Traditional Southern Eats

by William Paysinger

Beans and Cornbread Different parts of the nation and world have different cultural or customary dishes. These dishes are largely the result of a few different factors. What foods naturally/readily grow in a location and the combinations of those that provide all the nutrition necessary for survival, become a regional cuisine. Personal preference has little to do with why Asian countries consume more rice and fish then we generally do, or why corn has become such a staple in the south. These foods in combination with other vegetables in these areas provide all the essential amino acids and vitamins needed, making them prime food choices. (Harris)

The southern/southeastern United States has a strong Native American influence on its cultural dishes. The Native Americans of this area naturally knew what foods were readily available and which grew well, such as corn.

Vegetable combinations that provide all the essential amino acids were critical because after long days working on the land, one did not always have time to hunt for additional game to supplement the diet. One particular vegetable combination of the south is beans, corn, and squash. Growing up in an area that still depends large on the resources at hand, this combination would have been eaten as many as 5 times per week, maybe more. Squashes supply the essential amino acid lysine, which corn lacks, and beans provide methionine. In sufficient quantity, the triad of squash, corn, and beans provides ample protein. Any wild or raised game is then just a supplement and addition to the menu.

Traditional and healthy ways these foods can be prepared is the key to their success. A few typical recipes include:
Cornbread Cornbread: 3 cups cornmeal mix, an egg, 1/3 canola oil, ½ cup milk (2% is fine), enough water to make a loose mix
Bake in till brown at 400-425
Pinto Beans Beans: pinto beans boiled, baked in Dutch-oven, or cooked in a crook-pot seasoned to taste. Typically salt, pepper, smoke, fat (usually pork), chili, or garlic is used. (Sodium substitutes can be used and fat is not necessary)
Squash Squash: Boiled, mashed, and then seasoned with pepper and herbs.

Alternatively squash can be sliced into ½ - 1 inch slices, lightly basted with oil, seasoned (pepper, basil, parsley, oregano), and grilled.

Eaten together with fresh peppers, pickles, onion quarters, fresh spinach or green beans, constitutes a rich and pleasant southern meal.

Exploring the traditional foods from your area as well as those from others can be a great way to add easy, healthy, and tasty meals to your own diet.

Other southern recipes can be found here.

Harris, Marvin: Our Kind - Who We Came From & Where We Are Going - The Evolution of Human Culture. 1989

Home cooking recipes.

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