Yes, it’s fried chicken—glistening golden, crispy and juicy at first bite—lifted just before plating from a black-iron skillet. Served with hot buttermilk biscuits and bowls of black-eyed peas with snaps, butter beans and sliced ripe tomatoes.
This is quintessential Southern food.
But what makes it so? It’s not really any one ingredient or dish or technique, although fried green tomatoes, okra and pork in all forms also are staples of the genre. It’s something else, though, a unique emotional connection to a sense of place, of fast-held tradition. “Southern food is nostalgia. It’s food that tells a story,” says Lindsay Autry, a North Carolina chef transplanted to South Florida. She distinctly remembers the brown paper sack that her grandmother used to shake chicken in before frying.
The cuisine appears, at first, tough to find in South Florida, where the joke has been that you must go north to go South in this state.
“It’s an evolving, dynamic cuisine,” says John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, a group that studies Southern food culture. It’s changing, he says, with new and old practitioners coming together. In South Florida, those would be native Crackers, along with the West Africans, Cubans and Haitian Creoles. In fact, a new generation of chefs from all corners is taking up the mantle with modern tech- niques and their interpretations of the South’s traditional foods.
The result? We are undergoing a full-blown Southern food revival. Somebody say Amen!
For more from this delicious story, pick up the September/October 2014 issue of Boca Raton magazine.