The food of my childhood, the food of Southern poor white trash

I am having a hard time with all the visceral disgust being aimed at the show Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, because so much of it seems to be just hate aimed at Southern poor people.  I suppose I understand that the behavior of a family from the rural south  is much different than the behavior of most of the viewers, but I don’t really understand what’s so offensive about it.

The show, if you’re unfamiliar, follows a little girl, who calls herself Honey Boo Boo Child, and her family as they go to pageants (they are Toddlers & Tiaras alums), coupon, and go to things like the redneck olympics.  They are from rural Georgia and are not the typical people who get their own reality programming — the mother is 33 with 4 daughters and a granddaughter (with 3 thumbs) and she weighs 309 pounds; she is unapologetic about all of this.

Today someone on Facebook, who I am very good friends with and like very much, posted:

Flipping channels caused me to land on this damned Honey Boo Boo thing, so out of curiosity I decided hey, why not see what happens in five minutes? In five minutes the little girl says “it’s been a while since I done had roadkill in my belly.” So I guess they’re using ground beef to make “sketti.” The sauce, though. The sauce? The sauce is butter and ketchup melted together in the microwave. “It’s an old family recipe.” No shit? Butter and ketchup? Margarine. Margarine and ketchup. An old family recipe? Grandma passed that down, did she? DON’T TELL NO ONE THE SECRET! Then they throw the noodles against the kitchen cabinets to see if they stick, and scream at everyone to let them know it’s done. This family is an abomination. Oh, and some of the kids are eating out of margarine tubs. People watch this? And like it? I hate this country so fucking much sometimes.

I can understand thinking the show is “rednecksploitation”, but I am really surprised at the amount of vitriol that is aimed at that family — and I find it genuinely upsetting.  I know that’s silly, it’s a TV show, but it feels personal and like I should be ashamed of how I was raised and who I was as a kid.  I totally ate that way growing up.  I haven’t had this particular recipe, which is known as “depression spaghetti”, but I definitely ate out of old food containers and threw noodles on the cabinet to see if they were done.

I wasn’t poor, but I grew around people who were poor or had been raised poor, and they eat some things that not-poor people find weird.  I didn’t learn that until I was older.  So, I’ve come up with a list of things that I ate as a kid or people I knew ate, I’m curious which ones are weird.  Y’all eat any of this?  Y’all eat anything weird too?

  • Mayonnaise sandwiches
  • Ketchup sandwiches
  • Stale cornbread in milk
  • Saltines in milk
  • Hot dog and baked bean casserole
  • Tomato sandwiches
  • Cows tongue
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwiches
  • Mayonnaise and banana sandwiches
  • Peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches
  • Peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwiches
  • Tuna noodle casserole
  • Vienna sausages wrapped in American cheese
  • American cheese and mayonnaise sandwiches
  • American cheese garlic toast
  • Hot dog meat sloppy joes
  • Saltines in thousand island dressing
  • Canned fruit with Cool Whip
  • Coke with salted peanuts (yes, peanuts in the coke)
  • Mashed potatoes with ketchup
  • Eggs with ketchup
  • Peanut butter and pimiento cheese sandwiches
  • Pimiento cheese and tomato pie

EDIT: I’m adding more as I remember them

The food of my childhood, the food of Southern poor white trash

187 thoughts on “The food of my childhood, the food of Southern poor white trash

  1. 1

    I had about half of the combinations you listed. I would call my upbringing with my single mom, brother and grandmother extreme lower middle class. Sometimes people eat what they have or can have.
    I don’t watch honey Boo Boo because I don’t watch reality TV in general but it seems to be more “real” than shows like real housewives or some other shit.

    1. 1.1

      There has been some response insisting that they shouldn’t eat like that because they’re clearly making more money by being on the show. People don’t seem to understand that you don’t change habits of a lifetime so easily — and most people who eat these foods actually like them, more or less.

      I definitely still eat some of them.

      1. There’s also, of course, the way that their entire lives are doubtless run by the producers of the ‘reality show’. I doubt they get much say in what they eat when the cameras are rolling.

  2. 3

    I don’t think hot dog and baked bean casserole is all that weird considering they sell cans of it at the grocery store.

    Definitely remember tuna noodle casserole.

    I do still love banana sandwiches, both versions. (My favorite variation now is Miracle Whip & honey mustard banana sandwiches.)

    (I grew up mostly in MO, and not really poor, but my mother is from Alabama so there’s some Southern influence. Especially with my grandmother, from rural AL, living with us for many years. Bearing in mind I’m disappointingly Yankee for my mother’s taste. (Yankees do lots of silly things, like put butter on corn bread! Or prefer to call their mother ‘Mom’ rather than ‘Mama’.)

    1. 3.2

      Butter on cornbread? I’m pretty sure that’s the standard not the exception. The cornbread that I grew up with was the savory kind which would sometimes come cooked with cracklin (Crispy bacon fat chunks). Butter is fantastic on that kind of CB. The other style I’m not that fond of…The sweet ‘cakey’ style…It’s just so…meh.

    1. 4.1

      (Cat jumped on my hand and made me click submit, I swear)

      I’d cook the noodles and pour whatever bottle of sauce (or hell, chinese duck sauce packets if that was all I had left).

      There’s nothing “gross” on that list of foods you eat. I don’t particularly care for catsup but I think it’s fucking ridiculous to pass judgement on people for that.

      I also think it’s ridiculous to pass judgement on people for saving margarine tubs. Those things are pretty tough and easy to replace.

      This isn’t “redneck” behavior. This is frugal, poor person behavior. There’s a writer who is constantly talking about how hard it is to get away from the paycheck to paycheck lifestyle, even after you’re making enough to actually live comfortably.

      I dunno. I hate reality TV. I think it’s just a cheap and easy self esteem boost for people who want to think that they’re doing so well just because they’re better than these guys on TV.

        1. My boyfriend, who is from the Pacific Northwest, got me into saving large yogurt containers when we were done with the yogurt, and we use them for all kinds of things. I don’t really see how saving containers is redneck behavior (yes, totally classist comment to assume it is) and I think all of us have had less than proud moments eating out of any and all containers with any and all utensils, depending on whether or not we felt like doing dishes or heating up that can of spaghetti-o’s.

          1. Re-using containers is environmentally friendly. Plus many such containers are actually better/sturdier than most lunch boxes or specially-made-for-fridge/freezer-storage containers I’ve ever seen for sale.

  3. 5

    Mashed potatoes with ketchup
    Eggs with ketchup

    I’ve had both before and I had a lower-middle-class suburban Northeastern Jewish upbringing. Lots of people eat eggs with ketchup, actually.

    Peanut butter and banana sandwiches
    Peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwiches

    A lot of my peers ate these. They weren’t considered “poor food,” more like “kid food.” Peanut butter plus banana would be pretty nutritious, especially if the bread weren’t white.

    Tuna noodle casserole

    That used to be pretty common fare, too, not strictly for the poor.

    Cow’s tongue is a delicacy, but that depends largely on social context. I first had it at a very nice bar mitzvah. I most frequently see it these days frozen, in the Chinese supermarket.

    The rest of the list, I haven’t had.

  4. 6

    …Eggs with ketchup is ‘weird’ ?

