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Shannon Casas: Eating these 25 foods proves I'm Southern
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Fried bologna - photo by Austin Steele

A fried bologna sandwich was standard fare at my house growing up. My mom would cut at least four notches into the bologna so it would lie flat as it cooked in the iron skillet, making it nice and crispy. Then the fried bologna went in between two pieces of white bread. It wasn’t my favorite, but my brother loved it.

My dad loved, and still loves, tomato sandwiches. Unless you’re fresh off the boat, you know what this sandwich looks like: Sliced tomato ripe from the garden between two pieces of white bread, slathered with mayonnaise — Duke’s of course.

Having eaten fried bologna, tomato sandwiches and 23 other dishes apparently makes me “sho’nuff Southern,” according to the latest viral meme getting passed around the internet like a plate of biscuits at the breakfast table.

I scored a 25 out of 39 possible points on the list of Southern foods. I was always a straight-A student, so I’m a bit disappointed my score wasn’t higher. However, it seems according to the internet’s scale, I passed with flying colors.

Tell us your story

Reach out to us at life@gainesvilletimes.com and tell us how many of the foods on this list you’ve tried and if there’s one in particular that stands out — maybe your grannie made a mean batch of fried green tomatoes or your uncle brought over some fresh-killed squirrel every now and then. Let us know!


My list

  1. Peach cobbler

  2. Chicken & dumplings

  3. Cornbread

  4. Chicken fried steak

  5. Hush puppies

  6. Shrimp & grits

  7. Congealed salad

  8. Fried green tomatoes

  9. Tomato sandwich

  10. Turnip greens

  11. Hoppin’ John

  12. Red Beans & Rice

  13. Brunswick stew

  14. Corn pudding

  15. Fatback

  16. Fried bologna

  17. Boiled peanuts

  18. Pear salad

  19. Butter beans

  20. Jambalaya

  21. Deviled eggs

  22. Po’ boys

  23. Chocolate gravy

  24. Poke salad

  25. Chicken livers

I’ve eaten peach cobbler, though I prefer blackberry.

I’ve cooked and eaten chicken and dumplings. My nana has passed down her Dockery family recipe, which isn’t fancy, just good.

And there’s that fried bologna.

Another Southern food I haven’t had since childhood is the pear salad. My mom would serve up a pear half, straight from the can, with a dollop of mayonnaise on top and shredded cheddar cheese. I don’t know who decided to combine those three ingredients, but what’s more baffling is that people liked it enough to keep making it and sharing it until it apparently became a Southern staple.

Cornbread at our house was always made from a Jiffy box. I’m not sure that qualifies as Southern, but knowing what fatback is probably makes up for the sugar in my cornbread.

The meat is where this particular list of supposedly Southern food gets tricky for me. I’ve never eaten fried squirrel nor pickled pigs feet nor fried gizzards. I’ve never had rabbit stew — nor rabbit prepared any other way. Frog legs and gator tail may be popular in certain areas of the South, but if my parents ever ate them as children in upstate South Carolina, they didn’t tell me about it and they sure never cooked them for dinner.

The coastal section of this list is more foreign to me than tacos and spaghetti.

I know I’ve eaten gumbo and jambalaya, but I can’t tell you much about the ingredients or even how the dishes are made. And though shrimp and grits taste just fine, I’ve only had it because it’s become a popular dish at restaurants.

Fried green tomatoes have also become a staple at upscale restaurants in the South, usually listed in the appetizer list with some sort of aioli, a decidedly unSouthern word.

What I’m waiting to see on the appetizer menu is cornbread served in a glass with buttermilk poured over top. That may be about as Southern as it gets.

Of course, then there’s grits.

I ate instant grits growing up. I now prefer to pretend my grits are healthy by getting the stone-ground variety, but I’ve found that cooking them is tricky to get the right consistency. In any case, they need plenty of butter and salt.

And they can be fried the next day.

Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a foster parent. You can hear her most weeks on the Inside The Times podcast on iTunes or Google Play.

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