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TDG: Southern Foods: Is They or Is They Ain't?


Fat Guy
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There is one other term that you don't hear much anymore except in the South and that is "Dinner on the Grounds". This term (unless specified otherwise in the bulletin) implies a covered dish lunch that will be held directly after the service. If you are ever invited to one of these......go. There is some "culinary showing off" going on that should not be missed.

all day preaching, singing & dinner on the grounds! can not be missed! look also for camp meeting, home coming, or revival dinner.

much of the food you will be eating was actually walking, in the ground, or on the vine the day before the dinner.

in loving memory of Mr. Squirt (1998-2004)--

the best cat ever.

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In my experience, "dinner on the grounds" always included the cooking of a variation on stew of the Brunswick/Burgoo variety in a large iron pot over an open wood fire... And it always meant eating outside, not indoors. Potluck and covered dish supper seem to be used interchangeably here in the Nashville area...

Those who do not remember the pasta are doomed to reheat it.

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The topic of soul food never crossed my mind, as no one ever said to me: "macaroni and cheese, good ole soul food" the way they said, time and again, "macaroni and cheese, good ole Southern cooking".

Interested parties might refer to: www.chitterlings.com where macaroni and cheese is listed as a soul food, also.

My guess is that soul food (in Harlem or other non-Southern locations) originated when the emancipated slaves traveled away from the South, taking their entire cuisine with them. This is different than a single recipe or food being assimilated into the geographic mainstream.

By all means, ask Joyce White about soul food.

Ruth Dondanville aka "ruthcooks"

“Are you making a statement, or are you making dinner?” Mario Batali

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My guess is that soul food (in Harlem or other non-Southern locations) originated when the emancipated slaves traveled away from the South, taking their entire cuisine with them.

This certainly seems true for fried chicken. In James Beard's American Cookery, he points out that cookbooks didn't mention the dish at all until the 1870s. Even then, most of them made note of its origin with the phrase "negro cooks of the South."

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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My guess is that soul food (in Harlem or other non-Southern locations) originated when the emancipated slaves traveled away from the South, taking their entire cuisine with them.  This is different than a single recipe or food being assimilated into the geographic mainstream.

Ruth,

By and large the migration of Southern Blacks took place primarily in the 20th century. Certainly, many people certainly left the South because of slavery,and later Jim Crowe type laws, and the repression that came along with them, but during those times Blacks as a general rule could not afford to leave. The migration to the North was primarily a 20th century situation involving industrial jobs that came available in the North and a lack of labor. Once the jobs were available, people (of all colors for that matter) left in droves.

When faced with a choice between starting your day at one side of a field and ending it on the other for a dollar or two and discounted rent in poor housing, or going to live in the North work in a mill or a food plant or a car factory and make wages, many took the City of New Orleans north and never came back .

You are correct in asserting that the Soul Food in the North comes by way of immigrants in the South, but the timing is a little off. Also, contrary to modern revisionist historians, there were many, many places where Blacks were not welcome in the North, and the only thing that changed that was the need for a new source for dependable labor after immigration was slowed following WW1. Remember, the largest organized Klan group was not in Mississippi or in Alabama as most people would guess, but in Indiana where it (for a short five year span(1920-1925) until it was ended by numerous scandals) had over 300,000 members and many members held elected offices statewide.

All that being said, the food went from south to north. Most people were there because it was impossible to earn a decent living and to hold your head up and be proud in the Southern U.S. of the first half of the twentieth century. But the one thing that cultures always take with them and have always taken with them is food. It is pretty easy to understand (for me personally anyway), people in new situations are always looking for the familiar to lessen the seperation from old situations and repressed blacks were no different. While the political situation in the South was awful by any means of measure, the food was wonderful by the same degree of measure. All of it is straightforward, generally made with ingredients that can be had for most of the year round, and generally inexpensive to prepare. Comfort Food. Food that provides comfort.

I am no different, as I found myself occasionally making Seafood Gumbo and Shrimp Creole for my Trabajolleros in Baja and Red Beans and Rice in Ireland for my co workers there. I was lonely, wanted company, wanted familiar food. Bingo. Cooked it and invited new friends to share what was familiar to me.

