African Americans are numerically the largest minority group, although the Latino population is expected to be larger than the African-American population by the middle of the next century.
Traditional African-American fare, sometimes referred to as “soul food,” is based in part on food practices and customs. Many of these customs and practices are shared by white Americans in the southern United States, particularly those of lower socioeconomic level or living in rural areas.
The staple food of the Southern United States is corn—it is used in grits (hulled and coarsely ground corn cooked to a thick–soup consistency and eaten at breakfast), a wide variety of breads and cakes, and as a breading on fried foods. Corn is native to the United States and was introduced to European settlers by American Indians. Another staple food in the South is pork, originally brought to America by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. Chitterlings (pronounced CHIT-lins), made from pig intestines, were traditionally seen as a "poor person's" food, but have recently begun to appear in fine restaurants. Barbecued meat, usually pork, on a grill is a Southern tradition.
Besides grits, most people also think of southern-fried chicken when they hear "Southern cooking." Traditionally served for Sunday dinner, fried chicken has become a stereotype of Southern food, popularized by Colonel Sanders' Kentucky Fried Chicken. Other meats, such as steak, are also "chicken-fried" in the South by breading and frying them. Cornbread, made from cornmeal, is typically eaten with a Southern meal.
The main meal of the day in the Southern United States used to be at midday and was called "dinner." The smaller evening meal was referred to as "supper." In recent years, the main meal has moved to the evening, though most Southerners still call it "dinner." Hospitality is very important to Southerners, and hosts prepare huge meals for their guests. A dinner menu from the mid-1800s may have included five kinds of meat, cucumbers and tomatoes, hot rolls, and five different desserts, plus three beverages.
Common food choices associated within cultural group.
Grain group: biscuits, cornbread as spoon bread, cornpone, hush puppies, or grits and rice.
Vegetable group: broccoli, cabbage, corn; leafy greens including dandelion, kale, mustard, collard and turnips; okra, pumpkin, potatoes, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and yams.
Fruit group: apple, banana, berries, fruit juices, peaches, watermelon.
Milk, yogurt and cheese group: buttermilk, some cheese.
Meat, fish, eggs and nuts group: beef, pork and pork products, including scrapple (cornmeal and pork), chitterlings (pork intestines), bacon, pig feet and ears, fried meats and poultry, organ meats (kidney, liver, tongue, tripe); fish (catfish, crawfish, salmon, shrimp, tuna); frogs, rabbit, squirrel, and a variety of legumes and nuts.
Fats and sweets group: butter and lard; honey, molasses, sugar.