Definition of the term Hillbilly
Hillbilly is a term referring to people who dwell in remote, rural, mountainous areas. In particular the term refers to residents of Appalachia and later the Ozarks in the United States. Usage of the term "Hillbilly" generally differs from other terms referring to rural people in the United States in that it can be used for mountain dwelling people anywhere but is generally not used to refer to rural people in non-mountainous areas.
Appalachian Mountain cuisine
Food served in the Appalachian Mountains differs slightly from other southern cuisine. Terrible travel conditions and poor roads limited most settlements to only foods that could be produced locally. Seafood, beyond the occasionally locally caught fish, was unheard of. Diets were almost meatless, except for wild game, particularly during the winter. Pigs were raised and the meat cured for later consumption, but often the meat was used as a flavoring instead of as the main course. For example, sausage was often cooked in small portions primarily to obtain grease for use in gravy instead of as a main course. Cornbread was eaten regularly since corn grew well locally. As flour became available, biscuits and johnny cakes became more popular. Salt was available, notably from Saltville, Virginia, but until black pepper appeared, few other seasonings were used.
Women in this area were often herbalists, and may used local plants in seasoning. Chicory, which could be grown locally, was a well known coffee substitute. Corn whiskey, milk, and water were available from the farm. Coffee, sugar, and tea were all slow to become available. Fruits that tend to be more popular in this area are berries and apples. Morel mushrooms and ramps (onions and onion relatives) are grown here but are less common in other parts of the South. In the mountains one may find ramp festivals and recipes for dishes like fruit dumplings and wilted lettuce with dressing.
Home canning is a strong tradition here as well. Dried pinto beans are a major staple food during the winter months. Typically they are served in a simple soup called soup beans. Kieffer pears were available and along with apples were used to make pear butter and apple butter. Canning included green beans (half-runners, snaps) as well as shelly beans (green beans that were more mature and had ripe beans along with the green husks). Also popular were bread and butter pickles, pickled beets, and chow-chow (commonly called "chow"). Tomatoes were canned in large numbers. Along with sausage gravy, tomato gravy, a roux thinned with tomatoes, was very popular.
Southern Cuisine of Mountain dwelling people
Mountain dwelling was very common for not only mountain men but it was very common for large families in the mountains as well.
With the exception of coffee, food supplies many times duplicated the diet of native tribes in various locations. Fresh red meat, fowl, and fish were generally available. Wild game hunting and trapping was the source of the meat. Fresh water was always available at pure mountain steams. Some plant foods, such as fruit and berries, were easy for the men to harvest. Mountain people had plenty of time for food preparation, such as roots, dried meat, herb gathering and gardening but this was and is no easy chore.
Fire Side Cooking
Fire side cooking was the only way to go and we can compare that to Barbecuing and grilling as we know it today. We all know how delicious food tastes when cooked on the grill. Hillbillies and mountain dwellers ate this way all the time.
Black cast iron pots and skillets were perfect for fire side cooking. Southerners even now sware by how much better food cooks and tastes when cooked in cast iron. It holds the heat really good.
Mountain dwellers didn't have the convence to drive into town nor did they want to. Most loved living in the mountains far away from civilization and loved living with nature. They all took pride in knowing when and where to gather their herbs and roots and exactly how to grow them too.
When single old timers (mountain man) was traveling the land on foot there was no time for preparation so it was very common for the men to obtain food supplies from tribes through trading.
The Modern Cuisine of the Southern United States
As an important feature of Southern culture, the cuisine of the South is often described as one of its most distinctive traits. Popular sayings include "Food is Love" and "If it ain't fried it ain't cooked".
Southern culinary culture has readily adopted Native American influences.
Corn meal mush / cornfritters / hominy / cornbread / brunswick stew
are a few of the more common examples of foods adopted directly from southeastern Indians. Nevertheless, a great many regional varieties have also developed.
The variety of cuisines range from
Cajun and Creole,
traditional antebellum fare,
all types of seafood,
and Texas, Carolina and Memphis styles of Barbecue.
Today's Non-alcoholic beverages
Non-alcoholic beverages of choice include "sweet tea" and various soft drinks, many of which had their origins in the South (e.g. Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Mountain Dew, Cheerwine, and Dr Pepper). In many parts of Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Texas and other parts of the South, the term "soft drink" or "soda" is discarded in favor of "Coke" (though this could be seen as stating a preference for a brand, though the actual soft drink acquired is variable). Some people use the term "co-cola" when ordering a soft drink. In most restaurants, when someone orders "coke" or "co-cola", it is understood to bring whatever brand of cola the establishment offers. Lagers and Pilsners are generally preferred to heavier/darker beers due to the predominance of hot climate.
Moonshine is a common term for home-distilled alcohol, especially in places where this production is illegal.
The name is often assumed to be derived from the fact that moonshine producers and smugglers would often work at night (i.e. under the light of the moon) to avoid arrest for producing illegal liquor.
Moonshine continues to be produced in the U.S., mainly in Appalachia. The product is often called "white lightning" because it is not aged and is generally sold at high alcohol proof, often bottled in canning jars
Traditional African American Southern Food
Traditional African American Southern food is often called soul food. While not being spicy as is cajun food, it does tend to use lots of herbs, flour, and can also be called stick-to your ribs food. Of course, most Southern cities and even some smaller towns now offer a wide variety of cuisines of other origins such as Chinese, Italian, French, Middle Eastern, as well as restaurants still serving primarily Southern specialties, so-called "home cooking" establishments.
Some notable "home cooking" meals include:
fried chicken, "corn on the cob," pot liquor, vegetable stew, chicken and dumplings, and country fried steak.
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How can I Celebrate National Hillbilly Week?
- Get outside and get to grilling! - Hillbillies love to BBQ any kind of varmint they can catch. But if you live in the modern world you may like to visit our Grilling & BBQ Directory to learn great grilling tips and recipes.
- Have a Hillbilly Party! - Hillbilly parties are really fun, kids and adults alike get into the theme of Hillbilly dress. Pull out those old jeans and work overhauls yall. Grab that old hat in the closet and put it all on. Don't bother about the shoes, just go barefooted for this party.