History lesson over. Sorry, slow day at work.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Great trip down memory lane. I still make banana pudding with Nilla wafers when I want to cheer myself up!

One of my major gripes about eating in NYC has always been the vast number of "psuedo-Southern" restaurants that look at me like I've lost my mind when I ask for "sweet tea."

Jamie

See! Antony, that revels long o' nights,

Is notwithstanding up.

Julius Caesar, Act II, Scene ii

biowebsite

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Mayhaw Man, pimento cheese squirted (from a pastry bag fitted with a star tip) onto celery sticks was a covered-dish standard in Greensboro, NC, where I grew up.

Malawry, your the only person other than Xanthippe's mother and her mama's sister I ever heard refer to a "covered-dish" supper. They both were from Durham, NC. Is that strictly a North Carolinianism, or is the term used all over the south?

We used to have "covered dish" suppers in my church, growing up in east Texas. I've never heard it outside of that context.

Maybe it's a southern Baptist thing?

I rather think the terminology springs from vigorous Baptist trepidation over anything resembling "pot" or "luck".

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Okay, so I've finally decided to post to this thread, somewhat against my better judgment. Against my better judgment because I'm going to say that I found the original article irritating and condescending. I happen to be one of those southerners with strong opinions, and not only have I lived in and visited many other U.S. states, I've lived in and visited other countries. And yet I still manage to have strong opinions.

One of them is the following: attempts to define a food as southern or not southern are doomed to failure, as there is no such thing as southern cuisine. The south is made up of regions, some of them quite small and many of them overlapping. They're defined by topography, climate, immigration patterns, and wealth, with wealth (the lack of, that is) probably being the single factor that best characterizes what most people think of as the south: poverty has limited immigration and emigration, and fostered continued reliance on a basic repertoire of home-grown ingredients.

My grandmother never served grits, and nobody else in the area served grits: does that mean that her rural southeastern corner of Virginia was not the south? She only cooked greens when the hired hands were in for the harvest, and I'd never even heard of frying green tomatoes until that movie came out. But she cured her own hams and grew all her own produce and made biscuits every morning and cornbread (without sugar) every night. Her fried pies were the stuff of legend.

Many of the items on the "southern" list remain regional foods: boiled peanuts are generaly served in areas where peanuts are grown, jam cake with caramel icing is a Kentucky thing, sweet tea is not universally available, crawfish are not served inland. These items are increasingly available all over the south (and the rest of the U.S.), but so are pizza and pho.

I do agree with the author's point that southern foods are really just rural foods.

FYI, we only talk about the Civil War (aka The War of Northern Aggression) when Yankees are listening. They just love local color like that, and we do take southern hospitality very seriously indeed.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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(mcdowell @ Aug 29 2003, 03:50 PM)] Chicken fried steak.

Mcdowell, I would argue that chicken fried steak, correctly served (my definition of "correctly", of course :rolleyes: ) probably originated in Texas. When I was growing up there, chicken fried steak was invariably served slathered in homemade cream gravy, and lots of it. No wallpaper paste, mind you, but the real thing made with bacon drippings (or lard), flour and whole milk (oh, shit...I'm drooling on the keyboard). Usually, although not always, accompanied with French fries, and sometimes coleslaw.

Outside of Texas, you're taking your culinary life in your own hands if you order chicken fried steak. I was exchanging emails a while back with a cousin-of-a-cousin who is also a native Texan (now transplanted to PNW), and she decided on a trip back home to get adventuresome and order chicken fried steak outside of Texas - in New Mexico, to be precise. The steak was served with...Ranch dressing!!!! :angry: Not a mistake she'll ever make again.

THW

Edited by hwilson41 (log)

"My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne." John Maynard Keynes

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OK, as all can see from the last post, I haven't yet broken the code on how one gets the reference line to the previous post up beside the "Quote" rather than in the body of the quote. Would someone be so kind as to explain how this is done? TIA.

THW

"My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne." John Maynard Keynes

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  • 4 weeks later...