    (Raised upper-middle-class here, though I got the weird fundie food rules instead: no ‘unclean’ meat, no spices, etc. I did make mayo sandwiches as a kid, but I thought that was my own idea…)

  5. 7

    I haven’t seen it yet. The women I work with really enjoy it because it’s more relevant to them than shows featuring women who just drink and fight with other neighborhood women. It’s unfortunate that there’s vitriol toward a family just for being poor. That attitude is very common though.
    One of my favorite poor kid meals was boxed mac and cheese (generic brand)with cut up spam.

  6. 8

    I grew up poor in New Zealand and many of these are familiar. The cow’s tongue in particular brings back memories as my mother took great delight in referring to it as “bum licker” in order to see the disgusted expression on my face. Luckily there was nobody there with a video camera at the time.

    1. 9.1

      I was thinking the same thing! We would get canned fruit and cool whip for a snack, but my grandma would make “pink stuff”, which is basically fruit, jello mix, cool whip, and cottage cheese, for special dinners.

      We would also eat fresh strawberries with powdered sugar, and when I got older I was informed that this was weird. I still think it’s awesome, and powdered sugar costs a lot less than whipped cream, or even whipped topping.

      1. I do a lot of cooking, and as I’ve been getting better at it over the years, I’ve cooked more from scratch, with higher-quality ingredients when I can afford them. So let’s say I’ve got some foodie sensibilities, and most of that list doesn’t appeal to me.

        That said, your list contains some things that are fairly common, reasonably nutritious, and even palatable. I get the impression that a lot of people, at least the ones who are doing relatively well these days, think that all meals should look like cookbook porn, be totally organic and free-range and local, etc. And a lot of them (especially women) struggle to create such meals regularly and feel guilty when they don’t.

        So a woman who doesn’t bother even though she’s on TV, who’s serving and eating foods that were unremarkable anywhere a few generations ago, as well as the obvious poverty foods — even though she no longer has to — that alone must stir up some serious class anxiety. Especially when so many people are in an economically precarious situation.

        1. That was probably the most erudite and thoughtful assessment of class-through-diet commentary that I am likely to read, here or elsewhere. My thanks, your perspective and well-crafted words have brightened my day (as they foster a positive outlook and empathy for human nature).

          1. Heh, thanks. Though a lot of ink and bytes have been spent on the subject, actually. Googling on “food classism” will turn up lots of reading material.

            This article is surprisingly good for Newsweek, although not perfect. Affluent liberal foodies are annoying, but the root of the problem is income inequality, and Newsweek wouldn’t want to upset its corporate owners too much.

            I should also mention that the mother’s weight is a major trigger of class anxiety. As the Newsweek piece mentions, obesity correlates with poverty in the U.S.

    1. 10.2

      Oh yeah, both of those were favourites growing up lower middle class in the Maritimes. And otherwise, my parents were the hippie weirdos who ate like tofu and wild produce and “ethnic” food that got me teased before foodies got the grocery stores all gentrified. My folks both came from pretty rednecky stock, though. Truth be told, tuna noodle casserole is pretty much the only thing I miss about being vegetarian. A lot of the rest of the list grosses me out, but that’s because I really dislike both ketchup and mayo.

      I’ve had roadkill before. A friend of a friend of mine’s (well-off but practical) parents hit a moose and somehow didn’t die or get hurt. So we ate moose spaghetti at her place. The mother who made it was a Cordon Bleu-trained chef.

      1. HappySadist, mayo makes me barf, and I’m not fond of American ketchup (high fructose corn syrup and water). When I was growing up, we had beans&rice (or beans&toast if there was bread), occasionally with cut-up hotdogs in it if there were hot dogs, or cut-up vegetables from the garden. “Comfort food” was ramen noodles, also with hot dogs or veggies.

          1. Beans and rice are dirt cheap, keep practically forever without refrigeration (uncooked, that is!), and you can eat them plain or add any kind of veggie or protein or sauce for endless variety. My mum used to make up a big pot on the weekends and keep the leftovers in the refrigerator, each night taking out a family-sized portion to reheat and add things to. Beans and rice got me through college with a $15/week food budget. Where I live now, if I tell people I eat beans & rice, they look at me like I’m crazy.

      1. Cyn

        If by tomato sandwiches you mean tomatoes still warm from the garden, sliced up and put on buttered (preferably homemade) bread, that’s not weird, sister, that’s goddamn delicious.

        (Little bit of salt on the tomato slices, too.)

        1. Tomato sandwiches are one of my favorite summer foods. My grandfather grew tomatoes to sell, so fresh off the vine tomatoes were a constant staple of my childhood. I haven’t had a good one in YEARS, though.

          However, I don’t use butter, I use Duke’s mayo. Bread, Duke’s, big fat slices of tomato, salt and pepper. Yum!

  7. 13

    Salt sandwiches. Mustard sandwiches. Cheese sandwiches where the slices of American cheese are actually the ‘bread’ and the only filling is mustard.
    Used milk (that is to say, the same bowl of milk used to ‘wet’ multiple bowls of cereal for multiple children). Multiple children sharing a single Wendy’s frosty. Kool-aid without any sugar (bleah!). Kool-Aid made with a couple dozen sugar packets ‘borrowed’ from the local Wendy’s. Graham cracker and syrup sandwiches. (Actually quite tasty!) Spaghetti with a ‘sauce’ of butter, oregano, and salt.

    Generic boxes of macaroni and cheese bought in 24-packs.

    You know, it’s those boxes of mac n cheese, and similar cheap, unhealthy food, that make me really understand why poor people can be overweight. The stuff is so cheap, and so terrible for you – a person could eat nothing but these and die of malnutrition even as they packed on the pounds.

    1. 13.2

      My father in law eats pbk (that’s peanut butter and kayro syrup) sandwiches all the time. He prefers corn syrup over honey on sandwiches. He’s an upper-middle class retired dentist and retired college professor, but his depression-era upbringing still influences his taste in food.

      He’s also responsible for my husband’s love of crackers in milk and cornbread in milk (although I had had cornbread in milk growing up, too).

  8. Rob

    What’s wrong with a tomato sandwich? Admittedly it is topped by tomato (salt/pepper to taste) on warm buttered toast, but really?

    Same with Tuna casserole. Pretty standard winter fare in this country for a quick easy meal. Even better as university students as it was dirt cheap to make and requires no real skill.

  9. 15

    I was one of four kids raised by a single mom, who worked two and sometimes three jobs to suppliment insufficient child support. We had plenty of meals consisting of hobo eggs (two or three scrambled eggs with diced scraps of vegetables and meat cooked in), or a single box of mac and cheese with a can of tuna sirred in, or just cereal, eaten dry because we had no milk. I know poverty.

    My mom worked very hard to not only keep a roof over our heads but to push us beyond where we were. She taught us manners. She taught us deportment. She taught us how to behave in a way that would help us get jobs when we got older. School was important, and she came down us hard and fast if she found out that we had been ditching class or slacking off on grades. We hated it, but very soon after moving out on our own, we realized just how valuable her efforts were. Her hard work paid off.

    What disturbs me about the show is the way the family seems to revel in their poverty. From what gets shown, it seems that they are waiting for hand-outs, making no effort whatsoever to improve their lives, all while screeching about not getting their hearts’ desires. They remind me of the street kids in my neighborhood, who heavily tattoo their arms, get half a dozen facial piercings, dred their hair, dress in thrift store cast offs… then spend their days aggressively panhandling because, oddly enough, no one is willing to hire them.

    I realize this is a cultural thing. I realize that it is very far from how I was raised. It just that I cannot imagine anyone actually wanting lives that made them look like special guests on Jerry Springer.

