“New Southern Cooking” is a culinary trend that developed during the final three decades of the twentieth century in the American South, and it continued to evolve in the early twenty-first century. For the first time since the South became impoverished in the aftermath of the Civil War, a new affluence provided the climate to experiment with new foods or prepare traditional fare in new ways. An example is grits, a breakfast food cooked for centuries with water, being cooked instead with liquid substitutes such as milk, cream, or broth and served as a delicious part of any meal.
When Jimmy Carter of Georgia was elected president in 1976, southern cuisine came to the forefront. Peanuts, tomatoes, pimentos, hot and sweet multicolored peppers, grits, pecans, rice, greens, corn, chicken, pork, pepper jelly, turnips, shrimp, grouper, flounder, catfish, and other standbys of rural life were combined with newly available foods such as zucchini and Cornish hens. Fresh herbs, widely used in antebellum plantation cooking, reappeared, along with other antebellum foods. There was a move away from frying to techniques considered more healthy and easier for the busy cook. The result keeps and enhances the flavors and mood of traditional southern cooking—less formal, family oriented, flavorful—and yet encompasses the new.
Southern Living Magazine, community cookbooks, and local newspaper food editors such as Lillian Marshall of the Louisville Courier-Journal and Anne Byrne of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution used recipes from locals and professionals that reflected both the changing foods available in the South and the new uses of traditional southern ingredients. The result set a direction for a broadly rich cuisine that is considered unique in America, documented in Nathalie Dupree’s 1986 book New Southern Cooking, which coined the term. South Carolina ETV joined in airing the fifty-two-part weekly public television series of the same name, and the concept of “New Southern Cooking” became accepted and expanded by chefs and home cooks in South Carolina.
Lowcountry cuisine in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries has added new dimensions to southern cuisine and continues to amplify “New Southern Cooking” in an unprecedented way. R. W. Apple, Jr., writing in the New York Times, credited Louis Osteen as the leader of the South Carolina restaurateurs practicing “New Southern Cooking.” Other creative chefs of that era included Philip Bardin in Edisto and Donald Barickman and Frank Lee, now in Charleston. Cookbooks and articles using the term have now been published.
Barickman, Donald. Magnolias Southern Cuisine. Charleston, S.C.: Wyrick & Company, 1995.
Byrn, Anne. Cooking in the New South: A Modern Approach to Traditional Southern Fare. Atlanta: Peachtree Publishers, 1994.
Dupree, Nathalie. New Southern Cooking. New York: Knopf, 1986.
Osteen, Louis. Louis Osteen’s Carolina Cuisine. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin, 1999.
Taylor, John. The New Southern Cook. New York: Bantam, 1995.