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Delicious baked macaroni and cheese with scallion

Loving Southern Comfort Food

Sometimes I just love the idea of eating some good southern comfort food. The warm, gooey goodness of mac-n-cheese or the creaminess of grits is so appealing. Born from a blending of African and European influences, southern food is the best of cultures wrapped together to create local food with distinct style.

The  origins

Much of what’s considered traditional southern food is derived from African slave culture where many foods were fried and ingredients like okra and black-eyed peas were widely used. Apparently though, fried chicken was brought over by Scottish settlers and has been perfected by many a southern cook ever since.

You may not be able to say that southern comfort fare is healthy food because it’s often known for the presence of fat and salt to help give it that “I must keep eating this” flavor. But one thing is for certain, it’s local food that truly evokes a sense of the community and of cooking with love.

Imagine where we’d be on a cold day, or when we weren’t feeling well, if we couldn’t have a bowl of chicken and dumplings or some biscuits and gravy?

Many traditionally southern dishes made use of local food that grows here, like collard, mustard or turnip greens or kale. As a predominantly farming economy, pork and chickens was often the meat of choice rather than beef. In many communities the most plentiful local food was squirrel, opossum, or rabbit. But southern cooking has come a long way.

The evolution

Sophisticated restaurants and modern, adventurous home chefs alike enjoy blending the best of culture in the south with unexpected ingredients to create dishes that still harken back to simpler times. Athens chef and Food and Wine magazine’s winner of Best New Chef 2002 – Hugh Achison – has been known to mix kimchi in to collard greens or serve Gulf Coast shrimp with smoky paprika vinaigrette, apples, scallions, and toasted sesame seeds.

As with many styles of cuisine, it’s about sticking with the local foods, a sense of the community and the best of culture and then adding a personal twist. With more and more people striving to eat healthy food, eliminating some of the fat, salt, or excess sugars can turn a traditional southern delight into less of a guilty pleasure. Though you can’t really mess with the recipes for fried green tomatoes, or fried chicken, you could create a healthier version for more frequent enjoyment. Here’s a list of 101 best southern food recipes you can try putting your own spin on!

Healthy Southern style

Yearning for a taste of the south without the fat and salt? Try Atlanta Bread’s soon to be released  Southern Harvest Salad – it boasts the best of local food influences while keeping it fresh and healthy. You can soon  place your order online for quick and easy pickup at www.atlantabread.com

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