Growing up in the Deep South, one thing I learned growing up was food. Three times a day, Momma would make (from scratch mind you) the most mouth-watering creations you could ever dream of indulging yourself in. Here’s my list of food you should add to your list of things to try before you die, especially if you’re from anywhere north of Kentucky.
-Chicken Fried Steak or Chicken: Anything that gets battered twice has got to be good. I like mine on the crispy side with a heaping serving of cream gravy (lots of pepper in this one).
-BBQ Pork Ribs: Despite what you may have heard, the only place to get good ribs is in Memphis. If you aren’t fortunate to have a relative from Memphis to cook you up some, might I suggest the Rendezvous downtown or Neely’s (They’ve also got their own show on the Food Network now with great BBQ recipes. Ain’t nothing like the real thing though.)
-Frogmore Stew: Most people from outside of the south know this as Lowcountry Boil and for those of you who don’t, it’s similar to a smorgasbord. The best recipes include potatoes, hot smoked sausage, corn on the cob, shrimp, crab, onions, and butter. If it isn’t cooked in butter, don’t waste your time. Also, it isn’t truly southern unless it’s served on newspaper.
-Grits: Grits can be served as simply as a breakfast food with a touch of butter and some maple syrup or as extravagantly as a casserole with mushrooms, prosciutto, and provolone. For those of you who don’t know and no one you know knows either because you’re from too far up north, grits are basically corn grain, all ground up.
-Red beans and Rice: Every true southerner knows that red beans and rice aren’t good until the third day. It takes a day to soak the beans, another day to cook them, and then you can eat them on the third day after they’ve had time to set awhile. Throw some broiled hot sausage on the side, and some diced pickled onion in and you’ve got yourself a real treat. Serve with toasted bread and beer. Daddy always doused his in Tabasco, but I could never get past a couple of dashes.
-Any home grown fruit or vegetable: The best place to find this isn’t the grocery, but the town square. Every weekend, you’ll find farmers with the back of their trucks loaded to the brim with watermelon, cantaloupe, FRESH green beans (you haven’t lived until you’ve had to spend your summer snapping green beans for your granny), okra, strawberries, peaches and just about everything else imaginable. This is the best place to find squash for frying mind you.
-Corned Bread: Ideally, this is made in a cast iron skillet that’s at least old enough to have belonged to your great-grandmother. (Cast iron keeps its seasoning from everything you’ve cooked in it.) And for another thing, corn bread shouldn’t taste like cake as it does in some places. You’ve got to use bacon grease (keeps well in a coffee can) and just enough flour to hold it together.
-Pecan Pie: While everyone claims they use a family recipe, I’ll go ahead and rat everyone out, most people use the recipe off the back of the Karo syrup bottle and let me tell you honey it is divine but you have to top it off with a healthy dose of canned whipped cream.