Oil – A Requirement for Southern Cooking
By Contributing Food Expert Shelia King
When thinking of traditional southern cooking, one probably envisions images of steaming bacon and a side of grits, or fried chicken and a basket of steak fries sitting on a picnic table. Family, friends, neighbors and co-workers alike all sit around and enjoy lively conversation and great food.
Still as an adult, I can remember a tin can filled with fried bacon drippings sitting on top of the stove in most homes in the South. Many of these tin cans had a built-in strainer to make sure only the good stuff, grease, got to the bottom of the can. A couple of tablespoons of grease from this can were the start of many delicious meals such as fried pork chops, cube steaks and of course we cannot forget gravy smothered in onions.
Many of us graduated from the tin can and moved on to other healthier alternatives such as vegetable, canola or olive oil. Olive oil is my favorite for stir fries or cooking an egg. Canola oil or vegetable oil are great baking cakes/cookies due to lack of flavor, affordable prices and of course, the overall benefit to your health. Like many other traditions where eating habits have evolved, the foundation of southern dishes had to change as well. With a few tweaks to the basics, you can adapt to a healthier lifestyle without giving up the food you love.
Here are a few other basic suggestions.
When baking, you can substitute a stick of margarine for a stick of butter. Although you saved on cost by using margarine, the flavor and texture of the baked goods will not be not same.
I recently started using coconut oil for cooking. I wish someone had told me that all coconut oils are not created the same before I made my first purchase. Coconut oil can be used in the kitchen in place of olive oil, but I recommend one with no taste or aroma such as a refined expeller pressed for medium or high heat.
In the end, I recommend doing research so your decision will be based on your personal taste preferences.