I landed in Mississippi and the first item of business…FOOD. This was only natural since I had just finished traveling for 6 hours, but, little did I know, my week in the Gulf coast was going to be driven by food.
I began my Mississippi adventure knowing that authentic southern food was on my “To-Do” list. To be honest, I didn’t know what constituted as “good southern food”, but I wasn’t going to let that get in between food and the black hole I called a belly. Luckily for me and my belly, our project teams consisted of natives, Dr. Green (one of the project coordinators) and the University of Mississippi students, so my list of dishes was rich with southern foods. The list below will definitely get your tummy rumbling.
- Chicken and Veggie Étouffée with rice, salad, and a nice cold Southern Pecan Lazy Magnolia.
- Fried pork chops with rice, gravy, buttered green beans, and banana pudding.
- Catfish Po’boy, although the shrimp one looked pretty good too!
- Southern buffet with fried chicken, smoked chicken, BBQ ribs, collard greens, squash casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, cornbread, and best of all, bread pudding with brandy sauce.
- Bop’s Frozen Custard with strawberries, bananas, and hot fudge.
- Crawfish boil. Crawfish, sausages, and corn were mouthwatering.
- The Shed, a must in Mississippi. The best BBQ I’ve ever had!
Although the daily food adventures were memorable, the most invaluable experiences in Mississippi were the interviews we conducted about access to foods. As I drove across towns conducting interviews, I was truly taken aback by the many respondents who revealed they had 1 or 2 grocery stores in the entire town, and if they needed something right away, they would go to the local “dollar” store, which sold items that costed more than a dollar and was not equipped with many ingredients for cooking (i.e. fruits, vegetables, eggs, etc). To make matters worse, public transportation was scarce so a trip to the grocery store had to be planned in advance, or they would go to a supercenter such as Walmart to make the trip worthwhile. Many respondents also indicated that most of their money went to paying necessities (housing, phone bills, gas, etc.), so buying fresh fruits and vegetables wasn’t in the budget since they spoil so quickly.
Through the stark contrast of my culinary adventures and the community’s access to food, I discovered the community’s resilience, humility, and southern hospitality paralleled the love and dedication signature of southern foods.