June 7, 2021 Featured Food & Drink

Written by:

Meredith Biesinger is a professional educator and writer in Tupelo, Mississippi. With a great love for all things Southern, she loves to feature all the many positives of the south one word at a time! Follow Meredith on Twitter

Picture it….a Sunday afternoon, your family has gathered around, and there is a fantastic aroma of delicious southern-style foods. Ah, yes!

southern_dinner_table

Do you remember those Country Time Lemonade commercials from many years ago? This is what I picture. For most of us, that is not an everyday reality. Nevertheless, southern cooking is a proper art form that has dwindled somewhat, and we must keep its legacy going.

Never fear! We can restore timeless recipes and still progress at the same time, I promise! Our ancestor’s history can be told with food, numbers, and names found in some dust-covered book on a bookshelf for many of us. So much of who we are is where we came from.

Open that old recipe book, and I’m sure you will find more than a recipe for pimento cheese or hot chicken salad. Look for notes etched in the margins, cutouts of magazine recipes from an era that seems so long ago, and other personal touches from an ancestor that took pride in cooking for their family. That recipe book is family history, a bible, and a cookbook wrapped up in one binding.

southern_dessert_spread_pies_cake

Most of the meals prepared by ancestors in the “Old South” reflect the history and economics of the region at that time. At one point, much of the south farmed for a living. Families ate what they grew, and southern kitchens could magically transform nothing into a delicious something. You might say that this was the original “clean eating,” and I’m here for it!

The art of “Old Southern Cooking” is a timeless southern woman like my husband’s grandmother or great grandmother who could go into a kitchen and declare how there is absolutely no food in the house (perhaps with a bit of a dramatic flare). Yet, in an hour, have enough food cooked for thirty people, with all of it on the table and still hot. This is an art form that is rarely duplicated today, even with modern conveniences like microwave ovens.

Fast forward to 2021, and many things have changed. However, family is still family, and good food is still good food. So we might not be cooking for thirty people, but what’s stopping us from re-creating those family recipes for a dinner party of two or four? Nothing. Dive in and impress your guests with grandma’s pot roast and peach cobbler.

southern_muffin_plate_platter
Cooking family recipes can bring a sense of togetherness that spans generations. They are a way of keeping our loved ones alive while we dice, stir, simmer and bake!

Food appeals to all five of our senses. For many of us, just the smell of a favorite family dish cooking on the stove can bring us back to the kitchen of our youth.

I am personally still trying to replicate my grandmother’s macaroni and cheese and caramel cake. I’ve come awfully close, but it’s still not quite like hers. Or, maybe it is, but since she’s not the one making it, it’s just missing that grandma magic.

I hear this commentary quite a bit…things like “It’s just not like Mamaw made it” or “I could never make it like her.”

Nevertheless, every time I attempt a family recipe, I am flooded with sweet memories, which instigates a very natural conversation with my children about a woman who meant so much to me that they never had the opportunity to meet. And, it’s always edible, so there’s that.

The comfort that comes from a home-cooked meal and a family recipe is a surefire way for each of us to slow down, take a breath, and remember that life is short.

If your southern family is anything like my southern family, then every event, big or small, revolves around food. Am I right? Whether it’s a birthday, wedding, christening, graduation, or even a funeral…typically one of the first questions is “What do y’all want to eat?” I recall my sister-in-law getting her braces taken off several years ago, and we went out to eat to celebrate! Admittedly, I have to counter all of these occasions on the elliptical machine often, but we all know in the south, we love food, and we are proud of our culinary talents! Also, I suggest you visit wetheknives.com if you’re looking for the perfect knife for professionals and amateurs alike.

low_country_boil_southern

If you’re looking through a family recipe book and the idea of whole fat buttermilk or pounds of butter makes you cringe, then modify it. Give the nod to your ancestors by using their original recipe and then personalize it towards your own health needs. I know our grandmas, grandpas, and aunties would want us to take care of ourselves!

If you’re reading this and thinking that you don’t have a family recipe book, or maybe your family practiced the art form of the oral recipe, that’s ok! You have the opportunity to discover your own family recipe story. Start asking yourself or your family some questions such as:

– What foods did/does your family eat regularly?
– Which family members or loved ones teach you how to make certain foods?
– What food(s) do you look forward to on special occasions/holidays?
– Is there a recipe in your family that all of you like to make?
– What foods do you make that your family asks for?
– Are there foods your family makes at certain times of the year?
– What foods do you associate with good memories?
– Who is the oldest person in your family? Ask them if they have any family recipes to share.
– Does anyone in your family have recipes from various family members?
– Are there any recipes in your family that require special or specific ingredients to make?
– Write these answers down, and voila, there’s your family recipe book!

SEO

At the end of the day, family recipes are a way to preserve the past and enjoy the present. Much of southern culture is defined by history, family, and food. It only makes sense that we would try to learn about our who we are, where we come from, and where we’re going through the art form of southern cooking.

Leave a Reply