Sh*t Alabama People Eat, and Other Anomalies (And Win a GC)

The “Sh*t Authors Would Like to Say” post was so popular that I thought I’d start a series of such columns. For better or worse, I have enough bad reviews to do at least two or three or more posts on that. But if you have ideas, please leave them in the comments. I probably can’t do “Sh*t My Boss Says.” Because, you know. Anything else?

Anyway, I disappeared yesterday after an unexpected Senior Adult crisis that is okay for now. Today, I’m off having a dermatologist tell me the reason I have so many odd bumps and spots is too much sun exposure in my ne’er-do-well youth. So if I’m late responding to comments, that’s why.

So, anyway, I think the subject of banana sandwiches came up last week, and it made me think about the stuff Southerners eat–or at least the ones I grew up around in rural Alabama. I’m sure every region has its own oddities. “Hot Dish.” I mean, what is that?

There is also no single Southern cuisine, as it varies very much from spot to spot. My best friend grew up in L.A. (Lower Alabama), and she thinks it’s perfectly normal to put yellow cornmeal in cornbread and eat banana sandwiches with fried catfish. Abominations!

I should note here that Southerners, lacking any other reference as to how to eat a thing, will batter it and deep fry it, or they will slap it between two pieces of white bread on which a healthy dollop of Blue Plate or Duke’s mayonnaise (depending on what your mama ate) has been slathered. So there are many things such as pineapple sandwiches and onion sandwiches that are not on my list because I personally have not eaten them.

So here, in no order, are the roots of my raising, as the late Merle Haggard sang. Note that while I lived in New Orleans for many years, my formative years were spent in the far northwestern corner of Alabama in a small cotton mill town which served as a model for Penton. Also, note that a lot of Southern foods and “traditions” were developed during the years after the Great Unpleasantness, when this area was extremely poor. Well, it isn’t exactly wealthy now….

lane cake

  1. Lane Cake. This is the world’s best cake, bar none. And it was recently adapted as the state cake of Alabama. I suspect that was to deflect public attention from the morbid fascination of tapes featuring our 73-year-old governor making sexy talk with his “consultant.” (shudders). Anyway, Lane Cake–in my world–is made up of three or four layers of moist white cake, with a boiled icing that is similar to that of German Chocolate cake except with no chocolate–it’s all eggs and pecans and coconut and white raisins and a very healthy dose of bourbon. The Baptist version I grew up eating had no bourbon, but I have since been heathenized by the non-Baptist version. And everything is better with a little Black Jack.banana_mayo
  2. Banana Sandwiches. Some Yankees have picked up on this and, probably influenced by Elvis, eat banana sandwiches with peanut butter on them. But having grown up 20 miles from Elvis’s birthplace, I can assure you Elvis didn’t grow up eating pb on his “nanner samiches.” They have white bread (the mushier the better), a healthy dose of mayonnaise, and sliced bananas. Period. If you want to be fancy, you eat them with chips.tomato-sandwich-done-1024x680
  3. Tomato Sandwiches. Again, this requires soft, mushy white bread, mayonnaise (never, ever, ever should the abomination known as Miracle Whip–it’s a miracle everyone who eats this sweetened nonsense isn’t horse-whipped), and thick slices of tomato, preferably fresh off the vine, heavily salted and peppered.Fried-Bologna-and-Egg-Sandwich-3-600x397
  4. Fried Bologna. Now, this is good on a sandwich with mayo and black pepper (white bread, of course), but it also makes a decent breakfast meat if one is poor and can’t afford bacon. There’s an art to fried bacon. It needs to be scored about 1.5 inches at the four poles; otherwise, it will curl up in the pan and will not lie nice and flat on one’s sandwich.buttermilk-biscuits-61
  5. Biscuits. Are made with buttermilk, flour, baking powder, and a pinch of salt. Period. They must be rolled and cut, never dropped. If you want to be fancy, brush the tops with a little butter before baking. This is Law.grits
  6. Sweet Grits. Okay, this is peculiar to my part of the state, as my friend from L.A. goes into spasms of horror when I first confessed it. Yes, I grew up eating my grits sweetened. So sue me. I thought everyone ate them that way, so imagine my horror at the idea of shrimp and grits, now one of my favorite dishes in the world. But presented a plain bowl of grits, I’ll still slip out the sugar packets. alabama-sweet-tea-recipe-225x300
  7. Sweet Tea, with or without lemon. In the South, until a few years ago, if you ordered tea at any restaurant, it would arrive so sweet it would make your teeth fall out. Now, most restaurants offer both “sweet tea” and “unsweet tea.” You know, for visiting Yankees.cornbread
  8. Cornbread. This is the source of much debate among Southerners. I grew up eating and making cornbread made with white cornmeal mix, buttermilk, and oil, baked in an iron skillet. I can still cook that with my eyes closed standing on one foot. So I pooh-pooh anyone who works with yellow cornmeal or–oh for the love of all that is holy, don’t do this–adds flour or sugar. That is not cornbread; that is cake, people.peanuts and coke
  9. Peanuts and Coke. This was never a favorite of mine but I’ve seen it consumed a lot. One takes “parched peanuts” (i.e., roasted) and floats them in one’s Coca-Cola (a real one, of course). I also have friends who are wild about boiled peanuts, which I find completely vile. They’re mushy and gross. They’re boiled in the shell, salted, and sold out of the back of pickup trucks on the side of the road. Ugh.fried-green-tomatoes (1)
  10. Fried Green Tomatoes. Okay, this bit of awesomeness has made its way out of the rural South now but I grew up eating them. Pull ’em off the vine green, slice them about 1/8 inch thick, batter them in cornmeal, and fry until they’re tender, then eat with salt and pepper. This is also an excellent way to eat dill pickles–sliced or quartered, battered and fried.

