, my friend. And it's delicious. Southern food is the original locavore food. Southern grannies have been cooking out of their kitchen garden generations before Alice Waters showed up.

      December 3, 2010 at 8:25 am | Reply
    • Cricket

      I think you are a troll and are only trying to stir things up. If you truly feel this way, I'm surprised your southern friends invite you anywhere.

      December 3, 2010 at 10:56 am | Reply
    • Cricket

      By the way, where do you live? If you don't live in the south, then you are not eating southern food.

      December 3, 2010 at 10:58 am | Reply
    • Steve

      You don't know what the heck your talking about. I'll have you eat Southern food that's so good that you would literally slap your mamma to get more.

      December 4, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Reply
    • lorelei

      Troll.

      December 4, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Reply
  10. Lucky Yankee

    Seriously, is there anything okra can't fix?

    December 2, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Reply
  11. Tiffany

    For me (a Georgia Girl), southern food revolves around what comes from the garden and who you are sharing it with. Things like butter beans, butter peas, sweet corn, turnips (bottoms and tops), squash, sweet potatoes, peaches, pecans, collards, black-eye peas, snap beans, hot peppers and tomatoes were standard fare. These things would be eaten fresh and plenty was frozen to eat during the winter. The children would pick the blackberries and muscadines and scuppernog grapes along the road or down dirt tracks and talk about how they were going to enjoy the cobbler/jam/jelly mamma is going to make. Typically more blackberries were consumed than made it back for cobbler. If you didn't have a garden, whoever dropped by was going to bring you something from their garden.

    You can use lard/crisco/bacon or whatever to make your biscuits or flavor your beans and greens, but sharing in abundance with your family and friends and laughter is what makes a meal great.

    December 2, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Reply
  12. Laughing Uncontrollably

    Wow, who knew an article about FOOD would pi$$ so many off. Sheesh, lets relax folks. I live in the North, and believe me, 'HOT DISH' or 'CASAROLE' are not on my menu. Nothing like taking the crap that fell on the floor and baking it into submission. As for southern food....good stuff, if cooked properly!

    December 2, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Reply
    • Snowbunny

      Hey- wait a minute! What about tator tot hotdish? That IS on my menu! :) I'm from MN. Can you tell?

      December 2, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Reply
  13. Mike

    Being born and raised in Tennessee, Southern food is as several of the responders has indicated, but with this twist; In my mind, starting with my Grandmother, on my fathers side, it was done of sheer desperation. How to feed a brood with short supplies. Here is where the love comes in. The food was prepared with love, for each of the siblings, each of the ingredients, the feel, the aroma, the touch to the mouth had to be just so. Picking fresh fruits and vegetables with the noon or evening meal in mind, took love and devotion. No one ordered anything! It was as served or go hungry. No one did! LOL

    December 2, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Reply
  14. GAB

    I was born and raised in the south (Georgia, to be exact). If you want good southern cooking, don't go to a fancy restaurant in Atlanta, go to a Sunday afternoon brunch in Dalton, Dahlonega, or Warm Springs, etc. The fare is country ham with red-eye gravy, grits, corn (all kinds from on-the-cob to fried), cornbread (especially cornbread with "cracklins"), greens (boiled in a mixture of water and vinegar), biscuits, rice with chicken gravy, okra (I like it fried, but boiled is also good), tomatoes (fried-green and simply sliced), black-eyed peas, green beans, and every other vegetable known to man.
    That is what my great grandmother, grandmother, and mother used to cook and and enjoy.

    December 2, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Reply
    • Kasey

      Fried okra, but noy that deep fried nugget stuff. Sliced thin, tossed in cornmeal and pan fried until crunchy.

      December 2, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Reply
    • Born in ATL

      I got a bone to pick with you 'bout Atlanta. Visit The Beautiful, Thelma's or Big Daddy's. They will bring you outta those hills every time!

      December 5, 2010 at 10:41 am | Reply
  15. Richard

    I'm from CA, but spent time in Athens on several occasions, where I learned about 'drank', and about 'stew" and about how they toss bags of potato chips on the table in the BBQ joints .... the food is fantastic, like none you can get here, so here's one Yankee who isn't bad mouthing the South!

    December 2, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Reply
    • HSV

      Down here you would be considered as a "left coaster" not a yankee. Texans aren't considered as "southern" either, they're kinda like the South's annoying little brother.

      December 2, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Reply
  16. HSV

    I couldn't agree more that true southern food is born from passion that cooks the food and the family it feeds AND a well loved cast iron skillet. I use one that my grandmother gave to me that was given to her by one of her aunts. I was born and raised here in AL, and even though our lifestyles are changing drastically, I still try to pull out one or two of the recipes that my grandmother wrote down for me a week. Two of my favorite dinners to make have to be country ham with redeye gravy and SLOW cooked pinto beans with a "mess" of cornbread. The latter is my wife's least favorite, but she's from Ohio so what does she know ;) j/k. As my son grows older, I'll make sure that he gets to expierence some of what I had growing up. I still suck at making my grandmother's infamous yeast rolls...still don't know how she did them.

    December 2, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Reply
    • HSV

      To clarify – my grandmother's rolls were "infamous" because they were known to induce grown men into a semi-coma state. They called to you like a siren's sweet song and there was no way to eat just one. Pure bliss with a hefty side of evil.

      December 2, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Reply
  17. JackAttack!!!

    Southern food is about more than grease and lard. It's an art-form derived from centuries of tradition, skill and craft. Finding an individual who cooks like your grandmother did is rare... unless they're up in age. I'm only 24 and I can't even come to terms with how great Southern cooking can be. In its more rare form, you have higher calorie contents but flavors that will last a lifetime. New Southern cooking involves being more "green" but doesn't allow for full flavor. A true, Southern-born cook knows, according to my Grams, that you "never eat a skinny chef's food; ain't nothin compares to a fat chef's cookin!"

    Lord, maybe that's why my appetite is always so huge!

    December 2, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Reply
    • Kevin

      My, and especially my wife's grandmother(s) were always cooking because meals took forever to prepare. The men and the hired hands were working on the farm all the time and keeping them fed was difficult. Most of the items that were cooked were taken directly from the farm (except for flour, for example). Meals were huge and no one was fat.

      December 2, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Reply
      • Kevin

        ... and _nothing_ got wasted.

        December 2, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Reply
  18. Xasthur

    southern food while good is nothing really special. i mean come on compared to some other cuisine like Japanese it's as bland and unflavorful as British food.

    December 2, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Reply
    • lowcountry love

      Sugar, I don't know where you've been eating southern food, but comparing it to British food is just wrong. Come visit Charleston, SC and we'll show you how good it can be!

      December 2, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Reply
    • Cricket

      I'm southern and love southern cooking and I love Japanese food as well. I do believe, however, that to call southern food "bland" and "unflavorful" is against the law.

      December 3, 2010 at 10:49 am | Reply
    • lorelei

      You, sir, are an idiot. To compare southern food to British food-I am speechless.

      December 4, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Reply
  19. Emc in NC

    Southern food is much better tasting, and better for you than the stereotype leads you to believe. It can actually be quite healthy considering that my family in NC and SC routinely cooks okra, lima beans, squash, greens, sweet potatoes, carrots, etc. It's very vegetable laden. Southern cooking is all about making the most out of cheap ingredients, because early southerners grew their own veggies and slaughtered their own hog/beef/ etc. and did not go out grocery shopping, or searching for rare ingredients. It's about not having to have a dictionary next to you when cooking because the fancy recipe you are making based on a dish hailing from some NYC restaurant calls for rare truffle oil, saffron, anise, or some other strange ingredient. Don't get me wrong, I love 5 star cuisine from the best restaurants the world has to offer, but if you want to know Southern food, its what I've summed up: cheap, simple, fresh and delicious.

    December 2, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Reply
  20. SR

    Southern food is cooked with love, patience and whatever happened to be lying around the kitchen that day. It is recipes that were and are passed down from grandmother's grandmothers and tweaked (ever so slightly!) by each new generation. Chefs can fancy the ingredients up all they want, but you'll never get true Southern cooking that way.

    Also, contrary to some opinions and comments here, all southern food is not soaked in lard or fried, although it ALWAYS tastes better that way. Southern food includes a wonderful variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, etc. thanks to our region's amazing growing climate and diverse lanscapes. And as a side note, my grandmother just celebrated her 99th birthday after eating (and drinking!) like a true southern woman all her life.

    December 2, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Reply
  21. Matt

    Ahh, but how do you truly define "southern" food?
    Paces that most Americans would claim as "south" reside in the northern hemisphere :P
    (For those of you who take the internet too seriously, this is a joke.)

    December 2, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Reply
  22. Lucy@acookandherbooks

    My grandma Kitty, the quintessential Southern lady, would be horrified that her family so fondly remembers the food served at the cherry dining room table at her home in Birmingham. She considered herself a society lady who was somewhat above feeding people. I think this is why she transitioned so well to an assisted living facility, because the food became someone else’s responsibility. In her day, Kitty did, however,could fill the table with sliced ham, potato salad, Jell-O salad, fresh snap beans with pork, sliced tomatoes with mayonnaise, the obligatory vegetable casserole, as well asl turn out perfect silver-dollar size biscuits, just as light as you please, without ever using a recipe. To this day, I still read the back of the White Lily self-rising flour bag, just to be sure I’ve got it right.

    This is my way of saying the Southern grandma analogy is overused and overwrought – you’re right about the specter. I can’t imagine that our grandmothers cooked exactly the way they were taught by their mothers and grandmothers. After all, somewhere in there, the iceman and the wood-fueled stove became obsolete. Cooks adapted, letting creativity and technology take their place by necessity.

    Cultures evolve, our language is continually changing. Southern food is an incredibly broad term that can encompass everything from my Granddaddy’s skillet-fried corn with bacon, of course, to Chef Hopkins’ sorghum cake with macerated citrus and sorghum syrup tuile. Why ever not? It gives us something to talk about as we stuff our faces full of the best cooking on earth.

    December 2, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Reply
  23. Sterling

    Those biscuits? Use REAL butter, not Crisco. 12 – 14 inch iron fry pan with 1/4 to 1/2 oil in the bottom. Put the iron fry pan with the oil in oven and bring up to 400 degrees. Drop the biscuits in the fry pan (be careful with the oil!) 3 to 5 minutes – just when the tops start to brown. Take out the fry pan and immediately remove biscuits (w/ tongs) to a brown paper bag or paper towell. Wah-lah! Yum ...

    December 2, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Reply
    • Kasey

      My dear grannies, both southerners, made biscuits different ways, and both were equally delicious. One grandmother used butter, rolled out the batter, buttered, folded over and rolled out, buttered...well, you get the picture...before she cut them with a biscuit cutter. My other grandmother made them with Crisco, and her most important ingredient was buttermilk, her most important utensil her fingers. These were drop biscuits, and so easy to make. Both were delicious. Thank goodness I learned how to make them before they passed away.

      December 2, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Reply
  24. Kevin

    What is Southern food? Southern food is food that is identified by a non-southerner as being beneath him or her to eat. Southern food, though generally the same food eaten anywhere else, gives a non-southerner an opportunity to dip into his bucket of stereotypes and reinforce his personal prejudice about people living in a different region.

    December 2, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Reply
    • Lucky Yankee

      Whatever! Stereotypes against Southerners are real and rampant - but I don't know anybody who thinks Southerners can't cook.

      December 2, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Reply
      • Ben

        When I think of Southern food I think of Emeril and his stuff is a lot better than your Yankee meals. :-D I'm sorry but beef stew with no pepper or salt is just gross. You need spices in your food. Some how the North doesn't get that... :-/

        December 2, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Reply
      • Artemis

        To Ben:
        Northern cooking traditions typically go back to the settlers from 1600's and 1700's settlers, most of whom came from England, France, Germany, etc., and typically used herbs that could be grown locally rather than spices that were not compatible with the harsh climate or soil here (and very expensive to import or buy). These staples, such as "bake" dishes, including cassaroles, stews, or "pot" dinners tended to be the preferred way of cooking, especially when midwinter might only bring dried veggies, potatoes or root veggetables that needed to soak a few hours in hot water to rehydrate them and make them palatable. That said, I realize that this is not the case now in a modern age, but traditions die hard. My mother still misses the New England boiled dinner her Nana used to make with pot roast, cabbage and potatos, and a fire-pit clam bake with lobsters, clams and corn is enough to make my mouth water. Either way, real food, cooked with real love and attention, applies to all regions because it's how we show our family and friends how much we care.

        December 2, 2010 at 6:57 pm | Reply
    • AuroraDawn

      Where did that come from? I don't think anything is "beneath me". I personally had a genuine interest in learning something about it,because my knowledge was admittedly limited. I think perhaps you're the one who needs to relieve themselves of prejudice and stereotypes. I'll tell you no food is more "rustic" than Canadian food like Blueberry Grunt,Poutine,Beavertails etc.

      December 2, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Reply
      • Lucky Yankee

        Good point! In Northern Michigan, you eat what you can catch. I've had squirrel, rabbit, wild turkey, pheasant, Coho salmon, brook trout, wild rice, morel mushrooms, milkweed pods, sumac tea, wild blackberries, etc. Nobody's got a monopoly on rustic cuisine! I'm Native, and our food is actually much simpler than my Southern hubby's.

        December 2, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Reply
    • Kevin

      I was being bitter and preemptive. I just came from another story about crime in the south and the redneck comments were in full force, despite the fact that it was no different than any other crime committed anywhere in the country. I like southern food too (lived here all my life), well, except for that which has meat in it (the ultra-rare and elusive southern vegetarian :) ). No one makes better biscuits! My apologies for being negative and crotchety.

      December 2, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Reply
      • AuroraDawn

        LOL No problem we all have bad days

        December 2, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Reply
      • Lucky Yankee

        I love it! Somebody with manners on a message board, of all places! I don't eat red meat and my daughter's a vegetarian, so my big complaint is that Southerners can't cook a friggin' bean without adding bacon or chicken broth. Come to our house and I'll make you some collards you wjill actually eat! :)

        On a side note, I get very irritated with the anti-Southern prejudice that exists in this country. If you have a Southern accent, people assume you're stupid, inbred, and racist from the moment you open your mouth. I get so angry! My husband and kids are all Southerners, born and raised, and they are some of the most intelligent and decent people one could hope to meet. Racism and redneckedness are alive and well in the North as well. Not sure why Yankees are so quick to dismiss their own secret prejudices while unjustifiably pinning them on someone else.

        I hope you have a better day. In fact, YOU WILL!

        December 2, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Reply
      • Kevin

        Lucky, sometimes the anonymity of the forums allows us to spout off things we'd not otherwise say in person. No consequences for one's actions brings out the worst.

