Soul Food

If You Can’t Cook This, You Ain’t Southern

By Robbie Perdue

In the hallowed kitchens of the Southern United States, a symphony of flavors, traditions, and culinary craftsmanship unfolds. From the sizzling depths of cast-iron skillets to the comforting aromas of slow-cooked delicacies, Southern cuisine embodies a rich tapestry of history and hospitality. In this gastronomic journey, we embark on an exploration of five quintessential Southern foods—each a masterpiece in its own right—that every aspiring cook should strive to master.


As we venture into the heart of Southern culinary traditions, we’ll unravel the secrets behind iconic dishes that have graced family tables, community gatherings, and cherished celebrations for generations. From the crispy allure of perfectly fried chicken to the comforting embrace of biscuits and gravy, these culinary gems showcase the essence of Southern hospitality and the artistry embedded in every simmering pot and rising batch of golden biscuits.


So, tighten your apron strings and prepare to embark on a flavorful odyssey through the South, where the journey to mastering these five Southern foods is as enriching as the dishes themselves. Welcome to the world of Southern culinary mastery—a realm where each recipe is a story, and every cook is an artist creating a symphony of flavors that resonates through time.

Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken: A Golden Symphony of Southern Comfort

Fried chicken, with its golden-brown exterior and succulent interior, has become synonymous with Southern comfort. Its roots trace back to West African cooking traditions brought to the American South through the transatlantic slave trade. Over the years, the dish evolved, incorporating European frying techniques and becoming a staple in Southern kitchens. Today, fried chicken is not just a meal; it’s a culinary masterpiece that reflects the region’s history and diverse cultural influences.

Fried chicken holds a special place in Southern culture, often gracing Sunday dinner tables, picnics, and family gatherings. Its crispy perfection and flavorful appeal evoke a sense of warmth and nostalgia, bringing people together. Fried chicken has transcended mere sustenance to become a symbol of hospitality, celebration, and the joy of shared meals. Every cook in the South, whether seasoned or aspiring, understands the cultural significance of mastering the art of frying chicken.

Recipe: Southern Fried Chicken


– 3-4 pounds of chicken pieces (mix of drumsticks, thighs, wings, and breasts)

– 2 cups buttermilk

– 2 cups all-purpose flour

– 1 tablespoon salt

– 1 tablespoon black pepper

– 1 tablespoon paprika

– 1 teaspoon garlic powder

– 1 teaspoon onion powder

– 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust for spice preference)

– Vegetable oil for frying


  1. **Brine the Chicken:**

   – Place chicken pieces in a bowl and cover with buttermilk. Allow it to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight for maximum flavor.

  1. **Prepare the Dredge:**

   – In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, black pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper.

  1. **Coat the Chicken:**

   – Heat the vegetable oil in a deep skillet or Dutch oven to 350°F (175°C). Remove chicken from the buttermilk, letting excess drip off, and coat each piece thoroughly in the flour mixture.

  1. **Fry the Chicken:**

   – Carefully place chicken pieces in the hot oil, ensuring not to overcrowd the pan. Fry for 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) and the coating is golden brown and crispy.

  1. **Drain and Rest:**

   – Remove fried chicken to a wire rack to drain excess oil. Let it rest for a few minutes before serving.

  1. **Serve and Enjoy:**

   – Serve your Southern fried chicken hot, either as a main course or part of a delightful picnic. Pair it with classic sides like mashed potatoes, collard greens, or coleslaw for an authentic Southern feast.

Mastering the art of Southern fried chicken goes beyond achieving a crispy crust; it’s about understanding the history and culture that make this dish a true Southern treasure. With every bite, you not only savor the golden perfection of well-fried chicken but also experience a taste of the South’s rich culinary heritage.


Collard Greens: A Slow-Cooked Ode to Southern Heritage

Collard greens, slow-cooked to soul-warming perfection, represent a cornerstone of Southern comfort cuisine. Rooted in African culinary traditions, collard greens were brought to the Southern United States through the transatlantic slave trade. Over time, this leafy green vegetable became a staple in Southern kitchens, cherished for its robust flavor and cultural significance.

Collard greens are more than a side dish; they are a culinary embodiment of resilience, resourcefulness, and community. Traditionally cooked low and slow with ingredients like smoked ham hocks or bacon, collard greens offer a depth of flavor that speaks to the history of the South. Mastering the preparation of collard greens is a rite of passage for Southern cooks, connecting them to generations past and the enduring spirit of Southern hospitality.

Recipe: Southern Collard Greens


– 2 bunches of collard greens, stems removed and leaves chopped

– 1 pound smoked ham hocks or bacon

– 1 large onion, finely chopped

– 3 cloves garlic, minced

– 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional, for heat)

– 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

– Salt and black pepper to taste

– Apple cider vinegar (optional, for serving)


  1. **Prepare the Greens:**

   – Wash the collard greens thoroughly, remove the tough stems, and chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces.

  1. **Cook the Smoked Meat:**

   – In a large pot, cook the smoked ham hocks or bacon over medium heat until browned and the fat is rendered. If using bacon, chop it into pieces before cooking.

