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 (644 Responses)
  1. lorelei

    Native Virginian here:

    "deviled eggs (with paprika sprinkled on top), green beans cooked with a ham hock, sweet potatoe casserole with pecans, and a Virginia ham" Southern Sue, girl, is that you?

    Also, brunswick stew, black walnuts, and sloes (kind of a grape). Also, I always thought "sallet" was just southern for "salad." Sallet greens could be poke greens, collard greens, or turnip greens. Also, thin slices of fatback fried for breakfast; it's the equivalent of bacon. Crispy, crunchy, delicious!

    December 4, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
  2. Bamer Native

    BIG LIMAS, not black eyed or Pinto. Pinto aint no southern food!!

    December 4, 2010 at 4:51 pm |
  3. lorelei

    I have to agree. Southern food is food cooked in the south. The food that everyone is shoutin' about is Soul Food. And you can get it in any black home or establishment. For example, I am from Virginia, but I used to live in New York City, and I had the best stuffed pork chops in this solar system at Sylvia's in Harlem. The list of favorites goes on and on: no one made potato salad like my mama, corn pudding (a dessert, not the dreck I found in New York City that had SALT AND PEPPER-sacrilege), collard greens with ham hocks, macaroni and cheese, slow cooked pinto beans, corn with sliced tomatoes, ummmm ummmmm. Don, count me among your number: slave food/soul food = southern food.

    December 4, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
  4. BamaJama

    Cornbread and pintos!

    December 4, 2010 at 4:17 pm |
    • jt

      Black Eye Peas....Not Pintos!

      December 4, 2010 at 4:19 pm |
      • BamaJama

        We did pintos!

        December 4, 2010 at 4:34 pm |
  5. jt

    Southern Food.....Billy Bob caught it......Blanche cooked it..........Soul Food... Uncle Willie caught it.....Beulah cooked it.....End of story!

    December 4, 2010 at 4:14 pm |
    • lorelei

      LOL. That's cute. And maybe just a tiny bit true.

      December 4, 2010 at 6:15 pm |
  6. Hannah

    I'm from NY and have been in the south for 5 years. I'll tell you what southern food is: AWFUL! Anything full of FAT, fried, dripping with "gravy" (fat mixed with flour), and meat, meat, meat! Bad place for a vegetarian! Can't get a good pizza anywhere. No wonder the south is full of FAT people! Ugh UGH UGH

    December 4, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
    • Don

      They invented the term 'smothered and covered'.

      December 4, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
      • Hannah

        Which is exactly what their aortae will be by age 50, if they keep eating the slop they call food. Soooo-EEEEEE

        December 5, 2010 at 8:30 am |
    • SouthernSue

      Then go on back where you came from. Delta's ready when you are! Don't let the screen door hit you in the butt on your way out, bless your heart.

      December 4, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
      • Hannah

        I'd give anything to do just that! All I need is the money. How about y'all give it to me, and you stay here and stuff your "pah-hole" with grease and lard. I'll send you my address for your check...

        December 5, 2010 at 8:24 am |
  7. Don

    I can tell you exactly what Southern food is. First off, it really has nothing to do with the South at all. It's the food that the slaves prepared for their masters and their families. Southern food is actually African American food. You can get the same meal at an African Americans house in Buffalo NY or Cleveland OH that you can anywhere down South. The only difference is up North we call it soul food, and down South, the white republican racist bigots claim it as their own and call it Southern food. I can tell you what a Southern drawl is too. That came from slave owners children being raised by their mammy's. It's a combination of English and an Africans form of broken English as they were learning the language. So there you go. You can thank a black person for your food and your drawl. Now please tell us what your contribution to this country has been since we know it's not food.

    December 4, 2010 at 4:00 pm |
    • RichardHead

      Actually Don, The Blacks first spoke French and Portuguese,not learning English until arriving in the Americas. As for my good friend from Canada,She does excellent research to curb diabetes! So what's your excuse!

      December 4, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
      • Don

        My excuse is that I'm correct that the southern drawl comes from mammy's, and Southern food was created by blacks. Both are proven to be 100% true.

        December 4, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
      • AuroraDawn

        Well, fiddley dee thank you sir!!!! RH You're going to have to come back home with me for a visit,and some really good Canadian food. Maybe we'll visit Martin Picard and go to his restaurant...killer food. It's really strange during 9/11 when I lived in Nova Scotia and we took in travellers stranded at airports into our homes, we were ok then. When huge groups of Canadians travelled to NY after 9/11 because others were afraid to travel there...we were ok then too. But, any other time...we just don't get it apparently. I work in your country because I feel it's where I can do the most good,and it has helped a lot of people. I love the US,and for now it's my home. Just wish some Americans would give us a fair shake.

