10 Food-based Traditions from the American South


Shrimp and Grits on Christmas Eve

Another popular Southern holiday dish (that's also found its way onto plates throughout the country) is shrimp and grits. You'd be hard-pressed to find a food more American than grits. Historians trace grits back to the first Virginia colonists, who dined on the cracked grains with American Indians, who called it "rockahominie," which later evolved to "hominy" [source: Dupree].

In South Carolina, shrimp season begins in May and ends in December. No one's really sure who invented the shrimp and grits dish, but a Charlestonian might tell you it was created long ago by local shrimpers, who mixed shrimp and grits with a little bit of bacon fat for breakfast, then headed out on the water [source: Dupree]. Today, shrimp and grits is a popular dish for breakfast, lunch or dinner. And current versions of shrimp and grits incorporate varied ingredients like butter, high quality stock, hot sauce and spices.

When a dish has such a long history and is passed down from generation to generation, it generally becomes a holiday tradition. Therefore, many Southerners eat shrimp and grits at Christmas or New Year's. During the holidays, you just want to eat comfort food. And it doesn't get more comfortable than good old-fashioned grits!