        The fundamental flaw with prejudice is that when reading articles or making daily observations we seek out behaviors, characteristics, etc. that reinforce them but rarely do we make a mental note that an observation is contrary to them.

        Anyway, on topic, I joke that if they could put lard in my diet coke they would. One of my favorites is "Can you eat chicken?" Um, no.

        December 2, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Reply
      • lorelei

        "my big complaint is that Southerners can't cook a friggin' bean without adding bacon or chicken broth." That's because we like our food to taste GOOD. We picked up on the concept of SEASONING our food.

        December 4, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Reply
  25. Proud to be a GRITS

    This is a melange of soul food and southern food – a memory from my childhood and a summer with my grandmother

    fresh sliced REAL tomatoes – picked that monring by my Papaw
    Red onions and cucumber marinated in white vinegar, water and a bit of sugar – both picked from the same garden
    Pinto Beans cooked with a ham hock – I have fond memories of shelling beans and peas with my Mamaw
    Cornmeal dredged Fresh crappie and large mouth bass quick fried – caught earlier in the day when we got to go fishing – my Grandmother taught me to fish when I was 4
    Cornbread with butter cooked in a black spider
    Sun Tea – not normally sweet – we weren't sweet tea drinkers
    Peach Cobbler
    Homeade vanilla ice cream

    And lots of talk and cousins and aunts and uncles and family.

    December 2, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Reply
    • Proud to be a GRITS

      And if there was any cornbread left – crumble it up in a glass of buttermilk – breakfast of champions!

      December 2, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Reply
      • KMGraves

        I like cornbread crumbled in sweet milk wit salt and pepper!

        December 4, 2010 at 10:58 am | Reply
  26. truesouthernlady

    Hummingbird cake : For whom ever would like to have it.

    3 cups all-purpose flour
    2 cups white sugar
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 1/2 cups veg. or other choice of oil
    3 eggs
    1 can crushed pineapple, drained
    2 cups mashed bananas
    1 cup chopped black walnuts or pecans

    1 package cream cheese, softened
    1/4 pound butter, softened
    1 pound confectioners' sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees Grease and flour 2 – 9 inch cake pans

    Sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt

    In a large bowl, combine the oil, eggs, pineapple, bananas and nuts. Add flour mixture, and mix together by hand

    Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from
    oven and allow to cool on racks.

    Prepare the frosting by blending together the cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Evenly spread frosting on middle, sides and top of cake. Sprinkle the top with broken pieces for nuts.

    December 2, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Reply
    • AuroraDawn

      THANK YOU!!!! I just loved this cake when I had it...it left you wanting more...a lot more! lol

      December 2, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Reply
    • Snowbunny

      Oh man AD... this does sound wonderful!!

      December 2, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Reply
  27. JD

    Mmm, wish I could have some of my Granny's hot-water cornbread, and my Grandmother's dressing. So glad I live in the South! Louisiana, btw!

    December 2, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Reply
  28. Shut up...

    I lived in Texas for 8 years and trust me Southern food compared to other foods is totally fattening and makes you want to go to sleep. And people in the South need to be educated on what a portion is. BIGGER portioning does not make your food taste good. To any who has not tried Southern food please do not try it and you are not missing anything except for lard and grease.

    December 2, 2010 at 12:57 pm | Reply
    • Jenn B

      Hmm, Texas isn't really the South so take up your beef with them.

      December 2, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Reply
      • christopher gillespie

        ^

        December 2, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Reply
    • Lucky Yankee

      I spent three years in Texas. You're eating the wrong thing! Texas is for steak, barbecue, and Tex-Mex, period. But I agree that a lot of Southern dishes take the lard waaay too seriously...

      December 2, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Reply
      • Southern Sue

        Texas is great for those things. But it's not that different than a lot of these posts at a Texas grandma's house. Our fare as a kid was mostly vegetables from the garden, yes the okra was fried – a pot roast in the oven, casseroles, etc. We're 10th generation Texans. If you spend all your time in Texas eating in restaurants – sure the best and the predominate foods are going to be BBQ and Tex Mex – and that's great – but that's not TYPICAL traditional home-cooking. That's "eating out". For special occasions we usually had fried shrimp, catfish and oysters, hush-puppies, cole slaw, and a loaf of home-made buttered bread. Oh, and Texas is most DEFINITELY part of the South.

        December 2, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Reply
    • Proud Redneck

      Whatever, Mexican – go home.

      December 2, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Reply
      • R

        For many Mexicans Texas is, and has been since centuries ago, home... You indian killer

        December 2, 2010 at 6:28 pm | Reply
    • Rolf

      To "Shut Up..."

      Do you troll much?

      That's the 2nd time you posted the same obnoxious post.

      December 2, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Reply
  29. truesouthernlady

    To AuroraDawn: Post a fax number and I would be happy to send you the receipe for Hummingbird cake.

    December 2, 2010 at 12:57 pm | Reply
  30. Lucky Yankee

    Mmm... Great posts! Lucky for me I married a Southerner.

    One huge difference in Southern and Yankee cooking is in the cooking method. Southerners are masters of the skillet, stovetop and grill; if it can be fried or barbecued, they're all over it. But biscuits aside, Yankees rule the oven; pastries, breads, casseroles, and pot roasts are king Up North. I think it's because cooks used to choose methods based on the weather conditions (to an extent we still do). Before AC and central heating, you wanted to time that oven use out just right. The delightful result is that here in America, we can have our cake - and the corn dodgers, too. :)

    I agree that Southern cooking makes the best use of fresh ingredients. That nice, long growing season makes all the difference. I do wish they'd quit putting meat in all the veggies, though. Sometimes a bean is good as just... a bean. But God bless 'em for the collards n' ham.

    December 2, 2010 at 12:51 pm | Reply
    • Jenn B

      I agree about the veggies. We also cook them forever until their nearly mush. But lots of poor people lived off the potlikker from those veggies. I prefer my green beans cooked crisp tender or sauteed but let me tell you, when I hosted Thanksgiving I served pole beans boiled down to a nice, soft yummy texture.

      December 2, 2010 at 12:57 pm | Reply
      • Jenn B

        I mean "they're" not their. Ugh, I hate that...

        December 2, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Reply
      • Lucky Yankee

        Yup. When I cook for my family, the veggies are steamed. When I cook for the ILs, its mushy all the way! Not that I mind every now and then. Food is one of those things that tie a family together and I love having my husband's family around, so if they like what I cook then I'm happy.

        And I am very, very happy to have married a Southerner - even if it was only for the okra, it would've been worth it! Is there anything okra CAN'T fix?!

        December 2, 2010 at 1:05 pm | Reply
      • Not all Southern Veggies are Mush & Meaty

        Again, I think you are all over-generalizing Southern food. Sure, collards have to cook for HOURS and are just plain wrong without a ham hock in them. But, as for my green beans, I blanch them in some salt water, and then put a tiny bit of butter in the pot with some salt, pepper and garlic. No meat there and definitely not mush! I'm also a working mother and wife, so I don't have time to come home and cook beans or what not for hours. Now, those long-cooked dinners are saved for the weekends. But us Southerners do know how to make meat free and HEALTHY vegetables too!

        December 2, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Reply
    • christopher gillespie

      You make me smile.
      I generally cut Texas right out of my view of the South. There's just something not right about it. My father was stationed there when I was younger, and I served in Texas for a year before I moved to my perm duty station. One of my sisters was born in SC, the other in VA. I've also lived in TN, FL and currently reside in GA. I've lived in another 20 states between being a Military Brat, my Service and College. Basing your entire opinion of our culinary nature on a limited scope of 8 years in TX just leaves you lacking on one of the greatest reasons to wake up in the morning.
      Portioning is a universal problem, and personal proclivity will always supersede portioning. You'll simply order double. Personal discipline has more to do with it than anything.

      And lastly – Fat is flavor. It's a cooking fundamental.

      December 2, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Reply
      • christopher gillespie

        And I appear to not have replied to 'Shut up...'

        =D

        December 2, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Reply
  31. MSUBruin

    These comments have brought back more memories than I expected! Born and raised in Mississippi, I grew up spending summers with my Granny in her kitchen watching her cook without measuring a single thing and never setting a timer. Some folks above me have it exactly right: it's all about the love and the (absolutely delicious) use of what's available to you. She still grows her own vegetables in her backyard, and you've never tasted a better tomato.

    December 2, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Reply
  32. Suvir Saran

    A chef at a restaurant is not supposed to cook food that is not thought-out at least somewhat.
    Why else should one go to a restaurant to eat?

    As an owner/creative-chef of a restaurant myself, I LOVE eating and feeding at home. In fact NOTHING I do matches the joy I have when I am teaching or feeding people at home. Those are TWO of my favorite things to do in the world. They are two things I do that truly can inspire me and others.

    Then why do I associate myself with a restaurant? Why have recipes created that feed people without my presence at my restaurant? That is a question with very deep meaning and much to be considered.

    At my restaurant, I try and offer people a cuisine, dishes, flavors, tastes and a memorable experience that might not be possible at home. At the restaurant I cook as my mother can with a group of chefs and helpers at her home. I share foods that people might never find outside of a blessed home. I hope to give at my restaurant people meals that will be memorable forever and rich in ways only a meal such as one eaten at a blessed home or a fine restaurant can be. Of course I have had meals at homes with no staff that were equally rich and varied and outstanding but the odds are less. At the restaurant, with a knowledge of knowing our gifts of human resources, our access to amazing land-based produce and animal-based produce, we are able to create magical offerings that certainly are possible in a home, but require a lot more time, sweat and many more hands.

    What does it take to make a very memorable meal happen? Well it takes a village, if you will, to make a memorable feast get created and enjoyed in a restaurant setting and even more at a home. Teams of people, working for hours and hours with great focus and dedication to the craft and art of cooking – create each bite that a diner enjoys in a restaurant. Of course we are speaking of restaurants where food is not served simply brought out of a shipped box, brought to temperature in a microwave or oven and then served. We are speaking of restaurants that are more mindful of what they serve and ensure they cook their food in-house from scratch.

    It is this mindful cooking that leads to thought-out cooking that is no more or no less magical than the wondrous foods cooked for us by family members that enjoy cooking. Of course a restaurant setting affords the cook/chef a lot more creativity. At the very least because of the team of people readily available to help with the many layers of magic being created. Of course my family in India can outshine many restaurant meals easily – since my mother has a team of people working on each meal at our home. Many hands come together in the preparation of that food. How could I ever match what she does at our home in India at my farm in Upstate NY where Charlie and I are alone in the creation, preparation, cleaning and sharing of a meal and celebration?

    If we can keep all of these facts in mind, one could understand what Chef Linton Hopkins has created in his world of Southern Fare. It does not have to be what another may have grown up with or may think of as being authentic. Authenticity itself is only authentic when it changes with time, adapts to changing times and needs, and is a mirror image of the times it is being represented in.

    I remember so well the words of support Michael Batterberry, Founding Editor of Food and Wine and Food Arts Magazine had for chefs like Linton Hopkin and myself who were working hard to establish new grounds for the cuisine of their land, the cuisine they grew up with and the cuisine of a particular region or people, in a world that was different today than it was in the past. Only he could have said it as she did. I quote him from the foreword he wrote for my book.below. To make a point Read it and replace me and put Linton Hopkins in my place. You will learn to be a little more generous as you understand the chefs cuisine and his mission. I must also add that Chef Linton Hopkins is a far more talented man than I ever could be. I also hardly live in a cave to consider him an equal of mine in any way. His stature, fame, success and brilliance is at a level grater than I am at now, or may ever reach. I hold him at a very high esteem and do so not because of any success he has found with his restaurant (to be honest, I have yet to eat a meal at his restaurant) or as a celebrity. I respect him for his values, those he shares as he travels to speak at conferences, at events and in public appearances. He does the South and all of America very proud with his manner, his generosity, his simplicity and his deep respect for his roots. How I wish those that challenge him, would spend some time first understanding where this great chefs mind comes from and then place his cuisine into a context it deserves to be at. And so, below please read a large excerpt from the foreword written for my first book my Michael Batterberry, a sage mind, a brilliant mind, lost from our world suddenly earlier this year, but a mind that shall always be relevant in the world of food. You can check out Food Arts Magazine by looking at this link http://www.foodarts.com

    "..........We ourselves first caught wind of Suvir in the mid 1990s when an Indian travel consultant patronized by the footloose culinary cognoscente for her private gastronomic tours of the subcontinent, told us of a young caterer catching fire along New York’s food centric party circuits. His style of cooking, she suggested, at once fresh and authentic, would be of particular interest to Food Arts magazine subscribers, professionals always alert to newly flowering talent with secrets of the world’s tastiest cuisines to spill.

    Contacting each other by phone, Suvir and I made a date for a quick editorial lunch. While the magazine’s offices lie within the Flat Iron district’s tight mesh of postmodern restaurant thrills, they also abut a Little India enclave known as Curry Hill, a short city stroll as aromatic as any in New Delhi, peppered with unpretentious eating places and intriguingly crammed food shops that draw Indian expats and adventurous American chefs and home cooks from near and far. With all these polyglot choices, where would he like to go? Happily, Suvir proposed that we explore a new vegetarian regional Indian restaurant right around the corner, its menu posting in the window as indecipherable to me as an atomic physicist’s jottings.

    Suvir, who has the gift of immediate intimacy, tempered by ancestral decorum, proved to be an ideal table companion, a charming raconteur and, quite clearly, a born teacher with the ability to set the unfamiliar in engaging context. The arrival of each dish provoked from him an informative meander of recognition, definition, and recollection glinting with colorful detail. Repeatedly, Panditji, the name of his family’s make Brahmin cook, was intoned with the fervor of a culinary mantra. Suvir’s cooking guru since childhood, a man whose reverence for food extends to bathing the family’s resident kitchen idols in basil spiced Ganges River water, Panditji’s wise, quasi-mystical presence can be felt coursing through the chapters of this book.

    For me, the entry that most tellingly captures the essence of Panditji’s transcendental home cooking is an evocatively annotated recipe for Kheer, a rice pudding identified by the author as the quintessential Indian dessert. Suvir recalls that even as a small child he understood that Panditji’s Kheer, with its “sublimely creamy texture,” was better than anyone else’s. Although, as he points out, almost no technique is involved, the secret lay in the Brahmin cook’s abundance of “love, patience, and the desire to entertain your senses as well as those of others…. With his priestly training, he understood puddings as a means to inspire the senses in a way that was otherwise impossible for mortals to experience: eating this was the closest that we could come to tasting the divine in this earthly life.”