    1. 15.1

      I understand that impulse, but I think it’s misguided for a number of reasons.

      1. The family does support itself, dad has a job that supports the family, mom has had jobs in the past, and doing the show is probably the best (and only) way they can ensure their children are taken care of in the future (all the money from the show goes into trusts for the girls)

      2. They don’t live in a place where most people have the kind of manners you’re talking about or expects them from other people. Though in one episode the mother does bring a manners coach to the girls.

      3. Mama had her first kid at 15. You’re assuming she has the knowledge of all of this to even be able to teach it to her children.

    2. 15.2

      I’m not going to say I don’t have issues with the people in the show and how they act and how the whole thing is portrayed.

      But the rant that Ashley saw in her FB wasn’t about any of that. It feels like her friend has never had to survive that last day till paycheck with a bare cupboard. Has never had to look at something and say “hmm, can I re-purpose this and save a buck?”

    3. 15.3

      Gregory, your “hobo eggs” were our stir-fry, and they were a special treat when we got eggs. To this day, when I’m using up veggies in a stir-fry, I’ll scramble an egg in there for comfort food.

  10. 16

    Peanut butter and banana sandwiches are delicious, and pretty healthy if the peanut butter comes straight from a peanut grinder. Mum always bought it from a health food store where it made in front of you.

    Cheesy beans are the delish, and I always enjoyed frying up leftover potatoes, drowned in soy sauce and cheese. Amazing.

    My uni years saw me eating a lot of packet noodles – the asian food store sold them in boxes of 40 packets for AUD$8.

  11. 17

    I had a peanut butter and banana sandwich for lunch yesterday. Yum! Peanut butter and apple is also really good!

    My parents were both from the south. We moved to California when I was 8, but the food didn’t change much. Some of it was really good; some not so good looking back. Perfect, beautiful green beans: put in a big dollop of bacon grease from the can on the stove, and cook for 45 minutes…I don’t miss those.

    Anyone else have fried Spam to go with that mac n cheese?

  12. 18

    Potted Meat on Saltines.
    Peanut Butter Sandwiches dipped in Chocolate Milk.
    Mustard Sardines on Saltines.
    Bologna and Cheese Sandwiches.
    Pork and Beans.
    Velveeta (pseudo-cheese) sandwiches with lettuce and mayo.
    Biscuits and Gravy (Not healthy, but if you have to spend your Saturday morning lobbing coal from the local river, or cutting and splitting wood all day to stay warm at night- it made sense.)

    The list could go on and on. Fortunately we had enough arable land to grow a couple acres of good crops (unless the river flooded and washed them out). We canned beans, dug potatoes, shucked corn and preserved what ever we could. We canned honey from our apiary and dug sassafras root for tea.

    My mother died when I was young, and my father was left to raise four kids under eight years old on his own. We ate what we were given- there was no choice.

    Most of us went on to get college degrees. We weren’t stupid people, just desperate and we never took food stamps.

    1. 18.1

      Potted meat made regular appearances as lunch meat, but I’m a purist when it comes to bologna. Mayo only on my bologna sandwich, please. And our sandwich bread came from the day old bread store and was almost always wheat or whole grain because it takes longer to go moldy.

  13. 19

    My mother definitely saved(es) all sorts of containers, margerine and otherwise. Good for conveniently storing leftovers. (Still useful for sending leftovers home with kids after the holidays, too…)
    And, especially as a lazy bachelor, I’d find it easier to just warm up the container and eat from it as get another dish dirty.

    So while I haven’t (and am very unlikely to) watched the show, I’d agree that those particular criticisms don’t seem very fair and the vitriol is rather silly. But I don’t think vilifying the poor is new, nor dealing with other cultures’ tastes in food.

  14. 20

    i was definitely not brought up in the lower middle class (i’d put myself firm center, used to think i was more upper, till i met my boyfriend’s family…) but my mother was lower middle class. i’ve noticed there’s a difference between the way she cooks (or rather, used to cook, until she started working), and my boyfriend’s mom cooks. where my mom makes burrito casserole (which is just tortilla and beans and beef and cheese in alternating layers), his mom makes… well… all this fancy shit with names i can’t pronounce. but you know, i really like my mom’s method better XD it doesn’t require recipes or hours and hours to cook, it’s always cheap and yet tastes great (which works well for me since i’m living off student loans and part time lab work) and it’s just really intuitive.

    also, peanut butter + marshmallow fluff = fluffernutter. beans + hot dogs = beany weenies 🙂

    also also, WHO THE FUCK IS TOO RICH FOR PEANUT BUTTER AND BANANA SANDWICHES??? that shit is nature’s candy, man.

  15. 21

    1. Scalloped corn—basically creamed corn mixed with eggs, milk, and saltines. Baked with a cracker crumb topping. Delicious.

    2. Macaroni and Milk—just as it sounds. Macaroni and warm milk with butter, salt and pepper. It’s my canonical comfort food and I ALWAYS make it when I’m feeling sad, lonely, or otherwise thwarted.

  16. 22

    Grew up in eastern N.C. and now live in western N.C. Have eaten nearly all of your list. A few to add:

    spaghetti casserole w/american cheese, hamburger, and canned tomatoes (my mother’s favorite as she was a terrible cook)

    sardine sandwiches (my grandaddy’s favorite)

    glass of milk w/vanilla and sugar (poor people’s milkshake)

    cold canned spinach w/ketchup (my childhood favorite)

    and let us not forget–

    boloney on white bread w/Miracle Whip.

    and the best of all–

    green beans, new potatoes, and ham hock boiled up together (I don’t remember that it ever had a name)

    plus “ambrosia”

  17. 23

    I’ve had about a quarter of the things you listed. I would add American cheese and ketchup sandwiches to the list. Also, pretty much any vegetable can be eaten raw with a little salt on it (turnips, potatoes, cukes, kohlrabi, tomatoes…). I grew up solidly middle class in Indiana but spent most of my days when I was really little with my papaw from Tennessee. And most of my family is from TN or WV (and poor as all get out before my parents) so I don’t know how representative I am of a traditional Northern upbringing.

  18. 24

    Raised as migrant farm worker kid, one of four with a divorced mom. The bi-weekly box of welfare food contained oatmeal, powdered eggs, canned pork loaf, velveeta/ish cheese and peanut butter we survived on this with pinto beans and a rice dish that my mother added whatever she could scrounge up to. I could never fault anyone for making the best of their situation. Those powdered eggs still inhabit my nightmares, such an unappealing shade of green.

  19. 25

    I’ve not eaten much on this list, but only because my parents, being first and second generation Canadians, had Eastern and Southern European versions of these things. I remember seeing the pressure cooker on the stove went I went to school in the morning and not being able to sit still all day in anticipation of the stew that would come out of it that evening. And the meat that went in wasn’t the choicest by any stretch of the imagination. Pressure cookers are magic.

    And in the summer we’d go boating with my grandparents and they’d fill buckets with jackfish (northern pike), or ‘slough shark’ as they’re known as around here. Filleted and into the freezer, that was our fish for the year. I was probably eleven or twelve before I learned that there were other types of fish and not all of them tasted like bony mud.

    And I’m sorry, but if you don’t have at least one yogurt container with leftovers in it, you’re just being pretentious.