        I mean we're not all sitting in our igloos,with our same sex partners (not that there's anything wrong with that),watching hockey and smoking BC Bud. Canadians love the US....some people just need to show a little sugar back!!

        December 4, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
      • RichardHead

        I would look forward to that Sunshine.

        December 4, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
    • SouthernSue

      Sir, I have researched both sides of my family all the way back to 17th century Holland, England, and Ireland. No one in my family was a slave owner or a slave, For the most part, they were simple farmers and lived off the land just like many black families. There were similarities in the meals, speech patterns, and family life between rural white and black families – and, Sir, not all blacks in the south were slaves. The meals that my grandmothers, great grandmothers, and so on, prepared came from family recipes and traditions, not from slaves "teaching" them how to do it, because there weren't any slaves around. In the countryside, many black and white families were friends and dependent on each other when help was needed. Strong bonds were forged and the world of the average farmer in 18th and 19th century North Carolina had many "gray" areas. There were several large plantations where slaves were held in the south AND the north, but there were a hundred times more small, poor farmers who appreciated and depended on their neighbors, be they black or white. I am proud of my strong, southern, country heritage. Please do your research, Sir, before you launch into your bigoted retoric, thank you,

      December 4, 2010 at 5:47 pm |
      • RichardHead

        We have a Winner! +50 points. Thank You and well said!

        December 4, 2010 at 6:29 pm |
  8. RichardHead@AD

    Check your mail. You might find some snow.

    December 4, 2010 at 3:55 pm |
  9. AuroraDawn

    @RH No kidding eh...you never want to get caught without a raincoat......lol

    December 4, 2010 at 3:31 pm |
    • RichardHead

      I concur that and any and all future concurence's . Can't spell today.

      December 4, 2010 at 3:38 pm |
      • AuroraDawn

        LOL I concur. Man, so now I'm Canadian and "don't get it" apparently..Whatever...This thread is getting too long and delving into ugly North/South nonsense...it's like watching a miniseries play out.

        December 4, 2010 at 3:44 pm |
      • RichardHead

        I hear ya. The North VS The South Dvd set of 24 discs.

        December 4, 2010 at 3:47 pm |
  10. Ed

    I was Southern, when Southern wasn't cool...

    December 4, 2010 at 3:22 pm |
  11. Maggie

    One of them comments quoted in the article said "quit fru-fruing things up." Truer words were never spoken. And one of the worst "fru-fruers" is Southern Living magazine. They have gotten so far away from Southern in their cooking it isn't even funny. They stopped being Southern a long time ago.

    December 4, 2010 at 3:14 pm |
  12. morris2196

    I have lived in the north and the south, and can tell you that people in the north do not know how to cook (unless they were raised in the south).

    December 4, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
    • AuroraDawn

      You know...I'm just about as Northern as you can get. I'm Canadian. I take much offense to a lot of the comments I'm reading here. I'm from the North and I sure as hell can cook! I don't know where this North/South pissing contest came from but....the war ended a long time ago. How about people just concede that on both fronts there can be good cooking. Different for sure,but equally good. Nobody is always going to like or appreciate everything but the blanket stereotypes are just sad and don't reflect well on anyone.

      December 4, 2010 at 3:21 pm |
      • RichardHead

        Well said! Hate to get into those kind of contests without a raincoat!

        December 4, 2010 at 3:30 pm |
      • Steve

        Your Canadian. You wouldn't understand. Actually, if anyone is not from the South they can't understand.

        December 4, 2010 at 3:36 pm |
    • Don

      We cook European in the North. You cook African American in the South. Basically, we prepare the food of our ancestors, and you cook the food that was prepared for your American ancestors by their slaves. If you're white, you can't take any credit for Southern food.