    Not that all Indian home cooking serves as one-way transport to cloudless nirvana. Here you’ll also find the hearty dishes, punchy flavors, and what Americans used to call zing. Earthy pleasures, too, some unexpectedly parallel to our own. Suvir was knowingly amused when I described to him a lunch in New Delhi with the firebrand editor and publisher Mala Singh who had hospitably volunteered to help us untangle the menu’s regional Indian culinary ropes. Try the Sarson Kaa Saag with some Makee Kee Roti, she insisted. Very unusual for you, she continued, long cooked bitter greens with bread made of cornmeal. Oh, we replied, that’s exactly like American home cooking, it’s soul food of the South, collard greens and cornbread. This appropriation seemed not to please her, What’s not the same, she retorted, is that with it we drink buttermilk! Our response that so do Southerners sparked a swift change of subject. Ah, well, I thought, as the philosopher Lin Yutang wisely mused, “What is patriotism but all the good things we ate in childhood?”

    Faced with the tastes, needs, resources of contemporary American home cooks, Suvir Saran fully understands Escoffier’s dictum that “the art of cookery is the constant expression of the present.” Even his recipe for Panditjis revered rice pudding illustrates his practical policy of making respectful adjustments and substitutions, “streamlining” as he puts it, to smooth the procedural and dietary paths of 21st century cooks: “I simplify wherever possible because today’s culture demands it and use substantially less oil than my teachers in India cooked with.”

    Suvir’s precocious spectrum of talents and varied educational rites of passage in India and the United States have led to a serpentine career trajectory, corkscrewing from painter/print maker/sculptor and singer of classical Indian forms to manager of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s gift store, buyer of objets d’art for Bergdorf Goodman, and merchandising of Henri Bendel’s home furnishings department to cooking teacher, caterer, restaurant consultant, Food Arts contributor, and adjunct professor in the continuing education program of New York University’s department of Nutrition and Food Studies, where he specialized in Indian culinary techniques and sauces and led groups of spice research expeditions to Curry Hill.

    Now he adds to his C.V. the profession of cookbook author, a logical outcome of his years as cooking teacher and caterer, twin careers that grew out of his days in high style retail, at which time he developed a reputation as a kitchen genie for his addictively tasty Indian home cooking repertoire, generous relays of which he would regularly bring to work to provide lunch for delighted fellow workers. Several of then persuaded him to give his first cooking lessons.

    Generosity, spontaneity, warmth and serial explosions of flavor are hallmarks of Indian hospitality, an assertion my wife Ariane and I can vouch for, having been treated over several decades to the scintillating evidence of this in the homes of Indian friends, including Suvir’s, both in India and the West. To confirm that the intertwined phenomenon of Indian home cooking and hospitality are capable of retaining their vibrancy en voyage from the homeland, one need look no further than these pages, each one of which glows with articulately heartfelt presentations of flavor-layered recipes. All are easy to follow, no matter how seemingly complex the requisite arsenal of spices, which, in the internet age, are now available to anyone with a mailing address.

    The recipes, many drawn from nostalgic circle of family sources other than Panditji, are also ecumenical in that Hindu vegetarian family favorites commingle with heirloom Muslin ones.

    The mystery-dispelling clarity and depth of what appear to be foolproof formulae may be attributed to the collaborative vigilance of Stephanie Lyness, who, mirroring the procedural manner of the late great New York Times food editor and cookbook author Craig Claiborne who, attentively following the cooking moves of chef Pierre Frayne while glued to his typewriter, took scrupulous note of every phase of a dish’s execution, pausing to ask for clarification or amplification along the way in order to transmit any fugitive details or relevant food lore to the recipe’s eventual users, the trusting cookbook public.

    But, as with any lasting contribution to cookbook literature, the ultimate proof of a new work’s value indeed lies in the proof of the pudding, or Kheer as the case may be here. With American food lover today exhibiting a surging hunger for bolder, more complexly flavored dishes, the timing of Indian Home Cooking’s publication is perfectly in sync. Who could resist Suvir Saran’s bugle call to pull up a chair to his soul reviving table where “we Indians don’t just love the taste of our food, we live for the taste.” Certainly not I. ........."

    Whilst you might think the chef is gilding the lily around Southern cooking with his creations – I think the chef is doing what he is inspired to create as a culinary artist. The ingredients, the roots and the muse are all Southern and very traditional. It is his style, approach and creativity that are uniquely his own and create a cuisine that is at once authentic to the South of today, to the personality of this individual chef from the South and to the lifelong adventures that have enriched his mind, body and soul with food memories that are certainly enriching his life and creations of culinary jewels and masterpieces today.

    The table is a wonderful place to come challenge one another, debate and chatter and argue. But it has never been a place to be small. At a table blessed with great food and cooked by generous people, I for one have never found a smallness of thought or generosity of acceptance. There is place for one and all. Lets hope our world keeps getting richer in the number of generous tables around which our world population can find fodder for good thought, for a hungry body and a hungry mind, all at once.

    Suvir Saran

    rambling away from my farm in Upstate NY as I lie in bed, with a cold or flu, and with nothing much to do but browse the internet

    December 2, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Reply
    • Sir Biddle@Suvir

      Holy Christmas, thats the longest post I've ever seen!

      December 2, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Reply
      • Suvir Saran

        The post is long not just because of my long rambling way, but also because of my posting an excerpt from a man of great wisdom, who the world lost earlier this year. Read the excerpt from Michael Batterberry. It might make you understand this debate a little better. Sorry for such a long post. Forgive me please!

        December 2, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Reply
      • Kat Kinsman

        Suvir is VERY worth listening to. I promise.

        December 2, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Reply
    • justpeachy

      ????

      December 2, 2010 at 12:51 pm | Reply
    • Kat Kinsman

      I adore you, Suvir!

      December 2, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Reply
    • Jerv

      Wow, Chinese wall of text! So long I'll have to print it up and read at home.

      December 2, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Reply
      • Suvir Saran

        Again, I am sorry for the barrage of words. Please do read, even if only the excerpted part from Michael Batterberry, the founding editor of Food and Wine and Food Arts magazines. He was as brilliant a man as they ever come, and a wordsmith and thinker unlike any one will find anytime soon. He passed away in July, leaving a world at a loss for a mind of with the generosity and wisdom that he seemed to have in abundance. He will help all in this debate appreciate what is wonderful about food throughout its many shapes, flavors and forms.

        December 2, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Reply
      • Jerv@SS

        No apologies needed. Just was overwhelmed by such a long post. However, I am really going to print it and read it at home when I have the time.

        December 2, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Reply
    • Suvir Saran

      I share Michael Batterberry's excerpt in a larger chunk that I originally wanted to, to share with all the relevance for food itself to be fluid and malleable and the opposite of didactic.
      Food is always a mirror image of the times, society, people and politics that it is surrounded by and created in.
      What Michael was trying to bring forth in his foreword about my book was how my book was going to give Indians in America and Americans who are not Indian a cookbook of Indian flavors and foods that was at once authentic and also part of the times it was written in.
      We live in a world today where nothing is too exotic, too esoteric or too difficult to find.
      In such a world, there is no room for mediocrity, for half-baked efforts, for foods that are too unhealthy or too plain or bland because of a lack of availability or affordability or access.
      That is what has changed the dialog between what was authentic even only a couple of decades ago to today.

      Certainly there are those that would rather live so authentically that they would seem out of fit in the moment. Not sure how good a living that is.

      That said, I live my life to respect, celebrate and safeguard traditions, difference, diversity and the past. I hope that realizing how the world is a melting pot today of great variety does not mean one has to divorce oneself from the magic of what was, is and always shall be a shining star of unique identity.

      December 2, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Reply
      • DerekL

        Yes, and the fact that it praises you at great length has *nothing* to do with it does it? You couldn't find any other quote could you?

        The fact it, it's a load of horsepuckey that utterly fails to adress the actual issues being discussed here.

        December 4, 2010 at 6:32 am | Reply
    • Sir Biddle@Suvir

      No offensive intended, just my quick witted, smart-mouth getting ahead of me sometimes. Nothing personal at all Suvir.

      December 2, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Reply
      • Suvir Saran

        And I may have been overly sensitive. Thanks though for clarifying. You are too kind.

        December 2, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Reply
      • Sir Biddle@Suvir

        I couldn't agree with you more as to the passion that goes into food preparation AND the enjoyment of it with friends and family. Growing up in a second-generation restaurant family has made me appreciate the passion that can be put into food. The kitchen is my favorite room in the house and the energy and enjoyment I get from cooking and having a long meal with friends is invaluable. If you are ever in DC, I'd break bread (or nan) with you anytime.

        December 2, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Reply
      • Suvir Saran

        Sir Biddle – do you own a restaurant? are you a chef? I look forward to us breaking bread or naan. Thanks for that offer. I am in DC at least a few times each year. Thanks!

        December 3, 2010 at 8:09 pm | Reply
    • AuroraDawn

      I read American Masala! I loved it. Write away,please.

      December 2, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Reply
      • Suvir Saran

        Perhaps you will now cook from it and that will say more about my writing and recipe talents. Hope you enjoy that which you made from American Masala. Thanks for your kind words AuroraDawn!

        December 2, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Reply
    • DerekL

      Nobody has a problem with a chef being creative, innovative, etc... The problem arises when he calls his creations 'Southern' when they plainly are not. They're modern 'fou-fou' food that bears little to no resemblance to the cuisine he claims they belong to.

      December 4, 2010 at 6:27 am | Reply
    • Born in ATL

      That post is longer than a southern bapist preacher's sermon on Easter morning!

      December 5, 2010 at 10:34 am | Reply
  33. MS Girl

    I can agree with both sides of this debate. While I do believe that the food that I cherished growing up, cooked by my Mamaw, was wonderful in its simplicity. I also support the Contemporary Southern Cuisine that the new generation of southern chefs have delved into. I have lived and ate in a variety of places, ending up in the Northeast unfortunately, and I have grown more than fascinated with food-all types. Despite all the different foods that I have eaten, even those that have been the most complex, there will never be anything better than my Mamaw's biscuits with tomato gravy. MMMM, makes my mouth water just thinking about it. Though I hate bland food more than most, the simple southern dishes that I grew up loving: mustard greens, turnip greens, green beans, even cabbage after being simmered all day in fat back were phenomenal and could have never touched my taste buds and left me with a thought of blandness. I think it is important that the food evolves. I don't think that we should erase the masterpieces that our Mamaw's created, but I think that we should realize that over time the southern pallete has matured for the most part. We can still love our comfort foods and appreciate the root of our cuisine, but I don't think we should be closed minded to tossing in a few fresh ideas.

    December 2, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Reply
    • lorelei

      Southerners do tend to cook vegetables to mush, but that's what makes them good! Peas, lima beans, beans, and cabbage should be cooked until they are soft. To this day, I don't like a firm green pea. Cabbage slow-cooked in bacon–that's good eatin'! And what is the dispute about pinto beans? We always ate pinto beans.

      December 4, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Reply
  34. Jenn B

    I agree with everyone else, that's not really Southern Cooking. I do appreciate the modernization and reinterpretation of the food, that's interesting and fun. But I would never want to eat any of that for Sunday dinner.

    John Kessler (whom I LOVE to read) was right on every point. Southern food is about peasant food. What comes from the ground and pigs. Lots of pig and you eat it all, tail to snout! The comparison to Italian cooking is spot on too. When you think of real Italian food you think of a little old Italian woman cooking all day to prepare a big meal for her family, effort and love. No different from the Southern Cooking I remember from Mimi as a child (and all the veggies coming from Grandaddy's huge garden).

    December 2, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Reply
  35. Carrie

    Yeah...I agree on the cast iron skillet. My mother cooks in skillets that were her mothers. You just get a better flavor.

    December 2, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Reply
    • southernborn&breed

      I am a Bama girl and I am blessed with having my great-grandmother's iron skillets. So well seasoned and so many wonder meals that were cooked in them for over 100 years. Southern food is such a tradition with historical ties that date back to before there was a United States. These wonderful recipes that have been handed down from one generation to the next gives me a connection to my family that I truly cherish. I don't like all types of southern food, but like anything else these days, you can tweak the recipe to make it heathier.

      December 5, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Reply
  36. AuroraDawn

    Now...I stayed at a gorgeous inn in Savannah a few years ago and the lady who ran it made this cake...OMG She said it was an old Southern Recipe..I'm sure I'll massacre the name but....for some reason I want to say Hummingbird cake...could that be right/ I don't know but it was amazing!!!

    December 2, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Reply
    • TN Grit

      yes, that's it.

      December 2, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Reply
      • AuroraDawn

        That cake was without a doubt one of the yummiest things I ever ate in my life...I should have got her recipe.

        December 2, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Reply
    • Proud to be a GRITS

      Hummingbird Cake – an amazing dish.

      December 2, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Reply
    • Andi

      Here's a link to a hummingbird cake recipe...sounds about right, but I haven't made it myself.

      http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/hummingbird-cake-i/Detail.aspx

      December 2, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Reply
      • SouthernSue

        Thank you for the recipe link. I think I'll make one for my family for Christmas to go along with the deviled eggs (with paprika sprinkled on top), green beans cooked with a ham hock, sweet potatoe casserole with pecans, and a Virginia ham. I'll have to leave the biscuit making to my sister-in-law – hers are better than mine. Y'all come – Yankees included. Eat – then go home!

        December 4, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Reply
  37. Melissa

    Collard greens with bacon neckbones biscuits with poor mans gravy

    December 2, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Reply
  38. James

    Some examples of southern food:

    BBQ (meat that's slow cooked/smoked)
    Fried everything with gravy (eg chicken fried steak, fried fat backs, fried okra, fried pickles, fried chicken etc...)
    Vegetables cooked with meat until they are soggy (collards, squash, green beans etc...)
    Grits
    Okra
    Cornbread that looks like pancakes
    Chicken with rice (mixed together)
    Fried catfish and mullet
    Banana pudding with vanilla wafers on top

    December 2, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Reply
    • AuroraDawn

      ....what is a fat back? I'm getting schooled today on Southern food...oh yeah...and what in the world is a Chitlin(sp) ???

      December 2, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Reply
      • Jenn B

        Fat back is a huge hunk of pork that is pretty much what it sounds like. Fat from the back of the pig. And chitlin's, I just suggest you run from them. I was born and raised in So. GA and I will not touch a chitlin!

        December 2, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Reply
      • christopher gillespie

        Fatback = The back or side portion. It's what we make our American Bacon with as well as lardons, rendered fat, etc. Chitlin's, also known as Chitterlings I suppose, is pig intestine. It's often fried, put in soups, and other fun stuff.

        December 2, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Reply
      • marc7

        Fat back is fat from the back of a hog that is thinly sliced and quick fried. The grease is used to flavor vegatables and cornbread. The fatback itself is eaten somewhat like bacon. Most people eat a slice with their meal.
        Chitlins are hog intestines that are cleaned, boiled and then fried before eating. They can also be used as a case for sausage meat.

