Southerners all have memories of our mothers’ signature dishes.
In a region that’s famous for amazing food and amazing Mamas, we had to wonder: Did we all grow up loving the same Mama dishes—the same favorite family recipes? We reached out to our Facebook brain trust and asked them to share the best things they remembered from Mama’s table. As you might’ve guessed, there’s plenty of Southern comfort food among our favorites.
The big surprise? Chocolate pie ranks right up there with fried chicken and biscuits. We’re curious—is that true all over the South? Let us hear from you in comments.
Here’s what else we learned, with a few special quotes from the brain trust:
Shocking News: Southerners Have a Sweet Tooth
Among the desserts that earned a spot on Mama's hit parade are chocolate pie, chocolate cake, buttermilk chocolate cake, caramel cake, coconut cake, pound cake, lane cake, lemon cheese cake, tea cakes, apple cobbler, peanut butter pie, homemade ice cream, white cake with lemon cheese icing, banana pudding, bread pudding, fried peach or apple pies, and peanut brittle.
“Mama used to make this thing she called sweet cakes, kind of a poor man’s version of cupcakes but with no icing. They were so good. I have tried for many years to remember the recipe but no luck. It was just something she threw together.”
“’School Cookies’—that’s what we called them. They were the no-bake chocolate oatmeal peanut butter kind. Loved my Mama’s cooking.”
“I loved my mother’s pound cake, fresh out of the oven—and fruitcake at Christmas.”
We’re Somewhat Fond of Fried Chicken
Fried chicken with homemade biscuits, fried chicken with “perfect mashed potatoes,” fried chicken and fried okra . . . We can go for any combo because it’s that crispy golden bird we’re really after.
Pass the Biscuits and Cornbread
Southerners are connoisseurs of these homemade breads. We fill our biscuits with butter, syrup, honey, or homemade jams and preserves. We smother them with sausage gravy, tomato gravy, and chocolate gravy. We use them to sop up every last drop of goodness on our plates. And the cornbread? Mama’s vegetable soup and beef stew wouldn’t be the same without it—baked, fried, or spiced with Mexican flavor.
“Mama made the best homemade vegetable soup. Fantastic! She added leftover grilled steak and added the steak bone, too. Great flavor!”
“I loved my mother's Mexican cornbread! My husband and sister have tried to duplicate this recipe since she passed away. They have gotten pretty close, but it still isn’t like Mama made it!”
There’s Dinner and Then There’s Sunday Dinner
Why does food taste so good after church? Maybe it’s because we were in such a hurry to get out the door that we didn’t eat much breakfast. Many a preacher’s sermon has been lost on Southern kids, sitting dutifully on Mama’s pew while dreaming of her pot roast.
“Sunday roast with potatoes and carrots, mashed potatoes with gravy, and store-bought rolls—I remember thinking about it for the last thirty minutes of church.”
“I loved any Sunday dinner! But especially her baked macaroni and cheese! And her Italian cream cake! And her chocolate cake! And her cornbread!” [Y’all can’t talk about Mama’s cooking without exclamation points.]
We Love All the “Chicken And’s”
Mama can find a million ways to make chicken delicious—chicken casserole, chicken-and-sausage jambalaya, chicken and dressing, chicken and rice, chicken and dumplings . . .
We Love Anything “And Gravy”
Some Southerners would argue that the sole purpose of mashed potatoes, rice, and dressing is to give us something to smother in gravy. Anything and gravy makes us break out the exclamation points. Just thinking about the following dishes made members of our brain trust salivate:
“Hamburger steak with homemade fries and brown gravy!”
“Country fried minute steak and gravy!”
“Cubed steak and gravy!”
“Black pot roast and gravy with cornbread!”
“Country fried steak with tomato gravy, rice, and green beans!”
“Fried quail fresh from a morning hunt, served with rice and gravy!”
“Country fried steak with milk gravy over rice (and chocolate or caramel cake for dessert)!!!!”
You Won’t Hear Us Complain About a Veggie Plate
Southern Mamas know how to cook vegetables like nobody’s business, so it’s no wonder that our favorite dishes include fried okra, corn on the cob, creamed corn, potato salad (aka “tater salad”), fried potatoes, mashed potatoes, black-eyed peas, purple hull peas, butter beans, limas, green beans, fried squash . . . Some of us grew up with a noodles-and-tomato dish that always takes us back. And for no reason we can legitimately defend, we sometimes count baked mac-and-cheese as a vegetable. Also homemade dill pickles.
“Mama made the best fried taters and fresh cream corn. She was a great cook.”
“Squash Casserole—hands down! Mama always had dinner ready when we would come home from school each afternoon. I remember looking forward to her squash most of all!”
Some Mamas March to the Beat of Their Own Drummer
“Deviled crab! We lived on the bay in Mobile. And the best meatloaf! I make it today.”
“Scalloped potatoes with Spam (yep!)”
“Is it sad that my favorite was Beanie Weenies and hash browns? My siblings and I always fought over that last weenie—also loved her fried cornbread. I can’t figure out how she made it.”
“Biscuits mixed by hand; fried sweet potatoes; and squirrel or rabbit dumplings.”
“Cheese straws, heaven help me!”
“My mom did not cook. Her specialties were pot pies and Snickers bars!”
“Mama’s specialty? A seat at Luby’s restaurant."
Anything Mama Makes Is Special To Us
“A year before my mother died, I put together a little paper-backed cookbook of her favorite recipes so she could share them with friends as a Christmas gift. It was titled Cooking with Betty. She loved that!”
There's nothing Mama can't do. She can even keep her boys in line while she fries that chicken:
Don't make her have to leave her skillet unattended and get after you, Junior, or you could find yourself getting liver on your plate instead of a drumstick.