If you were fortunate enough to grow up in a rural town in the deep south, enjoying your grandmother’s traditional home-cooked Sunday suppers, then you’re surely blessed. But for those who have never had this luxury, but still crave the classic flavors and aromas of Southern comfort food created with passion and served with love, we hear you.
Southern cuisine is more than a menu of flavorful black-eyed peas, mustard greens, grits, and fried chicken. Southern cooking is as diverse as it is delicious. So, if you’re hoping to prepare an authentic Southern meal, sans your own historic family recipes, we’ve gathered some trivia about Southern food culture, and even a couple recipes you can enjoy at home.
History of Southern Food
The origins of Southern cooking hail from just south of the Mason Dixon Line and extend all the way to Texas.
Southern food was greatly derived from African Americans (as it crosses over to soul food) as well as Native Americans. In many ways, the most iconic Southern dishes, such as black-eyed peas, pork, chicken, collard or mustard greens, cornbread, and grits, were influenced by systemic poverty, generating the necessity to purchase inexpensive ingredients to feed a family.
In addition, it was necessary to utilize locally available food, which over time, evolved into what we now recognize as the much loved, flavorful, iconic Southern dishes.
During the civil war era, most Southerners were farmers so pork and chicken were readily available. Raising cattle was not as prevalent, so beef was considered a luxury. To this day, beef does not make a strong appearance on most Southern menus.
Southern Food Staples
Southern Fried Chicken
When Scottish immigrants came to the South, they brought along their tradition of cooking fried chicken. At the time, chicken was mostly boiled or baked. However, slaves who worked on plantations added seasoning and battering techniques from West Africa, which together, created the iconic Southern fried chicken the world loves today.
This classic Southern beverage was first introduced in the 1879 cookbook titled “Housekeeping in Old Virginia.” Sweet tea is brewed with simple syrup, then served cold over ice, and often garnished with fresh mint. Sweet tea is considered a staple beverage in the South.
This traditional dish is made from cornmeal. Hominy Grits are made from hominy, which is corn that’s been brought through an alkali process. Its name originated from the word, “grytt,” which meant “Coarse meal.” This predominantly Southern dish was first derived from a Native American creation from the 16th century.
Cousin to kale, collard greens have long been a Southern cuisine favorite. Boiled in stock, and often with hammocks, this side dish is a starring component in traditional Southern meals. Rich in antioxidants, collard greens are considered one of the most economical superfoods available. And they’re delicious, too!
Soulful, packed with flavor, and hearty, black-eyed peas show up at more Southern tables than almost any other dish. Being high in protein, fiber, and flavor, while remaining low in fat, have helped make black-eyed peas a Southern cuisine favorite. Tradition says that eating a plate of black-eyed peas with cornbread on New Year’s Eve will be followed by twelve months of good luck. What’s not to love about that?
Originally created by Native Americans, colonists in the South took this dish and generated a wide variety of recipe versions. Typically baked or fried (and occasionally steamed), cornbread can be served sweet or spicy. Corn pone is a version of cornbread cooked in a hot skillet and most often made in the Appalachian Mountains.
Southern Fried Green Tomatoes
If you’re wondering about green tomatoes, they are simply unripe versions of their red counterparts. They offer a tangier flavor than the more common red and are a popular ingredient in Southern cooking.
4 large green tomatoes
2 large eggs
1/2 cup of whole milk
1 cup of flour
1//2 cup of cornmeal
1 cup of bread crumbs
Coarse sea salt (to preference)
Freshly ground black pepper (to preference)
Approximately 1-quart vegetable oil (for frying the tomatoes)
First, slice the tomatoes, about ½ inch thick. In a medium-size bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together. Place the flour onto a large plate. On a separate plate, place the cornmeal, salt, pepper, and bread crumbs, and combine them together. Coat the tomatoes in the flour, followed by the eggs, and lastly by dredging them through the breadcrumb mixture until they are well covered. Pour the vegetable oil – at least 1/2 inch deep – into a skillet and heat to a medium-high. When the oil is hot, carefully place the tomatoes into the skillet, in small batches, making certain they do not overlap. Flip the tomatoes once they have browned. When both sides are perfectly golden, remove the slices from the skillet and drain well on paper towels.
Serving suggestions: Fried green tomatoes are delicious as a stand-alone treat, or to bring other dishes, like a BLT, to a completely new, and exciting, level.
Now, pour yourself a tall glass of sweet tea and relish the joys of a simple, yet decadent, Southern treat.
Banana Pudding: Southern Style
1 cup of sugar
1 can of evaporated milk
1/2 cup of flour
A pinch of salt
6 large egg yolks (set whites aside)
2 1/3 cup half & half
2 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon of vanilla
1 box vanilla wafers (approximately 11 ounces)
4 bananas, sliced
1 teaspoon of vanilla
6 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon of tartar cream
6 tablespoons of sugar
Place evaporated milk, sugar, flour, and salt in a bowl and whisk together. Then place the mixture in a saucepan on medium-high until it’s warm. Place the half and half in a bowl with the egg yolks, whisk well, and add it to the warm evaporated milk mixture and whisk again. Cook over medium heat, until the custard has thickened. Now, remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla. Take a 7×11 baking dish and line it with vanilla wafers. Then add a layer of banana slices. Top it with half of the custard. Repeat, leaving custard as the top layer. To make the meringue, take the egg whites, vanilla, and cream of tartar and whip. Add the sugar and whip together, until the meringue forms soft peaks. Spread the meringue over the pudding, and set under the broiler until the top becomes golden. Refrigerate to set, and serve.
Note: If preferred, whipping cream can be used instead of meringue.
This delicious banana pudding is the perfect finale to any Southern supper.
At Root & Bone, we serve genuine American cuisine with Southern flair, located in the heart of South Miami. You’ll find generous portions, farm-fresh ingredients, and classic Southern recipes presented with a chef-inspired, creative twist, all served with the grace and hospitality of a traditional home-cooked meal.
If you’re craving a crispy Fried Chicken, Creamy Shrimp & Grits, Pan Seared Snapper, or Duck Pot Pie, we’ve got it and more. We’re open on weekdays for Lunch, Saturday & Sunday Brunch and every evening for Supper. If you’re in the mood for classic Chicken and Waffles, we serve this popular dish at brunch on the weekends.