        December 2, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Reply
  39. Nance

    Oh my, the mention of "sallet" (turnip greens) puts a smile on my face! To have a "mess" of sallet for "dinner" (lunch, to some) or "supper" (dinner, to some), seasoned with ham hocks or fatback, is still a treat, especially with a "pone" of cornbread, hmmmm, makes a rabbit want 'a hug a hound !!! Sweet tea for sure ! Fried peach pies made with real dried peaches from the tree in the yard, or garden, and fried (could be fried with lard) in a black iron skillet, dough sealed with a fork to keep the fruit filling from escaping while frying!!! Just 2 of my favorite southern dishes, I have many, many more since I live in Tennessee !!! You cannot beat those southern black ladies when it comes to cooking, they own the title of Soul Food in the south !

    December 2, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Reply
    • AuroraDawn

      Did I just read fried peach pie???? LOL Ok I'm in love with Southern Food now!!!

      December 2, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Reply
      • Nance

        Yes, to die for !!!! You roll out "homemade" pie dough/crust as thin as possible (appx 6" dia), put 2-3 T of fruit filling on one side, fold over, seal/crimp sides with fork, place in black iron skillet with oil, fry until brown. The filling is made from fruit of choice (mine is dried peaches), sugar, butter, pinch of this and that, lol – nutmeg, lemon juice !! Eat up !!! My mother-in-law makes the world's best, sorry to say, I can't make them.. :(

        December 2, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Reply
      • nay

        My grandmother used an empty "Rooster Snuff" glass to roll her dough out.

        December 2, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Reply
      • Sharry

        my favorite was apricot fried pies

        December 2, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Reply
      • lms

        My Mamma did the same with the apricots from the tree in her yard. Mnay fond memories here

        December 3, 2010 at 10:04 am | Reply
    • Kasey

      When I was a kid, "sallet" was a green called Polk (or Poke) that grew wild. Some brave person figured out that the stems and berries were poisonous, but the leaves were very yummy, especially when scrambled with eggs.

      December 2, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Reply
      • Joot

        Poke Sallet and fried racoon.... Yuuuumm. Unfortunately, Ihaven't had any since my grandmother passed away decades ago.

        December 2, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Reply
      • judi

        love me some polk sallet

        December 2, 2010 at 3:44 pm | Reply
      • Cricket

        So is it "Poke Salad, Polk Salad, Poke Sallet, or Polk Sallet Annie"?

        Or all of the above?

        December 3, 2010 at 10:30 am | Reply
      • Rich, KC

        Southerners don't eat fried raccoon. Thats what vegetarians eat in their fake meat.

        December 4, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Reply
    • Sassy

      I'm sorry, but I have never heard turnip greens referred to as 'sallet'. 'Sallet' is short for 'poke sallet', a weed that grows wild and must be picked early in the year when it just begins to shoot up out of the ground and gets a few leaves on it. It turns into a much bigger annual plant with purple/red berries.

      December 2, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Reply
    • Born in ATL

      You said it. Lawd have mercy!

      December 5, 2010 at 10:31 am | Reply
  40. Matt

    Everybody knows it's not real Southern food unless it was cooked over a burning cross, amirite?

    December 2, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Reply
    • TN Grit

      Spoken like a true bigot. This is a conversation about food.

      December 2, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Reply
    • Truth@Matt

      You are not right, but you are a moron.

      December 2, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Reply
    • justpeachy

      Oh yeah, the black cross shaped grate on the gas stove top that you put the pots on.

      December 2, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Reply
    • Jerv

      That was a rel stupid thing to say and now we all know that you are stupid.

      December 2, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Reply
      • Jerv@Jerv

        LMAO! Now I feel stupid cuz I can't spell! Any how....

        December 2, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Reply
    • Cricket

      Yes and profound remarks like that make us all pine to be Northerners. (rolling eyes)

      December 3, 2010 at 10:21 am | Reply
  41. christopher gillespie

    Some people think of Southern food just as you said AD; Grits, Collard Greens, Biscuits & Fried things are all very close to the heart. But at the beginning of the day, if I can grow it/raise it out back, then it's Southern Food. Heirloom Tomatoes, Peppers, Sunchokes, Kale, Garlic, etc. These are a few of my favorite things.

    For me it's easier to address the concept of "Well that's Italian Food..." when I think of cheese. We've several farmstead dairies down here in GA, and plenty more in the Southeast who are gaining vast acclaim for their fine cheeses. Is a cheese that is made similar in fashion to a French or Italian cheese therefore also French and Italian? Nay. It is Southern Cheese. Terroir, and the passion that went into the preparation are all I need to call it mine own.
    Much like drinking 2 wines made of the same varietal, yet produced in Willamette versus Burgundy, you'll find there are going to be striking differences in the flavor and intensity to grapes treated the exact same way.

    The incensed gentleman ranting against Antipasti is not looking at the broader picture. Antipasti is no more than a term meaning 'before the meal' that is quicker to say as 'Antipasti' and readily brings to mind ideas of pre-dinner snackins'. Eating Local/Regional doesn't mean that we have to eat indigenously to some unnamed common era. Were that the case, we'd be constrained to little more than Bird Brain Stew, Succotash, Mutton, Tomatoes and a few helpings of Lima Beans and Corn thrown in.

    And for the fine folks who don't enjoy bacon for dinner, that's their loss. Breakfast & Dinner, these are states of mind. When you have such a simple craving, why would you deny yourself? Anybody who has ever cured and smoked a pork belly, or even been around a bit of the action should have more than a healthy respect for this bit of meat candy. To limit yourself to off-brand bacon, and then further stricture yourself to 'breakfast' time consumption with a utilization as a 'side' is deplorable imho.

    December 2, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Reply
    • DerekL

      Yes, I am looking at the 'broader picture'. It doesn't matter what 'antipasti' means – the concept simply doesn't exist in Southern cooking. (Nor French for that matter – the hors d'oeuvre is a different beast altogether.) The same goes for your example with the cheeses and wines – Brie is not native to the South, and is not found in Southern Cooking. Neither is Burgundy. Make them down South all you want, and they're still alien imports.

      So you're doing exactly what I was complaining about – handwaving and fancifying in order to justify calling a tail a leg.

      December 4, 2010 at 6:21 am | Reply
  42. JP

    As a southern grandson and cook, I too recognize the reverence my extended family and I have for "MawMaws cookin." Much of the enjoyment we get out of our Southern food comes as much from its great tastes as from the familial connection we feel to our ancestors.

    Yes. To many of us, southern food is tied to the agrarian connection of our heritage, but not so much in the ingredients as in the admiration of our ancestral farmers. While most of us have left the farm over the past three to four generations, it is our grandparents that we remember, and their work on those farms that we connect with. My grandfather raised the pigs, grew the corn, and was well known in our Northwestern Georgia town for his bottled Sorghum syrup and sugar cane farm.

    Ask anyone in my family and no one makes cornbread, sweet tea, cathead biscuits, or really anything like my mawmaw, and the same can probably be said for most southerner's families. I think what many see as "fu-fu'ing things up to the point of unrecognition" comes from a desire to maintain some semblance of southern tradition in our increasingly modernized, disappearing front porch swing world (even if that never completely existed, it does in our psyche).

    Fortunately these recipes will survive passed down through the families. Problematically though, the traditional connections may continue to dissipate over the next 20-30 years as our farming grand and great-grand parents pass on, and our children lose the connection with their farming heritage.

    December 2, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Reply
    • Gina

      Cathead biscuits !! Just the sounds of those words makes me smile.

      December 2, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Reply
    • nega

      JP, you are speaking my language. I'm from N Ga as well and come from a line of sharecroppers and family farms that have been sold during Depression era to become strip malls and subdivisions. I'm bringing back canning and gardening...and hopefully one day a farm to share with my family. Honeysuckles, the caucophony of crickets and tree frogs, and a sky where you can see the dust of the Milky Way. Keep the connection alive.

      December 2, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Reply
  43. SouthernBelle

    Having been born in North Carolina, and having a grandfather born in Virginia, I am well-versed on "Southern Food". I agree with the author's assertion that Southern Food really is food that knows its roots. One other important factor is the amount of time, effort, and love that is put in to the creation of a meal. Southern Grandmothers are known for the love they put into every dish they make, which is irreplaceable.

    What most don't understand is that the over-processed, factory-farmed food we eat now doesn't hold a candle to "what grandma used to make". Our predecessors had much better access to the fresh, local, and wholesome ingredients that are now a novelty to most. A small example – have you ever had raw milk from a grass-fed cow or goat? How about meat from a heritage breed of livestock, or a true heirloom tomato or other vegetable? Quality of ingredients, along with time-honored traditions and family secret recipes make a huge difference.

    True Southern Food is made with love, from the freshest ingredients available, and with little regard for modern concerns such as sodium and calorie intake. Southern wives and mothers of yore traditionally cooked for the men who were out doing manual labor all day. Lunch (known as Dinner in the South) was the main meal of the day, supplying the energy needed to get through hours and hours of manual labor before dark. Nowadays, with our much more sedentary lifestyle, "traditional" Southern Foods represent a huge amount of unneccesary calories and sodium, but are, nonetheless, delicious, and comforting to those of us brought up with them.

    And AuroraDawn, technically, "Southern Food" and "Soul Food" are not the same, though the terms are often used interchangeably. Southern Food can be Soul Food, and vice-versa, but they are not mutually inclusive. Soul Food tends to have more creole influence, as most of it comes from recipes that date back to before the US acquired Louisiana from the French. For example, some consider gumbo "Soul Food", though most would not consider it "Southern Food".

    December 2, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Reply
    • Ronnie

      What really is scary is that the Feds are trying to end the family farms and food production by "requirements" .Heirloom seeds we have in Dixie will be illegal. This hybrid stuff and livestock full of steroids is making us all sick.
      When the dollar collapse comes and stores are empty of all of this, then we true bloods of the South will survive as we KNOW how to live off the land.
      We did it during Reconstruction and the Great Depression and we can survive again. Sorry yankees , Yall will have to work for a change or get out.

      December 2, 2010 at 8:19 pm | Reply
      • SouthernSue

        Amen, darlin'!

        December 4, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Reply
      • bobcat1a

        Comments like that reinforce stereotypes about ignorant southerners. It's one of the reasons I USED TO BE southern.

        December 4, 2010 at 7:31 pm | Reply
  44. 4U Mister

    Raised on southern cooking, Mom was born in TX and raised in Arkansas. It's good eatin'! Now I need hush puppies...

    December 2, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Reply
    • Truth@RichHead, 4U Mister

      One of my fav hiudden gems in Denver. RichHead, if you ever find yourself driving through the MHC, I will take you to lunch here:
      http://www.lincolnsroadhouse.com/

      December 2, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Reply
      • Sir Biddle@Truth

        If Reverend Horton Heat plays there (middle picture of website with upright bass), then it must be a damn good place and worth a trip!

        December 2, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Reply
      • RichardHead

        I use to pull double trailers for Mervyn's Dept stores before they went bankrupt. Hit Denver Malls all the time. Haven't been back there since. If I do I'll let Ya know and I"m buying.

        December 2, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Reply
  45. Razor

    Generations of my family have been making and serving on the table, perfect biscuits, fried chicken and fish, all manner of vegetables and brewed iced tea. My maternal grandmother's chicken pot pie was the Southern food equivalent of the little black dress. You city slickers would agree that you can't take the bagel out of NYC (something about the water?), likewise, if you weren't raised in the South, your hands will nevah, no nevah roll dough out for dumplings like we can any morning on the kitchen counter (our expert hands, the humidity?). And you gotta use a glass, not a biscuit cutter. There is no more indespensible tool than the black spider (skillet) in any Southern household, and we store it in the oven when not in use (that's hardly ever). Ummmmm. Before you suppose I've not been far north of the Mason Dixon, I'll admit to a few 3-5 star meals in the Big City.....they were pretty and all, but lack the conviction of routine, repitition and utlitmate perfection, cause we cook with patience and don't use a measuring cup.

    December 2, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Reply
    • Snowbunny

      Can your grandma fed ex me a chicken pot pie? :)

      December 2, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Reply
      • Truth@Snowbunny

        I once got in trouble as a teen when I was offered chicken pot pie and I said "Cool! Three of my favorite things!"

        December 2, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Reply
      • Happydiva

        As you should have! Hope you got in big trouble for making a drug reference.

        December 4, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Reply
    • O157:H7

      All this talk of biscuit cutters! My Mama never used one. She patted each biscuit out by hand. Every biscuit I ate in her home (just like McDonalds–"Billions and Billions Served") had the impressions of her fingers in the surface.

      December 2, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Reply
    • Leb

      Does your family's cache of recipes include anything that's actually healthy? As in, a full meal under 600 calories that doesn't include dairy butter or animal fat? I'm asking this as a legitimate question. My great grandmother was a southern cook, and her recipes are filled with so much grease and fat I honestly can't stomach them.

      December 3, 2010 at 12:41 am | Reply
      • Shari

        Bless your heart.

        December 4, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Reply
      • CR

        Then your great grandmother didn't know what she was doing.

        December 5, 2010 at 9:29 am | Reply
  46. TN Grit

    I have to agree that the extraordinarily well educated and refined chef may be gilding the lily. The true southern cooking of my family is not at all over-thought. It just happens with the stuff that was readily available to the country farmer and gardener, which, thank God, we are having closer access to all the time. Green beans simmered with fat back, okra fried in corn meal and flour, fried chicken...and hopefully the frying is done with some of the bacon fat saved from morning's breakfast....which by the way was cooked around 4:30 in the morning, by the tough as nails women who were feeding the tough as nails men headed out for a day in the field, on the railroad or in the coal mines. Salt of the earth feeds on salty, earthy food. Can't think of one of them that died before age 70...most made it to their 80's and near 90, still pinching snuff and eating the vegetables they grew in their own garden and meat from the local butcher. Soul Food and Southern Food are inexorably linked...the reality being that the southern diet has obviously, and delightfully, been influenced by African American culture. I think it's fair to link soul food to southern food without the racist connotations because it's food that feeds the soul. And from my own heritage, there were no slave holders....this is country southern food, raised, cooked and eaten by hard working, usually dirt poor day laborers, railroad workers and coal miners. I was going to cook spaghetti tonight, but I think we may have fried okra and country ham instead..............

    December 2, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Reply
    • E

      YES! Same for my grandparents on the farm! Don't forget the crowder and field peas! And chicken-n-dumplings! I definitely think cast iron makes a difference AND I'm convinced that gas ovens do too. I have my grandmother's biscuit recipe and while they taste like hers, I just can't get the texture right – they were spongy and soft on top and I swear it's because she used a gas oven. My chicken-n-dumplings are her recipe too. I even use the old green bottle that she used for a rolling pin. Also, biscuit cutter? Never! They had to be pulled apart from the rest of the dough and patted into shape.

