A good pantry isn’t built in a day. But with a few key ingredients, you should be able to put together the backbone of a pantry; something to give you a head-start when the mood strikes to make pad thai, or pasta alla carbonara, or—because why in Sam Hill not—some sinfully crunchy Southern fried chicken.
Now, the Southern pantry has its guts and its charms. In the “guts” category, you’ve got items like grits, fatback, chicory, pecans, lard, rice and hot sauce. In the “charms” category I put things that sound like they’ve been plucked out of Dr. Seuss (instead of the ground): scuppernongs, mirliton, muscadines, you get the idea. Between the two pantries—and with lots of regional variation—edible magic is made on a daily basis across the Southern United States.
But it can also be made in your home, Southern or otherwise. Yes indeed, the comfort foods and roots-deep recipes of the South can be yours to have and share, even if you don’t have a wide sunny porch or Matthew McConaughey’s honey-drip drawl. You may not be able to get your hands on scruppernongs (a variety of Muscadine), but lots of Southern staples are available around the country. Here are a few to get you started; cook a few recipes, and the pantry will naturally expand.