As I said, it probably explains a lot! What’s the oddest thing you grew up eating in your neck of the woods…and does any of the above sound good or totally gross you out? I’ll give away a $5 GC to one commenter. I have two weeks’ worth of winners that will be announced on Sunday!

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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban and paranormal fantasy and romantic suspense, currently living in Auburn, Alabama. Author of the Sentinels of New Orleans series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate's Alley, and Belle Chasse (Nov 2016). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the upcoming Wilds of the Bayou series (Book 1, Wild Man's Curse) releases April 2016).

51 thoughts on “Sh*t Alabama People Eat, and Other Anomalies (And Win a GC)

  1. I was raised by my Grandparents who had been thru the depression. Never waste anything! One of the unusual things we ate, was fried bread. Grandma keep a pan of grease on the stove, occasionally for breakfast she just fried bread in it. Also loved fresh liver sausage sandwiches. And SPAM became a favorite. Spam & eggs or fried Spam sandwiches.

    • Yes, I think that’s where a lot of these “delicacies” came from–the Depression years. My parents never ate fried bread, but I’ve seen my grandmother “fry” cornbread on the stovetop in an iron skillet. i knew a lot of people who ate Spam, but we never did. Fried spam is probably a lot like fried bologna, only thicker 🙂

  2. I do like unsweetened grits but not many places serve them here in NJ. When I was a kid my Mom used to make chopped liver with chicken livers whenever we were having company. One of the things she put in was chopped up onions sautéed until they were golden. She used to make extra onions for me and I always ate them as a sandwich on white bread.

    • I love cooked onions so I might eat that. My parents would both eat raw sliced onion on white bread with mayo, I think just to ick me out. I STILL won’t eat a raw onion. I’ll pick it out of salads no matter now thinly it’s chopped!

  3. Daddy would eat banana sandwiches with mayo AND peanut butter. And if he really wanted to gross me out, he’d chase it with a big ol’ glass of buttermilk! (He was from Warrior, but we grew up away from AL.)

    • Argh. It must be from that part of Alabama (Warrior isn’t that far from where I grew up)–my mom eats banana sandwiches with both mayo and peanut butter, too. And I believe buttermilk has been in the mix. ICK 🙂

    • Potato chip sandwiches! How could I forget those. I ate mine with mayo instead of ketchup, though. White bread, mayo and black pepper were the beginnings of all sandwiches. LOL. I’m still not a big ketchup fan.

  4. Peanuts in my Nehi orange was a treat. Never heard of fried bologna until I came to Oklahoma. We don’t fry it in Texas. Dad liked cornbread crumbled in a big glass of buttermilk, but I don’t care for buttermilk.

    • Oh, I’d forgotten about that one because I don’t like buttermilk either. I like it to cook with but not to drink. Ugh. But my dad would crumble up cornbread in a tall glass of buttermilk and eat it with a spoon. This is kind of making me queasy–LOL.

