Pork Rinds to Fried Pickles: How Many of These 18 Southern Foods Did You Grow Up With?

Raise your red Solo cups high if you grew up in the most food-loving region of America.

If you grew up in the South, you got fed. Your mama fed you. Then your neighbors fed you. Then you and your friends stopped off for boiled peanuts on the way to another bar-b-cue. Growing up in Alabama, I was taught it’s not a party (or a funeral) without Chick-fil-A. Hot sauce and Duke’s mayo come in packets, because we find it terrifying to travel without proper condiments. Cheers to the South, y’all.

1.  Duke’s Mayonnaise

Pull out a jar of fancy, hipster mayo south of the Mason Dixon and you’re likely hear, “Well … bless your heart.” Old-school Southern ladies might then pull packets of Duke’s out of their purses. We’re obsessed, and we’ve been slathering Duke’s (created back in 1917) on everything from Po-Boys to coleslaw to potato salad.

2.  Pimento Cheese

Pimento cheese is the color of a traffic cone, and it looks like neon goo. It’s not the most attractive thing we serve, but it just might be the best. The recipe is roughly cheddar cheese, cream cheese, red pimentos, smoked paprika, salt and Duke’s Mayonnaise. It’s a condiment. It’s an entrée. It’s a sandwich. It’s a burger filling. It’s everything.

3.  BBQ

Photo credit: Jenny Adams.

We cannot decide on a way to spell it. BBQ? Bar-b-cue? Barbecue? However, each Southern state takes great pride in their signature preparation. In Texas, beef brisket is king. Memphis loves ribs dry or wet, and the Carolinas serve up a meal that takes a village: the Whole Hog. In Alabama? It’s pulled pork with a white sauce made from vinegar and, you guessed it, Duke’s Mayonnaise!

4.  Tomato Aspic

A photo posted by Lisa Adams (@lisaadamsinnyc) on

Tomato Aspic is essentially tomato Jell-O. The original recipe was published in Betty Crocker’s Cookbook in 1970, and it calls for a packet of lemon gelatin, tomato sauce, celery, vinegar, spices and wine. You let it set in the fridge and then serve it with a big spoonful of Duke’s Mayo. In the humble opinion of this writer, it’s only good for Halloween decoration as congealed blood. The Atlanta Junior League would probably beg to differ.

5.  Chick-fil-A Nuggets

The official gathering staple of the South. When I was growng up, you couldn't have Game Day, a wedding, a birthday or even a funeral without Chick-fil-A nuggets. The secret is a brine of pickle juice and a dusting of confectioners sugar before frying. There’s a perfect copycat recipe for them here. Pass the Polynesian Sauce, please.

6.  Bourbon & Ginger Ale

If Chick-Fil-A nuggets are the official Game Day food, then our Game Day drink is Bourbon & Ginger. It’s two ounces of whatever bourbon is closest at hand and a single splash of ginger ale, served over ice with either a lime or lemon wedge. This is always consumed from a red Solo Cup. Stay classy, y’all.

7.  Fried Okra

A photo posted by Tiffany Higgins (@tnhiggins) on

Southerners will fry just about anything. Someone proved this once by frying up some okra. We never stopped.

8.  Fried Pickles

A crazy miracle combination of tart, vinegary, crisp dill pickles with a greasy, salty exterior, these are served in a basket with Ranch dressing for dipping.

9.  Fried Chicken

Photo credit: Jenny Adams.

A hearty “hello” to the reason we suffer from various levels of obesity down South. We ain’t mad at it. Pass the hot sauce or the waffles.

10.  Fried Catfish

A photo posted by Solomon C (@shlomoking) on

Mississippi is generally home to the best fried catfish, a dish that combines the light, flaky, soft meat of catfish with the power of the aforementioned fried chicken. It’s best eaten on a porch while listening to Bluegrass music. It’s helpful if there are dogs and children running around for extra ambience.

11.  Collard Greens

Historically, Southern cooking takes great pride in making unpalatable items delicious, using spices, fat, vinegars and sugar. Collard greens are the mother of all examples. These are bitter as Hell if you don’t cook them right. When we do, we spend an hour or two braising them to a delicious mush with fatback, onions, vinegar, sugar and spices. This preparation is only because we haven’t figured out how to fry collards yet.

12.  Hot Tamales

Mississippi is packed with roadside stands selling Mexican tamales. Now there’s literally a map of where to eat them.

13.  Sweet Tea

Photo credit: Jenny Adams.

Your mama always had some in the fridge.

14.  Cornbread with Honey Butter

The two best uses for a heavy, cast iron skillet? Cornbread. And (spoiler alert) murderin’ someone.

15.  Boiled Peanuts

A photo posted by Jenny Adams (@jennyadams22) on

Do you love them Cajun or Regular? If you’re Southern, you’ll know. You’ll also pull off at the gas station during any road trip for a Stryofoam cup full.

16.  The Pig Ear Sandwich

A photo posted by Josh Hailey (@joshhailey) on

Pig meat is never wasted in the rural South. Chitlins? Yup. Pigs feet? Why put those to waste when you could pickle them in a jar? If y’all aren’t from around here, you might hesitate when presented with the Big Apple Inn’s claim-to-fame in Jackson, Mississippi. We will dig right in to the incredibly delicious, messy, BBQ-sauce-slathered stack of sliced pig ears on a soft bun.

17.  Pork Rinds

Photo credit: Jenny Adams.

It’s just further testament. We don’t waste pork.

18.  Grits

No one said it better than Maury Chaykin in the movie My Cousin Vinny. “No self-respectin’ Southerner uses instant grits.” Amen.

Oh, and ICYMI:

 

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