America’s southern states are famous for the comfort food which has become their culinary staple. Using influences from African, French, Native American and British cuisine and making use of ingredients they have in abundance (legumes, seafood, game, etc.), states such as Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee serve-up soul food by the bucket load.
When enjoying a Lower Mississippi River cruise, you will travel through these states on a journey between New Orleans and Memphis. Whether on board your traditional paddle steamer or whilst in port, here are some classic dishes you should try if you get the chance.
There are two great ways to enjoy shrimp in Louisiana, where it’s very popular and abundant. The first of these, barbequed shrimp, can be very confusing as it doesn’t actually have much to do with a barbeque. It’s not cooked on one and doesn’t really resemble the BBQ flavour we know from sauces in Britain. However, it is delicious. The shrimp is coated in southern spices and then fried with butter, lemon juice and Worcester sauce.
Alternatively, you can choose to enjoy your shrimp with grits. This is a dish that originated in New Orleans and is usually made using jumbo shrimp. If you’re not already aware, grits are a side dish made from ground corn that is then boiled.
You may have heard of biscuits and gravy, a dish commonly eaten for breakfast in places across Tennessee, but you may not know what it is. The term ‘biscuit’ is used differently here, so don’t expect something that resembles a custard cream or a digestive. Instead, these biscuits have a bread-like consistency and are more like scones. They are topped with a gravy made from pork dripping, milk and flour, and which usually has chunks of sausage or bacon in it.
If you’re immediately thinking about a certain fast food chain then you are going to be in for a treat when you try the real thing. Fried chicken is a staple across all of the southern states and is served with various levels of heat and spice. This popular dish is usually accompanied by mash potatoes and greens.
Catfish is farmed, fished and fried in great numbers across the southern states and so it is likely to be on the menu wherever you go during your Mississippi River cruise. In fact, Mississippi itself is the largest producer of farmed catfish in the USA. Mostly served as a fried fillet, it can also be chopped up, battered and fried. Alternatively, it can be baked and accompanied by spring onions, mushrooms and parmesan cheese.
Conceived in Louisiana but influenced by Spanish paella and French Provencal cooking, there is no dish that has the power to warm your heart more than jambalaya. This one-pot classic mixes meat, seafood, rice and vegetables to create something that can be passed around and shared amongst friends. Traditionally, a smoked sausage such as andouille is used for the meat, whilst crawfish and shrimp usually make up the seafood elements.
Proving that southern cuisine does desserts just as well as it does hearty main courses, there is a variety of different pies that you may like to enjoy at the end of your meal. From readily available pecans to the pumpkin alternative of sweet potato, just about anything is used to make a delicious pie in this part of America. Another classic is Mississippi mud pie, a chocolate dessert with a cookie-ladened crust that is perfect for anyone with a giant sweet tooth.
These deep-fried choux pastry parcels were brought to the US by the Arcadians who migrated south from Canada, having moved across from Europe. Popularised in Louisiana, they were even named the state’s official doughnut in 1986. They are usually given a liberal dusting of icing sugar and served with fruit or jam.
If reading this has made your stomach sit up and pay attention, we have some fantastic Lower Mississippi River cruises available. Call us now and we will help you find the ideal itinerary.
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