  20. 26

    -Stale cornbread in milk.– It was a treat when I was growing up. I have now hooked my stepson on it. It does need a teaspoon or two of sugar.
    -Tomato sandwiches– I still eat these. Although now if I have avocado I put it on them as well.
    -Tuna noodle casserole– I still make this but now I use better canned soups and wine and good cheese instead of cheapo American.
    -Eggs with ketchup– Who didn’t eat this? I still do once in awhile but I’m more apt to put Tabasco or siracha on them.
    I had peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. And I had pimento cheese stuffed celery for every holiday. Instead of cheese wrapped Vienna sausages I had hot dogs slit down the middle stuffed with American cheese and wrapped in packaged crescent rolls. I had hot dogs seared in a pan with pork and beans more times than I would like to remember. My favorite meal though was fried chicken even though I ever got one leg and the gizzard. My favorite sandwich was Velveeta on sourdough with Miracle Whip, grilled.

    We eat much better than this these days but once in awhile I will make one of these for old times sake.

  21. 27

    Coke with peanuts!!! Wow does that bring the nostalgia – my Pa used to eat that from time to time, and my Nanny did so quite regularly until her health made it difficult. (Due to various medications, she was unable to handle carbonation in the last years of her life, so no more coke!) Of course, Nanny was from a farm family in rural Georgia growing up, and Pa was from NE Florida – his family were teachers, but still very Southern.

    We always ate noodles with butter as a comfort food, too, and as an adult, I always want to have some, except they make me sick now. Too much carbs converting into sugar or something. 🙁

    Velveeta was too fancy for us, also. I remember when we splurged a couple times and got Velveeta version mac’n’cheese. It was so amazing! It was a shame to go back to the generic boxed kind…

    I’ve never had stale cornbread in milk, but mostly because we ate it before it got stale. I really want to try some now – it sounds amazing. Most of the items on your list are familiar to me, even if I never ate them myself, thanks to being a picky eater. We were solidly middle class, rising from working class/lower middle thanks to my dad’s insight and computer programming degree acquired in the 70s. But he and my mom were coming out of working class families and we lived in the South, so a lot of these kinds of things are super familiar.

  22. 28

    I have lived in NYC and Los Angeles/Long Beach my entire life. Kosher hot dogs and baked bean casserole has always been part of my diet, although we do eat the hot dogs infrequently now.

  23. 30

    I grew up in Canada and cow’s tongue sandwiches were my absolute favourite lunch when I was in elementary school.

    We were a family of 5 kids being raised on a teacher’s salary and many of the dishes on your list are familiar to me. I also second the deliciousness of the pressure cooker stew.

  24. 31

    I have eaten all but the peanut butter and pimento sandwich. I grew up relatively poor in rural south Mississippi.

    Although I now live in a city and am comfortably middle-class, peanuts in root beer is still one of my favorite treats.

  25. 32

    I never could understand the fascination with mayonnaise a lot of southern folk have. My mother’s side is from the Eastern shore of Virginia, considered deep south because the closer to the Mason-Dixon line you get the stronger the southern influence is, and they didn’t have a whole lot of use for mayo. I live down in Florida and the good folks outside the big cities put mayo on everything. I liked to gag the first time I saw someone dipping french fries in mayonnaise.

    Hard to say when that became southern. Into the 60s a lot of southern families cooked and way back then the ‘holy trinity’ of traditional southern cooking was sugar, salt, and lard. bacon with a pinch of salt and a goodly amount of sugar was the norm. Back in the 1890s sugar and lard gave you quick energy and slow burning calories to get you through heavy physical labor. When the heavy labor went away the calorie count stayed the same and southern waistlines ballooned. Food has become a symbol of love and comfort.

    One thing that has, as far as I can tell, stayed the same is the idea that meat makes a meal. If money is tight it might be chicken necks, gizzards or pig’s feet fried or chitlins but some critter’s got to die if you don’t want to call it a snack.

    1. 32.1

      I grew up a military dependent, outside the USA until I was a teenager except for our years in Hawaii. I just gag on mayo, and if I get some without knowing, it just comes right back up. Now I live in the south, so eating out at lunchtime is so very hard because you can *order* the food without mayo, but 9 times out of 10 they’ll “accidentally” slather it on.

  26. 33

    No. Just no.

    We were poor, but we did better than that. Not MUCH better, but we had our standards and my mom was/is a great cook. Of course it helped that we were poor in NYC where you could get relatively cheap produce and not have to drive to get it.

    Tuna casserole we did. Ick.

  27. 35

    I’ve eaten about half of your list. Buttered noodles are the best thing ever, especially egg noodles. Heck, I’ve had banana and peanut butter for breakfast every day for the past week. Protein, potassium, fruit, it’s a power meal.

    I don’t understand the aversion people have to some of the things, as if they’re entirely wrong foods to ever eat rather than just being a matter of taste. Ketchup sandwiches – that’s the same basic thing as fancy bruschetta, bread item and tomato item. Ketchup on noodles – it’s just another version of tomato sauce, not outside the standard deviation of variants on tomato sauce other people use. One of our old family recipes is “hot spaghetti”, which is where you cook a little bacon, then take the bacon and grease from cooking it and mix it with straight tomato sauce from a can (not flavored tomato sauce, just the cheap plain pureed tomatoes) and cayenne pepper, and then throw the cooked spaghetti in with it.

    My immediate family wasn’t overly poor, and my grandparents were self-sufficient, but we were all always lower-end blue collar, and my grandparents had grown up in poverty so our food reflected that history. Never used spices other than salt and pepper, cinnamon for sweet stuff, because spices cost money without adding food volume/calorie value. (the aforementioned cayenne powder was an affectation from one particular family member far back) My dad’s family thought my mom’s family was strange because they were Italian and used garlic salt too. I always coveted my grandfather’s authentic gravy recipe (he was the kid of Italian immigrants), and when I finally got it, it was… tomato juice, tomato paste, and salt. Done. The only flavoring came from cooking whatever meat in it all day.

    If you look at a lot of fad elitist-ish foodie foods, they are the poor cuisine of somewhere else, and are just “special” because whatever is usual for somewhere else is unusual here. There’s really no justification for holding some bright line between “good” food and “poor” food.

    1. 35.1

      I never thought of it before as something specifically poor food but probably was – one of our most common side dishes was butter bread, a slice of sandwich bread with margarine on it. Had it with almost every dinner, especially if we were still hungry after we were done eating.

      1. I just realized saying “self-sufficient” might come off wrong – I just meant they lived by themselves on their own money rather than getting assistance from other family members or having to move in with their kids.

  28. 36

    No, no! It’s peanut butter and banana with mayo (miracle whip, actually) ON TOAST!!! Damn. Now I wish I had some.

    And of course, beanie weinie cassarole. I certainly had tuna noodle cassarole as well.

    How about tuna puffs–tuna mixed with crushed saltines (and probably some liquid), then fried? I hated them as a kid, but remember them fondly now, though I have never made them.

    My mom was brought up in rural SE MO.

  29. 37

    Some of those I share, others seem perfectly good. Tomato sandwiches, banana sandwiches, what is the problem? Yet others make me go ew! (American cheese, Velveeta, Miracle Whip. I am not American.) And the sensible & easy frugality of re-using containers – what kind of pretentious ninny could object to that?!

    My childhood was middle class, scrabbling on up. So much spent on housing & school fees that the budget for food and clothes could get a little tight at times.

