If you’ve come to America hoping to get lethally fat on deliciousness, head to that strip of states along the bottom and start munching. Because down there, the food is, quite literally, to die for. Not sure what to order? Start with these superb Southern staples.
Fried green tomatoes
Who’d have thought a dish featuring under-ripe toms—with a name that sounds like it was invented by Doctor Seuss—could be truly scrumptious? Believe me when I say, seasoned, battered and crisped up in hot oil, they’re superb.
They’re not just an unappealing shoe. Oh no. What I’m talking about here are delightful balls of deep fried cornmeal batter. They’re even better than cornbread.
Biscuits ‘n’ gravy
In the U.S., a biscuit isn’t the biscuit we know from Britain. It’s a savory, buttery scone with a more layered texture. Served with “gravy”—meaty, peppery white gloop that could not look less appealing—it is a dish of divine delightfulness.
How to make the perfect grits (boiled ground corn mush with optional dairy additions) is something no one in the South can agree on. Should you cook it with milk, butter, cheese or cream? Or all of the above? Fight amongst yourselves, Southerners, because this grit-loving Brit likes it any way you care to serve it up.
Chicken and waffles
What flummoxes Brits (or me at least) when they encounter this Southern delicacy is the type of waffle used. The first time I ordered chicken and waffles, I expected the potato variety. Poultry plus potatoes makes sense, right? Maybe so, but that’s not this dish. Apparently I lacked the imagination to envisage the wonderfulness that is mishmash of deep fried chicken, sweet waffles and maple syrup. Whoa.
This Louisiana Creole rice dish is like Spanish paella, only better. Prawns, chicken and smoked andouille sausage are gently cooked into to a gooey mess of rice, vegetables (with or without tomatoes depending on who’s cooking) stock and spice. There are a lot of ingredients, but this one pot dish isn’t difficult to prepare. If you can’t find andouille, substitute with chorizo.
Just so you know, when a Southerner talk about BBQ, they’re NEVER referring to that thing where you slam steaks on a grill in the garden. However, this is about the only thing they can agree on down there in the Barbecue Belt. Every state has it’s own version of how to slow cook meat over coals, wood or whatever carbon-based material they deem suitable for the task. And don’t even get ‘em started on sauces. I say, ignore the infighting and try everything. It’s all great, from Texan beef brisket to Tennessee pulled pork.
Key lime pie
I wasn’t sure about this Floridian lime-based dessert, right up until the moment I actually tried it. I’d imagined something gelatinous and acid green with a silly meringue hat. Instead, it was a soft buttery yellow and there was no meringue – although I’m told this is a legitimate addition. Furthermore, there was serious oral pleasure center activation from the first citrusy, creamy, crumbly mouthful.
Not to be confused with a crumble or a crisp, cobbler is a baked fruit dessert topped with individual biscuits. When it’s cooked, the biscuits rise and create a cobblestone street look. Top tip: ignore recipes that say to use canned peaches. Fresh is always better. I’m confident that any Southern grandma would back me up on this.
Usually, this is a simple custard pie with added cornmeal and either vanilla, lemon or chocolate. All you really need to know is it’s delicious. But what I love most about chess pie is the confused origin of the name. Were gentlemen really served this pie as they played chess, as one tale states? Some say the name was came about because of how southerners speak: “It’s jes’ pie,” meaning, “It’s just pie.” Another account states that the dish’s high sugar content meant it kept perfectly well in pie chests and didn’t need to be refrigerated. So it was “chest pie.”