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McIntosh 1

Cameron McIntosh
Dr. Holt
Contemporary Literature
22 April 2016
Food is found everywhere from the most lighthearted and positive celebrations all the
way down to the deepest and saddest of times. No matter what the cause food seems to make its
way into every crack and crevice of our daily lives without us even recognizing it. Its
requirement as a necessity for survival is a definite one that cannot be ignored, but somehow it
goes farther than that. In looking at food as an object, it likes to rear its roasted pigs head
throughout southern texts in an almost passive aggressive fashion surely due to being hung over
an open flame, as well as declaring itself as a place marker or checkpoint if you will in the daily
process of living. Specifically southern food is found to have quirks not only in the seasoning but
also in the time, place, and importance of each meal. In general Southern food has power close to
that of familial love, but it is only because of the composition, both emotionally and ingredient
wise, that it is able to hold the power it does in literature as well as reality.
In the rural south food is not simply picked up from the local grocery store and brought
home to the dinner table, and that is due to the economics of the region. People with large
amounts of space will tend to make a farm out of their acreage in order to support the family.
Several of these farms will serve as livestock ranches as well as agricultural land depending on
the ground surface. The lifestyle of the people on these farms is even controlled by the food they
eat as in Everyday Use where one such farmer can work outside all day, breaking ice to get
water for washing [and] can eat pork liver cooked over the open fire minutes after it comes

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steaming from the hog (1). In addition to the work being in connection with the food, the type
of food or parts of an animal that is eaten act as a gauge on how rugged or resourceful someone
is. While a proper southern belle may predisposed to her wonderful casserole and delightful
vanilla pound cake with caramel icing, the burlier farm hand is perfectly content with the
gizzards and a moon pie.
In addition to the actual food being an object of importance, the process of making the
dish is directly related to how coveted the meal is. As seen again in Everyday Use some will
knock a bull calf straight in the brain between the eyes with a sledgehammer and [have] the
meet hung up to chill before nightfall (1). The arduous ordeal of processing the animal is the
exact reason why bar-be-que meat is so much more noteworthy in our minds than a simple
grilled chicken breast or the average salad. The process of making bar-be-que is so painstaking in
comparison that it seemingly improves the taste over everything else. Other people on the other
hand may slave for hours over a custard to make it just the right thickness. I know this to be a
fact as I have been both the one dragging deer out of fields as well as the chef of the Christmas
egg custard in my family. Regardless of what exactly the meal is, the meal itself has a way of
defining the person that makes it.
After the majority of foods are made several are eaten around the dining room table, but
another majority of them are brought to a plethora of different events as anything from a ticket in
to a complementary side. This style of event is seen in its glory at the riverside revival that serves
as the centerpiece of The River by Flannery OConnor. Each food brought to the event has a
meaning therefore the foods ultimately define the event. This was the case at my grandparents
church where the Friday luncheon started as a pot luck, but quickly migrated to fried chicken
Friday after the arrival of a delectable patter of homemade fried chicken. However on the other

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side of the equation there are some events that simply call for a certain food such as cake at
celebrations or the never ending sea of casseroles shortly after a death in a family. This could all
possibly be due to the fact that my grandparents get so bored with themselves they are driven to
cooking everything in sight, but I would like to think that food as an object either has or spurs
some sort of value other than the biological necessity for nutrition.
After food is presented the eating commences, but similar to everything else there is
separation in regard to who eats when. Most home dining consists of a buffet line of sorts
presented in the kitchen for all to make their way through before migrating their way over to the
table. In general in the south one of two scenarios will take place. In the first scenario men will
be fed first with the hardiest meal available while the women and children take whatever is left
on the table. The women do all the cooking in order to keep the men strong and healthy to do the
more labor intensive jobs. In the second scenario the men act as gentlemen therefore allowing the
ladies to make their plates along with the children before they take their place in line. The latter
order commonly occurs after the men work to make the main course of the meal rather than the
Once all the humans have gotten their fill the leftovers are dealt with in a variety of
fashions. Either they are preserved and eaten at a later time, a midnight snack perhaps, or they
are given to the animals. In fact a major separation between a lap dog and a hunting dog is the
amount of table food they are fed. This is seen commonly in my North Carolina family where
Toby, a white schnoodle, flaunts his way over to the dinner table to receive morsels of everything
from red velvet cake all the way to fillet mignon. On the other had the hunting dogs are kept on a
strict performance diet that allows for nothing but healthy ingredients, and consequently less
handmade effort invested in exchange for the cost of the high end dog food.

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Regardless of exactly how much effort that is put into a meal it still holds value of at least
some sort. If the meal comes from a fiery spit or a convection oven there is an importance to it
that is unsurpassed by anything else. From the point where a rack of ribs is drowned in sweet
bar-be-que sauce, to the point where it becomes bolus, all the way to digestion it holds much
more than delectable flavor. As a human race food has been used to defeat enemies and
congratulate victors, to poison people and to bribe, even to temp or to twist the conscious.
However in the south food gains an additional social capability like no other that is unsurpassed
by anything less than wearing white after Labor Day.

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Works Cited
Bilger, Burkhard. "True Grits." The New Yorker: n. pag. The New Yorker. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
Claiborne, Craig, and Pierre Franey. "REGIONAL COOKING." The New York Times: n. pag.
The New York Times. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
O'Connor, Flannery. The River. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
Sharpless, R. (2002). Traditional southern cooking - not gone with the wind. Phi Kappa Phi
Forum, 82(3), 10-14. Retrieved from <
Sifton, Sam. "The Improbable Rise of Mississippi Roast." The New York Times: n. pag. The New
York Times. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
Walker, Alice. Everyday Use. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 1994. Print.
Welty, Eudora. Death of a Traveling Salesman. New York: Literary Classics of the United
States, 1998. Print.
Willis, Virginia. Bon Apptit, Y'all. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2008. Print.