      December 4, 2010 at 4:19 pm |
      • Steve

        Stupidest comment I've read in a long time. Thanks for the laugh. LOL

        December 4, 2010 at 9:09 pm |
  13. Kat

    I'm a 43 yr old white girl from Southeast Texas, right on the TX/LA border...we grew up hearing what we were eating was 'poor folks food', or 'black folks food'. My parents grew up poor, and their parents grew up DIRT poor, and these people could turn a whole lot of "what?" into a whole lot of delicious. A lot of it was killed/caught/trapped/picked/fished and cooked that same day...lots of fresh veggies, and ohmygod, those beans...my mama made a big ol' pot of pinto beans every weekend, and we did laundry and chores while the beans slowly turned into heaven. Hot water cornbread, cast-iron cornbread, hand rolled dumplings for chicken and dumplings on Sundays, fried pork chops, round steak beaten half to death and smothered in onions and gravy, chicken fried steak with cream gravy, lord have mercy, that food was awesome. My friends from the 'big city' of Beaumont would come eat with us, and be amazed. I couldn't believe that what we ate was so different from what they ate, just 20 miles away. Greens, grits, shrimp&grits, rice dressing, etc. I slowly came to realize over many years and travels that our food was just a big ol' amalgamation of southern/soul/creole/cajun food, and I have embraced it fully. Every time I cook cornbread in the cast iron skillet I inherited from my grandmother, I feel an immense sense of peace, pride, and connection to my family. And if you don't put bacon grease in the cast iron skillet and let it get really smoky before you pour the cornbread batter in, then it just won't be the same. It's all good! It's got most food beat to hell and back, and I'm so proud to be carrying on those traditions, even though my husband certainly isn't out there checking the fishing line or gutting a deer so we can have backstrap. I miss that the most, since you can't buy it anywhere, you have to go kill it–the deer meat. YUM! Long live Southern/Soul food cooking, however you personally define it.

    December 4, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
  14. Arthur

    Southern food is not all fat and fried food. What Southern cooking means to me is a hearty meal, cooked usually slowly while everyone else is at work, containing meat and at least two vegetables; along with homemade bread whether it be corn bread or biscuits, (or on special occasions yeast rolls). The meals were planned with care based on what was in the pantry and what was ready to eat in the garden. I consider myself qualified to comment as I was raised on some of the best of Southern cooking from my mother and my grandmother.

    December 4, 2010 at 2:45 pm |
  15. Susan

    Southern Food is a Family affair. It's not grease, collards, grits vs. rice, one gravy over another, it's family. There are at least 3 different types of barbecue in just Georgia and the Carolinas, All are "southern" and one isn't better than the other. Tradition is everything. What you remember your grandmother (and her cook) fixing for dinner (not to be confused with supper) is your Southern. Over the years, we've learned healthy Southern. Maybe less grease, but the same Traditions.

    December 4, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
  16. DentonDaughter

    I think part of the reason why this "foodie" event has met with such debate is the nature in which the food was prepared and the content. For Southerners, my self included, part of the flavor and taste of the food comes from knowing personally the hands that have made it. It comes from walking in on grandaddy mid arm deep in a bowl of chitlins explaining why using every bit of the pig is important. Part of the pleasure of eating a slice of pound cake comes from laughing as granma walks around with flour on her face. It's knowing and having a relationship with the people creating your food. If the folks at the supper had all met the chef, hung out with him in the kitchen, helped taste the sauce, perhaps it would have resonated more with many Southern viewers.

    Another important factor that appears to be missing is the simplicity of ingredients. With Southern cuisine, we use simple straight forward ingredients, preferably at least half of which we can pluck from our garden out back, or that we just got from the neighbor down the street. It appeared as if many of the cooking methods and recipes were complex affairs which certainly gave a generous nod to Southern cuisine, but that took it to another level of complexity that is not found in many Southern kitchens. To be sure, we do have complex recipes. I've got an old cake recipe that I got from my old neighbor's mimi, that has over 20 ingredients, but this is the exception, not the rule. Not to drag up old history, but the South has been faced with financial stress for over a hundred years and that taught us to make much of little and create miracles from what we had. So we learned to make great food from simple ingredients.

    I did appreciate the focus of farm fresh ingredients, and relationships with the farmers. Perhaps this was a bit larger scale than what I experienced as a little girl. For me, it was the lady down the street who had the best peach tree would trade us for the insane amounts of okra we grew and on an on. The food we cook and share with the folks that we like and love comes from our own gardens and plots. We are involved in the food from the moment it begins its life cycle, 'til we wash it off of the dining room table.

    Perhaps if the folks had been out digging up the carrots themselves, perhaps if they had been shooting the breeze with the chef and his staff, maybe then it would ring a bit more authentic. Either way, I appreciated the nod to Southern cuisine and I am sure that the food was delicious and a real pleasure to eat.

