Down South, we’re more than a little particular about our food.

Photo: Alison Miksch; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Torie Cox

There’s more than one way to eat a squash casserole, sure. But every Southern kitchen knows the right way to prepare it and that, of course, is their way. Our parents and grandparents have passed down countless recipe cards as well as tips and tricks for preparing all their favorite dishes, which makes each new generation of Southern home cooks experts in their family’s traditional foods. We appreciate recipes with history. That’s not to say we’re unwilling to taste other preparations; on the contrary, we’re open-minded eaters. However, our foods are connected to our memories, and that kind of nostalgia-laced expertise in the kitchen produces hard and fast opinions on the right—and wrong—ways to eat classic Southern foods, as below.

Okra

If you’re eating a pod of slimy okra, you know you’ve gone wrong somewhere along the line. But never fear: We have plenty of tips to help you learn to cook okra like a pro, including choosing small pods, using high heat, and cooking in small batches.
Make it: Pan-Fried Okra with Cornmeal Recipe

Green Bean Casserole

Don’t even think about trading green bean casserole for blanched beans at Thanksgiving. No French-fried onions on top? No thanks.
Make it: Old-School Green Bean Casserole Recipe

Fried Green Tomatoes

We’ll take our tomatoes fried and green, please and thank you. But don’t you dare plate any over- or under-fried, gummy excuses for FGTs. If they’re not crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside, they don’t deserve to be on the buffet table.
Make it: Fried Green Tomatoes Video

Corn Pudding

Keep the cobs—we’ll take the pudding. However, you must know: You’re doing it wrong if you don’t cook your corn pudding ‘til it has a creamy middle and crisp top. Bonus points if you pair it with a slice of cornbread for dinner. Double the corn, double the fun.
Make it: Tee’s Corn Pudding Recipe

Cornbread

No matter what side of the sugar-salt argument you’re on, every Southerner has an opinion on cornbread. Are you eating it wrong? Let’s phone a friend and ask.
Make it: Cornbread with Lemon-Thyme Butter Recipe

Chicken Salad

We’ve already been over this, but we’ll say it again: Don’t even think about putting dark meat in your chicken salad. Some of us would say you should leave out the fruit and nuts too, but that’s another issue entirely.
Make it: How to Make Chicken Salad Video

Peach Cobbler

Put it in a skillet, and you’ll thank us later. There are more than a few ways to go wrong with peach cobbler, but we think the biggest mistakes include not making it with fresh peaches and forgetting to serve it with a cold scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Make it: Easy Peach Cobbler Recipe

Squash Casserole

We Would Never, Ever Put This in Our Squash Casserole, and you shouldn’t either.
Make it: Old-School Squash Casserole Recipe

WATCH: Only Southerners Get These Weird Food Combinations

What Southern foods do you think the rest of us are preparing and eating all wrong? When it comes to a Southern dish, there are plenty of ways to make it, but the best ones always come from Mama’s passed-down recipes, wouldn’t you agree?