What Is The Duct Tape Of Southern Cooking?
We all have our go-to ingredient that makes everything taste better and salvages our kitchen disasters.
You made those mashed potatoes the same way you always do—the same way Mama always did—but something’s going wrong, they don’t taste good, and the in-laws will be here in 15 minutes. What to do? (More butter never hurt anything, right?)
It’s six o’clock and you’re way too tired to dream up something creative for supper. Time for your own version of cooking for dummies: Break out a package of chicken or some ground beef and a packet of dry mix for ranch dressing. Or maybe some Dale’s. (Just a “tad” as Southern Mamas are known to say.)
We recently polled our Southern Facebook Brain Trust and asked: What’s your duct tape ingredient? Here’s what they said—tell us what we missed:
“A can of cream of mushroom soup!”
“A splash of cooking wine.”
“Vegetable oil in beans and bacon fat on pretty much anything.”
“Duke’s Real Mayonnaise. I use it in sauces, mashed potatoes—any canned soups in recipes taste fresher with a spoonful of mayonnaise stirred in.”
“I would agree—and it HAS to be Duke’s mayo!”
“Mayo HAS TO BE BAMA, and bacon grease is my secret ingredient in so many things!”
“Roast too dry? Nothing a little gravy can’t fix. Biscuits burned on the bottom? No one will know with a helping of gravy on top. (Gravy can help or save rice potatoes, grits—you name it.)”
“My coworkers and I were just saying this morning that popcorn and toast are mere conveyors for butter.”
“Some of us just enjoy cooking butter, period. Oh, the joy of watching it melt. LOL”
“I’m gonna say butter. Even though ‘sugah’ is used a lot. Butter is the reason for cooking. Cakes, hot bread, biscuits, cornbread, corn, eggs, grits, oatmeal—butter just makes it better."
“Ketchup! For burgers and hot dogs; put some in the baked beans; put a little in your pot of green beans. When Mama baked a chicken, she would mix a little ketchup with the drippings and baste the chicken with it. Put some on your scrambled eggs, too.”
“Bread: For tomato sandwiches, stuffing the turkey, toast as a delivery system for apple butter, and so on. The staff of (Southern) life.”
“Wine. Given generously to all the guests.”
“I put jalapenos in a LOT of my dishes!”
“For the masses, I’d guess butter or mayo. If you ask my husband, he would tell you cooking with SOUR CREAM is the key. He uses it with everything.”
“My family cannot go out for PIZZA without asking for ranch dressing. (They dip the crust.) Everyone down here in the almost Southern part of Florida looks at us like we have 3 heads!”
“I put a squirt of ranch dressing in my quiches.”
“Ranch is great with spaghetti and French fries, or so my granddaughter says.”
“What about sugar? Southerners put it on green beans, for heaven’s sake.”
“I put sugar on my chili. Just a tad.”
“This is TOUGH! For my husband the duct tape of Southern cooking is Louisiana Hot Sauce. We buy it in the big bottles. He puts it on roast that is a “tad” overcooked, on a heaping plate of spaghetti, on scrambled eggs, etc. For me, I can do almost anything with a butter-based white sauce. I can add whatever cheese I have on hand to it and some cooked elbow macaroni, and voila! Mac 'n cheese. Add a can of crushed tomatoes and some seasoning and voila! Tomato bisque. Add some Parmesan cheese and I’ve got instant Alfredo.
“The real duct tape is the cook. He/she does it out of love for their family.”
WATCH: Bitty & Bo's Coffee Shop
Hey, nobody mentioned coffee as a go-to ingredient! For this special coffee shop, kindness, hospitality, and joy are all part of the successful mix.