    I agree with Whitaker above, that the fantastic vegetable dishes that the south prepares should be given ample space and attention on a Southern Appreciator's plate. Meat is expensive, so there were often meals when meat wasn't available, or bacon was used. (So to the person who said bacon is for breakfast, I have to say that in the Southeast, where I'm from, anytime you needed a saute lubricant, bacon was an option.) As the the Barbeque, well, that's such a touchy subject that is so complex in the south, I think it's best that folks leave that topic for another day. And yes, a cast iron skillet is a MUST for true flavor.

    As the the biscuit challenge, maybe if you tried involving your husband in the biscuit making process? I'm bettin' that when he ate his memamaw's biscuits, he helped in some fashion. Also, send him out side into the cold for a few minutes then greet him with a biscuit, I PROMISE you, his feelings on your biscuits will change big time! Good Luck!

    December 4, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
  17. bleachedaardvark

    I'm from Alabama, but now live in Illinois. I miss southern food dearly. I was just back home last week and my favorite southern foods are: boiled peanuts, chess pie, and bbq turkey (shredded, with a vinegar sauce)

    December 4, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
  18. Seaport Scallywag

    Cornbread soaked in collard green pot liquor, MMMmmmmmmmm.... One of my favorite southern combinations! Having been raised in the "Hostess city of the South" Savannah, GA, we are inundated with a plethora of fine southern cuisines in nearly every meal and many a great restaurants. I have found that all scrumptous southern meals have a base of salt, butter, any form of a milk or cream, some form of fatback, most notably bacon, fresh local meats or produce, and most importatnly, a whole lotta love! For those looking for a classy southern meal not the fried version try looking into the petit southern meals such as "Pecan and molasses crusted rack of lamb" or "Roasted chicken breast with squash casserole, local herbed goat cheese and a peach-sweet pepper jelly" both capture the southern flare with an upbeat taste of elegance! At any rate, we as southerners do get a bad rap for our fried over indulgence, diabetic laced desserts, and/ or recipes of unfathomable ingredients.

    December 4, 2010 at 2:26 pm |
  19. Lola

    By the way, on that bit in the piece on rolling and beating and patting biscuit doughs: too much handling! The best biscuit is one where the dough just barely comes together, and then you let it sit for a bit. Roll it out as quickly and efficiently as you can - don't touch! - and cut it and bake it. You need to keep those globs of fat separate from the flour, so you get tender layers instead of hockey pucks.

    December 4, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
  20. Mark

    It all revolves around the cornbread. Never have I had real cornbread in a restaurant (Crackerbarrel included) that does justice to real Southern cornbread. I have lived in Alabama all of my life and that cake like yellow stuff everybody calls cornbread aint cornbread.

    December 4, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
  21. Sharon from Mississippi

    All good comments! Not only is Southern food about the heart and love (not to mention the bacon grease) put into the style of cooking, but it is also about time. Life in the South, especially deep South, is lived in a much slower pace. Altho, much sped up over the last decade, the grandma era took time and attention to the details. These things are skipped over in the 'multi-tasking' generation of today and actually not valued much any more,,,,until it comes to trying to duplicate just the right taste. As stated, given the right ingredients and right recipe,,,,it is just how you hold you tongue :-)

    December 4, 2010 at 1:39 pm |
  22. Whitaker Denman

    Your Southern Food piece is a joke. First, It should not have been held in Atlanta, which now is at best a suedo Southern,faux Yankee urbane community. . . The place to which Yankees migrate and claim to be Southern. In the filmclip I saw not one black-eyed pea nor did I see pepper sauce on the table. Your producers should have picked the Mississippi Delta towns of Greenville or Greenwood. It is true that Southerners lean toward fatty and fried foods, but the real heart of the Southern noontime meal (called dinner in the real south) is many vegetable varieties, preferably cooked with salt meat.

    December 4, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
  23. Lola

    I had to laugh at the "secret supper" video. All these pretentious people talking about down-home country goodness of southern food. The simplicity, the soul...the lard. And there they are eating it artfully plated in a high-end, white-table-cloth restaurant, while the non-farmers speak in reverent tones and good wine is sipped from crystal stemware.

    Did no one remark on the irony?

    December 4, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
  24. Lisa

    Southern food is a mixture of all the different cultures. French, African, Irish, German, Native American... to name a few. Brunswick Stew for instance is loosely based on a Native American stew made from roasted squirrel, corn, and lima beans. Okra in a recipe hints at African origins. No one in America has ever really stayed in one place so people take their favorite recipes with them wherever they go and these tend to evolve over time. That is how Southern cuisine was born and that's what keeps it vibrant. Nothing will ever compare to the food you were raised on and that is different for each person, region, and family. Isn't that wonderful?
    I was born in Mississippi, my mom is from Kentucky of Irish and Native American ancestry and I was raised in the Florida panhandle so I have my personal definition of Southern food. I also appreciate Northern foods because my Dad's side of the family is from Maine. No one is winning the healthy food prize thank God. Americans just need to move more and eat less, hard as that is to do.

