We’re moving on up and over a few states to the country road, rolling hills, and mountains of East Tennessee for the Southern Dinner Table Part 2.
Southern in style with only the slightest hint of hillbilly coming through, the delicious differences that set the Southern dinner table in Tennessee style defined the spirit of what coming together for a meal is really all about.
Up first in my Texas vs. Tennessee Southern dinner table comparison taste tests is bread.
When in Texas, fresh soft white bread places in a bread and butter saucer graced the dinner and supper table.
When in Tennessee, cornbread is considered the bread of life.
Hot and ready to go is a black skillet swimming in Crisco awaiting the addition of buttermilk cornbread batter. Considered the flour and meal combination, White Lily self-rising flour and cornmeal mix remains a staple in the kitchens of this family.
Unanimous is the agreement among the ladies that cook cornbread from scratch is that White Lily products add extra lovin’ for the oven, and guarantees the perfect golden crisp crust on the bottom, top, and edges of Southern buttermilk biscuits and cornbread.
Home grown tomatoes either fried or topped with a thin layer of Duke’s mayonnaise and a thick dusting of fine black pepper claimed the title of table staple.
Fresh vegetables were more the rule than the exception.
In the Texas kitchens, grease, and plenty of it, played an intricate role in the flavor quotient.
The Care and Keeping of Bacon Grease
There has never been any misunderstanding nor debate regarding the traditional theory of the Tennessee Southern dinner table.
Formulated to make it work was one part the way it used to be done mixed with one part the way it used to be done. In other words, forget about teaching these old dogs a new trick.
Wise ladies of Fountain City, Northwood, Oakwood, and central Louisiana stood in an unairconditioned kitchen cooking from mid-morning until late afternoon. My paternal grandmother and her sisters believed cooking was meant to be an all day event.
Louisianians are also known for our epic all day into all night cooking marathons in slow and low fashion- just the way Southern flavor intended.
Practicality suited this anything but pretentious crowd, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Practicality suited this anything but pretentious crowd, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. A framed copy of Eric Enstom’s Grace appropriately hung on the breakfast nook wall, the one memento requested to find its new home in Louisiana.
Wafer thin dinner plates perfectly matched to equally thin iced tea glasses completed the last step before calling the men into the kitchen dining area for dinner.
That’s right. The women and girls moved into the living room where we sat patiently in the air conditioning waiting for the men to eat dinner.
Archaic at first impression, this was the way it was done in my grandmother’s home, her mother’s home, and her mother’s mother’s home.
Size and space, or lack thereof.
Kitchens in the homes of my Tennessee family members were small spaces of utilitarian works.
Grits and biscuits may be a Southern thing, but lack of space is a universal thing.
I don’t believe nor make the claim that the South holds the patent on dinner table philosophies.
“Tell me what you eat, I’ll tell you who you are.”
~Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
What I do know from first hand experience and delicious feedback is there is a shared conclusion among the converted faithful who have witnessed, experienced, and savored the mechanics of the Southern dinner table that it is truly a unique case study of common threads running deep through blended traditions.