7 Soul Food Essentials ...

I grew up in the south, having been born in West Virginia and moving to Virginia when I was 13. I grew up on soul food, and since moving up north, I don’t get a lot of it. On a visit to see my parents, however, my mom is currently spoiling me rotten with our family and region’s version of soul food, so I thought I’d share some of our biggest essentials.

1. Fried Potatoes

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Photo Credit: Sunshine Hanan

I am Irish on my mom’s side and thus have a very strong, albeit stereotypical, affinity for potatoes. I don’t care how they’re cooked -- but fried potatoes are as Southern as sweet tea, and so good. Do it the right way and you feel like they literally do stick to your ribs.

2. Ramps

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Photo Credit: Anniko 1996

Now, I don’t know if anyone else will have heard of these, because I haven’t met anyone who knows what they are since moving away from West Virginia. Sort of like a leek and sort of a wild onion, they have to be dug out of the ground in the wild -- then boiled up, served, and died over.

3. Fried Chicken

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Well naturally this is on the list, and let me just tell you that every family does it differently. In my family, we often didn’t even bother with breading; some butter in a hot skillet, and you’re good to go. In fact, where I come from, you can pretty much improve anything from adding butter to it.

4. Macaroni and Cheese

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Photo Credit: Heather Leah Kennedy

Again, every family has a different recipe for homemade macaroni and cheese -- and some of them are content with Kraft. My clan likes white and yellow cheddar -- and since coming north, I’ve been known to add just a tiny touch of Brie to mine.

5. Cornbread

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Photo Credit: Walter_Ezell

There are a million different ways to make it, a million different things you can include, but it’s the bread based staple of southern cuisine. My mom has a variation known as jalapeno cornbread that includes jalapenos, cheese, and even corn, and you’ve never tasted anything better in your life.

6. Collard Greens

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In my mind, not nearly as good as ramps -- but then again, nothing is. There is a fine art to cooking these. I have no idea what it is, but my mom does, which is part of the reason I like to come visit so often.

7. Fried Squash

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Photo Credit: David Kozlowski

This might just be an essential in my family, but essential it definitely is -- to my happiness and well being. I love squash and zucchini any way they can be made, but when you put a southern spin on this Italian method, you get a golden yellow and green bowl full of happiness!

“Fried” is a word you see in southern cuisine a lot. Where and when I came from, it was just the way you cooked. Fortunately, my mom, culinary goddess that she is, has over the years perfected many healthier ways to fry. Do you have any tips?

Top Photo Credit: Vidalia

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