      December 2, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Reply
      • Sharry

        A big mistake in texture is kneeding the dough too long.

        December 2, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Reply
  47. David

    Southern cooking and not a mention of black walnuts! Southerners have enjoyed wild black walnuts in dishes for generations and, like wild pecans, are a part of a wonderful cooking tradition. Especially around the holidays at my house. Who can forget black walnut cookies or churning ice cream by an old wooden crank and pouring in some fresh black walnuts. My aunt would always do that on the Fourth of July. Delicious! To the above comment, soul food and southern food are somewhat similar in that the same foods can be in both categories. There really is little clear distinction so I'm not sure I can help all that much. Suffice it to say, they're different, but they're also the same.

    December 2, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Reply
    • Rob

      It was always pecans at my mother's house in South Alabama.

      December 2, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Reply
    • O157:H7

      I think that may be a microregional thing. I have no memories of Black Walnuts, but we used Pecans in the same ways you described.

      December 2, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Reply
    • Kasey

      No offense to David, but I do not care for black walnuts. They're always bitter tasting to me, and an odd flavor. But my dad loved them in ice cream, and my uncle loves to have them in cookies.

      December 2, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Reply
    • junior

      Hickory nuts and Pecans at my granny's house in north GA

      December 2, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Reply
    • Sharry

      My grandparents had a black walnut tree on their farm. Good treats came from that . I think the biggest thing about southern cooking is that there were a lot of vegetables, beans and peas. We spent eveninggs on the porch shelling peas. There were a lot of meals of just beans over cornbread with big slices of tomatos out of the garden and pickles made from the cucumbers in the garden. They were farmers and we ate mostly what they grew. They did have pigs and cattle for meat. One of the things that I liked best was cracklin cornbread. Really can't get that anymore. I also loved the corn that we would go out and pick off the stalk. Sometimes roasted and somtimes stripped and made into cream corn.

      December 2, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Reply
    • Mary Day

      Yes David, black walnuts are delicious and we had them also. These were usually found in our woods – 300 or so acres.There are lots of delicious things that grow in the wild (I'm not speaking of meat for myself). There were wild mulberry trees, grapes, field plums, wild plum trees, huckleberries and blackberries. As stated in a previous reply, I was born and raised in MS. Oh, don't forget the home made fig & pear preserves. Good with biscuits.

      December 3, 2010 at 12:24 am | Reply
  48. Sue G.

    Just wanted to comment on the author's search for true Memaw-style buscuits. She may find that the issue isn't with the ingredients or preparation, but rather with the pan in/on which they're cooked. Many Southern cooks use their mother's (or grandmother's) baking sheets and cast-iron skillets, that have decades of good flavor and tempering baked into them. I use several of my mother's, which are at least 50 years old. They're certainly cleaned after every use, so I'm not sure why it should make a difference, but items baked or fried in these sheets and skillets have an entirely deeper flavor than those prepared on my newer, "fancier" pans.

    December 2, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Reply
    • James C

      I think a lot has to do with the cooking pans. My mom is using cast iron pans from her grandma, and you just can't get that many years of flavor anywhere else.

      December 2, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Reply
    • Tiss

      I have my great grandmother's cast iron dutch oven and everything tastes better made in it. Southern food to me: sweet iced tea, fried okra (fried to almost burnt), pot roast made in cast iron dutch oven with veggies picked from Mema's garden, fried chicken, chicken fried steak, turnip and collard greens, cornbread made with white cornmeal with a tad of sugar and made in the oven with a cast iron skillet, any fresh garden veggie cooked til soft....I could go on and on. Sweet memories!

      December 2, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Reply
      • Jim

        OMG! That's what I'm talkin' about! I'm from Southern Florida but a lot of people don't consider that the Deep South because of all the Snow Birds that have migrated South. I used to eat Fried Okra for breakfast and to this day I order it every time we eat at Cracker Barrell. How a Fried Potatoe Sandwich or some Swamp Cabbage from the Everglades? Or some Georgia Ice Cream (grits with lots of butter and salt!). Reading what you wrote was worse that watching an Unwrapped episode on Southern Cooking ... it made me soooo hungry!

        December 2, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Reply
      • Southern Sue

        Oh man! That's what I'm talking about – EXACTLY. You are making this Texas girl hungry with all that talk. Fried okra – picked from my Nanny and PaPa's garden was the FIRST thing I thought about. And some warm fig preserve over some home-made vanilla ice cream. Oh MY!!!!!
        Lots of veggies...corn, beans, peas of all sorts.
        Also, someone commented on conch fritters – FLORIDA. The South is a big place.

        December 2, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Reply
      • E

        Tiss,
        That is definitely the best way to fry okra in a big iron skillet! Stuff in restaurants just has too much coating.

        December 2, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Reply
      • RedinAustin

        Geez Southern Sue, now you're making this Texas girl's mouth water! I was just thinking of a big plate of Texas caviar, sliced tomatoes, cornbread, and fried okra (although pickled okra could be substituted). Then serve me up a big ole bowl of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla and Poteet Strawberries, and I'd be mighty happy! Is it May yet?!

        December 2, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Reply
      • Mary Day

        Just to add a few other dishes: Chicken and handmade dumplings, good biscuits, all the fresh vegies – especially those delicious home grown tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh coconut cake from scratch, delicious banana pudding, etc. etc. I'm moving back to MS, mainly for the good food. My family ate kosher (not Jewish) – no ham, bottom crawlers, etc. and still my mother was the best cook in the world and not greasy. Don't forget the pepper sauce that had to be on the table with the vegies. When I left the south for Calif. it was hard for me to ever eat vegies/dinner without cornbread. We had home made biscuits, buttered, and mashed strawberries with cream – whatever fresh fruit in season every a.m. Also good molasses/syrup made in LA or MS. Can't be beat – I'm 69 and traveled lots of Europe and other places. Home made healthy wheat buns and loaf bread. I could go on and on. I'm petite and not obese and can down 6 biscuits when my sister makes them – she is the best next to my mother.

        December 3, 2010 at 12:07 am | Reply
      • lms

        There is nothing like cast iron. I live in Brooklyn, raised in Texas, when I do a pork roast or ribs in my dutch over the neibhbors in my coop seem to appear with a pitcher if marguarita's. the trick is low & slow, low heat 250f and slow cooking @ 3 hours. If you like one can singe on the grill to flame kiss with some mesquite, add what ever sauce suits your fancy. An iron fry pan with lid is invaluable, home made corn bread with a crusty bottom, sauteed greens and the pan can be used to bake fish. I sometimes even fry in the darn thing

        December 3, 2010 at 10:14 am | Reply
    • Michael Sawyer

      Not only the pans you cook with but the pans you mix with as well. Changes the texture of the batter. I mix my biscuits right on the counter. I might use a plastic mixing bowl. I will never use glass or metal.

      December 2, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Reply
    • Jessie

      Sue G you are absolutely right! It is the cast iron that really makes the difference! Corn Bread made in my old cast iron skillet just tastes better... It is the same recipe.

      December 2, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Reply
      • bobcat1a

        Cast iron definitely for cornbread but must be with bacon grease, not some PC oil. Blackeyed peas, turnip greens, with cayenne pepper sauce, and fried chicken and white rice with sausage gravy.

        December 4, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Reply
    • Hester

      Bingo! I've not inherited any cast iron from my grandmother yet...thank goodness :) – but when that day does come I'm baking a big skillet full of cat head biscuits with chocolate gravy in her memory. Cat heads with chocolate gravy are my family's favorite treat.

      December 2, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Reply
      • Cathy

        OMG! Cathead biscuits with chocolate gravy! You must be from eastern Kentucky! That is my all time favorite comfort food. Yum!

        December 4, 2010 at 9:58 pm | Reply
    • O157:H7

      While they insist they didn't change it, I don't think my biscuits are as light since Smucker's bought out White Lily.

      December 2, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Reply
      • hookapooka

        You may not like this but lard will make the biscuits flaky and light as a feather.Lard is an old southern staple rarely used by southern cooks anymore.One time won't hurt a thing-Cut lard into the flour and use buttermilk instead of plain and see what happens.We still use lard.I don't care about the "potential health risk".I'll go when it's my time to go! Good luck with the biscuits

        December 4, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Reply
    • jj

      All Purpose Flour and baking powder can't replace Self-Rising flour for biscuits...vegetable shortening or lard and buttermilk are also requirements.

      But getting the right consistency is the hard part...if you mix/knead/roll to much your biscuit will be tough. Mix as little as possible to get a light airy biscuit.

      December 2, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Reply
    • Born in ATL

      You are absolutely right! My mother bakes the best biscuits. She says it's because she uses the same pan she's used for over forty years!

      December 5, 2010 at 10:25 am | Reply
  49. Truth

    Cannot beat catfish and hush puppies. Conch fritters as well.

    December 2, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Reply
    • Rob

      Conch fritters?–Really? I grew up in South Alabama and I never heard of conch fritters until I got into college and met people from other cultures.

      December 2, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Reply
    • WestTN

      Amen brother. I live in DC now, and I miss fried catfish everyday. I metioned it to a coworker, and they respond "You eat catfish? Fried? How?" With sweet tea and slaw of course!

      December 2, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Reply
      • O157:H7

        Don't forget the hushpuppies!

        December 2, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Reply
      • Kasey

        And a big wedge of raw onion. My husband is a California native, but I have him hooked on fried catfish eaten along with a bite of raw onion. Just something about the combo...

        December 2, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Reply
    • Grandma

      Once had a Sunday School Teacher who said her version of heaven was to have a 'catfish fry everyday and never ever have to worry about getting full or fat!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      December 5, 2010 at 1:55 am | Reply
  50. AuroraDawn

    Hmmm Southern Food...well being Canadian I'm a foremost authority on such matters....no,not really. All I know about Southern food is...Grits,Collard Greens,Biscuits,Fried things with white gravy on top...etc. LOL I apologize, I really don't know much about it and I do not in anyway want to seem offensive but...that's pretty much how it's portrayed to us....now,can someone tell me is Southern Food and Soul Food the same thing?? Or is my mighty Northerness showing??

    December 2, 2010 at 11:31 am | Reply
    • LovesGod

      My Mom is from Alabama. So my upbringing was exactly the foods you mentioned. But it was more than that, it was her love and heart that she cooked those foods with. It was making do with the little that we had and yet when you tasted it you felt the love that was put into it.

      December 2, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Reply
      • Robby

        I agree...it really isn't all about the expense of the ingredients.. it's about the imagination too.. all about creativity..a friend got me this hilarous cookbook for Xmas last year that uses unexpected ingredients in differnent places.. for example.. a pumpkin and pork chili, sweet potato and jalepeno balls, chicken curry tacos.. they are all so great.. the book is a little politically incorrect, so I won't tell you the name of it here...some of you will freak, but if you google "whipped and beaten culinary works" you can find it.. but seriously.. don't go if you can't take a good joke..

        December 2, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Reply
      • Maggie

        I am a native Alabamian and so was my grandmother. She was the penultimate Southern cook. Her biscuits were legend (when my grandfather was working, she cooked fresh biscuits every day, making enough dough in the morning to have biscuits for all three meals of the day), her fried chicken was perfection, and her chicken and dumplings are unmatched anywhere else I have eaten (Cracker Barrel comes the closest but doesn't hit the mark, one problem is too much pepper).

        December 4, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Reply
      • nimrod

        This is really a comment for Maggie: the word you are looking for is "Ultimate", not "Penultimate" which doesn't mean what you think. "Penultimate actually means next to last.

        December 4, 2010 at 10:32 pm | Reply
    • southman

      southern food and soul food are not the same thing. soul food is the food that is so greasy,sooooo good that it makes you feel extremely happy and you feel a sense of place. sothern food is just food cooked in the south. take it from me. im in the deep south

      December 2, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Reply
      • Maria

        I agree. and I think that soul food has a tab bit more seasoning to me. I know people that make cornbread dressing(stuffing) but then I know people that make cornbread dressing w/ a tad more seasoning. Some people cook collards greens down here but when you had the piece of hamhock and a tab bit of sugar to those collard greens then that's some real souther soul food. Its all about the seasoning. Yea, I'm in the deep south the Fla panhandle

        December 2, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Reply
      • chillax

        Southern food is the quintessential "comfort food", assuming you are from the south. One must be raised on some dishes that is an acquired taste, like persimmon or tomato puddin'. I have a wonderful old cookbook written by Beth Tartan, a food editor for many years in Winston-Salem, NC; NORTH CAROLINA AND MORAVIAN COOKING. It has a host of anecdotes, and history of southern foods and recipes. I have never had a failed recipe. The pound cake recipe has many stains on the page. It is 100% cholesterol, but luscious, and will make you "Slap your mama"!

        December 3, 2010 at 8:04 am | Reply
      • RichardSimmons@chillax

        Can I slap your "monkey?"

        December 3, 2010 at 8:30 am | Reply
      • JiminSD

        It is always enteresting reading readers passionate comments and opinions some people state that soul food is not southern food. I am from the deep south but now live in california in my travels I have eaten in Soul Food kitchens throughout the US (Oakland, Chicago, New York, LA) and never came across somthing that I hadn't eaten growing up in the Mississippi, Alabama, and Gerogia region.

        December 4, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Reply
      • hookapooka

        I remember a few years ago my niece called and told my mother that she was going to bring her boyfriend from France.My mother asked me what would be good for dinner.I replied, how about snails.he'd like that.My mother ,believing I was serious said"Go to the store and see if you can find them and I'll fry 'em up for supper!!!

        December 4, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Reply
      • Popeye

        Soul food greasy? Some may be, but good soul food is far from greasy. When you find that place or that person that KNOWS soul food from the heart, it is hard to beat.

        And yes sir, that is one genre of Southern Cooking.

        December 5, 2010 at 3:24 am | Reply
    • Shut up...

      I lived in Texas for eight years and trust me Southern food compared to other foods is totally fattening and makes you want to go to sleep. And people in the South need to be educated on what a portion is. BIGGER portioning does not make your food taste good. To any who has not tried Southern food please do not try it and you are not missing anything except for lard and grease.

      December 2, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Reply
      • YOU shut up....

        That is about the most ignorant statement I have ever heard in my life! I was born and raised in Florida, and my family is from South Carolina. We know what Southern Food is. And, if it's THAT greasy, it wasn't done RIGHT! Southern food is a culture, just as any other culture in this land we live in. We're all regional and we all have our differences. If you hate our culture so much, LEAVE!