    I liked – and still do:
    * Tuna, cheese & rice salad – one tin of tuna stretched to serve 4 people, with tiny cheese cubes, lots of rice, glued together with “salad cream” (not mayo). Served with whatever extra salad veg we had from the garden or the 4pm closing market specials.
    * Cheese & corn on toast. Grilled cheese, tinned sweetcorn.
    * Rice pudding. Plain rice, baked with milk & sugar, not the fancy kind with eggs & cream and such.
    * Leftover joint soup – not total poverty, but a small roast could stretch out for days, with the pearl barley and cheap soup veg.

  30. 38

    I’m not southern(Michigan), but we had boiled milk with lunchmeat chopped up in it and served over toast a lot as a kid because it was so cheap. Not like deli lunchmeat, that is, but the kind you could buy in 50 packs at the store. Also I still like cucumber/whatever-came-out-of-the-garden sandwiches, and when I’m sick peanut butter and banana is still my chicken soup.

  31. 39

    I’ve had a number of the foods on your list growing up, and I’ll admit I serve some of these things to my own kids.

    I understand why some people would look down on these things as “poor people food”, heck, some people in my own family that look down their noses at “that stuff”. But I really believe that most of these foods have moved from the realm of “poor food” into “cultural food”, and sadly, since this culture is different from popular American culture people lash out at it forcefully. People just prefer it when everyone they encounter is exactly like themselves, so when they encounter someone who isn’t…it gets ugly.

    I don’t know why Southern culture is looked on so unfavorably, though. When confronted with someone from a different region that’s *not* Southern, most people don’t look at their strange ways and difficult to understand colloquialism and get *angry* about it. But it seems that Southern culture is uniquely offensive to a lot of Americans. Old prejudices die hard, apparently.

    1. 39.1

      Donna, could you be looking too far into the whole “looking down on the south” thing? I grew up outside the USA, and as the saying goes, I don’t have a dog in the fight. However, I find mayo and Velveeta and American cheeses to be disgusting. I grew up eating sushi and noodles (not buttered) and stir-fries of a million varieties. I recently figured out it’s the corn syrup in ketchup I don’t like, and that dislike of corn syrup means I don’t care for soda, either (I like the ones made with real sugar), or cool-whip, or tons of foods on the grocery shelves. My aouthern neighbors and co-workers certainly look down on my favorite foods and are constantly whinging about how “weird” they are.

  32. 40

    You forgot pineapple & mayonnaise sandwiches, homemade goulash, lots of beans & cornbread.
    I have never watched the show and refuse to because of the Toddlers & Tiara thing. However, I am from the South and while this may be their lifestyle, they have to realize people expect to see his and pay big money for it.

    I have never found being poor a source of entertainment and feel while this family is being exploited they are probably being coached to play up to the camera.

    Another reality show to exploit people for others entertainment.

    1. 40.1

      I read that they’re only being paid $40k for it. So although that is a lot of money, it’s nothing compared to what the company is making from them, and nowhere near the share they ought to be getting.

      1. Only $40k? Wow, they really got rooked. The family of Grifters from Wasilla were making more than that on every episode of their dreadful show, and they’re far less appealing and have far worse family values than the Honey Boo Boo clan.

  33. 41

    • Saltines in milk
    • Tuna noodle casserole
    • American cheese and mayonnaise sandwiches
    Out of that list these 3 are about it. The Saltines in milk may not entirely count for me though. I did eat Saltines as a snack and drank milk but never mixed the two. I grew up in small-town Iowa, the youngest of 5 kids, and my mom (yes “mom”) was always trying to stretch every dollar. That much I can relate to. She was also somewhat health conscious and avoided things like hot dogs and soda so it was pretty rare for us to have them.

    I could add graham cracker and store bought frosting sandwiches.
    Ants on a log: Celery, peanut butter and raisins
    Cinnamon toast
    Sombrero Pie: It consisted of ground beef, corn, tomatoes, cheese (possibly a few other items I have blocked out over time because this was a meal I hated as a kid) all baked in a homemade pie shell.
    When we had cornbread it was usually just with butter and honey on it.
    There are lots of deer in our area and it was not uncommon for the county sheriff to call up locals he knew when there was a fresh hit on the highway.
    My grandparents were known to partake in horseradish sandwiches. They grew their own. Dang that would clear your sinuses!

    Tupperware was for people who had money. We didn’t. We saved margarine tubs, cool whip containers, etc. Mom would even manage to clean out the plastic bag from inside the cereal box and reuse it too.

    As for the show itself, I’ve not even watched it yet. I may have lumped it in subconsciously with Toddlers and Tiara’s which is a reality show I have a huge aversion to. I have no problem with little girls that want to express their girly-ness playing dress up and what not but I have always had a problem with pageants. They’ve always felt too much like a human cattle parade to me & I just don’t get the point or what good comes from them. If anything I feel like they reinforce negative body image and stereotyping into children during an important stage of their lives. And before anyone decries me for this, I was in the Pre-teen Miss Iowa pageant at the age of 11 (my mom put me in it, it was not my choice or preference at all) and the experience was that a really large group of girls left completely broken hearted feeling like they were not good enough because they did not win. Seeing the crying and tears pouring from some of the girls that desperately wanted to win has left me with a lasting negative impression of the whole mess.

    1. 41.1

      Sombrero Pie: It consisted of ground beef, corn, tomatoes, cheese (possibly a few other items I have blocked out over time because this was a meal I hated as a kid) all baked in a homemade pie shell.

      There’s a lasagna-like “use up the leftovers” dish made with tortillas that uses typical “taco” fillings.

      “Ants on a log” was more kid food than poor food when I was growing up.

    2. 41.2

      I agree with you about the pageants. There’s a huge difference between having a “dress up trunk” and spending a rainy afternoon glamming it up with your mom’s discarded makeup and high heels and scarves and clip-on earrings, and another to spend tens of thousands of dollars on dresses and make-up and spray tanning to parade around in front of adults.

  34. 42

    I was never really poor (not rich, either, but not poor), and it’s true that I didn’t eat most of that stuff, except for peanut butter and banana sandwiches, hotdogs with baked beans, and tuna casserole (which, as far as I can tell, are probably the three most nutritionally-balanced things on that list). I still like peanut butter and bananas together, actually. I never really thought of any of those things as particularly “white trash” (ugh, I hate that phrase) foods. But maybe I’m just in denial of my true “white trash” roots or something. 😀

    But we did eat one thing that seems to me like it belongs on this list but isn’t there — Kraft mac’n’cheese with ketchup. Apparently it was something my mom and her eight siblings used to eat. I dunno if that was because they were poor (they were), or just because they’re crazy (they are), but it tastes better than you might think. (My father’s father, on the other hand, taught me to put salt on cantaloupe, but I’ve got no idea what, if any, cultural tradition that represents.) Of course now that I am a grown-up hippie-type person with disposable income, I buy Amy’s Homegrown White Cheddar Mac’n’Cheese and top it with ketchup made using cane sugar instead of corn syrup, so I’m pretty sure I’m violating the spirit of the meal. But it’s still pretty good.

    I’ve got nothing but respect for people who manage to work out how to nourish their children mostly adequately on a limited income. Good nutrition is hard enough even when you *can* afford to buy good stuff, and even if you have some education about what to do. I’m not prepared to pass judgment on the parents in the TV show just for feeding their kids stuff that seems weird to me (although I might well pass judgment on them for the beauty pageant stuff), but as someone who does appreciate good food, I have to admit that some of those recipe descriptions (both from the show and from Ashley’s list) make me cringe a bit. If I had a friend who was eating like that and could afford better, I’d be on a mission to teach hir to cook, and if ze was eating like that because of financial constraints, I’d be wanting to invite hir to eat at my house all the time. So, *shrug*. I dunno what to say about the show, except that it sounds like the kind of thing that I really wouldn’t enjoy watching.

