As with all things Southern, there’s more to breakfast than meets the eye. We’ve taken a look beyond the icons of sausage biscuit, red-eye gravy, and grits to find other breakfasts Southerners enjoy. Each one of these breakfasts has a historic and cultural meaning, and each is found in the wide variety of foodways that live side-by-side in the South. Some of these breakfasts are rich and sophisticated, others are born of hunger and need. And a few, perhaps, are just plain quirky.
This cornmeal porridge is part of the Cajun and Creole foods of Louisiana. Likely brought from Barbados by African slaves, there are a number of different recipes, the simplest resembling grits. Another variation is made from leftover cornbread crumbled into a bowl served with milk and syrup.
At longtime New Orleans restaurant Brennan’s, their traditional two-course breakfast always has two of their customers’ favorite soups on the menu: Turtle Soup and Seafood Filé Gumbo. Heather Arndt Anderson, author of Breakfast, A History, says “The first French speaking Acadian settlers to emigrate from Canada to Louisiana brought the tradition of sipping bouillon for breakfast with them.” From broth to a rich Turtle Soup is just a hop, skip and a jump. If you can’t get to Brennan’s, here’s their recipe for Turtle Soup. No turtle? Find one at your local Chinatown market.
A quire is “four sheets of paper or parchment folded to form eight leaves, as in medieval manuscripts,” according to Oxford Dictionary. The recipe for these elegant, paper-thin layered crepes is in Mary Randolph’s “The Virginia Housewife,” published in 1824, but Damon Lee Fowler has created a modern adaptation in “New Southern Baking.” He says “Mrs. Randolph’s quire is an all-soprano chorus, made up of delicate, lacy-edged crepes flavored with wine and nutmeg.”
The name of this dish runs so trippingly off the tongue, it’s a surprise to learn that this Civil War-era food is basically hardtack crumbled up, soaked in water, then served with cooked salt pork and bacon grease poured over the top. If you want this, you’ll obviously have to cook it yourself.
Popping open a fresh cold can of soda for breakfast is not unheard of in the South—it’s even been discussed in The New York Times. This recipe for a warmed up Dr. Pepper with slices of lemon is everything.
Karen Resta is a NYC-based writer, foodie, former executive chef and sometimes-fashionista who loves travel, cats, food, wine, glitter, ice cream, and fabulous T-shirts. Her writing can be found at Lucky Peach, Edible Manhattan/Brooklyn/Queens, Extra Crispy, Paste Food, Best American Poetry Blog and more.