The people's voice of reason

Southern Cooking Traditions

I was reading about Southern cooking traditions, the standards that define a Southern kitchen and a Southern cook and realized that the knowledge on how to fix these staples, these meals, these time tested dishes, is slowly passing away. It is becoming a lost art in homes everywhere in America not just the South, where the children are not learning the basics of cooking, let alone, the traditional meals that bind generations.

You have seen lists before, that tell that you have lost your "Southern-ness" if you can't make deviled eggs, don't use bacon "drippin's" as a seasoning, have never made a Hummingbird cake, and don't have a cast iron pan. Why have we lost these traditions? Is it the life style that we follow? Are we spending time with our children and teaching them the things that our parents taught us or are we letting the schools, television and the internet do our parenting.

An excuse is "There isn't enough time?" Well guess what, there is enough time and this month there is plenty of time to cook with your children and become parents again. Its call Spring Break. Look at it this way. If you spend time with your children in the kitchen they will be encouraged to try different foods, eat less fast food, they will learn about nutrition and it will help with their math and reading skills.

Your children will feel like they have contributed to the family, you have spent quality time with them and they are not sitting in front of the TV or the computer.

I researched everywhere, getting advice about cooking with your kids and I didn't quite like most of the advice. There are levels, somewhat divided by age, on what a child can and you will let do in the kitchen. There are sharps knives, hot utensils, hot stoves and these can ruin an otherwise happy time in the kitchen.

Also the attention span is less than the wait for something to bake. So I am taking the approach that all children with varying degrees of skill can help prepare any meal. Give them the chores you think they can handle. The youngest can wash produce, measuring and pour ingredients, mix ingredients, and placing items on a cookie sheet or pan before it is placed by you in the hot oven. Older children can crack eggs, read the recipes, grate cheese, and operate a can opener. Don't set them up to fail, let them build their confidence with smaller chores and progress to harder tasks as they become familiar with the tools and food they are working with. Words of praise for a task well done will build confidence also.

Deciding on the meal that you can fix with your children is important. If it is too difficult, your children will not be able to help. Look at each part the meal and divide it up by difficulty. Salads can be tackled by the younger children, grilling and frying should be left up to the older experienced children and the adults. I came to the decision that the fewer ingredients are the best and something that can be eaten right away is even better. So don't fix Slow Cooker Coq a Vin. The recipes here are very simple and are a good start to introducing your kids to the kitchen.

Before you start any cooking, make sure you go over safety and cleanliness in the kitchen. Decide who is doing the cutting and oven loading and unloading. Even pay attention to what your helpers are wearing. Are their clothes going to interfere with their safety? Stress sanitation, no licking the spoon and then stirring with it.

Every meal should start with some sort of appetizer or snack. A snack that is always popular to eat is some sort of salsa and chips. Normally you go to the store buy a jar of something made in New York City and chips from a kettle in Vermont. This recipe is very simple, with two vegetables that need chopping and seven cans to open and one bottle to be opened. The chips can be made using a pizza cutter, making it easy for younger children. Baking in the oven can be monitored by the adults.

The other recipes here can make up an entire Southern meal with black eyed peas, Cole Slaw, and pork ribs that can be made mostly by your children. Look at the order of preparation, the ribs need to marinate so prep them first. While they are marinating make the other two dishes. While the Texas Caviar and the Cole Slaw is chilling put the ribs in the oven and while they are baking, clean up and set the table. Talk about the ingredients, where do they come from, why do we eat them? Even have the children use some of their artistic ability to make a menu. When everyone is seated give everyone at the table a menu like eating in a restaurant. Place the chef's name by each menu item. Make it theirs!

TEXAS CAVIAR With baked Tortilla Chips


1 can black eye peas, drained

1 can black beans, drained

1 can yellow corn, drained

1 can white corn, drained

1 small can sliced black olives, drained

2 cans Rotel tomatoes, drained, (they come at different heat levels, pick for your taste)

1 chopped bell pepper

1 chopped onion

1 small bottle Italian dressing

Place all items in large bowl, add dressing and stir to mix. • To serve right away, cold, place all ingredients in icebox to cool before making. • Serve with baked chips.

Baked Tortilla Chips

1 package of whole wheat tortillas • Olive oil • Salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees • Using a pastry brush or your clean fingers, lightly coat one side of each tortilla with olive oil and sprinkle with salt • Use a pizza cutter, to cut each tortilla into triangular pieces, eight per tortilla.

• Spread chips on sheet pan and bake for about 15 minutes, until crispy and brown. • Serve with Texas Caviar.


I know that there are as many different recipes of Cole Slaw as there are recipes for Tuna Salad. The following is a basic Southern recipe and can be easily made by your children.


1 bag of Cole Slaw mix

1 tsp salt

1 tsp celery seed

1 tablespoon vinegar or to taste

1 tablespoon sugar or to taste

About 1 cup Dukes mayonnaise

Mix sugar, salt, vinegar and mayonnaise and taste. If suitable add to cabbage and mix well. Place in icebox until chilled.


Adult preparation would be to cut and separate each rib.


2 lbs or more pork spare ribs

5 tablespoons honey

5 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rub ribs with salt and pepper and place in roasting pan. • Mix soy sauce and honey in a small bowl. • Brush mixture over each rib until completely covered. • Bake for about 30 minutes. Then turn oven to 425 degrees and bake for about 10 minutes more. You want the sauce to be thick and sticky. • Serve hot with plenty of napkins.

The parents need to set aside plenty of time and have plenty of patience. The dividends will be a closer knit family and more confident children


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