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What's so good about the Southeast?


gwilson
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Carrot Top made a VERY important point about heritage. I think southerners are less mobile than other areas of the country, and that has led to culinary traditions being passed downand engrained a bit more than elsewhere. And the comments about veggies and rural culture (and don't forget hunting/game) are right on.

I ate some typical Roman dishes (fried artichokes, salt cod balls, stuffed squash flowers, etc.) when visiting there this summer, and it finally hit me that French and Italian regional cuisine might be justifiably heralded but should not be done so to the exclusion of our own regional cuisine. I fail to see any inherent superiority of fried artichokes over fried okra.

Chip Wilmot

Lack of wit can be a virtue

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I fail to see any inherent superiority of fried artichokes over fried okra.

Amen Chip!

I think Carrot Top lives/lived on Amelia Island here in N.E. FL.

p.s. I am such a jack -ss. You are not talking about the comidian are you? sorry, sorry,sorry

Edited by LJFATS (log)

R.I.P.

Johnny Ramone

1948-2004

www.RAMONES.com

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There's an article in today's New York Times about the big food fight expected at this year's Southern Foodways Alliance meeting. A whole lot of ridiculous stuff about who did what first - poor white people or poor black people.

I know that politics is beyond the realm of this website - but when it reaches the front page of the dining section of the New York Times - I think it's an appropriate topic of discussion. And - as someone who has lived in the south for a fairly long time (over 30 years) - I have 2 observations.

First - it was always a hallmark of the powers that were in the old days in the south (and it wasn't the "good" old days) that you set poor whites fighting with poor blacks - and vice versa - and then the rich folk did whatever they wanted to do. I thought that kind of stuff had come to end - years ago - but apparently "foodies" haven't heard about the "truce"- and the fight for a common good.

Second - it doesn't matter who did it first. It's who does it best. And - even though I'm an upper middle class white Jewish first generation southern woman - and not a poor 10th generation southern anything - if my sweet potato pie is better than your sweet potato pie - I win. Robyn

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I have some conflicted thoughts on what I have read in this thread. Naturally, we all have our own experiences in this (yes) varied area of the US tied together by history and sometimes, food. I grew up in Memphis, went to college in East Tennessee and eventually, lived in Jacksonville Florida for nearly 3 years. All three cities are "Southeastern" but really totally different in terms of food and what role it was obviously playing.

Out of the three towns, I see Jacksonville as the most bland--just a real feeling of disinterest when it came to food. Believe me, I tried to eat well there! There were some pretty decent "high end" spots, but overall, food was pretty generic. Florida was superior to me for the seafood dishes at coastal towns and the Cuban/Carribean food in various places. But typically Southern food--NO WAY. Maybe in individual kitchens, but not out in the wide open.

I think the Floridians posting definitely have a different view of the Southeast than most of the rest and I agree, Florida is its own thing, much like California. The population there is certainly more "diluted" with non"Southerners" than anywhere in Tennessee etc, for example, you can bet that a lot more than 50% of Memphis' residents grew up somewhere around Memphis! Anyway, it seems it would be extremely difficult for many Floridians to feel any kind of comfortable kinship with what is perceived as stereotypical Southerness in the kitchen.

Am I making any sense????

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strangly enough, I agree w/ you on a couple of points.

Jax restaurant sene is kinda bland, and it sucks because thats where I make my money. I have cooked in Charleston, Atlanta, Orlando, and Telluride, CO (where I had the best chicken fried steak other than my own, go figure??). Compared to those towns Jax is not a pimple on god's ass, restauant wise. Honestly all Jax has is BBQ.

But to my point as to why defend N.E. FL as "technaclly" Southern (the joke is , "This ain't Florida. It's south Georgia") is the way pll act and love thier food is the same here as in 3 of the mentioned areas above. My freinds never let me down with a good meal prepared with love when I come over. 95% of the time southern all the way. I have lived up-north, central FL, and out west...not the same vibe.

