Welcome to part 1 of an open-ended series of articles that will be dedicated to the numerous cuisines which are either Southern staples or unique varieties specific to the Carolinas. Whatever the case, no visit to the Carolinas would be complete without experiencing at least some of these treats. If you are planning a vacation to either North or South Carolina in the future, be sure to find a way to incorporate these culinary pleasures into your plans. You won’t be sorry!
Before we begin let’s first establish that the totality of items that could be covered under this topic is quite large and couldn’t adequately be covered in just one blog article. We will cover three items each time, in no particular order except for maybe the first one…
Is a true Southern beverage that would make us absolutely negligent if it wasn’t the first item on our list. No trip to ANYWHERE in the South would be complete without enjoying a properly made glass of this refreshing elixir of the South. Up until recently you could never find sweet tea at a restaurant above the Mason-Dixon line, but a few national fast food chains have incorporated it into their menus so now generic sweet tea is available almost everywhere. Hopefully the wide availability of this delicacy has finally put to rest the awkward situation that happens when you ask for sweet tea outside of the South and people say “We have regular tea and you can just add sugar”. As a true Carolinian knows, there is a difference between sweet tea and sweetened regular tea! It is important to note that not all sweet teas are created equally. While you might have had a McTea in California, this is not the same as a sweet tea made by a southerner in someone’s home. Our suggestion is this – if you are visiting the Carolinas, try to find a local that will share some homemade sweet tea with you. If you can’t arrange that, try a local restaurant that isn’t a large chain; a local Mom & Pop shop should do just fine. In that scenario in addition to some great tea, you will also get a great meal.
Often referred to as the caviar of the south, boiled peanuts are common place at festivals, fairs, and roadside stands. If you are lucky you can find a vendor boiling them right there on the spot. It is not the prettiest of food, but don’t judge them until you try them. Unfortunately this is a polarizing snack, you are either going to love them or not care for them. Either way you won’t know until you try them, so you should taste-test them to get the full Southern experience. If you are out driving around seeing the many sights in the Carolinas, you will likely pass several roadside stands offering up their take on this standard. There is usually someone boiling peanuts at the parking area for the Wildcat Wayside trail in Cleveland, South Carolina. You could grab some peanuts and enjoy a nice walk through the woods to a couple of waterfalls. In our opinion, this is not a bad way to spend an afternoon.
For over 100 years, Dukes has been the gold standard of mayonnaise and is a Carolina favorite. From its humble beginnings in 1917 in Greenville, South Carolina, the recipe has remained unchanged because why change something that is perfect? Yeah, it is that good. A bit of a warning, whatever mayonnaise you currently use will quickly become irrelevant after you have Dukes. While it does have a wide distribution area, it isn’t available everywhere; after you fall in love with it, you might not be able to get it when you return home. Don’t worry, you can probably order it online and have it shipped. Similar to our suggestion for finding the best sweet tea, the best way to taste this treat would be to find a Carolinian who will make you a homemade sandwich with a healthy helping of Dukes on it. In our house, an open jar is quickly an empty jar. If you can’t arrange for a homemade sandwich, that local Mom & Pop store will have some Dukes and will gladly make you the best sandwich you have ever had.
Watch for additional Carolina cuisine favorite on future articles. In the meantime, drop us a comment on your favorite foods from the Carolinas.