        December 2, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Reply
      • yankeedoodle

        Yeah, and yankees for some stupid reason, act like they live on some mystical planet that is magical, low fat, and beautiful. Unfortunately, you all want to move down south to get away from price gouging, pollution, streets that are sewer filled, rusty cars, and hookers. You have brought your Mcdonalds, Burger Kings, Hardees, and all your commercial crap food and thrown it in every little town in America that doesnt need your dog food. GET EDUCATED, this is 2010. Everyone in America eats like crap, plus you. You are just another New Yorker wanting to sound smart. Thank God I dont read this much, and next time you yankees comment on the South being racist, take a look at what you are commenting on. HOLLA at ya BOY!!!!!!

        December 2, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Reply
      • Kasey

        Yes, please shut-up, Shut-Up. You're an idiot.

        December 2, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Reply
      • yankeedoodle

        WHOOOA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just finished my Large New York style pizza, Im feelin a little funny. Can someone call a doctor!!

        December 2, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Reply
      • Jack

        Glad you moved on from Texas, we don't need ya down here, not all southern food is fat and greasy. Southern BBQ is the best you have ever tasted because like others have said, it has been cooked from the heart with lots of love and passion. It's all about the LOVE and PASSION!

        December 2, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Reply
      • Puh..lease

        Lawd, there is absolutely nothing more intolerable than a patronizing Yankee.

        December 2, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Reply
      • Jack

        Southern cooking is all about cooking from the heart with lots of love and passion and the BBQ aint bad either. Long slow cooking over a low heat....it don't get any better than that......

        December 2, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Reply
      • Ben

        Texas isn't the South... Sorry... It is mostly Tex-Mex food... I am from Louisiana and I think of Gumbo,Crawfish Etouffee, Shrimp Po-Boys, Boulettes, Dirty Rice...

        December 2, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Reply
      • lisa r

        @shut up; i agree with"you shut up" ditto, not to pile on you or anything sorry you haven't got a clue.....

        December 2, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Reply
      • O157:H7

        As a North Georgia mountain native, I can only encourage everyone to remember a basic truth. Yankees are like hemorrhoids. If they come down and go back up, they're okay, but if they come down and stay, they're a real pain in the a$$. Thank you, Mr. ShutUp for going back up.

        On the subject of run-away portion control: That is a pan-USA problem, and the overindulgence champion is Chicago. I have never seen portions of meat like they serve there.

        December 2, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Reply
      • missgrl

        Texas is not the South. I'm from the South and live in Texas now and I will tell you the food is not remotely close.

        December 2, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Reply
      • Michael

        Please stay away from my South! Southern food is also about culture, family and friends...apparently something you missed out on. Just take your big cowboy hat, shout out "yah hoo" and hit up Burger King on the way home.

        December 2, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Reply
      • Johnny3Jobs

        For anyone who says "Texas is not the South" - Yes we are. We were part of the Confederacy. TexMex is NOT Mexican food...it is part of the Southern family.

        December 2, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Reply
      • Barbie Q

        Texas is NOT Southern. Good Southern food is not greasy. A lot of the food is just easily available and very little is wasted when it comes to meat. Born and raised in middle Ga.

        December 2, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Reply
      • Texas Native

        Oh please... Texas is full of great southern food. You obviously weren't here in Texas by choice because I think you would have something different to say if you had been. I grew up eating fried chicken and chicken fried steak, chicken fried chicken, grits, fried catfish, catfish and waffles, collard greens with the hamhock (that's the only true way), mac 'n cheese, biscuits and gravy... the list goes on (and I still wear a size 2). Southern food shouldn't be greasy and if it was you were at the wrong place. BBQ too... that is truly a southern food and each area has it's own style of cooking it and their own type of sauce. So please, don't tell me that Texas isn't considered the south. And that the food portions are bigger here, because while things may be bigger in Texas, food portions across the nation are just as big. Finally, please don't come live in Texas for 8 years and think you know what the south or southern food is. Because believe me, you don't.

        December 2, 2010 at 6:25 pm | Reply
      • amy

        Texas is not in the South? Southern food is greasy and bad for your? Unbelieveable. If Texas is not in the South, please explain what direction it is in, it looks pretty darn southern to me. As for southern food, Tex-Mex is out of this world and for the record, most variations are grilled and healthy with fresh ingredients. Have you ever tasted bbq that came from the south vs any other state?? It doesn't even come close. I am sorry, but there is not another region in our country that can even come close to claiming their own class of cuisine like the south can. I also suppose your favorite flavor of chili comes from a can.

        December 2, 2010 at 6:33 pm | Reply
      • dt

        I'm a native New Yorker who lived in TX for years and I loved the food for the most part. I'd never appreciated brisket till I had it in TX, and the Tex-Mex of course is the best. The only thing I didn't like is the catfish – I'm particular about my seafood. A lot of Southern dishes are fried, and of course that's fattening, but they still taste really, really good. I have managed to master the brisket, pulled pork, beans, chili and Tex Mex, but my biscuits suck. I'll keep trying.

        December 2, 2010 at 6:59 pm | Reply
      • JayZoo

        You're an idiot. We're glad you left.

        December 2, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Reply
      • Leb

        Texas isn't the south, it's the southwest. You don't see much in the way of collard greens or chitlins in Texas, but a lot more in the way of Tex-Mex and spicy BBQ (which is very different from Midwest sweet BBQ). I definitely don't consider Texas cuisine as "southern," since it's really in a class of it's own.

        December 3, 2010 at 12:33 am | Reply
      • Pumor

        After reading some of these comments it's clear that "Southern Hospitality" is a myth.

        December 3, 2010 at 8:46 am | Reply
      • SAese

        What so many of the respondents to this post seem to be missing or glossing over is the fact that Texas is so big, it transcends these US regional/cultural boundaries. It's got some transitional zones where the local culture overlaps with neighboring regions, but more than anything, it seems to be its own thing. Yes, the state is geographically in the south of our country and yes, it was part of the Confederacy. San Antonio (where I grew up), however, is not what I'd call culturally or culinarily "Southern". Just because you've got a few restaurants going out of their way to serve some self-consciously "Southern" food there doesn't mean that the actual *local* cuisine is Southern - I can get collard greens and hush puppies where I live now in Maryland, but I don't think that necessarily makes Maryland part of the South; that food is an import here, just as it is in South-Central and Central Texas. Tex-Mex and the very German- and Czech-inspired food of San Antonio and the Hill Country do not fall under the heading of "Southern cuisine." If you start moving eastward (towards Houston, Beaumont, etc.), however, you're in a transition zone where things start looking much more Southern.

        December 3, 2010 at 9:59 am | Reply
      • robin

        @yankeedoodle–Hardee's started in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, (a southern state) in 1960. Get your facts straight, please!

        December 3, 2010 at 10:11 am | Reply
      • Cricket

        "After reading some of these comments it's clear that "Southern Hospitality" is a myth." Let's see how hospitable you are when someone drops in at your house and insults your cooking.

        December 3, 2010 at 10:12 am | Reply
      • Garyd

        Shut Up, you don't have a clue about the south, do you? Are you calling bacon drippins greasy? Cornbread is a staple of the south and I am from Tennessee, I'll bet you have never had sweet tea, the sweeter the better, what about left over country ham in the warming oven on top of the stove, eaten with cornbread, cold, mighty tasty too, what about pinto beans or collard greens cooked with a smoked ham hock, what about deviled eggs, pickeled eggs, pickeled pig's feet, souse meat, smoked hawg jowl, turnip greens and pinto beans on new years day, chow chow with beans, wilted lettuce and onions with hot bacon grease poured over them? My list could go on and on and you have missed out on the best country cooking in the world. Have you heard the expression of "eating high on the hog", that is country ham, not store bought ham made from chicken and turkey. If you ever get close enough to the south, drop in at cracker barrel, this is mighty close to country cooking at it's best, take home a salt and sugar smoked country smoked ham and pick up a 25 pound bag of Martha White corn meal, white or yellow to make you some fine cornbread. The list goes on and on.

        December 3, 2010 at 10:25 pm | Reply
      • Jeff

        Glad you left the South.

        More for me....

        December 4, 2010 at 8:16 am | Reply
      • Jim

        "I grew up eating fried chicken and chicken fried steak, chicken fried chicken, grits, fried catfish, catfish and waffles, collard greens with the hamhock (that's the only true way), mac 'n cheese, biscuits and gravy... the list goes on (and I still wear a size 2)."

        Let's be honest. Southern food preferences just might have something to do with the high obesity rates in the South compared to elsewhere. Having said that, I'll take my chances.....especially with the BBQ!

        December 4, 2010 at 8:18 am | Reply
      • Angie

        Texas is rich with classic Southern dishes, but yes, they aren't the same as the Southern dishes served a few states East of us. Just like dishes served in Louisiana are not the same as dishes served in Georgia, but all of the dishes would be considered Southern. Texas is best known for its Beef BBQ, chili and spicier versions of Southern classics. It doesn't get any better than the grits and green chilies my Mom makes every Christmas morning served alongside a few tender pieces of brisket she stayed up all night slow cooking. Yum.

        December 4, 2010 at 9:41 am | Reply
      • ummm

        Southern food equals high obesity rates...the fact is in the pudding or in the "cornbread" so to speak...I moved to N.C. and 4 out of 5 people are FAT and 3 out of 5 are morbidly obese....this is a problem and everyone in the south knows it..

        December 4, 2010 at 10:22 am | Reply
      • sandy

        The biggest portions I have ever been served in my life were in Baltimore, Maryland. We went to a seafood restaurant and the fish covered the entire plate; we went to a "normal" restaurant and received 1/2 pound hamburgers and enough french fries for three people. It was so extreme I started calling it "City of Enormous Portions." I take this as a restaurant thing, though, not a Southern thing. I think you have to be a resident to know what southern food is, and I'm not.

        December 4, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Reply
      • RetLaEnvEmp

        Took you 8 years, living in Texas, to figure out you did not like Southern food. You know what food people must eat. Southern people need to be educated. Intelligent, diplomatic, or nutritionist is not on your resume.

        December 4, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Reply
      • A knowing Yankee

        Shut up. You are silly. Fried foods are not greasy when cooked at the correct temperature. Frying is a dry heat method of cooking, at about 360 to 375 degrees the gasses and moisture released from the food literally pushes the oil away from the food. Southern food is rich and delicious. If you have experienced fat, greasy, awful southern food then you need to go find a real cook who knows what he or she is doing.

        December 4, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Reply
      • Troy

        Thank you "Knowing Yankee" for setting the record straight. Properly fried food is not higher in fat content. In fact many Baked foods, especially casseroles are much higher in fat content because there is no release mechanism to get rid of the fat. There are a lot of comments about Lard in this blog and honestly I don't know of anyone who uses it but It can be found in the Latino Foods section of some groceries.
        And for the author who seems to be stressing out about biscuits, take a breath. Alll you need to make perfect biscuits is Flour, Salt, Baking powder, Real Unsalted Butter and milk. DO NOT use any measuring cups; you have to get a feel for it. just leaven your flour, cut butter into the flour by hand until it is about the consistency of slightly damp beach sand and add milk until it is spoon-able. Spoon into balls on baking sheet and bake at 350 until golden brown on top.

        December 4, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Reply
      • Gussie

        I've lived in the North, South, East and West U.S.
        N, E, W are Butter, S is Crisco & Lard; N,E, W are Broiled T-Bone, Broiled Salmon Filet; South is Fried Chicken, Barbecued Pork; N, E, W are Baked Potato, S is Cole Slaw; N, E, W focus on international foods at home & in restaurants, South, nope. N, E, W are bold Arabica coffee, South is weak low grade coffee. N, E, W are water with lemon, S is sugar sweetened iced tea. Mainly in the South civil war is spoken at the dinner table. I the N, E, W, nope!

        December 4, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Reply
      • Whatever

        Get off your high horse! Just because you don't appreciate southern food doesn't mean you should put it down. I think it has plenty of fans or there wouldn't have even been a CNN article about it.

        December 4, 2010 at 6:23 pm | Reply
      • rlsmomm

        thats cause you're in texas (the soutwest) and not in the pure south. try eating in ga, sc, nc and then say you dont like southern food, your best bets for a great southern meal will be the restaraunts that look like holes in the wall but are awesome eats!

        December 4, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Reply
      • On this I know the facts

        I'm a native Texas and I've lived in the Deep South since 1985 so trust me on this: While Texas and the Deep South are allies, their cultures and their cuisines are different. Don't equate Southern food with Texas cooking. For one thing, while both places love bar-b-que, in Texas that means beef and Down South that means pig. One thing central to Southern Cooking is the use and adoration of vegetables. Where I grew up, veggies usually meant salad. Here, they're cooked and seasoned and often the best part of the meal. Southern children don't have to be told to eat their vegetables; these things are good!

        As a culture, Texans are associated with louder, brasher voices (you need it to yell over the wind!) while Deep Southerners were taught that well-bred people modulate their voices (except in football games). I would say the two areas are first cousins who like each other.

        So please do not air your opinion based on limited information and experience. And if your portions were too big, it's polite to leave some and say, "no thank you, I just couldn't eat another bite" if anyone asks.

        December 5, 2010 at 12:04 am | Reply
      • Grandma

        It looks to me that you never really liked Texas and that you have just picked on what you think is an example of 'bad cooking'! My Grandmothers would NEVER have allowed 'greasy foods' to be placed on their tables! We had the traditional dishes of mac 'n cheese (Nannie's version being the ultimate version with extra sharp cheddar cheese) and the other fried dishes, but again they were NEVER greasy! While many seem to think that Texas isn't 'really Southern' I do beg to differ. While we aren't Atlanta, we were all raised on Southern/Texas Pride! Sorry, folks but that is just the way it is. Family socializing is an important ingredient in all the recipes. Fresh veggies, fresh baked goods as well. So, I'm glad you left Texas-I for one can't wait until I get BACK!

        December 5, 2010 at 1:49 am | Reply
      • Wow!

        I think that has to be the most uncalled for comment I have ever read. I was raised up in Seattle by a Southern Mama and Daddy and I can tell you that there is so much more to southern food than "lard and grease". There's the love and time spent making everything and I can tell you that I have my own well seasoned cast iron skillet to fry my chicken in because to be honest that's the only way to cook it. I'll pass on this tradition to my daughter when the time comes as well.

        You think because we're southern or have southern roots we're stupid? Sorry but I think we're just as able to "portion" our food like you northern types – or do you think we're just un-edjemicated and unable to do that?

        Damn it! Now all this food talk makes me want to fry up some chicken and make some grits with lots of butter. Midnight snack at my house anyone? lol

        December 5, 2010 at 2:05 am | Reply
      • Popeye

        Your statement makes me draw bigg question marks???? What the heck you talking about? the cooking, the real cooking of Texas is none of what you described. maybe you've been eating at a Texas fast food joint and mistaking that for real food?

