Is there food that is unique to Mississippi? I am not sure. I am afraid that almost all of our traditional foods are served throughout the South.
When I was in the fourth grade, we moved to Mattoon, Ill. and there were issues in purchasing things like Blue Plate mayonnaise, grits and white cornmeal. This was pre-internet and on visits back to Mississippi, we would stock up.
In college, friends that were raised outside of the South (Bless your hearts) had never heard of foods like banana pudding. That is sad to me.
In 2009, Pepper had sinus surgery in Jackson. As usual before surgery, he was not allowed to eat or drink after midnight the night before the big day. Surgery was scheduled for 8 a.m., and while they took us down to a holding room at 8 a.m., the surgery didn’t happen until about 3 p.m. He was “crazy starving.” I told him to go to his “happy place” to calm down and not think about food. He said his “happy place” was at Aunt Margie’s house sitting at the table in front of a huge bowl of banana pudding that he didn’t have to share with anyone else. Well, that didn’t work. Before going back, he said to his mom and me that he wanted us to have a corndog in each hand ready for him to eat afterwards. We didn’t get the corndogs because we suspected he would not be able to eat, according to the doctor. But Pepper Sisson did eat every drop of the soup they sent up, even though the doctor’s were surprised he would be hungry! That’s Pep!
AUNT MARGIE’S BANANA PUDDING
1 box of vanilla wafers
1 Can sweetened condensed milk
1 box vanilla instant pudding (large or small—to your liking)
1 9 oz. box of Cool Whip
1-2 teaspoons of lemon juice to coat the bananas to prevent them from browning
Fix pudding mix according to instructions on the box and set aside. Slice banana and toss with the lemon juice. Layer cookies and bananas in a bowl. In a separate dish, Mix condensed milk and fold in Cool Whip. Pour this mixture over cookies and bananas and let it cool.
This is the uncooked recipe for banana pudding. My mom, Betty Woods, makes the cooked version with meringue on top. We are not particular. We love all versions of banana pudding! YUM!
I asked Facebook and Twitter friends about distinctly Mississippi foods and shared my banana pudding thing from college. Now, maybe I was around anti-banana folks back then, because several friends said they ate banana pudding in several households outside of the South.
Cathy Hayden said banana pudding was her favorite dessert.
“Well, I grew up in Missouri and we definitely ate banana pudding,” Hayden said.
Donna Pearson suggested fried pies as a Southern favorite and I LOVED my grandmother’s fried apple pies made from apples she dried on screens in the yard.
Samantha Crimm suggested fried peach or apple pies. They are a wonderful addition to any meal, or just for a snack!
FRIED APPLE PIES or HAND PIES
1 (8-ounce) package dried apples
1 cup water
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4-Inch Pie Pastries
Soak apples overnight in water to cover; drain, and rinse well. Combine apples and 1 cup water in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover, and simmer 30 minutes or until tender. Cool. Stir in butter, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon juice; mash well. Divide pastry into thirds; roll each portion to 1/8-inch thickness on waxed paper. Cut into 4-inch circles. Place about 1 tablespoon apple mixture on half of each pastry circle. Dip fingers in water, and moisten edges of circles; fold in half, making sure edges are even. Press pastry edges firmly together using a fork dipped in flour. Heat 1 inch of oil to 375° in a large skillet. Cook pies until golden brown on both sides, turning once. Drain well on paper towels.
Make the pastry
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter or margarine
3/4 to 1 cup cold water
Combine first 3 ingredients; cut in butter until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Sprinkle water over flour mixture; stir with a fork until dry ingredients are moistened. Shape dough into a ball, and wrap in waxed paper; chill at least 1 hour or until ready to use.
But this is another food that is prepared outside of the South. My friend Carmen Caldieraro, who was my next-door neighbor and best friend when we lived in Illinois, said she has eaten both banana pudding and fried pies in Illinois.
“There is an Amish lady in Mt. Vernon who makes amazing fried pies!!!” Caldieraro said.
