When I started writing this article, all I could think was, “Table manners? My family has no table manners!” My mind flashed back to my high school years, when “no poop talk at the table” seemed to be constantly on my father’s lips. I thought about how my grandmother was adamant that no labels be seen on the table, so condiments were either put in a bowl or placed discreetly on a table next to where we were eating. Then my mind wandered to the controversial subject of elbows: what seemed like a totally innocuous part of the body caused fight after fight in our household, as my mother believed—strongly—that to have elbows on the dinner table would surely bring on the apocalypse.
One of the things that is most true about the South is that it is hard to define. No two people have the same idea of what the South is and even, often, where it is. For instance, as a North Carolinian, I believe that everything north of Richmond, Virginia, is the North. There are others I know—people from, say, Connecticut—who think Maryland is part of the South. Once, in college, an indignant friend told me that although they are parallel to one another, Tennessee was a Southern state while North Carolina was not. (He is a Georgian.)
For this post, I originally planned to write about foods that gave boundaries to the South, foods that were regionally specific to the place I love so much. But the more that I thought about it, the more I realized that there is a love of Southern culture throughout the country, partly due to the fact that it’s become easier to find traditionally Southern foods outside of the South. So instead, here are a few Southern staples that I find best when enjoyed in the South, but emblematic of Southern food culture anywhere you enjoy them.
I have never lived above the Mason Dixon line. I was born in Durham, North Carolina (regrettably at Duke and not UNC). Just before kindergarten, my family moved to Palm City, Florida. And while one can certainly argue that Florida is not part of the South, it was the time I spent there that I developed a strong love for the ocean, where my imagination flourished, and where I learned the simple truth that if you’re at the beach, you’re eating fried chicken. (more…)