Southerners pronounce their words in ways that people from other regions don't always understand, but when it comes to food, the South has its own language altogether. If you need help understanding exactly what you’re ordering off a menu, what your Southern guests might be bringing to your potluck, or what they’re making you for lunch, consider this your translation guide to some of the region's most common names for foods:
Don’t worry: If your new Southern friend says she’s bringing a "Possum Pie" to your next cook-out, you’re not going to be served roadkill. Despite its name, a Possum Pie is actually a very light (and delicious) summer dessert. Made of crushed pecans, cream cheese, cool whip, confectioners’ sugar, flour and butter, it’s kind of like a Boston Cream Pie or Whipped Mousse.
It looks like a pancake to everyone else, but ask any Southerner about this coarse cake made of cornmeal, and you'll hear it called a "Hoecake." It’s not actually a cake, but rather, a thin, unleavened round made of some pretty minimalist ingredients: cornmeal, water and salt. It’s usually fried in some sort of a fat (like bacon) and is a little more dense in the middle. It’s a traditional breakfast food served to help scoop up side dishes (like eggs and such), or is sometimes served on its own. Back in the day, they actually made these hoecakes on the blade of hoe (hence their name).
While chocolate-covered peanuts are eaten basically everywhere, if you grab a pack down South, you might hear someone reference this salty-and-sweet treat as a "Goober." The reason is pretty simple: Southerners often refer to products by the household name they know (i.e. it’s Clorox, not Bleach), and the same goes for food. Because Goobers were hot on the shelves for decades, many Southerners still reference them.
When you hopped off the school bus and ran down the gravel road to your home as a kid in the South, your mama might have had cheese straws waiting for you as an afternoon snack. They aren’t actually straws, and they don’t go with a beverage. Instead they’re pretty simple (and desperately unhealthy): just deep-fried cheese and flour.
If you spend a weekend by the ocean down in the low country and your hosts say they’re serving Frogmore Stew for dinner, you won’t actually be eating frogs. Instead, they’re talking about the infamous (and fabulous!) low country boil. It’s a fun Southern tradition where shrimp, crawdaddies (aka, river lobster), corn, potatoes and sausages are all cooked together and then dumped on the table. Most families lay down a trash bag first, making clean-up much easier.
Violent-sounding name aside, this salad won’t poison you, but it’s also not exactly a healthy option for your post-workout cool down. The ingredients are minimal enough: lettuce, tomato, onion and bacon bits. Sounds like a BLT, but in salad form, right? This North Carolina-specialty adds on another layer, though: The lettuce is made to wilt from bacon grease. North Carolinians often serve this special mix with cornbread and pinto beans.
Stop by any Southern bar to catch a good ole’ game of football or a round of brewskies, and you’ll probably see frickles (pictured above) on the menu. In the true Southern fashion of deep-frying everything, pickles get their turn in the bubbling oil. Made with a simple batter and, well, pickles, Frickles have an apt name: They're deep-fried pickles.
While not as common anymore, Divinity was probably your Southern grandmother’s favorite candy of all time. Made of egg whites, corn syrup, sugar and pecans, these treats are extremely light and delicate. They're kind of like fudge but with a meringue base, and often served around the holidays.
Southerners are big fans of anything pickled, and even Kool-Aid is no exception. Koolickles are pretty much exactly what you'd guess: pickles brined with Kool-Aid powder. The process turns the pickles a neon-red, making them look like figs, but they definitely don’t taste as sweet.
Head down to Florida and you might see Swamp Cabbage on every menu. What is it? It’s a special type of hearts of palm (pictured above) grown only in the Sunshine State. It’s taken from Sabal Palm, which is also called the cabbage palm tree and is Florida’s state tree. The sad part is that once the heart is taken, the tree dies, so lately there's been a lot of debate about whether this tradition deserves to die too.
If you’ve had a pork rind before and cringed at the taste, you probably wouldn’t like a cracklin. Why? Because these things take the pork rind to a whole new level. A bag of cracklins contains various parts of the pig: crunchy outer skin, fried fat and some denser meat. Most of the time though, these babies are so tough that you have to moisten them with your mouth to eat them.
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