Southern Cooking and its Importance to Southern Communities


Classic North Carolina Barbecue courtesy of

If you have ever lived, or even been to the South, you now that its people take their cooking very seriously. They take a lot of pride in maintaining the traditions of the generations before them, and everyone believes that their way of making a dish is the best. Each region has their own style of ribs, pork, fried chicken, coleslaw, and many more.


Map of styles of barbecue sauce used in the Carolinas photo courtesy of

Over the years, Southern cooking has become a very important part of the South’s cultural identity. There are many variations of styles used all across the South, giving all of the different states and regions a sort of culinary identity. Food is some serious stuff down here. Having a plate of barbecue can tell you more about a place than a map. People take pride in their food, and many times their personalities come out of what they prepare, and how they prepare it.


Crawfish Boil, native to Louisiana photo courtesy of

Even groups like The Southern Food Alliance are trying to keep track of the different regions of the South’s specific culinary heritage. They are doing this through oral histories and records in an attempt to educate people about the power Southern cooking has on the people of the South. Specifically, their work “serve(s) as progressive and inclusive catalysts for the greater South.”[1] They create podcasts and put on events to further the public’s knowledge of southern food, as well as tell stories about its history and how it has been a unifying factor in the South. An example of their work is here:

Their work is less about promoting certain restaurants, but instead promoting Southern cooking as a whole. They are attempting to preserve the unique cultural techniques and flavors that makes Southern cooking so distinct.

While Southern the food is great, and has a lot of rich tradition behind it, Southern cooking means more to the community as a whole than anything else. Food has aided the progress Southern communities have made over the last century or so.

Cooking BBQ at a Tin Can Tourists Convention 1925

Early 1900s barbecue in the South photo courtesy of

Food brings people together.

It doesn’t matter where you are from, or what your background is, everyone enjoys a good meal. Food has the ability to break down racial barriers, as well as social classes. People will stop for a moment and forget their prejudices just to enjoy a good meal. The theory in the South is that everyone has to eat, so you might as well have a good meal.

A typical Southern meal is essentially family style. There is food laid out on the table and everyone at the table helps themselves. Classic Southern entrees and sides are usually served in mass quantities. One thing you are guaranteed when eating a Southern meal is tons of delicious food and good conversation with the people you are eating with.

Ulmer Studios-Nashville Wedding Photographers

Family style gathering photo courtesy of 

Throughout the last century, the South has been through a lot of civil unrest between African Americans and Whites. Segregation made it so African Americans couldn’t eat in a lot of the restaurants that Whites could, and if they could eat in the same restaurant, they most definitely could not eat in the same area. How are you supposed to get to know a person if you can’t sit down and eat a relaxing meal with them? Regardless of this segregation, the one thing African Americans and Whites had in common was that they both went home and cooked the same meals that had been passed down for generations.

The idea of members of the community coming together is what Southern cooking is all about. This sense of unity that occurs when a large group of people is thoroughly enjoying a meal is divine. It makes them forget their prejudices for a little while and they all essentially become one. This is why food is such an important aspect of the South’s cultural identity.

Food is so simple yet can do so much.

With the recent developments around the University of Missouri and bouts of racial inequality around the country, it almost feels that the South has started to regress. The South will always be plagued with its wrongdoings, but what’s done is done and the only thing that can heal the South is time.

While people are trying to “take sides” on the issue of inequality still existing in the South, it is only pushing members of the community further and further apart. While something absolutely needs to be changed, the ways in which they are going about it are unproductive. The only way to fix a community is to become one. We need to go back to our roots. When it comes down to it, we need to remember that we are all from the South. We are all just humans living in the same area, with similar cultural identities, and have all eaten the same food.

If the South did not have its food, who knows what its society would be like now?


[1] “About Us.” Southern Foodways Alliance N.p.n.d Web 12 Nov. 2015  


One thought on “Southern Cooking and its Importance to Southern Communities

  1. This is great! I love southern food! My parents are from the north so whenever I get the chance to go over to one of my friends houses for dinner, I go! I agree with you and I think that eating food together and sharing the same food shows communion between two groups… so I think it is weird that during the civil unrest, two groups of people can share the same interests but still not get along.
    What is your favorite southern meal? Do you know its roots?

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