    December 4, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
  25. Ed

    You'd knock your kid off the stool to get more of my dad's sausage gravy, and I ain't kidding...

    December 4, 2010 at 1:14 pm |
  26. Country Boy

    Southern cooking is poor man's food. The majority in the agrian South didn't have money – they made the best with what they had. It's also high fat/high caloric to keep people going in the fields til sundown. The best recipes have three things in common: butter, salt, and sugar. Feel free to add in onion, apple cider vinager, and cayenne pepper at will. You want Southern cooking, visit http://www.chitterlings.com/.

    Thanks, y'all.

    December 4, 2010 at 1:14 pm |
  27. DanteX

    Wow.

    A bunch of mostly snobbish "well-to-do" White people sitting around drinking fine Bourbon and great White Wine and eating picturesque dishes of food on extremely fine table-ware that was prepared by chefs -all of which the average piece of racist trailer-park white trash up on here -like the IDIOT "WearingGrey" whom I wish would choke to death on one of his "biscuits VERY SOON- could NEVER even afford or begin to prepare let alone even pronounce and you call that "southern" food.

    Amazing.

    December 4, 2010 at 1:02 pm |
    • David Duke

      You might want to look out your trailer window. Looks like a cross is burning.

      December 4, 2010 at 1:15 pm |
  28. nurserachet

    Southern cooking IS fattening, providing carbs and protienfor the po' folks who were working 12 hours a day in the fields–white and black people. As a girl, I had to leave my grandma's house when she cooked chitlins'. But I was thrilled when my uncle brought me a "balloon" make from pig intestines. Pigs were killed in the fall when the cool temps prevented spoilage of the meat before it could be salted and hung in the smoke house.
    If you ate Southern, you recognized what was on your plate and it was considered a lovely presentation without a lot of fancy stacking! And all the butter (home churned) swimming on top of the serving bowls.
    If it ain't broke, don't fix it! And don't call it Southern if you don't know what you are talking about!

    December 4, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
  29. Melissa

    I'm from Alabama and adore Southern food. Of course, that's why were all so happy and fat. ;)

    December 4, 2010 at 12:49 pm |
  30. WearingGrey

    God Save the South!

    I'll take my biscuits over your toast any day of the week.

    If you're so misinformed to think any sort of Mexican dish is not Southern or not Texan...ask the descendants of over 10K Hispanic-Confederates who fought to keep YOUR descendants out Dixie.

    I'll keep my allegiance to the South and my grits. You can keep your your revolving dictators in Washington DC and your pourage.

    "All we ask is to be let alone."

    December 4, 2010 at 12:49 pm |
  31. DanteX

    Wow.

    A bunch of mostly snobbish "well-to-do" White people sitting around drinking fine Bourbon and great White Wine and eating picturesuqe dishes of food on extremely fine table-ware that was prepared by chefs -all of which the average piece of trailer-park white trash could NEVER even afford or prepare let alone pronounce- and you call that "southern" food.

    Amazing.

    December 4, 2010 at 12:43 pm |
    • Lola

      My reaction, too. I was floored.

      December 4, 2010 at 1:37 pm |
  32. Steve

    Oh I forgot to post this:
    If a place doesn't serve sweet tea, it's not a proper Southern restaurant and I don't care how good the food is. Tea where you add your own sugar is NOT sweet tea.

    December 4, 2010 at 12:39 pm |
  33. Rocky

    Fortunately I was brought into this world by 2 people from the hills of East Tennessee where my mother God Bless Her became one fine southern cook. I was Raised on Biscuits and Gravy, along with home canned sausage, and canned ham and believe me you ain't ate till you've enjoyed fried potatoes and ham.Now I was born and raised in Baltimore Md. But always had southern cooking on the table.No Taco's or things like that, and Mom always got her flour in Tennessee and brought it back because "you can't make a Good Biscuit from city flour" LOL. The flour always had to be White Rose and I had several biscuits with sausage gravy this morning, I've been going to Mom's every saturday morning for breakfast since i left home.Nothing like Mom's biscuits I tell Ya, She can whip up a pan of biscuits so fast you would swear they were'nt homemade. They don't make those kinda girls much anymore.Southern Cooking' Ain't nothing like it....

