As a catch-all, the term ‘Deep South’ fails to convey the diversity of cooking on offer from the marshy, shellfish-rich bayou to the barbecue-mad Carolinas. The best flavours come with a story going back generations — a cheap way around rationing, a reaction to Prohibition or a canny way to use milk that’s gone sour. Often, you’ll hear this tale, unsolicited, after you’ve ordered. Chefs worldwide have co-opted and elevated the South’s greatest hits, but they never taste as good as when served simply with a ‘Hey y’all’ in the shade of an oak.
1. Café du Monde, New Orleans, Louisiana
Many of us are caught at some point in New Orleans with white powder on our face. It’s the beignets, silly, the world’s most moreish doughnut-style treats, dusted with more icing sugar than seems decent. Café du Monde has sold them for what seems like forever; at least, since the Acadians first brought the recipe down from Canada, in the mid-19th century anyway.
Top tip: The historic French Market location is open 24 hours. Come early to feed your jet lag and avoid the hordes, then watch the sun rise over the Mississippi.
2. Pecan Trail, Florence, South Carolina
If you want to experience the love small town America feels for its natural resources, visit Florence in November, when South Carolina’s mammoth pecans are literally falling from above. The town hosts its annual Pecan Festival the first Saturday, with eight live-music stages, a pie cook-off and attendance of roughly 100%. You can load up on pralines any time of year at Young Plantations or the Farmers’ Market.
Top tip: Peaches more your thing? Drive 30 minutes further to McLeod Farms in McBee for South Carolina’s finest, plumpest freestones.