Jennifer Causey

Or, at the very least, incomprehensible

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, these Southern foods are special. They have permanent places in our cookbooks and on our tables. That said, not everyone understands the appeal of some of our favorite Southern foods. Scroll through for a few of the dishes that delight our region and confuse most everyone else. (We’ll even teach you how to pronounce them.)

Ambrosia

It’s best not to ask too many questions when it comes to this dessert. Just take a bite for the full orange-grapefruit-coconut-cherry-marshmallow experience.
Make it: Ambrosia Meringue Trifles Recipe

Biscuits and Gravy

Many a comedian has commented on the likeness of a plate of biscuits and gravy to a breakfast of cement. We care not, because appreciation of flaky buttermilk biscuits topped with thick sausage gravy is just good sense.
Make it: Biscuits-and-Gravy Skillet Recipe

Brunswick Stew

This is the stew to end all Southern stews. We’ll forgive you if you're unfamiliar with Brunswick stew, but don’t be surprised when we force a bowl upon you at suppertime. You just have to try it.
Make it: Chicken-and-Brisket Brunswick Stew Recipe

Burgoo

This spicy stew hails from Kentucky and can be made with what you have on hand—venison or rabbit, anyone?
Make it: Harry Young’s Burgoo Recipe

Chicken and Waffles

Is it breakfast? Lunch? Both? Neither? Chicken and waffles is whatever you want it to be, and we want it on our plates, asap.
Make it: Buttermilk Chicken and Waffles

Chicken-Fried Steak

Don’t even think of serving this sans gravy. It’s not just a dinner dish; it’s an experience.
Make it: Chicken-Fried Steak Recipe

Chowchow

Chowchow has fans across the country, but over the years, it has become a go-to Southern relish. All you need to do is pick a peck of pickled veg to make a batch of this chunky condiment.
Make it: Garlicky Collard Greens with Confetti Chowchow Recipe

Fried Green Tomatoes

Sure, tomatoes are great on salads and such, but have you ever had them when they’re dredged in flour and cornmeal and fried up hot?
Make it: Fried Green Tomatoes Recipe

Fried Chicken Gizzard

Not unlike a juicy green tomato, to fry it is to love it.
Make it: How to Fry Chicken

Fried Oreos

You haven’t lived until you’ve bitten into one of these spheroids of deep-fried dough with a gooey Oreo center. You can find them at any and all Southern state fairs.
Make it: Deep-Fried Oreos Recipe

Frito Pie

Another marvel of Southern culinary ingenuity—who knew a bag of Fritos could be the base of a savory pie?
Make it: Frito Pie Recipe

Grits

If you don’t understand the appeal of a bowl of good grits, you’re likely to be banished from any and every Southern breakfast table at which you have the good fortune to sit.
Make it: Buttermilk Stone-Ground Grits Recipe

Gumbo

This Louisiana stew is served over rice. If you’ve never tasted an authentic gumbo, we have just the recipe for you. Make it tonight. (Thank us later.)
Make it: Andouille Sausage and Smoked Chicken Gumbo Recipe

Hoppin’ John

Hoppin’ who? Hoppin’ John, friends. This dish is made of a mixture of black-eyed peas and rice with additions of onion and bacon or ham. It’s a favorite of the Lowcountry Carolinas and coastal Georgia.
Make it: Classic Hoppin’ John Recipe

Jambalaya

This particular Southern delicacy speaks for itself. It’s a Louisiana-favorite stew that’s packed with shrimp and Andouille sausage, and—always a bonus— it makes for an easy one-pot meal.
Make it: Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya Recipe

Kolache

Texans know and love kolaches, baked breads filled with meat or preserves which have origins in the Czech Republic and surrounding regions.
Make it: Spicy Sausage-and-Cheddar Kolaches Recipe

Livermush

Parts of North and South Carolina know and crave this food. (Southern Living Editors…not so much.) It’s a spiced blend of pig liver and cornmeal that's often eaten sliced or in sandwich form. For more info, check out this article on all things livermush.

Oyster Casserole

Maryland, we salute you. While plenty of people would be surprised to find an oyster casserole on a Thanksgiving table, we know what a perfect addition it is to our holiday spreads.
Make it: Oyster Casserole Recipe   

Pepper Jelly

Just add cream cheese and a stack of crackers to assemble a pepper jelly-based, fancy-ish, Southern-style snack.
Make it: Red Pepper Jelly Recipe

Pimiento Cheese

Oh mayo, how we love thee. Over the years, just three perfectly paired and subtly mixed ingredients—pimientos, Cheddar cheese, and plenty of mayo—have provided our Southern palates measureless joy.
Make it: Our Favorite Pimiento Cheese Video

Pineapple Casserole

Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it. When you read the ingredients list—pineapple, Cheddar cheese, crushed Ritz crackers—you may be tempted to pass on this particular dish, but don’t you dare. Mind your manners and start scooping.
Make it: Pineapple Casserole Recipe

Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet potatoes and marshmallows. Ok, we admit it: This pair doesn’t make a bit of sense—until you take a bite, that is.
Make it: Classic Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe

Sweet Tea

Ask for tea in the South, and it’s coming to you sweet. If you’re ordering and you want your tea unsweeted, you have to say so. (You've been warned.)
Make it: Classic Southern Sweet Tea Video

Tater Tot Casserole

When you know, you know. And Southerners know that tater tots belong in our casseroles at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, please and thank you.
Make it: Tater Tot Breakfast Bake Recipe

WATCH: Southern Living Editors React to Livermush

What classically Southern dishes divide the diners at your family functions and backyard barbecues? Let us know your favorite Southern dishes.