    1. 42.1

      Of course, I just realized that when I classified peanut butter + banana as healthy, I was thinking of the “natural” peanut butters like Smucker’s, because that’s what I grew up with and what I still eat. I forgot that a lot of the cheaper peanut butters tend to mix in a fair bit of sugar and to hydrogenate (i.e. trans-fat-ize) the oils. So maybe the “white trash” version of that sandwich isn’t quite as healthy as the version I’m used to. :/

      1. I buy my peanut butter at a health food store because I can’t stand the taste of corn syrup, and the grocery stores around me only carry the kind loaded with corn syrup and hydrogenated oils.

        1. The weird sugared kind is occasionally an amusing vacation for me, when I’m at somebody else’s house and that’s what they’ve got on offer, but given a choice I always prefer the stuff that’s just peanuts and salt. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere I couldn’t at least get Smucker’s or something similar, so I’m surprised to learn that there exist places where it’s necessary to resort to the health food store. It almost makes me want to buy my own grinder, just to insure myself against the possibility of ever not being able to get the good stuff. Peanut butter is one of my staples. 😀

          1. I live in the south and it appears to be a real source of pride to eat garbage. There’s one supermarket quite a drive from me that offers ketchup with sugar (as opposed to corn syrup) and peanut butter with just peanuts and salt (I think it’s Smucker’s, but I’m not sure)…but the Wal-marts and Bi-Lo and other local supermarkets only offer the corn syrup kind. I never thought of buying my own grinder to make my own peanut butter–that sounds like a great idea!

          2. Hoo boy, that’s worrisome. I’m moving to Atlanta soon, having not yet ever lived in the South. Hopefully it’s a big enough city that there’ll be somewhat more diverse offerings. :/

          3. Take heart! From what I understand, a lot of companies have moved down to Atlanta, so there are a lot of transplants. With any luck, that should be reflected in supermarket offerings.

  35. 43

    being poor, I’ve eaten many of the things on the list. My husband introduced me to one of his family’s poor folk meals, macaroni and milk. Yep, hot milk with butter, black pepper, and macaroni in it.

    I find any reality show to be a glorification of stupidity and vanity. That’s why I find things like this redneck freak show offensive. Not all poor people act so slovenly and stupid.

    1. 44.1

      They’re both relatively simple flavors and cheap, accessible condiments. I used to put ketchup and/or ranch on everything because as a kid, my palate was too sensitive for the spicy foods my family enjoyed.

    2. 44.2

      I’m from the Ozarks, and I have a family Southern Fried Chicken recipe that was passed down 3 generations to me.

      My partner is gluten intolerant *head desk*

      I now cook ‘Hawaiian corn flake chicken’ instead.

      Dredge the chicken breast in Mayonnaise, roll it around in crushed up cornflakes, bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until done. (I use a meat thermometer) Using mayo is a shortcut for the egg dredge that I used to make and is decidedly less messy.

      And you think we American’s are odd with our mayo use? In Spain, all the pizza restaurants I went to in Andalucia had mayo bottles on the table to put on your pizza. Hmmm mmm good.

  36. 45

    We ate all of that and more growing up. Leftover rice with milk and a little sugar was called cereal, and we were damned lucky to have a banana to throw in it. I still eat out of and store things in butter bowls. I bought that damned bowl, and the butter inside it. Grilled cheese and ketchup was one of my favorites. Ever hear of hog jowls? We’d put them in with beans (doesn’t matter what kind, red, white, speckled, green, purple hull, lima, it’s all good) to flavor them and if we had no beans, just by themselves over some rice and the broth they made thickened with a little corn starch. Potatoes: I can’t stand potatoes to this day because I’ve had them every way imaginable when I was a kid growing up with a single mom and a little sister. Eggs and mayonnaise sandwiches, yummmmm, beanie weenies dressed up with dumplings. Frankly, I could make something out of anything and make it taste damned good.

    1. 45.1

      I *still* make sweet breakfast rice. I had no idea it was a poor people food, I just thought we ate it because it was yummy.

      Anyone else do banana in milk with cinnamon, or just my fam?

        1. Sweet?! I don’t think I have ever in all my days had it sweet (grew up and still live in Hong Kong). As a hangover/getting over a cold treat, I love preserved egg and lean pork congee.

  37. 46

    I grew up on the oh so hip Lower East Side of Manhattan
    a.k.a “The East Village:.

    •Mayonnaise sandwiches

    •Ketchup sandwiches

    •Stale cornbread in milk

    •Saltines in milk

    •Hot dog and baked bean casserole
    Oh yeah.

    •Tomato sandwiches

    •Cows tongue
    Yep. You mean non-Jews eat this too? 🙂

    •Peanut butter and banana sandwiches

    •Mayonnaise and banana sandwiches

    •Peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches
    Nope. The only one on the list that made me say ‘yuk’.

    •Peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwiches

    •Tuna noodle casserole
    I don’t even know what that is, but it doesn’t sound bad.

    •Vienna sausages wrapped in American cheese

    •American cheese and mayonnaise sandwiches

    •American cheese garlic toast

    •Hot dog meat sloppy joes

    •Saltines in thousand island dressing

    •Canned fruit with Cool Whip

    •Coke with salted peanuts (yes, peanuts in the coke)

    •Mashed potatoes with ketchup

    •Eggs with ketchup

    •Peanut butter and pimiento cheese sandwiches

    •Pimiento cheese and tomato pie

      1. This is actually my in-laws’ self-punishment food for Good Friday, on the basis that each of their family members hates at least one ingredient. How fitting that I happen to really like it.
        But seriously, wtf is wrong with this dish? It’s no-fuss food with acceptable nutritional value.

  38. 47

    There’s nothing better than when the ketchup you put on your meatloaf *accidentally* finds itself flecked all over your mashed potatoes/mac and cheese on the side. Every time I taste that combination a little bit of childhood comes skipping back to me.

  39. 48

    I was born in south-central PA (Harrisburg/Lebanon/Hershey area, aka Amish Country), and except for a summer and one semester in Rhode Island, I’ve lived in the same rural-suburban town my whole life. Many-a-time have I had hotdog/bean casserole (“beanie weenies”; my grandma also made it with ground beef instead of hotdogs), marshmallow and PB sandwiches, scrambled eggs with ketchup, tomato sandwiches, and various other local delicacies. Sweet/Lebanon Balogna is my favorite. It’s sort of like salami, made in a smoke house. It’s great in a sandwich with mustard and peanut butter. I’ve also been known to cook boneless chicken breast in olive oil, then make a coating involving mayonnaise and crumbled sour cream & onion chips.

    1. 48.1

      Last summer I went with a group to Lancaster and we ate in a “real Amish” buffet. The buffet consisted of a number of vats of mayo, each with different things embedded in it: mayo-with-flecks-of-meat, mayo-with-flecks-of-jello, mayo-with-flecks-of-fruit. Is that typical of Amish food?

      I ended up buying a bottled water in the gift shop and waiting out the meal sitting on a bench outside.

  40. 51

    Ketchup soup and spaghetti with salt and butter.

    I still like the spaghetti with salt and butter, but I can’t stand ketchup anymore!