I have traveled this country abit and it's just my theroy. Also, I think Al Roker needs to do a BBQ special on Jacksonville.

Thanks.

R.I.P.

Johnny Ramone

1948-2004

www.RAMONES.com

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There's an article in today's New York Times about the big food fight expected at this year's Southern Foodways Alliance meeting.  A whole lot of ridiculous stuff about who did what first - poor white people or poor black people.

I know that politics is beyond the realm of this website - but when it reaches the front page of the dining section of the New York Times - I think it's an appropriate topic of discussion.  And - as someone who has lived in the south for a fairly long time (over 30 years) - I have 2 observations.

First - it was always a hallmark of the powers that were in the old days in the south (and it wasn't the "good" old days) that you set poor whites fighting with poor blacks - and vice versa - and then the rich folk did whatever they wanted to do.  I thought that kind of stuff had come to end - years ago - but apparently "foodies" haven't heard about the "truce"- and the fight for a common good.

Second - it doesn't matter who did it first.  It's who does it best.  And - even though I'm an upper middle class white Jewish first generation southern woman - and not a poor 10th generation southern anything -  if my sweet potato pie is better than your sweet potato pie - I win.  Robyn

The Times article was way off-base, as the SFA's symposium did nothing but show how harmonious race relations among so-called "foodies" can be. This was a celebration of race and food, recognizing the horrible injustices that have occurred in our history, while embracing a hopeful future, all over plates of fried chicken, catfish, and collards. There was nary a fight about "white" food or "black" food, but we did wonder whatever happened to that legendary dish of "possum & taters"!

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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But to my point as to why defend N.E. FL as "technaclly" Southern (the joke is , "This ain't Florida. It's south Georgia") is the way pll act and love thier food is the same here as in 3 of the mentioned areas above. My freinds never let me down with a good meal prepared with love when I come over.

Great point, LJ...hadn't ever conceptualized this, but the cuisine of an area is NOT determined by restaurants! (Though they have an impact). It's the home cooked meals, etc.

Chip Wilmot

Lack of wit can be a virtue

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I think restaurants can play a role in defining an area somewhat. I am specifically referring to Memphis and its BBQ, fried chicken and soul food joints. While I learned my Southern specialties from my grandmother who likely learned them from her maid, those joints are huge in defining Memphis and its food tradition. And not just to tourists either...those places played a huge role to many of us growing up there (i.e. white kids eating out in neighborhoods where they definitely weren't living and the resulting wonderful life lessons of this). The restaurants allowed (and allow) the races to associate on another level and learn A LOT about each other thru repeat visits.

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When I think about where Greg Wilson started this thread, and how it has grown and blossomed, I have to say that his primary objective has been fulfilled ....

the introduction :wink:

I believe that no one region has better offerings than another - but each one does have a different perception. But if you really want to compare the regions, you could do it on different criteria. We're speaking culinarily in general of course, but that could take the form of restaurants and chefs, food-stuffs and providers (farms, etc.), opportunities for learning

Thanks again, Greg, for putting so much into this topic and making it, as you so correctly note, an opportunity for learning!

GG

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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I head south with a bit of a chip on my shoulder.  I don't trust an Italian restaurant in the south.  Leery of Chinese or other Asian too.  French, no way.  This is not fair, and I probably am wrong - at least occasionally wrong.

To me Southern cuisine in the South is as dominant as Italian cuisine in Itally.  I am confident ordering meat and three, fish camp fried fish, carolina barbecue and anything else "southern" - even that edgy Nouvelle South cookin'.  But no way would I squander a Southern meal on a plate of pasta or Peking duck.

I'm sure, if I lived in the South, my attitude would be more all-encompassing.  But I don't and it isn't.  I realize I'm probably missing a lot of great dining, but that's what I have Philadelphia for.