    December 4, 2010 at 12:30 pm |
    • RichardHead

      Your Mom is a special Lady,Indeed. Give her a Big Kiss from all of us Eatocracy Posters.

      December 4, 2010 at 12:42 pm |
  34. Steve

    I was born, bred, raised, still living in Louisiana and have traveled the world quite a bit more than most. I know what Southern food is and compare it to other types of food. People not from the South usually have no clue what Southern food is supposed to taste like. Just because a place claims to serve Southern food doesn't mean that's what you'll get. If your in the South and need to eat lunch, talk to the locals and ask where to get a good "plate lunch". You won't be going to a chain like Cracker Barrel.

    December 4, 2010 at 12:27 pm |
  35. TDot

    I see no sweet tea, therefore I reject this meal. Also, the kinds of things you see them making in this 'secret dinner'...you're not going to find them in any small town restaurant or made by an actual southerner. The best kind of southern food is found in people's homes. I wouldn't go to a restaurant like that if you were looking for something authentic.

    December 4, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
  36. chris

    southern cuisine ? american cuisine ? lmao . nothing in this country is its own. prove me wrong. it all has french asian , italian influences . but even those can be traced back even further . good cuisine is about having little an doing a lot with it . southern cooking is more of a south american blend of Caribbean , an french. an possibly new england , with all the gravy . so to take claim to a style of food for any one is rather silly. just eat be merry , an share .

    December 4, 2010 at 12:09 pm |
  37. Ed

    Being from the South (yes, we capitalize it down here) I think it's interesting and a bit sad that the South gets a bad rap on just about everything until it becomes kitsch... When all the snow birds flock down for the winter they see what it's all about and when they go back north claim their findings for their own while still kicking the progenitors of such truck to the curb...sad really. I remember the first time I said the word 'fatback' in the presence of my NW born wife, she was appalled by the description but soon became addicted after a taste of my mom's green beans.

    IdaFritz... your comments are really sick and indicative of the bigoted feeling that erudite northerners have of the South. In your quest to extol the virtues of your all-inclusive attitudes you show your inside truth, and from what I see, it ain't pretty. I have lived most my life in the South and been to towns so small you'd miss them if you blink (I grew up in a town of 410 people) and can say that you do no know what you are talking about.

    December 4, 2010 at 11:57 am |
    • IdaFritz

      Sorry if the truth offends you, but my experiences included being threatened with arrest for simply walking down the sidewalk in Biloxi Mississippi and talking with my black friend, during the sixties. That sort of thing is what is sick, and travelling around the country in the 50 years since, listening to white southerners talk when no blacks are around, I can say with certainty that racism is alive and healthy in the modern day south. When someone holds a mirror up to you and you see ugliness, maybe it's time for you to change.

      December 4, 2010 at 7:04 pm |
      • Ed

        First off, qualify your experience, do not talk about what happened 50 years ago like it happened yesterday, second, people of one race talking negatively about another race when they are not around isn't exclusive to the South. You wanting to bring this issue up in the context of a food article is rather telling of your bias; please keep it to yourself, choose another forum to bring your soapbox.

        December 5, 2010 at 12:29 am |
      • smc2009

        Racism exists everywhere, only the races and ethnicities vary. You are just looking for racism from Southernerns because of some isolated incident 50 years ago. I have never experienced what you are talking about in Mississippi.

        December 7, 2010 at 12:41 pm |
  38. IdaFritz

    Good food, food cooked to perfection from the proper ingredients, depends on where you grew up. Some foods I consider good filler from the dumpster, others swear are the closest thing to heaven. I hate lobsters, steak, pastries,cheese, wine, and all sorts of vegetables, when they aren't prepared just the way I want them, otherwise they're grea,t except for lobster, I have never had a lobster that I considered worth eating, even in New England. As far as who has hospitality, I've been in many small southern towns where you best not go unless your skin coloring is the same pale shade as mine, but never have run into that problem in small northern towns, even in Hayden Idaho where that neo-nazi aryan church was, the locals are more accepting of differences than most of the south that I've experienced.

    December 4, 2010 at 11:24 am |
  39. inmansc

    and a little post-dinner cleanup was as much a part of the meal as the food itself. for the guys, going out in the back and shooting the bull after cleaning up. the Meal is really just a central part of The Experience. The food is great, but there is a lot more to look forward to when you get invited to Granny's for dinner. trying to narrow that down to something you can write on an index card and file is simply impossible.