When Jean-Anne Pritchett Wells said grits were hard to come by. “Couldn’t get them in South Dakota at all!”
Margaret Adams also said grits would be a classic Southern food. They apparently haven’t had a good dish of Shrimp ‘n Grits! Donna Pearson is also a big fan of Shrimp and Grits.
SHRIMP ‘N GRITS
2 cups uncooked white coarse-ground grits
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 pound unpeeled, medium-size
shrimp (2 8/31 count)
4 thick hickory-smoked bacon slices, diced
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium-size Vidalia onion, diced
1/2 poblano pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup Madeira
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 green onion, chopped
Prepare Grits: Bring 7 cups water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Slowly whisk in grits; reduce heat to medium, and cook, whisking constantly, 5 minutes. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, 1 hour or until tender. Fold in cheese and 1/4 cup butter.
Prepare Shrimp Sauce: Peel shrimp; devein, if desired.
Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often, 4 to 5 minutes or until crisp; remove bacon, and drain on paper towels, reserving 2 Tbsp. drippings in skillet.
Melt 6 Tbsp. butter in hot drippings in skillet. Reduce heat. Add onion, poblano pepper, and garlic; sauté 2 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add shrimp; cook, stirring often, 1 to 2 minutes. Add salt and next 2 ingredients; toss to coat
Sprinkle flour over shrimp mixture; toss. Add broth and next 2 ingredients. Cook just until shrimp turn pink, stirring to loosen particles from skillet. Stir in bacon and parsley. Serve over grits with green onion. YUM!
Reba Bailey said Mississippi Delta hot tamales and Hoover Sauce are two unique Mississippi foods. This is something I have never made at home, but have had a few hot tamales at Doe’s Eat Place. YUM! They are hard to beat!
Reba also suggested pimento cheese sandwiches as a purely Southern delight, and Kevin Curry agreed.
Rita Dean and Peggy Clanton said sweet potato and pecan pies. Sherry Johnson suggested boiled peanuts. Betty Fason and Ruth Odom said tomato “sammiches.”
Other suggestions include:
• Sharon Williams Card — Turnip greens and corn bread!
• Katherine Jackson –Broccoli bites and Connie’s fried chicken with gravy, and a blueberry donut.
• Mary Catherine Finch Carmichael — Chess pie and peach cobbler
• Christy Vowell — Sausage Balls
• Jill Holland — Sweet tea
• Kevin Curry– Rice pudding, crawfish
• Larry Crenshaw — Egg custard.
• Donna Pearson — Egg salad, chicken salad, pasta salad and especially broccoli salad
• Lana Hitt — Fried green tomatoes
Patricia Johnson Nail did mention Chicken and dressing but that is different, even throughout parts of Mississippi. On the coast, they have oyster dressing.
But that does bring up the topic of cornbread.
“Cornbread,” said Christy McNeel Latham, “not the sweet Jiffy bread, but real buttermilk cornbread.”
Latham said her college roommate from Illinois was also amazed by all the varieties of peas we have in Mississippi.
“She only knew of English peas and cornbread that tastes like cake,” Latham said. “She also took a while to get used to the way we fry everything. After a couple of years here, she grew to prefer our food.”
Paula Mabry, Ruth Odom and Margaret Adams agree that cornbread is a Southern favorite.
Jay Yates suggested cornbread and milk or buttermilk. I know my dad used to LOVE cornbread and milk in a glass.
Then there are the yucky suggestions of a uniquely Mississippi/Southern food;
• Jerry Woods — Chitterlings
• Carolyn Swanson — Pickled pig feet
• Scotty Crimm – Polk Salad
“All the foods you guys have listed are eaten in the North, but Polk salad– I do know what it is– I have never seen it on a menu,” said Lynn Hartshorn Chicarell. “You have to remember a lot of Northerners have Southern roots. Their family members moved north after World War II or in the 60’s. But you are going to see many definitions of cobbler, cornbread and grits. For the record, I hate grits. Grew up with them, hate them.”
Do you have a suggestion for a uniquely Mississippi food? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.