I have to agree that if I'm visiting an area I want to indulge in the regional cuisine. And the Southeast is overflowing with good food. But living in AL (Tuscaloosa area while in grad school at UA) I did find that there are good restaurants to be enjoyed. One of the best Mexican restaurants I've ever been to (and I live in central TX) was Pepe's in Tuscaloosa. Family owned and run. Family recipes not downed for local Southern tastes. The same scenario for a fine Thai restaurant. So many different groups of people have come into the South and bring their culture with them. So sometimes when one is living somewhere you like to eat outside your region, in the South as in any other part of the country.

On the other hand nothing beats sitting down at the local catfish place and having a bowl of coleslaw and plate of cornbread set in front of you while you wait to order. Sweet Tea, of course if you want it. :wink:

Judith Love

North of the 30th parallel

One woman very courteously approached me in a grocery store, saying, "Excuse me, but I must ask why you've brought your dog into the store." I told her that Grace is a service dog.... "Excuse me, but you told me that your dog is allowed in the store because she's a service dog. Is she Army or Navy?" Terry Thistlewaite

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I have to agree that if I'm visiting an area I want to indulge in the regional cuisine. And the Southeast is overflowing with good food. But living in AL (Tuscaloosa area while in grad school at UA) I did find that there are good restaurants to be enjoyed. One of the best Mexican restaurants I've ever been to (and I live in central TX)  was Pepe's in Tuscaloosa. Family owned and run. Family recipes not downed for local Southern tastes. The same scenario for a fine Thai restaurant. So many different groups of people have come into the South and bring their culture with them. So sometimes when one is living somewhere you like to eat outside your region, in the South as in any other part of the country.

On the other hand nothing beats sitting down at the local catfish place and having a bowl of coleslaw and plate of cornbread set in front of you while you wait to order. Sweet Tea, of course if you want it. :wink:

I am new to this forum, but have been writing a weekly restaurant column here in Charleston for the past five years, and think that there is one point that most in this thread have missed. The southeast, particularly the South Carolina Lowcountry (pardon my bias) is simply a fantastic place to live (I would keep it a secret if I could, but it is far too late). As a result, people of all stripes choose to come here, whether it's the weather, the people, the growth or for us, the water.

And luckily for all of us, some of them open restaurants. This means we now have good Thai, decent Indian, and a host of truly wonderful small independents that raise the bar for everyone here. The rest of us help those great people succeed. I have also seen (perhaps this is unique to the tourist towns) it become difficult to find good restaurants serving some of the Lowcountry's most classic foods like simple fried seafood because it's so easy to hand a mediocre example to a tourist for an outrageous price and be successful.

All in all, though - the progress is quite amazing, and I love watching it all happen from a seat in the dining room, or a spot behind my own stove.

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And luckily for all of us, some of them open restaurants. This means we now have good Thai, decent Indian, and a host of truly wonderful small independents that raise the bar for everyone here. The rest of us help those great people succeed. I have also seen (perhaps this is unique to the tourist towns) it become difficult to find good restaurants serving some of the Lowcountry's most classic foods like simple fried seafood because it's so easy to hand a mediocre example to a tourist for an outrageous price and be successful.

All in all, though - the progress is quite amazing, and I love watching it all happen from a seat in the dining room, or a spot behind my own stove.

Ain't it the truth, Molly... And a warm welcome to you.

The change in the Houston food scene has just exploded in the last 30 years. It isn't just the restaurants, either. The specialized groceries and the range of foods available has also gone ballistic. It is also happening in neighborhoods. Where my sister lives, the house next door has changed hands a couple of times. When she first moved there, the couple consisted of a Mexican lady and her Italian husband. They got into her tamale fillings and his grandmother's red sauce. My sister introduced them to the secrets of fried chicken, biscuits, corn bread and crowder peas. Then they moved away and away we go with a new couple... She is from Taiwan and he is from Indonesia, we think. We can't wait.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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