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The South: Culture and History: Food

This library guide is designed for researchers studying any topics related to the South's culture and history.


Although not unique to the South, casseroles are a favorite in the Southern diet.  A casserole consists of meat mixed with vegetables, some starches, and usually a crunchy top. Casseroles are cooked for a long time in a a deep dish. The food gets its name from the deep dish used to cook it, and it is often served in that same dish.  Many Southern casserole recipes take their names from states, such as the Texas Hash, Georgia Creamed Chicken, and Alabama Sweet Potato Casserole.

Commercial Seafood and Aquaculture

The Gulf of Mexico offers a bonanza of shrimp, fish, and crabs that support the South's commercial seafood industry. Louisiana, with its extensive swamps and bayous, also has a large crawfish industry


Commercial seafood consists of catching wild shrimp, fish, and crabs.  On the other hand, aquaculture is the deliberate cultivation of aquatic species, often in tanks or artifiical ponds, and sometimes known as "fish farming."  The South boasts a large aquaculture industry that produces catfish--as well as alligators and other marine species!  Check out these links for more:

Alabama Catfish Producers

Alligator Aquaculture in the South

Aquaculture Science

Tex-Mex Food

According to the Oxford English Dictionary Online, Tex-Mex is "a Texan style of cooking using Mexican ingredients, and characterized by the adaptation of Mexican dishes, frequently with more moderate use of hot flavourings such as chilli; food cooked in this style."  It developed when the culinary traditions of Mexican settlers in Texas were fused with Anglo (and Native American) cooking. 

Tex-Mex food has spread throughout the South and the rest of America.  Here are a few links that explain the history of Tex-Mex cuisine:

Tex-Mex Foods (Texas State Historical Association)

The Authenticity Myth (Houston Press)


Southern food is world renown, including foods like shrimp, gumbo, grits, casseroles, soul food, pecan pies, and sweet tea.

There are many strategies you can use to find books on Southern cuisine:

>Click here for a list of Southern cookbooks available at UA, as well as other books about the history and culture surrounding Southern cuisine.

>Browse through the section of food books in Gorgas Library.  Go to Floor 4M and look through the books starting with the "TX" call number.

>Use Scout to search for even more books at UA. 

>You can read many online books and articles about Southern food in Google Books.  Click one of these headings to view a list:

Southern Food

Southern Cookbook

Southern Recipes



Academic Search Premier-Very useful for starting an article search on almost any topic.  Contains articles on food from hundreds of scholarly journals and popular magazines. 

America: History and Life-offer articles about the cultural history of the South, including its food.  Contains historical journals for the South as a region and all the Southern states.

AnthroSource--anthropology articles about the culture of food.

General Science Index--scientific dimensions of food, such as food processing.

GreenFile--excellent articles about food and the environment.

Gun and Garden: Soul of the South--"A Southern lifestyle magazine that's all about the magic of the new South - sporting culture, food, music, art, literature, people, and ideas."

Health Source: Nursing/Academic--diet and nutrition articles.

JSTOR-contains thousands of articles from journals related to many aspects of food, such as history, sociology, politcs, science, and literature.

Sociological Abstracts--food in society.

Southern Living--offers "the best of Southern Life", including food.

Top Seven Vegetarian Magazines--search in these magazines for Southern-style vegetarian recipes.

Slow Food

According to Slow Food USA, slow food is "an idea, a way of living and a way of eating. It is a global, grassroots movement with thousands of members around the world that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment."

In the South, slow food supporters often hope to encourage pople to eat food grown on local farms, help people value local cuisines, and teach environmentally-sound food production practices.  For example, they may help organize farmers' markets.  Search in Scout for books at UA on the slow food movement by typing "slow food" in quotation marks. Try searching Academic Search Premier and Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center for articles on slow food.

Coca-Cola: A Southern Drink Gone Global

Coca-Cola, now a world-famous soft drink, was invented in the South.  In 1886 John Pemberton, an Atlanta pharmacist, experimented with some liquids, and asked some customers to sample his new drink.   They liked it, and the pharmacy began selling the beverage for five cents a glass. 

Coca-Cola become very popular in the South and throughout the rest of the country, to such an extent that many Southerners call any soft drink "Coke." At first the drink was marketed as a sort of medicine, but by the twentieth century it came to be seen as a purely recreational beverage.   

Read more of the history of Coke at the Coca-Cola Heritage site, or pay a virtual visit to the World of Coca-Cola at Permberton Place in Atlanta.  

For articles about the history of Coca-Cola in the South, search in  America: History and Life, the key database for American history. To read older newspaper articles and advertisements about Coke, spend some time in ProQuest Historical Newspapers.

If you would prefer to read about the dietary aspects of Coke and other soft drinks, search in Health Source: Nursing/Academic


Enjoy this short video about Coke in pop art.  The Southern-born beverage has become an American icon and a part of global culture.

Dictionaries and Encyclopedias of Food

You can look up the term "South" or specific Southern states and dishes in these reference books.  Start by searching Wilson, Charles Reagan (ed.) The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006-2008). (See especially volume 2, Geography, and volume 7, Foodways.) in the Reference Room on the second floor of Gorgas Library.

Douglas, Ian. Companion Encyclopedia of Geography: The Environment and Humankind (NY: Routledge, 1996) - ELECTRONIC BOOK

Katz, Solomon H. (ed). Encyclopedia of Food and Culture (NY: Scribner, 2003) - GT2850 .E53 2003

Kiple, Kenneth F. (ed.) The Cambridge World History of Food, Vol. 1 (NY: Cambridge University Press, 1999) - ELECTRONIC BOOK

Kiple, Kenneth F. (ed.) The Cambridge World History of Food. Vol. 2(NY: Cambridge University Press, 1999) - ELECTRONIC BOOK

Pitzl, Gerald R. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Human Geography (Westport, CT: Greenwood Pub., 2004) - Rodgers Library GF4 .P58 2004

Smith, Andrew F. (ed.) The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America(Oxford/NY: Oxford University Press, 2004) - TX349 .E45 2004 (GORGAS LIBRARY RESERVE DESK)

Smith, Andrew F. Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food (Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 2006) - TX370 .S63 2006

Smith, Jim, and Lily Hong-Shum (eds.). Food Additives Data Book (Oxford: Blackwell Science, 2003) - ELECTRONIC BOOK

Thrift, Nigel, and Rob Kitchin (eds.) International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2009) - Rodgers Library BF175.4 .H84 I5 2009


African-American Cooking

Did you know that UA has a large, unique collection of books on African-American cuisine?  The David Walker Lupton African American Cookbook Collection is available at the Hoole Special Collections Library!

The Native American Influence on Southern Food

Author Rosa Newman Hall notes that "Modern southern diets include a broad selection of Indian dishes. Hominy, grits, sweet potatoes, and many other foods are the legacy of the region's Indian peoples. Indeed, the "traditional" American thanksgiving dinner of turkey, cornmeal stuffing, green beans, wild rice, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin pie, grits, cornbread, green beans, pinto beans, tomatoes and peppers all come from Native Americans."