    Oh! And what we used to call “Winkin’ Blinkin’s” — cutting a hole in a piece of bread and frying an egg in it. Those were awesome.

    1. 51.1

      Oh! And what we used to call “Winkin’ Blinkin’s” — cutting a hole in a piece of bread and frying an egg in it. Those were awesome.

      That was an old Girl Scout favorite of my mother’s — especially if cooked on an inverted large tin can over campfire coals! Seems to me there was some bacon involved as well. Everything’s better with bacon!

      I’m not from the south and didn’t grow up poor but I’ve had many of the things on the list. We had “hungarian goulash” and tuna noodle casserole frequently.

      And while I’m at it, how about creamed tuna on toast? Basic white sauce, canned tuna, toast! My wife, however, adds cheddar to hers. Lots of cheddar. Yum!

      1. We called it toad-in-a-hole!

        I love finding out what different regions (or even famiies) call stuff. Like when I moved south from the west, I had to learn buggy instead of cart for that thing with wheels you push around with your groceries inside.

  41. 52

    I don’t get the predilection for peanut butter. I hate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Peanut butter + banana sandwiches are okay, but nothing for me to write home about. A good strawberry jam + peanut butter sandwich with soft bread is delicious, however.

    From my own upbringing, spaghetti sandwiches were common. And it has to be the Heinz spaghetti out of the can. Pile it on some thick white bread thick, press another slice of bread on top, and dig in. Good tucker!

  42. 53

    DonnaB @ 39:

    I don’t know why Southern culture is looked on so unfavorably, though.

    Neither do I. While I don’t even remotely consider myself an authority on the South, my experiences there have been vastly positive, outside of the Jesus thing. Lots of friendly people, who are generous to a fault. And the hospitality I’ve been shown while visiting has been astonishing.

    I could do without the chitlins though.

    1. 53.1

      I was born in the south, grew up a military brat, and returned to the south just before college (which I went to locally). I still live in the south. If you’re not a tourist, but instead live there, you get a very different view. For example, when I am introduced to people, I barely get out, “Pleased to meet you–” before I’m interrupted by, “You’re a YANKEE” (said with dripping disgust). It doesn’t make any difference to point out that I’m not, because then I get the whole diatribe about how Yankees are so rude, and Yankees do THIS and Yankees do THAT, etc. etc. etc.

      1. I hear you Anonymouse. I didn’t know it was like that, but as you say, visiting the South is different from living in the South.

        I wonder how they’d receive an atheist, progressive Western Canadian like myself? I’m male, straight and cis, and I look white. So I’d guess I’d have several advantages right off the cuff.

        1. As a male, you’d be exempt from a lot of the bitchiness, and the customers I met from western Canada (Vancouver area) don’t have that much of an accent. I dunno…come visit and report back!

          My spouse is from the north, and when we go visit his people, most people I meet will eventually say, “Where are you from? I can’t place your accent”. I tell them I’ve spent the last 25 years in (southern city) and their usual response is somewhere along the lines of, “Oh, that’s nice”.

          It’s only when I meet people from my own area that they instantly call me a Yankee and therefore “rude”.

  43. 54

    Mayonnaise sandwiches are amazing!

    Get some Duke’s on two slices (3 if you wanted to give your siblings their morning “fuck you!”) and slather it on.


    I’ve had everything on your list except ketchup (won’t touch it). Spent a long time on welfare. Some days I’d go out picking up whatever change I could off the sidewalk to buy a loaf of bread and maybe some salami in the morning (back when the brad was only a dollar and you could ask for a dollar slice of salami) for mom. She’d always hug me when I did.

    I dunno why that’s a fond memory…

  44. 55

    As a kid, I knew we weren’t rich but I never thought most of our menu items were a result of finances as much as Depression culture. Besides the listed items in the article, anyone ever have cow’s brain, calves heart, or blood sausage (which I believe was really coagulated blood wrapped in a casing)?

  45. 56

    so many of them are universal, universal poor mostly, even way up here in the frozen north. round here we have dream whip, powder added to milk to make fake whipped cream, tastes same as any other artificial stuff… trifle was a fave, cake, fruit, pudding, repeat, whipped cream, a few bucks to make a scary big dessert. atm, the weirdest thing… i find cheddar in ice cream quite enjoyable, hardly poor person food.

    one thing my fam would do is head out with great grandma in her car to get several 5 gallon buckets of blueberries and cranberries in the fields by the highway. given time to go camping, a family could bring back several months worth of food in an overnight trip.

    blueberry grunt… now there’s a poor person food, blueberries and sugar brought to a light boil, globs of flour/water/baking powder mix tossed into the blue mess, spectacular dessert, nearly free.

      1. yes, in the city here they have to be dragged down to the ‘nobody’s buying them, they’re gonna rot, discount!’ prices before they’re affordable. within this city, luckily, there’s only a short walk from a bus route to find huge fields of 1/2″ berries on provincial land, down home it was 1/4″. pretty much everywhere there’s probably dozens of varieties of free fruit and berries in parks, if they’re close enough to walk to before leaving the cell coverage area, you can go forage. there’s also guerilla gardening, plant seeds in regular parks, vacant lots, stuff that’ll grow by itself, check it occasionally… harvest if parks and recreation hasn’t screwed the patch up.

        me, i’d say to check old foxfire, harrowsmith or mother earth news, learn to tan a hide, get one from a deer hunter that just wants the meat and head… there’s clothing.

  46. 57

    I didn’t grow up poor (wasn’t really rich either,) but the majority of my family were at one point, or at least grew up in the country. Being in southern PA, I’ve had a decent amount of the things on that list, along with a dash of Pennsylvania Dutch food. Scrapple, Lebanon sweet bologna (the only good lunch meat, imo), pickled red beet eggs, pork and saurkraut… I had pickled tongue once, my great grandpa made me try it. Nasty stuff. Not terribly fond of saurkraut either, but my family forces me to eat a bite of it every New Years for the sake of tradition. XP

    And how can you not like peanut butter and banana sammiches? Or fluffernutters? And egg sandwiches are delish (scrambled egg with american cheese and ketchup on bread.)

    Someone mentioned kayro syrup sandwiches up there. Nah man, King syrup is the only way to go. Put a gob of that on a piece of butter bread. YUM.

  47. 58

    Quite a few of us, I see.

    Mayo sandwiches and tuna noodle casserole most definitely. Tomatoe sandwiches, yes … got the recipe out of Old Farmers Almanac (Southern Edition) …. tomatoes on mayo slathered bread with black pepper and fresh basil ….. delish! I still do these.

    I’m a northern boy from Michigan who now lives in the South, and I love it. Friendly and respectful people. I love the hills and pines.

    And don’t forget, under President Reagan, ketchup (or ketsup) was classified as a vegetable.

    Peace, 🙂

  48. 60

    I’m from the Ozarks in Southern Missouri. My friends joke that I am more hillbilly than redneck. I grew up so poor that if we didn’t shoot it or grow it, we didn’t eat it. Any store bought food was a treat.

    My favorite comfort food still is bread, mayo, dill pickle, American cheese or Velveeta, and liverwurst or Braunschweiger. If I can’t afford the liverwurst or Braunschweiger, I’ll go for Deviled Ham.

    I have eaten everything on that list except the pimento cheese and tomato pie. We used to put pimento cheese on celery for snacks, though.

