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:
- Fried Chicken
- Fried Shrimp
- Fried Oysters
- Country Fried Steak
- Biscuits and gravy
- Potato Salad
- Mashed Potatoes
- 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.