The folly is in trying to define southern food as something wholly distinct. No cuisine is. Cuisines have a history and a life, an interaction with other cuisines. They move from place to place just like people and cultures. Is a Japanese person no longer Japanese when they move to the US? To some extent, but they don't just lose their identity either. It's an organic process. Cuisines, dishes, foods are not ones and zeros. But having said that, it's still useful to talk about southern food, what is southern food, how it is different from and similar to soul food. How it changes from region to region. How Northerners have interepreted it. Etc. Southern food as a meaningful definition exists (it can never be more than a human construct). We know this because we use the damn thing all the time. "That's some good southern fried chicken!" "That place with the collard greens and sweet potato pie was the best southern food I've ever had." Etc.

Don't try to come up with some formula for what is southern food. It won't work. Just see what people in the south eat and what people refer to when they say "southern food". That's what it is -- for now.

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when you find soul food up north - especially harlem and chicago, if you look back at those people's people they came from somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon - mostly due to the Great Northern migration from places like North Carolina up to Harlem and the South Side of Chicago.

doh just scrolled down - Mayhaw Man's got it.

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My grandmother never served grits, and nobody else in the area served grits: does that mean that her rural southeastern corner of Virginia was not the south? She only cooked greens when the hired hands were in for the harvest, and I'd never even heard of frying green tomatoes until that movie came out. But she cured her own hams and grew all her own produce and made biscuits every morning and cornbread (without sugar) every night. Her fried pies were the stuff of legend.

I grew up in southeastern Virginia, an area many folks from farther down South enjoy telling me is not truly Southern (I rather believe that it is much more Southern than is, say, Arlington).

Your quote reminds me of the ham biscuits which are a staple at fancy luncheons in the region. For some reason, you just can't find good ham biscuits outside of that part of Virginia. You can't even find good ham, for that matter; I've been living in New Orleans for five years, an area which abounds in delicious pork products, yet I have to ask my mother to send me real Virginia ham for Easter.

We grew up eating grits (from Mabry Mill) and non-sweetened cornbread, but not greens or biscuits or fried green tomatoes (certainly we ate fried red tomatoes). We ate store-bought fried apple pies. We ate a lot of green and other pole beans. I guess it was partially what was available in the farmer's market and partially a matter of personal taste, my daddy having grown up in Roanoke and definitely being familiar with all of these items.

I think what really characterizes the region for me is the freshness and abundance of the local produce. And trout, fresh-caught rainbow or brook trout from Barber's Creek, mm-mm.

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Scottie, where in southeastern VA are you from? My grandparents' farm was in Atkins, and I was born in Marion (because there something sort of like a hospital there), county seat for Smyth County. Even Roanoke was a long way.

What we ate was dictated almost entirely by what we produced on the farm, and that was dictated by my grandparents' familiarity with foods and the degree to which they'd grow under the farm's conditions. Grits were not a big deal locally, and there was no local mill that produced them that I'm aware of. Unless you lived close to Mabry Mill it may have been your Daddy's "big city" tastes that brought certain things to your table.

My grandmother would have sooner cut off her arm than serve a store-bought fried pie. She did buy "light bread" (that's the squishy sliced bread that passes for food in much of the country) and hamburger and hot dogs buns, though I can't remember the context in which light bread was actually consumed. Toast, I suppose. A loaf of the bread (we got Tiger 'cause my brother liked the picture) lasted a household of six over a week.

One of the very best things was the butter. Real butter, made from clabbered cream, from our own Jerseys and Guernseys. I still have the churn.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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  • 5 weeks later...
"iced tea presweetened without asking your preference" -- gosh, that's almost the only way you'll be served the stuff in our neck of the woods, western Canada. A decidedly unsouthern location, needless to say. Sadly, the stuff here tends to be a pale, tinny imitation of the real Southern brew.

Just to help y'all who've never had real Southern ice tea, down here in Georgia, (pronounced Jo Ja, for y'all carpetbaggers), when we talk about sweet tea, we mean "Oh my gosh, honey I'm going into diabetic shock"-sweet. Strong brewed, thick with the taste of cane sugar, over lots of ice!

Be polite with dragons, for thou art crunchy and goeth down well with ketchup....

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To my own personal tastes, the best 'Sweet Tea' comes from Pensacola, Florida. If you go to Hopkins Boarding House for Sunday Dinner after church, they have sweet tea. That is where I grew up going to Dinner on the grounds at Hickory Hammock Baptist church, to Covered dish dinners held by the PTA at the elementary school. My mom always used Lipton loose leaf tea to make her sweet tea. You can also ask for the pulley bone at Hopkins.