    December 4, 2010 at 11:17 am |
  40. Linda

    Inmansc, I remember eating at my grandmother's house in Alabama. No quick dinners there. All meals were accompanied by "visiting". Usually done while shelling peas on the back porch. It was the experience of creating the food and the camaraderie involved as much as it was the food.

    December 4, 2010 at 10:58 am |
  41. inmansc

    God bless all the folks mentioned in the article, clearly selected based on their public relations budgets, but if you live here, you know that the best southern cooking is not done in any restaurant but at home. Eat all the chicken and dumplings in all the restaurants you want, then get an invitation to sit down at my Mama's house in Kingsland, GA for the real thing. but heres a hint: Southern food is best enjoyed in southern homes amid southern hospitality, something that can not be duplicated elsewhere in the nation- thats the part you cant get onto the recipe.

    December 4, 2010 at 10:49 am |
  42. Linda

    AM, feel better? Obviously some of these posts touched a nerve and honestly some were mean spirited. I think there's great food anywhere in the U.S. I just love sampling regional specialties. I live in southwest Colorado now but am a native Texan. I think the earlier posts had it right...Texas is so big, it's sort of it's own culture with many different cuisines. However, traditional southwest is not as prevalent as you might think. The Tex-Mex influence is much stronger. I sure miss great Tex-Mex. I'm not a huge fan of traditional southwest. Guess I'm too influenced by what I grew up with. Btw, I have an uncle who refers to the Civil war as "the war of northern aggression.". I just smile and shake my head.

    December 4, 2010 at 10:48 am |
  43. AM

    Wow there are a lot of ignorant and hateful people one here. To the prejudice northerners: not all southerners are stupid. Texas is not the south – it's the southwest. Learn your country! No one has a monopoly on good food. Some food in the south is good, some food in the north is good. And most areas of the north do NOT have good pizza (save the NYC metro area). To the xenophobic southerners: there are a lot of fast food chains that started in the south – and you seem to be eating a lot of it, otherwise those chains wouldn't still exist – you cannot blame others for this. All your problems are not due to "transplants." Southerners seem to have an inexplicable problem of blaming others for their problems. Southerners on the whole are significantly more overweight than northerners as well, and the cuisine in general tends to be A LOT less healthy. And "Yankee" is not a dirty word. You lost the war – GET OVER IT. And the south certainly does not have a monopoly on hospitality (evidenced partly by these comments) – just look at the hate crimes and other crimes so prevalent in the south (yes – the rate of crime is higher overall in the south than the north – deal with it – this is factual, not an opinion). Plus research shows that while northerners may say nasty things to your face, southerners say it when the person leaves. That's not hospitable, that's cowardly. And don't pretend that food elsewhere isn't made with "love." What makes it southern is it's made with love? What??? LOL. Personally, making unhealthy food is not love to me, but whatever.

    December 4, 2010 at 10:36 am |
  44. rftallent

    As a Southerner who grew up cooking with my mother and grandmother, I know that if our recipes and techniques are not passed down to each generation, they will be lost forever. I'm sorry, but Paul Deen's cooking is not so much what we find on our tables as it is something that we find when we go to a "Southern" restaurant. Someday, Miss Deen will learn that you can't throw extra butter in something and call it Southern. There are only two cookbooks that I have found that I would turn to for TRUE Southern cooking, "Old-Time Southern Cooking" and "Mama Dip's Kitchen". (My apologies to the Deens and the Neeleys) In most cases I only use them to refresh my memory (especially OTSC). All of my family knows, in case of fire grab my recipes first. (I'm not kidding).

    December 4, 2010 at 10:34 am |
  45. Linda

    Reading most of these posts is such a treat! Reminds me of my dear departed Mama and her fried catfish and hush puppies. And her biscuits? Get out! My brother swears she must have had a secret ingredient that never got written down. It's a nice reminder of my roots. Thanks, y'all!

    December 4, 2010 at 10:22 am |
  46. AuroraDawn

    LMAO I saw that...What the h***?? What is the stroll?? Had the cocktail party last night...I only lasted an hour there..boring

    December 4, 2010 at 10:14 am |
    • RichardHead

      Well,WD and I will travel to the U.K.-dress in Victorian costumes,and Stroll down the streets doing who knows what. NOT! Glad you schmoozed with the big wigs and everything went o.k. Felicia sounds a little....Kinky?