  5. We would go out to Dim Sum on many a weekend and the weirdest things I grew up eating regularly would be the brownish glazed chicken feet and the steamed tripe with ginger and scallions. The oddest not so regular dish was jellyfish, it was served during banquet meals.

    • Yes, those are weird things for me–I still haven’t eaten jellyfish or chicken feet. I have eaten tripe. Once. But I grew up in a very rural area in the South so I never ate any type of Asian food until I was in college and moved to the “big city” of Tuscaloosa, which at that time had one Chinese restaurant. LOL.

  6. I grew up in Birmingham so I’ve eaten everything on this list. My dad’s favorite was pickled eggs on ritz when I was little which I have never personally dared to try. A friend of mine that was from Aliceville used to put butter in her coffee which makes me cringe to think about.

    • Yikes! I grew up 70 miles from Birmingham but butter in coffee….I’m partly icked out and partly want to run downstairs and try it. LOL. Pickled eggs, I have tried but I don’t like boiled egg whites, so stuffed eggs, pickled eggs…no, thanks. I swear I’m putting butter in my coffee tomorrow.

    • Ugh. Every year growing up, we’d have black-eyed peas (which I also don’t like), collard greens (ditto), ham hocks (ditto) and cornbread for New Year’s. That ended as soon as I left home. When I lived in New Orleans, Popeye’s Fried Chicken became my traditional New Year’s meal. LOL. Much better.

  7. First of all hope the senior is doing well. I think I’ve heard of everything here except peanuts and coke together, but hell why not! Tomato sandwiches still on my menu. Couldn’t get me to eat anything banana, the smell alone makes me gag! I was raised by dad and he used to make weekend breakfasts of kidneys and blood pudding. Grosses my friends out!

    • Um, kidneys and blood pudding kind of grosses me out too. But a tomato sandwich? Oh yeah. Anytime. I still love them. Senior adult is doing pretty well despite her own stubborn streak.

  8. Tomato sandwiches with tomato fresh from the garden are still one of my favorites. I also enjoyed banana and peanut butter sandwiches when I was young.

  9. I’m always so fascinated what other parts of the country eat so your post was a big hit with me. It would probably be bird’s nest soup when I was a kid, but now it’s way too expensive to buy. It’s the dried saliva for a certain type of bird, which was used to build & cement their nest together.

      • Of course, they cleaned it so it was like opaque gelatinous shreds, maybe like jellyfish if you ever had that. More for the texture and a little bit of taste (more neutral). Shredded chicken & chicken broth is added to the soup so it’s very flavorable due to those ingredients. They serve it in Chinese restaurants, but they’ll be skimpy about putting much of it in the soup. Sorry about the dup reply, didn’t post it correctly the first time.

  10. I love peanuts and coke! And sugar in my grits! I would love to be able to cook biscuits like the ones in your picture but don’t have that talent.

    • Neither do I, Bonnie! I don’t even try anymore since I discovered Mary B’s frozen buttermilk biscuits (I’m not sure how widely they’re distributed). They taste just like homemade…except better, since my biscuit-making skills leave something to be desired.

  11. I grew up in California but my mother was from New England, so we always had baked beans and brown bread (it comes in a can and is made with molasses). I live in Florida now and no one here has ever heard of brown bread. She also made what she called Harvard beets (beets cooked with flour to make a gravy with raisins). Even though I live in the south, I’ve never ever eaten grits, boiled peanuts or collard greens, ick. 😀

    • i have had brown bread before, from the can, but it was something I tried as an adult, probably when I was living in Illinois. Harvard beets is a new one to me, though. I cannot in good conscience recommend anyone eat boiled peanuts or collards, but grits are good. If you like Cream of Wheat, you’d like grits. Not that much difference except one’s from wheat and one’s from corn.

  12. I don’t think I ate anything odd growing up, but I don’t think most kids realize that anything they’re eating is odd to others. I guess I didn’t/don’t know anyone else that ate plates of just cut up tomatoes with apple cider vinegar. But let’s get back to Alabama, dafuq is white bbq sauce?

    • White sauce is sort of a mayo vinegar sauce used mostly on chicken. Big Bob Gibson’s up towards Decatur uses it a lot.

    • LOLOL. Yes, what Brittain said on the Alabama White BBQ Sauce. It’s mayonnaise based rather than tomato based. So it’s basically mayo, vinegar, cayenne pepper, corn syrup (Karo white), and lemon juice. Really good on chicken but I like it on pork BBQ as well. Big Bob Gibson’s in Decatur invented it in the 1920s, i think.

