We might be watching our waistlines, but Southern soul food is surprisingly on the up–even in gourmet magazines.
It seems the deep-fried, decadent and oh-so-delicious Southern staples like fried chicken and red velvet cake aren’t on their way out—even in today’s calorie-counting, carb-watching world. In fact, Southern cuisine is gaining even more respect these days, as several recent issues of magazines have placed it front and center on their covers. And it’s not just regional titles like Southern Living or Taste of the South.
Both Bon Appétit and Saveur—magazines well known for featuring exotic tastes and places—are jumping on the Southern bandwagon as well. Bon Appétit went so far as to dub the South “America’s New Food Capital,” and the entire February issue might as well have been a guide to what’s good below the Mason-Dixon Line.
Inside, the editors share five simple steps to making the best fried chicken (like the crispy drumstick featured on the magazine’s cover). And they’re talking real fried chicken—not the baked-because-it’s-healthier kind. Other Southern culinary phenomena include chicken and dumplings, deviled eggs, bourbon and, of course, barbecue. But why the obsession with Southern food, especially for those of us who haven’t grown up with it?
According to writer Kim Severson in one of the issue’s articles, the reason is because food is the great equalizer in the South. All you have to do to break the ice is ask a local the best place to eat. Not to mention it’s long been considered a source of comfort—and who couldn’t use a little more of that these days?
Saveur’s March issue got all sweet on Southern food as well with a picture-perfect slice of red velvet cake on its cover. Inside, it gets even better with recipes for lemon layer cake, walnut spice cake, caramel cake and coconut cake—along with the red velvet—each photographed up close in all their layered glory. (For a more grown-up take, turn to Bon Appétit’s coconut southern comfort layer cake.)
Both magazines tackle how to perfect these magnificent cakes. Saveur’s tips are of the general sort: Use cake flour, use refrigerated ingredients that are room temperature, mix the batter quickly and drop the pan before placing in the oven to remove any air bubbles. Bon Appétit shared a no-fail technique for slicing cake rounds into layers before frosting.
Though neither Bon Appétit nor Saveur tried to lighten up the Southern recipes they featured, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. In fact, with magazines like Cooking Light seeking out healthier versions of Southern foods, it’s no wonder this regional cuisine remains popular–even in a more health-conscious world.