      December 4, 2010 at 10:21 am |
      • AuroraDawn

        Victoria costumes....sounds...fun...no not really. lol Yeah Felicia is barking up the wrong tree! LOL God,that party was soooooo lame. I forgot a secret santa gift and had to run to Walgreens LOL Whoever got stuck with it will think it's the lamest gift ever LOL Oh well....if it seems like no thought went into it...it's because none did.

        December 4, 2010 at 10:26 am |
      • RichardHead

        Martini in 5 minutes. Don't wanna tie this one up and get yelled at.

        December 4, 2010 at 10:32 am |
  47. AuroraDawn

    Well good morning RH

    December 4, 2010 at 10:04 am |
    • RichardHead

      Found out what the Stroll was and some girl named Felisha left you a message on TJames thread.

      December 4, 2010 at 10:09 am |
  48. alpg49

    Notice that the word "lard" appears in the second sentence. I live there. Southern cooking is like English cooking but with more lard.

    December 4, 2010 at 8:54 am |
  49. Roger

    Southern cooking is not one cuisine. It maybe from the seafood areas like New Orleans or from the middle of Alabama. It is what people all over this country did in its early years; make do with what you had. I grew up in the north in the 50’s. My dad was a factory worker and there were six of us in the family. My mother made a lot of soup for dinner because soup bones were cheap and had meat on them that she could use for sandwiches. We had potato pancakes because there were a lot of potatoes around. We had our own chickens so egg dishes were plentiful.
    If you go to an expensive Italian restaurant you might find a costly soup called Pasta Foozle. In reality Italian mothers made many versions of this in this country. It basically was what was left in the refrigerator on Friday. Beans were always around because they were cheap. Leftover vegetables and some pasta completed the soup. Now it is gourmet.
    Early Americans up into the 50’s had to make do with what was available. It was not until unions came along and salaries started going up did the middle class have funds to expand their culinary cuisines.

    December 4, 2010 at 3:02 am |
    • AuroraDawn

      Actually, Minestrone is the "clean out the fridge" soup. I have no idea what pasta Fazoole is but, Pasta e Fagioli is an amazing bean and pasta soup. However, like all...soup it is an inexpensive dish. Unless you delve into bisque,Bouilliabaise etc. The point is I suppose that simple fresh ingredients,regardless of geographical beginnings make the best food. I despise over handled,"architectural" food. Simplicity is king. Now...molecular gastronomy....lol the biggest scam to empty wallets I've ever seen. But, the sheeple will pay so what can you do.

      December 4, 2010 at 9:07 am |
      • RichardHead

        Good Morning Sunshine!

        December 4, 2010 at 9:25 am |
  50. TXGRIT

    and PROUD OF IT!!!!! Just gonna get that outta the way :). Not normally a poster, but I had to respond to this.
    Re BBQ: Ah, the eternal debate–beef or pork? My answer; yes please and add some sausage on the side! Though it's all about the wood and the sauces for me–gotta be oak or mesquite and the sauce can't be too vinegary. Add on a heap of my Mom's potato salad, baked beans some raw onion, and white bread and that is a summer bbq. And yes, the sweet tea is requirement; a good glass should make your teeth hurt and if it was sun brewed well then so much the better.
    Soul Food: It's the heart and the passion and that secret somethin' that just makes Soul Food sing. I can spout off my family's barrage of recipes that are essentials, but my fondest memories of soul food come from a little hole in the wall dive in Nacogdoches TX called Aubrey's Cafe. This was Soul Food at its finest and it was the place we stopped every time my dad came up to visit. The chicken fried steak was crisp and not greasy at all (Hint to the Yankees on the Board: If your chicken fried steak is greasy, then it's done wrong. The crisper the breading is the fresher it is.) The mashed potatoes still had chunks of skin in there and gravy was just spiced right. And the okra was not that Cracker Barrel stuff this was breaded light and sliced thin. And then, there were the biscuits and the tea. . . .Oh my Lord Above, there was the tea. 2 glasses were the minimum and those counted as dessert between me Dad. :) And Aubrey knew you by name when you came in too.

    Southern Food is comfort food y'all. It was and is simple, unpretentious and above all all about family and friends. Thanksgivings at my Grammy's in Arkansas were always followed by long talks on the deck with coffee and her pecan pie. Then there was the fresh venison at my aunt's that we took on road trips home to Houston. And if the cousins bough their guitars, there were jam sessions :) Good memories all, and I think next week there will be a visit to Norma's. :) Y'all made hungry with this.

    December 4, 2010 at 1:29 am |
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