The food of the south of America does, as with many places around the world, give us a culinary history of the region, and the people that helped to form the land and give it civilization. Food can describe a place, the ingredients that grow there tell of its climate, the spices and herbs included tell us of the people and how they like to eat the food.
Southern cuisine has always been linked to home-cooking, dishes that your mother would prepare, taking inspiration from recipes handed down from generation to generation and highly treasured. If ever you get an opportunity to visit this wonderful culinary part of the world, there are some dishes that represent the south and everything it stands for, from the people to the fresh local ingredients, and the eclectic history and melting pot of diversity that is now just called the South.
This blog is not a recipe book about how to cook the dishes, rather it is highlighting the diversity of the cuisine that has been passed down through generations and how certain areas, towns and states have adopted different ingredients and made them their own as reflected by the food they prepare and eat.
Biscuits and Gravy
For Europeans, biscuits are a crispy sweet snack normally eaten whilst sipping tea or coffee, but in the South, they are something quite different entirely. They are a sort of cross between a dumpling and a scone and are made with a great deal of butter and sausage fat, drowned in delicious gravy, they are a masterpiece and a definite comfort food.
You could spend months traveling in the South, and in every state and town, the local citizens will have perfected their barbeque to an art form. Basically, the Southern BBQ is a three-part affair. Firstly, comes the marinade the meat will be based in, second is the method how the meat is cooked and lastly the most important part – the barbeque sauce. Some marinades and barbeque sauces are deeply treasured, they are protected as much as a son or daughter, and never disclosed to anybody outside the family. Regarding cooking the meat, every pit master has his own technique from slowly smoking it to cooking in rotisserie style, all to try and keep the succulent juices inside the meat so it is tender and juicy.
Shrimp & Grits
Some people dismiss this basic dish as nothing more than a country breakfast dish, that may have been the case at one time but the simple Grits with Shrimp has recently been elevated to fine dining. And chefs all over the South are competing how to make the finest Shrimp & Grits in the country. Accordingly, that is why there are so many variations of this humble dish but in the southern diners you will find the more traditional way it should be served, and it can be topped off with any food variations that the cooks can think of.
In part two of this blog, we look at even more traditional dishes from the South and see how they are made and why they are so popular, including the excellent fried green tomatoes and, of course, collard greens.