Friday, July 16

The Mystery of the South's Weight Problem Revealed

After spending the last week traveling through the Deep South, it’s no surprise it ranks as the most obese region in the nation. At every restaurant, I struggled to find high quality fresh produce to eat, or simply, anything not fried. I knew this of course, growing up in Georgia, but back then I didn’t care.

As a teenager working at Bojangles I lived off of chicken and biscuits. Especially biscuits. God I love those flaky, buttery pieces of goodness. And nothing was better than a biscuit made by my friend John. As the best Bojangles biscuit boy, he always worked the Saturday morning shift, because that was the biscuit rush. It’s like Krispy Kreme on a weekend morning in Richmond. Cars blazing through the Drive-Through, people pouring through the store, all buying doughnuts by the dozen. In the South you load up on biscuits by the dozen.

Well, that and anything that’ll fit in a deep fryer.

Given this, it wasn’t surprising that most restaurant menus we encountered looked like this:

  1. Fried Chicken
  2. Fried Shrimp
  3. Fried Oysters
  4. Country Fried Steak
  5. BBQ
  6. Grits
  7. Biscuits and gravy
  8. Potato Salad
  9. Mashed Potatoes
  10. Sweet Tea

That list covers 80% of every southern menu. The other 20% is made up of more fatty side dishes, desserts, and the obligatory salad; a sad, sad plate of iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots and red cabbage. If it's a really fancy place they're throw some tomatoes on, or more likely, top it with Southern-style croutons—fried chicken, fried shrimp, or fried oysters. If they could deep fry the whole thing I bet they would.

I made it through Stage Four of Le Tour de South—Mississippi and Oklahoma—but I’m going through fresh produce withdrawal. And I’ll be just fine if I never see another iceberg lettuce salad again.

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