        December 5, 2010 at 3:26 am | Reply
      • Doug Willmann

        I'm am truly sad about your short, albeit, not pleasant eating experience in Texas. I was born and raised in Texas and although we did eat fried chicken & chicken fried steak we also ate many dishes that required no grease to make. Pinto Beans and Sausage, Lima Beans and Hamhocks, Cole Slaw and Bar-B-Que just to name a few. THe size of the portions served goes back many generations in the history of Texas when the vast majority of people physically worked out doors and it was considered extremely rude not to provide enough food at meals, to include cafes and resturaunts. Perhaps you should order the children's portion or as others have said, relocate to where the serve you what you like & how you like it, but then people who complain all the time are rarely satisfied.

        December 5, 2010 at 3:57 am | Reply
      • RUSerious

        Wait so the south is the only region with fat people and it is because we fry a lot of food? I seem to remember traveling through Wisconsin a few times, every state has a population that needs to diet. This whole Texas not being part of the South debate is stupid. Geographically Texas is in fact in the South but this is about a style of cooking not geographic location. When people refer to southern cooking or the deep south they are talking about NC down to FL and over to AL and LA (the state not the city, sad I had to say that). Southern food is not all fried. Every hear of a crab boil, crawfish boil? We fry food, bake food, cook over an open flame, cook it in the ground, every manner you can think of. The difference is ingredients and the way it is prepared. In the south many people had to eat what they could find so they could have dinner and this carried over into Southern style cooking as it is today. I ate at a roadside BBQ yesterday for a church and had some good ole soul food which is a different style of southern cooking, ribs that cant fall off the bone lol cause that is how it is supposed to be. TexMex is south west cooking that incorporates southern elements (not geography again people). The obesity epidemic in this country is not limited to the south and to think so is incredibly ignorant, just because we talk slow doesn't mean we are stupid.

        December 5, 2010 at 8:54 am | Reply
      • NC2010

        Shut-up, southern food is not about grease, it's about flavor. Yes, there are southern dishes that are fattening and unhealthy. And, how much you eat of those and how often is what makes the difference. But then, there are northern dishes that are the same. Being a food lover myself, I appreciate all types of cooking, be it southern, northern, Italian, Mexican, etc. To people who have a real appreciation of food, it makes no difference, we like them all. And to Yankeedoodle, I am a transplanted "Yankee" and have lived in NC for 15 years. I came because I love my country and I could. It had nothing to do with "your" south. My twins were born here, so what does that make them? That's the problem with people, they think that their area is the only representation of the U.S. when it is all the areas, collectively. I live in a great country! And, fast food didn't just originate in the north. By the way, a great southern cookbook is the Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook is great! Let's appreciate our country and the excellent food it has to offer, among other things, instead of being divided. The war is over!

        December 5, 2010 at 8:56 am | Reply
      • Robert

        GREAT! The GREAT "Is Texas the South question". I posted this on facebook and my wall BLEW UP. I say it's NOT because of the types of food they eat isn't traditional southern.

        December 5, 2010 at 9:09 am | Reply
      • CR

        Nothing but a troll. Probably never been in Texas a day in his life.

        December 5, 2010 at 9:23 am | Reply
      • Pasinez

        Not too many of us are eating good southern cooking anymore. Everything is comming from a box or takeout. Cooking in the south use to be an all day job. It's true, it can be fattening but we were suppose to work it off; not sit and watch TV. The greasy spoon cafes are not serving good food of any kind. Sorry you got fat while here.

        December 5, 2010 at 10:30 am | Reply
      • John3:5

        The problem with Texas is that the post-WWII boom has completely overwhelmed the original Deep South tradition. As one commenter suggested Texas is also too large and culturally diverse to take on a single label as "Southern." Plus you have the problem of Louisiana separating Texas from the Deep South and that is a culturally VERY large gulf/divide to cross. When you get over to southeast Texas like Beaumont/Orange the Cajun influence starts to shine. Many people celebrate Tex-Mex but in reality this a relatively new tradition among non-Hispanics. Probably the one thing that unites Texans is its unique style of BBQ.

        But with all that said most native Texans (I say most because there are many native Texans whose parents were transplants following the post-WWII boom) know what grits are and enjoy them which for me is the quintessential distinction. The mystery lies in the fact that grits, to focus on a single food, are what you eat at home. I had no idea that grits were a regional food until I was well into my 20s. You don't go out to a restaurant to order grits the same way you don't order a bowl of cream of wheat. And such it is in our home. We cooks grits for my kids all the time because 1) my wife and I love them and 2) my kids love them. We don't eat them everyday. There is nothing special about our grits other than you have to live in the South to find them at a grocery store which we sorely discovered when we moved to Chicago for a couple of years. And in a 10 or 20 years my kids will undoubtedly feed their kids grits and the Southern tradition will continue!

        December 5, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Reply
      • Hannah

        I love you!! I have been in the south for 5 years, and YOU ARE SO RIGHT! Not like I wanna be here–my job requires it. I can't wait to get back up North where people actually CARE ABOUT THEIR HEALTH!!! Grease, lard – fry everything, even veggies. Way to make good stuff UNhealthful! And okra? What's up with that? Green slime...yummy. Never saw that before...never want to. Might as well eat some snot.

        December 5, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Reply
      • Cait

        hm.. Although I do hate it down here (Pensacola), it's mostly just Florida not so much the South as a whole; I gotta say, I love Louisiana. With that being said, the one good thing about the South, in my opinion, is the food. Ha! I love the seafood especially, but southern barbeque is amazing also. I cannot stand grits though. Washington state does great seafood as well but one cannot really compare the two honestly. Southern style of cooking is just *different,* in a good way.

        December 8, 2010 at 8:31 am | Reply
      • Slim

        Damn, there are some hate-filled Southerners trying to find excuses for the FACT that Southern food is fattening, salty and greasy. I ain't saying it tastes bad, but anybody who denies the negative health effects is whistling too much Dixie or drinking too much moonshine. And as a guy who has lived in NC, SC, FLA, LA and Texas I got my Southern papers in order.

        December 9, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Reply
      • Christopher

        As a real southerner, we don't consider Texas one of us. They want to be their own country and I think we should just let them. It looks like some Texas rubbed off on you too. You're a good ole Texas idiot aren't ya. And texas' version of southern cooking is a joke my friend. yeah I've been there. Texans claim to have the best barbeque but I'm sorry, beef ribs ain't real barbeque. They don't even taste right and what's with that texas sauce? Could it get any soupier? You may as well just pour vinegar over your oversized, way too tough beef ribs. This is the very reason why every legitimate barbeque competition generally crowns a champion who cooks it memphis or carolina style. Sure Kansas city wins a few too. They make a fine product with the st. louis style spares. But nothing beats the baby back my friend so before you go off about how southern food sucks and base it entirely on what you learned in the dumbest state in the nation, try some real southern food. Ain't nothin like it nowhere. I've never met anyone who didn't like true southern cuisine.

        December 10, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Reply
    • Rolf

      Southern food is much broader than grits, bacon, and collard greens. The "South" is a big place. Each area has its own style. You have Cajun and Creole from Louisiana, and Charleston "Low Country" from South Carolina to southern costal North Carolina. You have Appalachian Mountain cuisine and much more.

      I'm from Wilmington North Carolina, so I was raised on Low Country style. This includes rice dishes like Hoppin John and Purloo. Plus lots of costal seafood like shrimp and grits, shad roe and eggs, she-crap soup, etc.

      If anyone is interested in the history of southern food, I would highly recommend Bill Neal's "Southern Cooking". It includes traditional recipes from each area along with the history of each dish. This book has become one of the Bibles of southern cooking.

      December 2, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Reply
      • Hometown girl

        You tell it right on the Wilmington way of eating southern! It's true, Wilmington is my hometown but recently moved to the western part of the state and there are many similarities in the way foods are prepared but not doubt there are rmany regional differences as well. You won't get the good seafood here (too far from the coast to be fresh) and the bar-b-que is pulled pork or beef with sweet sauce. On the coast it is pork that is vinegar based and chopped. There is southern cooking and then there is country cooking. There are differences between the two, regionally and nationally. One person said it's about the heart behind the preparation and that is the truth!

        December 2, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Reply
      • Susabelle

        Wow! lots of division here, I've lived in NC, SC and MS (right around the corner from N'Awlins) :) I'm originally from Seattle, sooooo what an education. The barbecue is out of this world up around the winston-salem area, there is no place better for shrimp and grits than Charleston and if you want cajun go to New Orleans. If you want brisket, Texas is the best. There are some things I never developed a taste for, collard greens is one but you havent lived until you've eaten Mac&Cheese from a southern cook or fried green tomatoes or, or or....... As far as the weight issue? LOL, I'm thinking the problem is more the heat than the food......it was too hot to get out and excercise there!!! Stay out of the heat and humidity and keep cool in the air conditioned house! Until you've actually lived in these areas or at least experience them with an open mind you shouldnt make assumptions. Southern food is awesome!!!! I have learned some great dishes to add to my trusted many and if I cook my husband a mess of shrimp and grits the way it is supposed to be made....he will forgive any transgression past, present or future!!!

        December 4, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Reply
    • Otterinbham

      It is chauvinism on your part, AD. I mean Canadian cuisine is more than flapjacks, right?

      December 2, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Reply
      • AuroraDawn

        Chauvinism??? I'm not quite sure how you could come to that summation. Flapjacks aren't Canadia btw. But,yes Canadian cuisine encompasses many different components. Very few being distinctly Canadian. If you could possibly see any negative connotation in anything I stated please point that out. I admitted I knew little of the cuisine of the South....hence the question. I thought that was self explanatory...apparently not.

        December 3, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Reply
      • Popeye

        Seeing how the Cajuns were driven out of the New Orleans area into Canada is it possible that their southern cooking went with them? If so then their is couthern cooking in Canada.

        December 5, 2010 at 3:32 am | Reply
      • jsprings

        Popeye,
        You got it wrong in the direction. Cajuns were force out ot northeastern Canada because the wouldn' swear allegiance to King George and migrated down the eastern coast of the USA, landing many places including New Orleans.

        The merged with the Creole people from the Caribean islands and became the Cajuns.

        -–Jon -–

        P.S. Born and reared in Arkansas

        December 5, 2010 at 10:46 pm | Reply
    • steve

      YES southern food and soul food are one in the same.. but there is more than the foods you listed..Burnswick stew and Bar-B-Que are truely southern food

      December 3, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Reply
      • JFairweather

        Soul food is a subset. It is not synonymous.
        As for the southern/northern thing, there are plusses and minuses in both directions. I'm from the south (Shreveport) and my wife is from the north (Chicago). I've heard northerners refer to the indirect and often inscrutably subtle way that southerners communicate as being "dishonest" and I've heard southerners refer to the overly direct way that some northerners communicate as being crude and brutish.
        Having witnessed the northern invasion first hand, though, I must say that the level of courtesy and concern for each other that once was a hallmark of southern culture is nowhere near what it was thirty years ago. There is a lot of resentment down here for the culture of self-interest and discourtesy that arrived with the influx of northerners.

        December 4, 2010 at 9:36 am | Reply
      • PatB_Ithaca

        To JFairweather: You said: “Having witnessed the northern invasion first hand, though, I must say that the level of courtesy and concern for each other that once was a hallmark of southern culture is nowhere near what it was thirty years ago. There is a lot of resentment down here for the culture of self-interest and discourtesy that arrived with the influx of northerners.”

        I am tired of being bashed by southerners. Talk about smug and self-righteous!

        I don’t know about the northerners you encounter, but they are not people I know. I’ve lived in New York State most of my life, currently living upstate. The people here are very caring, supportive, kind, and courteous. We take care of our neighbors and our friends and try to make a good life and a good community for our children.

        You are stereotyping an entire region based on the northerners you’ve met who are not pleasant. What does that gain you? What makes you think it's not the southerners around you who have become less concerned and courteous.

        Take care. There are people here, nice people, not just stereotypes.

        December 4, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Reply
      • Southern Childhood Memories

        Wow,Brunswick Stew, some call Frogmore, is quintessential south coast food! I pine for it. As a girl I loved the varied foods from Wilmington south to Florida. Friday night Fish Frys and hush puppies my mom made all the time in Lowland Charleston. (My Mom's were the best - football shaped, not round, delicate, not heavy, packed with flavor. She was a Navy wife and picked up the recipe she used in NC or SC). Moon pies and RC cola for breakfast when it was hot! (No AC in the old days and I'm sure it shut up a few cranky kids). And I knew no fat kids. I kid you not! Good memories of Sweet tea, (which isn't just regular old iced tea with sugar), tidewater style Virginia sweet bbq on a bun with cole slaw on top Yorktown style. Love the BBQ varietals as you move around the South. Various kinds of "Greens" – turnip or collards or even kale cooked with bacon grease, red pepper flakes, maybe some sugar and vinegar added at the table. I still cook grits with bacon grease and red pepper flakes and serve with red eye gravy for breakfast for my slender son. Fried chicken hearts, liver and gizzards... Oh and has anyone mentioned a blast from my past - goobers - boiled hot peanuts? Not the drowned, disgusting ones in the mini marts, but fresh made and fragrant from a vendor with a mobile cooker and sold in a damp little brown paper bag on the street like when I was a kid in Charleston? Delicious. Almost forgot Eastern shore crab cakes, oyster fry, whole soft-shell crab sandwiches and the to die for Maryland brown paper on the table dump 'em out and eat the mustard crab feast – a pure delight!

        December 9, 2010 at 5:37 am | Reply
    • Virginian66

      For me Southern food is all about buttermilk biscuits, Brunswick stew, Smithfield hams, bitter greens etc. I don't cook greasy food due to health reasons and a lot of Southern Food isn't' greasy. I'm not a fan of blue crabs but my family is big on them when they go to VA Beach.

      I remember the first time I ordered Brunswick stew in Charlotte, NC. I thought I had ordered tomato soup by mistake. Turns out a lot of Charlottans put katsup in everything.

      December 3, 2010 at 8:55 pm | Reply
      • SouthernSue

        Then they ain't from 'round here! The influx of northerners has changed and IS changing my beloved South everyday. People move here thinking it's the "land of milk and honey" then start changing things to the way it was where they came from. If you like the South and moved here to be part of it, THEN BE PART OF IT – not APART from it. Don't complain about the way things are done here; it's what makes a region special culturally. The good southern cooking that I grew up on is fast fading away because the generation of cooks who are expert in it are aging out. Even the southern accent will be gone in a few more generations, Heaven forbid. We are strong, beautiful and gracious – and not like any other region of the US. Accept us as we are or stay out. Thank you very much.

