A Cuisine of Many Cultures
Southern food has a history as rich as the gravy that tops the flaky buttermilk biscuits on Southern breakfast tables. The cuisine may have the reputation of being calorie-, fat- and sugar-laden, but the food of the Deep South is a combination of culinary heritages from around the world.
What is Southern Cooking?
Southern food is home cooking, comfort food, Creole, Cajun, Carolina low-country, soul food and Tex-Mex. It includes an abundance of fresh vegetables, rice or corn, inexpensive cuts of meats, and fresh seafood. And no Southern meal is complete without libations, especially sweet iced tea and mint juleps.
Living in High Cotton
Big country breakfasts of eggs, biscuits and gravy, sausage and grits, and supper plates of chicken-fried steak, corn bread and collard greens provided farmers with the fuel to work from sun up to sun down in the scorching heat and humidity of the South. But these meals were not just nourishing: they were also economical. Thoughts of the pre-Civil War South may evoke images of sprawling plantations, but in reality most Southerners were subsistence farmers who relied upon their own harvests to feed their families. Many Southern dishes were created out of necessity and frugal ingenuity.
- Redeye gravy, for example, is made with pan drippings and leftover coffee.
- Key lime pie is another such dish.
With very few cows in the Florida Keys, fresh milk was not readily available for pie baking. When sweetened condensed milk was introduced in 1856, it was natural to combine it with Key limes, creating the South Florida favorite.