What is Southern food? Is it about ingredients? Cooking methods? Traditions?
These are just a few of the questions discussed at a secret supper hosted by CNN’s Eatocracy last week. It was the first in a series of secret suppers across the country to discuss regional food.
Guests included John Kessler, (the AJC’s chief dining critic) Christiane Lauterbach, (recent winner of the Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern Foodways Alliance), noted Southern chef Virginia Willis, and several prominent Atlanta food bloggers.
Chef Linton Hopkins and his staff at Restaurant Eugene prepared dinner using ingredients from Southern farms and artisans. Benton’s bacon, White Oak Pastures beef, and Anson Mills grits all made appearances on the menu. The dinner was certainly delicious. But was it Southern?
That question was the subject of a lively debate that ensued on the Eatocracy blog about the dinner – a debate I’m sure the folks at Eatocracy expected. And at its core was how exactly you define Southern food.
The Southern antipasti, beef shortribs over grits, and sorghum cake with macerated citrus were all made using ingredients harvested and produced in the South. Does that make it Southern? Or are only certain ingredients Southern? What if it’s made by a Southern chef?
For some, Southern food means food that is made EXACTLY the same way grandma made it. Cooking methods and use of specific ingredients are the defining factors.
But what if we use any ingredient grown in the South? Didn’t Southern food originate from
what could be found locally on the farm? Is that not the real essence of Southern cooking?
Atlanta’s own Chef Steven Satterfield of Miller Union told Eatocracy, “We are experiencing a renaissance right now with the sweep of awareness of where food comes from. This is great because it gives us a chance to redefine what Southern is – to revise a recipe with a chef’s perspective, to create something new that tastes nostalgic - to cook with heritage ingredients and think about our ancestors.”
So what do you say? What defines Southern food? And how do we let it evolve while remaining true to traditions?
Food for thought.
Cheers to Eatocracy for sparking this conversation!
– by Jenny Turknett, Food & More blog
– Jenny Turknett writes about Southern and Neighborhood Fare for the AJC Dining Team. She also publishes her own blog, Going Low Carb.