        December 4, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Reply
      • ldean

        Oh my word. As an Alabamian, please allow me to apologize in advance for the ugly remarks made by "SouthernSue," and she calls herself "gracious." If you're an "outsider," you're welcome here, and welcome to sit at our table anytime. Be part of it . . . add to it . . . whatever, you are welcome to share. "SouthernSue"? well, bless her heart (code for 'you stupid ..tch); ev-ah-dent-lay, her Mama didn't teach hur any mannahs. Besides, I see she is from Texas, which isn't really part of the South – Texans go to Mexico City to get their passports. whhhhoooo wheeee, I'm slappin' mah knee!

        December 4, 2010 at 7:27 pm | Reply
      • Common Sense

        The problem with deciding what is southern food is that no one here can decide what region of the south you are talking about. If you travel from town to town in NC alone what is considered brunswick stew in the area around Raleigh is a tomato based assortment of what would have been the day befores left overs in the kitchen or at the restauarant. In Mount Airy it is more like a gravy based stew. The same is true for barbecue that varies from a vinegar base to a tomato base. From what I can tell the vegtables are often more cooked then they are in the north and that may be due to what others have said about putting more love in the cooking and just cooking the items for a longer period of time. Like most parts of the country, the south was and is still made up of many different people and cultures. While you may not have had the influence of italian or chineese people in the area what you have is food that is based on the ingredients available. If you look at southern food, as most people think of it, the food is what the poorer people in society made, yes the more wealthy ate it, but the food was cooked by lower income people. Many of the items were seasonal unless the food could be preserved by smoking, pickling, salting or canning. Country ham, chicken and a bunch of different pork products are what makes the staples as these were available and affordable. Biscuits were a staple that could be taken out in the fields and most people could make them. Gravy was a bonus of cooking meats. The "chefs" at Eatocracy are trying to claim they came up with something we never heard of such as just picked vegtables. sorghum – a Southern crop Hopkins is doing his best to evangelize and revive will only be popular in few parts of the country as sugar is readily available and affordable. If there was not a market for sorghum before Hopkins the farmers would not have been growing it. Sorghum would be a niche crop for a few farmers.

        Like some have said Southern Cooking it just eating what was available taking simple foods and turning them into memories. Everyones grandmother's biscuits were better and someone else made great ice tea or desserts. It was that special ingredient "most say it was love" that made southern food and hospitality what people want to remember.

        December 5, 2010 at 8:36 am | Reply
      • pixie

        pixie from dixie here and virginia 66 and childhood memories said it all.
        and the amount of smithfield ham in the greens is very small, it is the slow cooking that does it......southern food is slow food. now that really is secret, but I am giving it away here for the reader so it will be accurate.....not much calories or fat, they are greens they are good for you...........enjoy ya'll and black eyed peas for new year's.........use hot sauce if you do not want the pork.....have a long and happy life and a prosperous 2011.........it's in the HOW it is done, not just the WHAT.

        December 15, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Reply
    • Jonathan

      I lived in the mountains of North Carolina for most of my life and my idea of Southern is corn-beef hash, slow-cooked stew (with beef, carrot, potato, and onion), green beans, cornbread out of a seasoned iron pan, and black-berry cobbler. Thanksgivings used to serve hog instead of turkey.

      BTW I think this author has amazing writing style. This article was such a pleasure to read.

      December 4, 2010 at 9:55 am | Reply
    • north alabama

      My idea of a good meal is pintos with ham hock, cornbread, fried fatback, mixed greens with bacon drippings, fried okra, mashed potatoes and sweet tea. OR hickory smoked spare ribs and white bread (also with sweet tea).

      December 4, 2010 at 11:08 am | Reply
      • rftallent

        I'm in North Alabama, too. I was with you until you said fried fatback. Not one of my favorites. But, that meal would sure be good with fried porkchops. Yummmm Don't forget the slice tomatoes and chunk of onion.

        December 4, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Reply
      • North Georgia

        Mmmm....Has me thinking about our traditional New Year dinner. Black-eyed peas, collard green, cornbread, and pork chops (or roast).

        December 4, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Reply
    • rftallent

      You've got it pretty much right. Of course, there are other southern foods, but the ones that you named are staples.

      December 4, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Reply
      • Southern Kinda Ubiquitous Northern Air Force Brat

        Since I really never had a place to call home (weep, cry, sigh), I'll be the impartial judge of all that is Southern cooking. Also adding to my credentials of having lived in NC for two thirds of my life, I married a Southern belle who has lived there for 300 years and has never been out of the county, except to ride an escalator with me hand-in-hand in the big city.
        My wife can't cook. Well, let me say she can't cook like her mom. But, boy, they both sure like to cook. Her mom passed away about five years ago and we got a jar of her canned beans on the book case for posterity. We'd put it in a museum if we thought people would take care of it.
        And cook books?! We got 'em all over the place, especially in the bathroom. Just in case the paper products run on the low-side.
        Lately my wife has taken to cooking two meals at a time, morning, noon, and night. I don't know what that's all about. I sure can't keep up. But I figure the cats, dogs, deer, and other animals will eat fine and we'll have the best compost pile in the Spring.
        My wife must want to cook every recipe she finds or can think up, and the only problem beside it going to the bad before we're done finished with the next, is that she hardly remembers the good ones or how she made them.

        But here is what makes Southern cooking Southern. Turning off the TV, everybody pulling up a chair, taking off their caps, bowing their heads in thanksgiving, and being courteous about making sure everybody gets their fill before they dive in for seconds. Being so stuffed that when dessert is mentioned, everybody waves it off for later in the evening. Well, maybe just a bite now. And then helping with the cleaning and dishes with a warm hug and compliments to the chef.
        Heck, I'm never the chef. I don't have the love or compassion to fix more than an entree with no sides. Everything's got to be done in a Yankee minute. I can cook, believe you me. But as far as love goes, my wife's big efforts at a tasty meal that come off only part-ways sometimes are still much more appreciated than anything I can make.
        Our kids think Mom is the king, and they remember Grandma just fine in any of the cooking my wife does. I suspect that when my wife passes away, everyone of the kids will want one of her cookbooks to remember her by, just like the jar of green beans on the shelf. And they'll cry.

        December 4, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Reply
    • Rich, KC

      It's the same thing :)

      December 4, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Reply
    • hookapooka

      One thing I remember growing up in the south was something on the stove all day long steaming.Collards,turnips,chicken and dumplings or pork neckbones.My mother and her mother would just about always start dinner right after breakfast.After smelling dinner cooking all day I couldn't get to the table quick enough it seemed.

      December 4, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Reply
    • Susabelle

      All this talk is making me hungry.....I think I'll go make myself a mess of Charleston style grits, with lots of cream, butter and cheese!!!! I think I have the fixins for some cornbread too..... LOL
      I'm back in Seattle and am really missing getting some good southern cooking!

      December 4, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Reply
    • TNgirl

      AuroraDawn at least you are honest with your post.

      If you ever get down this way get you some breakfast that consist of biscuits with chocolate gravy, fried bacon, grits.

      And you don't have to proportion it you can pile it cuz you are gonna go outside and work it off anyway.

      December 4, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Reply
    • Happydiva

      I'm a northern too, and soul food is any food relative to a certain region or culture. Jewish soul food can be found at all new York delis, and Mexican soul food is Mexican food!

      December 4, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Reply
    • bobcat1a

      Southern food is not unitary. Ingredients are important but more so is the style in which those ingredients are prepared. I'm from Mississippi and Mississippi southern style is different in some ways from South Carolina southern style or Virginia southern style, etc. The authenticity comes from tradition. In my humble opinion, all food that is traditional to its own place in the south is SOUTHERN FOOD even if it is prepared in a way distinct to a particular part of the south. And yes, soul food and southern food are the same, even if you don't recognize the regional style as what you consider "authentic."

      December 4, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Reply
    • ldean

      You're not offensive at all. All those things you mentioned are very southern foods. I would like to attempt to clarify something about the use of the terms southern food vs. soul food. If you are from the south – its the same thing. If you are from outside the south, most people think of "soul" food as food prepared/preferred by black people. Biscuits, gravy, hog jowl, fried chicken, collard greens, red-eye gravy, grits and even the racist references to watermelon if eaten in the south is culturally, a southern food. Soul food is a term used outside the South who aren't always aware that blacks and whites are culturally the same down here when it comes to food. So, stereotypical, racist "jokes" about 'watermelon' and 'fried chicken' isn't viewed by white southerners as a slam just against blacks; it's a slam against any southerner – black or white. i.e., Remember a few years ago, some golfer made a crack about Tiger Woods eating chicken. Northerners and Westerners got upset and called it racist because Woods was half black. Welp, black and white people in the South saw it as a slam against all Southerners, historically thought of as poor and ignorant people. Same thing with watermelon jokes – offensive to both blacks and whites, because it's a southern tradition. Dragging a watermelon out of the patch, putting it in the creek to get cold, giggling children struggling to haul it up in the yard when the relatives get there, handing out the miniature paper Morton salt shakers that you buy by the bag, slicing it up and handing it out – children first (the only time children get to go first), then grown-ups is a southern tradition shared by both blacks and whites (and some non-southerners might find it surprising that it is often shared together). To sum it up . . . if I (white) were sharing some fried chicken with a black friend in New York City, we'd probably call it "soul food" to the Yan-kays sittin' next to us . . . but, when nobody was looking, we laugh together and revel at the "good 'ol Southern home cooking."

      December 4, 2010 at 6:58 pm | Reply
      • Born in ATL

        Excellent comment Idean!

        December 5, 2010 at 10:26 am | Reply
    • Jacki

      Soul Food originates from the Southern African American culture. It uses more vegetables and spices and incorporates meat that some of the upper White Protestant Southerners found unplatable (i.e. livers, gizzards, dark meat). Obviously numerous Southerners of all races now eat the same dishes, but there was, in my lifetime, a class system associated with such foods. My Georgia belle grandmother would not serve catfish or, gizzards, dark meat, etc. because to her it was considered lower class.

      December 5, 2010 at 10:29 am | Reply
    • Noirelion

      I was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.... A modern day Buffalo soldier – and this myth that one must come from the south in order to make authentic Southern cooking is ridiculous... the recipes for candied yams and sweet potatoe pies, collard greens, and chitlins didn't come from the genteel South... they were just continued there by the stolen african peoples who ended up enslaved there. These recipes come from Western Africa. And anyone that tells you otherwise is a damned fool. The simplicity of the foods and the absolute use of every edible portion comes from peoples who had very little and used creativity from necessity. The foods and dishes were considered beneath the white peoples 'of good family" 's table back then (poor whites of the time emulated the blacks because it tasted good and was economically a good move) and this cooking style has only seen a resurgence recently -simply because they were so damned tasty. These nouveau- Southern cooking people can take a chill pill. If you want good authentic southern/soul food ask any black woman/ or poor white woman – currently living in the south or transplanted somewhere else (or thier kids) to fix you some- any day of the week. But you should hurry- my generation- last of the boomers hasn't effectively communicated the recipes- its slowly dying....

      December 5, 2010 at 11:40 am | Reply
    • eva68

      ahhh yes, my Mom's southern cooking that I brought here to the north. "Fried Bread?" they say here, "What does that mean?" until I serve them a nice fried white bread or cornbread. My kids keep running back home for more (and bring their spouses I might add)
      Soup beans around here were just plain white beans where I come from and you doctored them the same way with hamhocks..YUMMY! I really like the dumplings my mother made compared to the ones around here (I have yet to get that good).
      My husband (that is from here) talks about the love I put in my dishes and he is right. You must love the food and love the people you serve it to. Let it be simple and flavorful. Sample it, stir it and mix everything to until it has that "thing" that makes it right.

      December 5, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Reply
    • Grace

      Soul food is sort of a niche of southern food. While soul food tends to be centered around specifically Southern black cooking, southern food can encompass a variety of culinary genres including cajun, low country, texan, etc... In many ways, however, soul food favorites have come to occupy many southern plates across the spectrum. Collard greens and other boiled root vegetables were brought over from the African food traditions across the pond through slavery, who also began incorporating rice and okra into the cuisine as well. Many of the famous white southern cooks of today could more than likely trace honed family recipes to the back kitchens of slaves. Native American cooking methods, such as smoking meats, and the use of corn in a large variety of ways is also an important part of the South's culinary heritage. Long story short, Southern food is a hat that covers many many heads of all kinds.
      –Southern girl from South Georgia, born and raised.

      December 5, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Reply
    • Southerner

      AuroraDawn, my family has lived in "the South," since long before the Revolutionary War, and soul food is NOT the same as southern food. Soul food is what was typically fixed by black people and was what was less expensive since their income was usually less. Southern cooking is also NOT frying everything. In the summer a typical southern meal would be all vegetables and fruits straight from your garden – green beans, fresh sliced tomatos, melon, new potatos, squash, okra, of course cornbread, and blackberry cobbler. In the winter the meals would be heavier. You might have country ham, mashed potatos, biscuits and vegetables that you canned or froze over the summer. In our family biscuits were most typically served at breakfast and cornbread was most often served at dinner. Breakfasts were usually large and lunch and dinner smaller. Roast beef was served more often than fried chicken. That may have been because my grandfather raised beef cattle.

      December 6, 2010 at 12:04 am | Reply
    • Justice

      To answer AuroraDawn's question: southern food and soul food is too different things. Soul food is made with more care and love and it's made to share. & to jane chambers, there is a region of foods and drinks! Where we, southerns, eat biscuits, Northerns eat rolls. and Whereas, we Southerners like sugar in ice tea, Northerners don't! I'm from North Carolina but I live in DC and you can tell the difference. We can go even further than all the delicious dishes that JW from Texas named. Like fried green tomatoes, homemade jam or pickles or snap peas RIGHT out of the field, pickled pig feet, Souse meat, etc....How it was explained to me it was the best way to use what you had you fried the meat and then use the grease to make soap. But there is definitely a difference between regions. Even within regions I.e. NC bar-b-que vs. SC bar-b-que....

      December 6, 2010 at 6:18 am | Reply
    • HaroldO.

      Is Southern food and Soul food the same thing? Coming from a native of Mobile, AL. who's Mother made biscuits that taste better thans many cakes Ive eaten, the answer is YES.

      December 7, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Reply
    • Proper Southern Woman

      My husband and his family are from the Buffalo area. They have been very open to learning about Southern food, and I learn with them (even though I did grow up in Alabama). Check out propersouthernwoman.com for more information.

      December 8, 2010 at 6:34 am | Reply
    • Eat Good Bread

      "Grits,Collard Greens,Biscuits,Fried things with white gravy on top..." there's nothing wrong with that list, especially when you add local shrimp, lima beans, tomatos... I've never had to classify Southern vs. Soul before, let's just say they are close kin, one with an irish grandmother, the other with a Sierra Leonean ancestor.

      December 13, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Reply
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