  1. **Sauté Onions and Garlic:**

   – Add chopped onions to the pot and sauté until softened. Stir in minced garlic and red pepper flakes, if using, and cook for an additional minute.

  1. **Add Collard Greens:**

   – Add the chopped collard greens to the pot. Stir well to combine with the smoked meat, onions, and garlic.

  1. **Pour in Broth:**

   – Pour in the chicken or vegetable broth, ensuring it covers the collard greens. Bring the mixture to a simmer.

  1. **Simmer and Season:**

   – Reduce the heat to low and let the collard greens simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

  1. **Serve with Vinegar:**

   – Once the collard greens are tender and infused with flavor, serve them hot. For an extra Southern touch, offer apple cider vinegar on the side for drizzling over individual portions. You get bonus points if there are some little peppers in your vinegar jar.

Mastering the art of Southern collard greens is an homage to the resilient spirit of Southern kitchens. As you savor each tender leaf, you partake in a tradition that transcends generations, a culinary journey deeply ingrained in the cultural fabric of the South.

Biscuits and Gravy: A Hearty Southern Breakfast Tradition

Biscuits and gravy, a staple of Southern breakfast tables, emerged from humble beginnings to become a comforting dish loved across the region. Rooted in Southern farm culture, biscuits and gravy made practical use of readily available ingredients. The combination of flaky biscuits smothered in a rich sausage gravy not only provides a hearty start to the day but also reflects the resourceful and flavorful essence of Southern cooking.

Beyond its humble origins, biscuits and gravy have become a symbol of Southern breakfast comfort and hospitality. Whether served in a cozy home kitchen or a bustling diner, this dish brings people together over shared meals and warm conversations. The art of mastering biscuits and gravy is a testament to a cook’s skill in creating a dish that embodies the heartiness, simplicity, and down-home charm of Southern cuisine.


Recipe: Southern Biscuits and Gravy




For Biscuits:

– 2 cups all-purpose flour

– 1 tablespoon baking powder

– 1 teaspoon sugar

– 1/2 teaspoon salt

– 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes

– 3/4 cup buttermilk


For Sausage Gravy:

– 1 pound breakfast sausage

– 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

– 3 cups whole milk

– Salt and black pepper to taste




  1. Preheat Oven:

   – Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C).

  1. Prepare Dry Ingredients:

   – In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.

  1. Cut in Butter:

   – Incorporate cold, cubed butter into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter or your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

  1. Add Buttermilk:

   – Pour in the buttermilk and stir until just combined. Do not overmix.

  1. Form and Cut Biscuits:

   – Turn the dough onto a floured surface, gently pat it into a rectangle, and fold it over itself a few times. Roll the dough to about 1-inch thickness and cut out biscuits using a round cutter.

  1. Bake:

   – Place the biscuits on a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.


Sausage Gravy:

  1. Cook Sausage:

   – In a skillet over medium heat, cook the breakfast sausage, breaking it into crumbles with a spoon. Cook until browned and fully cooked.

  1. Add Flour:

   – Sprinkle flour over the cooked sausage and stir, allowing the flour to cook for a couple of minutes.

  1. Pour in Milk:

   – Gradually pour in the milk, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Continue cooking and stirring until the gravy thickens.

  1. Season:

   – Season the gravy with salt and black pepper to taste. Simmer until it reaches your desired thickness.


   – Split the warm biscuits, ladle the sausage gravy over the top, and serve immediately.


Mastering the art of biscuits and gravy is an invitation to embrace the warmth and simplicity of Southern breakfast traditions. As you savor the flaky layers of biscuits smothered in savory sausage gravy, you partake in a ritual that has nourished generations and continues to bring joy to Southern tables.


Shrimp and Grits: A Coastal Culinary Symphony


Shrimp and grits, a beloved Southern dish, has deep roots in the coastal regions of the South. Originally a humble breakfast staple among South Carolina’s Gullah community, the dish gained wider popularity and evolved into a culinary masterpiece. The combination of creamy, buttery grits and succulent shrimp embodies the coastal heritage of the South, where the bounty of the sea meets the heartiness of homestyle cooking.

Shrimp and grits transcends its humble origins to become a symbol of Southern elegance and culinary innovation. The dish seamlessly blends flavors from the land and sea, reflecting the diversity of Southern cuisine. Mastering shrimp and grits is a testament to a cook’s ability to create a harmonious balance of textures and tastes, a culinary experience that captures the essence of Southern coastal living and hospitality.


Recipe: Southern Shrimp and Grits




For Grits:

– 1 cup stone-ground grits

– 4 cups water

– 1 teaspoon salt

– 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

– 2 tablespoons unsalted butter


For Shrimp:

– 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

– 2 tablespoons olive oil

– 4 cloves garlic, minced

– 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

– 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust for spice preference)

– Salt and black pepper to taste

– 1/4 cup chicken or seafood broth

– 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

– 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped






  1. Boil Water:

   – In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil.


