For the past three years I’ve been away at school, I’ve tried — and failed — to fulfill my desire for a truly Southern gastronomic experience. Especially around the holidays, my cravings for butter and bacon skyrocket.
Let me be frank — the American section at my UK grocery store is just not going to cut it when finals and my severe homesickness roll around. If I want cornbread, I want it piping hot, homemade and from a cast iron skillet — not prepackaged and ridiculously overpriced. While my delightful Scottish University offers a plethora of sweet, savory and spicy succulence, here are the top 7 foods that you just can’t help but miss from below the Mason Dixon:
1. Cheese Dip
Whether you want to call it chile con queso or nacho cheese, I have discovered that it’s nearly impossible to find this nectar of the Gods anywhere in my current neck of the woods. I even live with a New Yorker that had never even heard of cheese dip until she visited my home over the holidays.
Maybe I’m biased because my hometown holds the World Cheese Dip Championship (I am seriously not kidding), but this spicy Mexican delicacy — served best with crispy tortilla chips — hits the top spot on my list.
2. Iced Tea
The cold, refreshing tartness of a nice, citrusy iced tea is honestly all you need to cure a hangover anytime, anwhere. Imagine: Sitting on a swinging porch, with a crispy cool pitcher of Lipton, watching Autumn roll it’s way into town in the form of a Tim Riggins lookalike behind the wheel of a Chevy… But let me stop myself, I’m getting too excited.
3. Biscuits and Gravy
Biscuits are simply the food version of the comforting hug your mom gives you on a rough day. This is without a doubt going to be one of the most perplexing items on the list to many European readers, who think of a sweet cookie of sorts when they hear the term ‘biscuit’.
However, rather than having them dipped in your afternoon tea or in a paper wrapper from Micky D’s, these are best served homemade with a sh*t ton of butter, some sausage and a river of gravy.
Okay, I’m not going to lie, the aforementioned cornbread, while expensive, is not that bad. Between the buttery bread, the sweet corn, and the optional jalepenos and cheese, you can’t really mess up cornbread.
However, it lands nowhere close to the deliciousness that comes from having the real deal, served with a big bowl of chili on a grey, cold day. Fun fact: I can’t even find cornbread mix (or cornmeal, for that matter) in my university town. Blasphemy, I tell you.
5. Black Eyed Peas
In my household, it’s a New Years Day tradition to eat a big bowl of black eyed peas (cooked with bacon, of course) for good luck. They’re so good, they put even the Fergie to shame.
#SpoonTip: add some Tabasco sauce… Talk about boom, boom, pow.
6. Fried Chicken
Alright, alright, alright (cue Matthew McConaughey) — this is a bit of a rogue item on this list, because you can in fact find fried chicken pretty much anywhere in the Western world. Unfortunately, the adorable image of your loving grandmother working away in the kitchen on a Sunday evening to make a delicious supper is replaced with a strange man in a greasy fast-food chain’s kitchen. Case closed.
7. Pecan Pie
Pecan pie (or as well call it in my family, Karo-nut Pie due to the high levels of corn syrup) is one of the best parts of the holiday season, especially when topped with a bourbon whipped cream — partaaay. It’s salty and sweet, as well as aesthetically pleasing, and I just need it in my life, pronto.
Alrighty, y’all. That’s it for now as I drown my Southern sorrows until Winter Break comes along and I fly home. In the meantime, get a glass of bourbon, watch Sweet Home Alabama and Pinterest ‘Southern Foods.’ You can thank me later.