  13. When I was a child we would use the drippings from the Sunday roast to make a sandwich. So basically fat on bread. It was wickedly delicious with a touch of salt. I’m surprised my heart is still healthy.

    • And, you might be interested in knowing, Mary, that this is still a VERY popular sandwich in New Orleans. It’s called debris. So if you order a Debris Po-Boy or a Roast Beef Po-Boy with Debris, it’s a sliced loaf of French bread slathered with roast beef drippings. As you say…wickedly delicious!

  14. my mom always liked tomato sandwiches. we use to fry bolonga but would use the link kind, slice or cubed. then scramble an egg in with it and call it a meal.

  15. I have eaten fried green tomatos and enjoy them. I despise mayo, so many of the above do not appeal to me. I’m a pretty conservative eater, but my parents would eat things like beef tongue which always grossed me out!

    • Ugh, I was talking to a friend in Tennessee last night and she was all excited about finding beef tongue at her local market. No thank you. Yes, if you dislike mayo, you’d have a hard time of it in the South. As I’ve read through these comments, I’ve realized MAYO is the biggest staple of the Southern diet. LOL.

  16. I loved my cornbread, grits (with no sugar), sweet tea, and biscuits when I was growing up (I was raised by Southern parents, though I moved away from the South just after I turned 13). Interestingly, I’ve never even seen a Lane cake! I used to eat onion sandwiches (with mustard & ketchup) and (leftover) spaghetti sandwiches with nothing added! These were my own made-up things, though, that no one else in the family did.

    • Okay, spaghetti sandwiches are a new one to me–LOL. I have eaten meatloaf sandwiches, though.

      The Lane Cake is, as far as I know, exclusive to Alabama. And as fewer people bake, it’s getting lost. Man, is that a good cake, though, and this is from a person who does not generally like coconut unless it’s mixed with rum and pineapple and has a little plastic umbrella sticking out the top–LOL. They’re a pain in the backside to make, but I might do one this Christmas. It’s been a few years since I made one.

  17. You forgot fried squash, okra and my boss even fries green beans. My dad got me started on liver pudding sandwiches when I was a kid. And I am a sugarholic but I draw the line at sweetening my grits.

    • LOL. You sound like my best friend. When she heard me use “sugar” and “grits” in the same sentence, I thought her head would explode. Oh, vegetables are made to be fried. Squash, okra, zucchini, onions and, yes, green beans. If it’s even vaguely healthy, the best thing to do is batter and fry it. LOL.

  18. i may bea picky eater but apart from teh tea i don’t think i could even try any of those dishes ( we have a kind of banana sandiswh just a piece of bread, banana and cassonade but i’m not fan i prefer banana and cassonade without bread)

    • Haha–I don’t think you’re a picky eater. It’s just a cultural difference. In New Orleans, they flambe bananas with brown sugar and butter and liqueur–it’s called Bananas Foster. No bread on that, though! I’ve never tried cooking it because I figure I’d set my hair on fire if I ever tried to flambe anything.

  19. I’ve eaten all the above with the ‘mater and ‘nanner sandwich my top favs. We ate a lot of fried rabbit, deer and squirrel when I was younger and my dad hunted a lot. Before mad cow disease we also ate brains(pork not cow) and eggs, which I though was delicious .

    • I’ve heard my parents talk about brains and eggs but I’m pretty darn sure I’ve ever eaten it since I will barely eat eggs even without the brains. LOL. I have had deer steaks and rabbit when local hunters would have extra and give them to us. My dad wasn’t a hunter unless catfish counts!

  20. This is so weird… especially Peanuts and Coke- can’t imagine ever eating that one. But I guess the sweetened tea sounds okay. I’ve always loved chicken feet, like in dim sum 🙂

    • I must not have had dim sum because I don’t think I’ve had chicken feet. Seems like something I would remember! The peanuts and Coke thing never appealed to me, although I do like salted caramel, which is the same principal.

  21. Of course, they cleaned it so it was like opaque gelatinous shreds, maybe like jellyfish if you ever had that. More for the texture and a little bit of taste (more neutral). Shredded chicken & chicken broth is added to the soup so it’s very flavorable due to those ingredients. They serve it in Chinese restaurants, but they’ll be skimpy about putting much of it.

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