  1. Add Grits:

   – Stir in the stone-ground grits and salt. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the grits are thick and tender.


  1. Finish with Cheese and Butter:

   – Add grated cheddar cheese and butter to the grits, stirring until melted and combined. Set aside, keeping warm.




  1. Season Shrimp:

   – In a bowl, toss shrimp with olive oil, minced garlic, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper.


  1. Sauté Shrimp:

   – Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the seasoned shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes per side or until they turn pink and opaque.


  1. Deglaze with Broth and Lemon Juice:

   – Pour in chicken or seafood broth and fresh lemon juice, stirring to deglaze the pan. Allow the liquid to simmer for a couple of minutes.


  1. Serve:

   – Spoon a generous portion of cheesy grits onto plates, top with sautéed shrimp, and drizzle with the pan sauce. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.



   – Delight in the coastal harmony of flavors as you savor the creamy grits and perfectly seasoned shrimp. Mastering shrimp and grits allows you to bring a touch of Southern coastal elegance to your table—a culinary journey that captures the spirit of the South’s rich coastal heritage.

Peach Cobbler
Kitchen Shot

Peach Cobbler: A Sweet Symphony of Southern Summers

Peach cobbler, a luscious dessert with a golden crust enveloping sweet, juicy peaches, has been gracing Southern tables for generations. With origins tracing back to early American settlers, peach cobbler became a Southern classic as peach orchards flourished across the region. This delightful dessert reflects the simplicity of Southern living, where fresh, seasonal ingredients take center stage.

Peach cobbler is more than just a dessert; it’s a symbol of Southern hospitality, capturing the essence of warm summer evenings and family gatherings. The dish has become a fixture at church suppers, picnics, and community celebrations. Mastering the art of peach cobbler is a culinary homage to the Southern way of life, where sweetness is savored, and the bounty of the orchards is celebrated with each delicious bite.

Recipe: Southern Peach Cobbler


For Filling:

– 6-8 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced

– 1 cup granulated sugar

– 1 tablespoon lemon juice

– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

– 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

– 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For Cobbler Topping:

– 1 cup all-purpose flour

– 1 cup granulated sugar

– 1 teaspoon baking powder

– 1/2 teaspoon salt

– 1 cup milk

– 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted


Peach Filling:

  1. Preheat Oven:

   – Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

  1. Prepare Peaches:

   – In a large bowl, combine sliced peaches, granulated sugar, lemon juice, vanilla extract, all-purpose flour, and ground cinnamon. Toss until the peaches are evenly coated.

  1. Assemble Filling:

   – Transfer the peach mixture to a greased baking dish, spreading it evenly.

Cobbler Topping:

  1. Combine Dry Ingredients:

   – In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

  1. Add Milk and Melted Butter:

   – Pour in the milk and melted butter, stirring until a smooth batter forms.

  1. Pour Batter Over Peaches:

   – Pour the batter over the peach filling, spreading it to cover the surface.


  1. Bake Until Golden:

   – Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and bake for 45-50 minutes or until the cobbler topping is golden brown and the peach filling is bubbly.

  1. Cool Slightly:

   – Allow the peach cobbler to cool slightly before serving.

Serve and Enjoy:

   – Serve warm slices of peach cobbler with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream. Revel in the sweetness of Southern summers with each spoonful.

Mastering the art of peach cobbler is an invitation to savor the bountiful flavors of Southern orchards. As you indulge in this sweet symphony of peaches and golden crust, you not only taste the warmth of summer but also experience the cultural richness that makes peach cobbler a cherished part of Southern culinary heritage.


Conclusion: A Culinary Tapestry of Southern Mastery

As we close the pages of this culinary journey through the heart of Southern cuisine, we find ourselves immersed in the rich tapestry of flavors, traditions, and cultural significance that define Southern mastery in the kitchen. From the crispy allure of Southern fried chicken to the comforting embrace of biscuits and gravy, the slow-cooked ode of collard greens, the coastal symphony of shrimp and grits, and the sweet, sun-kissed finale of peach cobbler, each dish is a chapter in the story of the South.

Mastering these quintessential Southern foods is more than a culinary feat; it’s an exploration of history, a celebration of diversity, and a tribute to the enduring spirit of Southern living. As the aromas waft through the air and the tastes dance on our palates, we are reminded that Southern cuisine is a living, breathing art form—a symphony of flavors that resonates with the soul.

So, whether you find yourself in the heart of a bustling Southern kitchen or recreating these dishes in your own home, remember that each recipe carries the warmth of Southern hospitality, the simplicity of farm-to-table living, and the joy of shared moments around the table. As you embark on your own culinary journey, may the flavors of the South awaken your senses and transport you to a place where every dish tells a story and every meal is an invitation to savor the best of Southern living.


is a native North Carolinian who enjoys cooking, butchery, and is passionate about all things BBQ. He straddles two worlds as an IT professional and a farmer who loves heritage livestock and heirloom vegetables. His perfect day would be hunting deer, dove, or ducks then babysitting his smoker while watching the sunset over the blackwater of Lake Waccamaw.