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BellaOnline's American Regional Cuisine Editor

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Some Southern Cuisine History

Guest Author - Launa Stout


Immigrants from Great Britain founded the first permanent British settlement at Jamestown, Virginia, near the Chesapeake Bay in 1607. They found the land to be teeming with fish, game, and produce; however, not much of it resembled the foods from their homeland. The Powhatans taught the colonists about game, fish, seafood, and plants that grew naturally in this location.

Soon with the help of Native Americans, the settlers were hunting venison, raccoon, pheasant, quail, wild turkeys and ducks; fished for sturgeon, turtle, and oysters; and planted squash, beans, corn, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins. They also showed the settlers how to prepare these different foods.

The Catawba and Cherokee Indians taught the early settlers to the Carolinas how to preserve foods by drying them in the smoke of the fire. This became the foundation of barbeque, and now almost every region of the United States creates its own barbecue. Some areas prefer a wet and sauce barbeque sauce, some others start with a flavoring rub and the barbequed food remains dry.

Barbecue Terminology

Pulled meat- shredded, pulled in long strands
Chopped meat – cut into cubes
Wet- prepared with a sauce
Dry- seasoned with a spice rub instead of a liquid sauce

Initially, barbeque sauces contained no tomato or ketchup. In early days, vinegar and or butter, and water served as the base for the sauce while the smoky flavor from the smoldering wood permeated the meat.

Today, the predominate flavors found in barbeque sauce varies widely from vinegar to catsup to mustard to smoky. No matter what the recipe, most barbecue sauces incorporate salt, sweet, sour, and hot into the seasoning. Types of meat will also differ from area to area. Most Southerners will prefer port for their barbeque, while Texans and many in the cattle country of the Southwest want beef. In Kentucky the barbeques start with mutton.

Native Americans in the South enjoyed an abundance of foods: sweet potatoes, corn, squash, beans, melons, wild berries, nuts, and game, including deer, rabbit, bear, wild turkey, and squirrel. Those living near coasts and rivers also feasted on an assortment of fish and seafood. Native Americans introduced settlers to corn and showed them many ways to use it. Consequently, corn soon became a mainstay in the Southern diet.

Southern cooking combines elements from the cooking of Native Americans and the cookery found in various countries of Europe and Africa. Cuisine of the South exhibits influences from the Spanish and French, while distinctive “Southern cooking” primarily combines qualities from English and African cookery. To a great extent, the basis for this cooking came from the English who were the initial settlers in the coastal areas. They prepared dishes from the British heritage such as stews, pies, puddings, roasted meats, and boiled vegetables.

States included in the South (Southern Cuisine):

• Virginia
• West Virginia
• North Carolina
• South Carolina
• Kentucky
• Tennessee
• Georgia
• Alabama
• Mississippi
• Arkansas

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Content copyright © 2014 by Launa Stout. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Launa Stout. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Allyson Elizabeth D´Angelo for details.

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