Edited by joiei (log)

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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For the record.

I see that KFC's buckett of Fried Chicken, is used to illustrate a reference to Southern Fried Chicken. Well friends, the Colonel was a master at advertising.

For the whole accurate story I'll have to dig into the archive. For now though,

our fond friend the Colonel, was a Seattle restaurant cook. He developed his coating for chicken at the Twin Teepies, which were located west of Greenlake on Hwy 99. The buildings burnt beyond repair and were removed about five years ago. Seattle Public Library and the Seattle Museum Of History, for that matter KFC, can fill you in, on line, with all the history. Bottom line........

KFC therefore is a Washington Yankee product and should never be confused with a confederate concoction!

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  • 2 months later...

As an answer to a comment by MSG in this thread about "Southern Foods, Is they or Ain't they I would like to point out that food in the South (what apparently, judging by this thread and the comments I have previously read on others) was and is certainly influenced by blacks who were brought here as slaves. But it has much to do with other groups as well.

On the other hand I do not believe that the term "stolen" applies here. The culture that this food came out of was poor and rural. This condition treated both black and white cruelly and when either group had the chance they left for a more industrialized North and West that needed the labor and were willing to pay for it. Stolen implies that there has been some kind of crime done. making the best out of what is available is certainly not a crime. The foods that people ate in the South in 1900 and the foods that Southerners eat today have not changed that much, even though there are many other kinds of foods easily available to them thanks to modern transport and refrigeration. We eat the stuff because we like it. We eat more pork than the rest of the country and that certainly wasn't "stolen" from anyone. Greens were grown by EVERYONE as a staple food because in many parts of the South they can be grown year round and were often the only fresh vegetable available in the winter.. Certainly many parts of the food culture were imported directly from Africa or the Carribean (hell, just the word Gumbo has African Roots). Stolen is a poor choice of words. It implies ownership and I do not believe that anyone owns a Southern Food.

I could go on but I think that it might be better to suggest some of you take the time to go back and read through this old and interesting thread.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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For now though,

our fond friend the Colonel, was a Seattle restaurant cook. He developed his coating for chicken at the Twin Teepies, which were located west of Greenlake on Hwy 99. The buildings burnt beyond repair and were removed about five years ago. Seattle Public Library and the Seattle Museum Of History, for that matter KFC, can fill you in, on line, with all the history. Bottom line........

KFC therefore is a Washington Yankee product and should never be confused with a confederate concoction!

Um, sorry, but the Colonel, while he was from Indiana, developed his famous chicken recipe at his service station in Corbin, Kentucky. Hence the name. The corporate HQ is still in Louisville. While Colonel Harland may have been a master of advertising, there's obviously a Colonel Somebody Else in Seattle who's feeding y'all a line.

You can read the full story here.

"Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cookbook! Little Red Cookbook!" --Eddie Izzard
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  • 4 weeks later...

I'd like to add something else about the beloved/maligned Colonel--he retired to Shelbyville, KY, where my mother met him when she was a child. He really did wear the white suit and frequently smoked cigars. There is still a "southern" food restuarant there bearing his wife's name (Claudia Sanders).

I agree with what much of what therese had to say. I'm from KY and we don't eat boiled peanuts and in my particular hometown tea is not necessarily served sweet--both are available. Also, only some people eat grits for breakfast--I'd never had them then until 19. But I'm still a proud southern who is hungry for jam cake!

SML

"When I grow up, I'm going to Bovine University!" --Ralph Wiggum

"I don't support the black arts: magic, fortune telling and oriental cookery." --Flanders

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The one thing that I really can't get anywhere else (except little bits of the Tidewater/Shenandoah areas in Virginia) other than Kentucky, sml311, is beaten biscuits with baked country ham. And I'm pretty sure you can only get them in the Bluegrass. I can make jam cake in a pinch (it's the frosting that's the thrash, actually), but there's no way I'm making beaten biscuits, and then there's the ham...

Fortunately my mom still lives in Lexington. But she keeps threatening to move someplace warmer for the winters.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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