Posted by: Jack Henry | April 13, 2021

Editor’s Corner: A Southern Food Glossary

Recently we’ve covered sayings from the South and the Midwest, the Chicago accent, American dialects, and then what you call people from other states. I received some great responses and learned a lot, especially about the history of Texians and how Oklahomans feel about the term “Okie.”

Well, to round out the conversation, I feel like I must share this submission from one of our retired employees. He sent me a link to a magazine’s website: Garden & Gun. Now, it took me some time to stop laughing at the title. It just seems so contradictory. An image of relaxing in a lovely spring garden: butterflies flitting about, the hummingbirds stopping to sip nectar from the flowers…the sun shining. And then, the guns. Gathering together in your camouflage, grabbing your weapons, and shooting dinner.

Vegetarians may want to skip this article, but the real focus is the difference in the English we use in America for our food—gardened and gunned. It’s a glossary of terms that have a special meaning in the Southern kitchen. I’ve only provided a few of my favorites, but the link to the article is here.

Barbecue: A noun or adjective only, never a verb: meat slowly smoked over hardwood or charcoal. Usually pork or beef; smoked chicken or turkey might be described as “barbecue chicken” or “chicken barbecue.” In Kentucky, it may also include lamb or mutton.

Bark: The charred, extra-smoky exterior of barbecue. Rarely on the menu, but nearly always available at barbecue joints, where you can place an order of pulled pork with “extra bark.” Also called “outside brown” or just “brown.”

[KC – Bark, outside of the South.]

Boil: A generic term, both noun and verb, for Southern outdoor gatherings at which shellfish (enough to feed a good-size crowd) is boiled, along with potatoes, corn, and seasonings in a large pot. The dish is inseparable from the event. In coastal South Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry boils, shrimp and crab go into the pot. In Louisiana, crawfish.

Deviled: To be made spicy, usually with the addition of cayenne pepper or hot sauce. As with eggs, crab, or ham.

[KC – Suddenly, the term “deviled” makes so much more sense! I have never experienced a spicy deviled egg! The rest of the U.S. seems to “devil” them with paprika,
which is pretty darn bland.]

Holy Trinity: The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, yes. Also the combination of celery, onion, and bell pepper at the heart of nearly every Cajun or Creole dish you can imagine, from grillades to gumbo.

Kil’t: An adjective commonly used for greens that have been wilted, or “killed.”

[KC – Can’t help it. That’s what I’m talking about when I say kilt.]

Meat and Three: Exactly what it seems: a plate containing one meat with three vegetable sides (which includes mac and cheese), served, often cafeteria-style from steam tables, by restaurants known as “meat-and-threes.” [KC – Um, we gave President Reagan trouble for calling ketchup a vegetable? Okay, mac and cheese it is!]

Milk: As a verb, the process by which the milky liquid inside individual kernels of corn is removed, usually accomplished by firmly running the back of a knife down the length of an ear of trimmed corn. (Only when the ear is shucked, de-kerneled, and dried does it become a “cob.”)

Potlikker: The meaty, nutrient-rich liquid left behind after a “mess of greens” is cooked, usually with a smoked ham hock or a piece of salt pork. “Beanlikker” is similar, but thicker-bodied than potlikker due to starches leached from the beans.

[KC – No liquor for Harvey—my pot-licker.]

Put Up: As a verb, to preserve by canning or pickling; jars of canned fruits or vegetables, pickles, jams, or preserves are sealed in sterilized lidded jars and then stored (i.e., “put up”) for later use. As an adjective, the description of said preserved items (e.g., “put-up green beans”).

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

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