For my last birthday, I asked my family for a celebration centered around food. To this end, we put together a simple but elegant menu. Part of the menu involved hand-peeled potatoes— so the six of us gathered around the table to peel in familial unison. In other words, we were forming a new addition to our food traditions.
Our food always comes from a long history. And North Carolina, in particular, has a rich culinary lineage. Its tradition has influenced various modern favorites you might recognize. As a result, its food impact range from internationally-renowned sauces to barbecue techniques and other regional signatures.
Here is a short list of North Carolina food traditions that continue in the Tar Heel State today, including a few that have impacted cooking styles and methods globally.
Three Classic Food Traditions From North Carolina
Ketchup may appear an odd place to start for food traditions from North Carolina. However, this infamous sauce has journeyed a long historical road. From its origins as a sauce based on mushrooms or walnuts, ketchup eventually took on a tomato-based foundation. What’s more, versions of early tomato recipes for ketchup appeared in North Carolina in the early 19th century.
2. Vinegar-based Whole Hog
The art and science of barbecue cooking are ancient practices. Applying the barbecue method to an entire hog is similarly primordial. Cooking a whole hog did not necessarily start North Carolina — or any specific region. However, we’d argue that food traditions from North Carolina largely influence the current popularity of the whole hog barbecue. Historians have traced the use of vinegar-based sauces in whole hog barbecue to North Carolina, after all.
3. Gullah Geechee Cuisine
Food traditions from North Carolina have to give homage to the Gullah Geechee people. Much of their now-famous cuisine is attributed to areas in South Carolina, but the Gullah Geechee settled in lands ranging from Jacksonville, FL to North Carolina. Brought as slaves to America for their expertise in cultivating rice, the Gullah Geechee people’s traditions have a lasting impact on Southern food.
Discover More About NC Food
This list is only a brief look at our food traditions. But it’s a fitting intro to NC’s variety of contributions to food culture worldwide.