    Oh, and in the summertime, there was always a bowl of cucumbers and onions in a vinegar/water bath in the fridge. I am horribly allergic to onions, and just smelling them raw can cause my eyes to swell up and my nose to run. I stayed out of the fridge most of the summer because of that.

    Anyone make homemade ice cream with sweetened condensed milk and soda pop?

  49. 61

    Great, this thread is making me hungry.

    My parents were on food stamps when I was growing up, but we lived in the country and my mom had a gigantic garden, so we ate pretty well.

    One of my favorite meals back then was “tuna glop”: a can of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, cooked with with onions, frozen peas, and a can of tuna. Served over rice, with a slice of canned cranberry sauce on the side, it was delicious!

  50. 62

    From your list, I’ve had:

    •Stale cornbread in milk
    •Hot dog and baked bean casserole
    •Tomato sandwiches
    •Cows tongue
    •Peanut butter and banana sandwiches
    •Mayonnaise and banana sandwiches
    •Tuna noodle casserole
    •Vienna sausages wrapped in American cheese
    •American cheese and mayonnaise sandwiches
    •American cheese garlic toast
    •Hot dog meat sloppy joes
    •Canned fruit with Cool Whip
    •Eggs with ketchup

    Not all at my own house. Some with friends as a kid, some at my grandma’s. I have also had squirrel, opossom, rattlesnake, rabbit, venison, bear, elk, and then some. Not roadkill though because my parents said you can’t tell if that animal had rabies and that was why it ran into the road. Some poached. Some legal. We were able to put resources into growing most of our food because we hunted most of our meat and didn’t buy any storebought toys, games, clothes or so on, and unlike a lot of our neighbors, my stepdad had a steady job in timber.

    Other stuff– bloody maggots, aka rice with tomato sauce or ketchup. Fried bologna sandwiches. Fried hot dog sandwiches. Fried egg sandwiches (have you noticed a trend?) Ramen noodles with frozen mixed veggies in them. Condiment sandwiches in which you’re got no meat or cheese so you throw every condiment you can find at some bread and that’s lunch. Pancakes for dinner, and not because you want to, but because you have to. Boxed macaroni and cheese with tuna and peas. Giblet gravy. Stale oatmeal cake in milk. Shit on a shingle (gravy on toast). There’s more, I am sure.

    I didn’t grow up poor, rural and southern, though, I grew up poor, rural and western. No real culture in that from what I can tell, since I haven’t met anyone who grew up like me in decades.

  51. 63

    From what I’ve seen, their diet doesn’t bother me, just they way the show portrays them. Of course, what I’m seeing is just edited footage, and reality might be much different.

  52. 64

    everything on that list so far isn’t anything like the awful poverty food i ate as a teenager, except maybe tuna and egg noodle casserole. which i will occasionally make, just because i feel like eating it, but I have to go out of my way to buy the ingredients.

    But i will fight a fool who tries to deny me tuna noodle casserole.

  53. 65

    snots n boogers, just the name my family gave it really, heinz sandwich spread, basically sweet pickle relish stirred into mayo, sort of like tartar sauce with bits. i can’t remember if there’s other brands though.

  54. 66

    Maybe the classification of this stuff is a little US-specific:
    My family background is upper-middle class eastern European and your list sounds like typical kids’ or quick-to-make foods to me, and nothing that anyone would sneer at. Maybe it’s because the traditional local cuisine has some really simple and fatty classics. Or maybe just because in former socialist countries people never had the surplus time, energy and money to develop the food/health snobbery that’s popular in the West. 🙂 (Daisy Cutter’s point about food classism was really excellent!)

  55. 67

    Living in the countryside in Galicia, I haven’t eaten any of those things. Most food I had was from vegetables or pork. In Galicia we eat most of the pig, exept for the eyes and the squeak.
    Something we did have (still do) was slices of bread fried in oil and red wine with sugar on top. From my experience thought. I guess red wine in the US is too expensive to fry bread in.

    1. 67.1

      Don Quijote, that fried bread sounds really good! I’ve had something called fry bread, which is dough fried in oil with powdered sugar on top. I might have to try your recipe.

  56. 68

    Everything on that list is something I or someone in my family ate a good bit of. As a kid I had more than my fair share of sandwiches made with banana and mayo or peanut butter and marshmellow fluff (we called them fluffer- nutters) and just mayonnaise. We also had potato chip and ketchup sandwiches or we’d make hot dogs and stuff potato chips in between the weiner and bun. If it was the day before my mom got her paycheck and we were running low on groceries she’d make what she called a “jam sandwich” which consisted of two pieces of bread jammed together.

    A lot of my (dad’s side) grandmother’s family lived in rural parts of Alabama. During our visits to them in the summer coke with salted peanuts and cornbread in buttermilk was common. My mom’s family was from Rhode Island so I have some tastes that are considered weird to Southerners, such as raisins in dressing.

  57. 69

    I have nothing to say about the food choices despite lacking familiarity with most combinations (didn’t grow up in the US), but what’s with throwing noodles on the cabinets? Do they get eaten after this? Why not fish up a noodle with a fork and bite into it?

  58. 70

    it’s just a silly old trick that doesn’t even work that well, if it sticks to the wall, it’s al dente, it’ll stick to the wall if it’s overcooked mush too, so the usefulness is limited.

  59. 71

    I’ve eaten quite a bit of those foods. It’s just good, quick, cheap eatin’, nothing “redneck” about it. Oh, and for the list: peanut butter and pickle sandwiches.

    My issue with HBB is less the glorifying of redneck-ism, it’s more that the family is obviously unhealthy, the child is constantly hyped up on “go juice”, and… it looks an awful lot like she’s being exploited by her mother.

  60. 72

    I was under the impression the disgust about children eating out of margarine tubs wasn’t that they were being used as containers for, say, cereal, which sounds eminently practical, but that the children were eating out of margarine tubs which still had margarine inside!

    I have heard of people who eat raw butter, which doesn’t sound much better.

  61. 73

    Peanut butter and banana sandwiches are OK, but peanut butter and cucumber is much better.
    Most of the other items are unfamiliar to me as I grew up in a low-income area of Manchester, UK. Popular items were chip butties (French fry sandwiches) and sugar butties made with large-crystalled brown sugar. My mother did not approve of either. Another was dripping (the fat off roast meat) on toast.
    I have not been back for years, but nationally there has been a vast increase in the variety and availability of good fruit and vegetables so I imagine the diet is somewhat more balanced these days.

  62. 76

    I appreciate you blogging about this. First off i watch the show and enjoy it. I do not understand all the negative feelings for this family. And who in this world hasn’t eaten something considered odd to someone else. It’s more realistic and down to earth than keeping up with the kardashians

  63. Mel

    Rinsed and drained can of kidney beans mixed with mayo. Have no idea what this is buy my grandma used to feed it to us kids. I personally like it. I think I might make this soon as to bring me back.

  64. Ro

    Not even sure how I got here, but this post reminded me of my childhood. I’m 52 now. When I was young we were working poor. I ate squirrel for supper at certain times in my life, let’s put it that way. But in some ways we ate well, given that we shared in the summer bounty of a small family farm. Granddaddy called it a ‘garden’, but believe me, when you’re up on that sandy ridge in the Georgia August sun, battling thorny vines, wasps, and fire ants to pick field peas on an acre of his ‘garden’–well, that’s close enough to farming for me. But along with being a child labor field hand came certain familial benefits. We often had very fresh produce like peas, beans, corn, tomatoes, okra, and the like. My dad hunted and fished, so we had venison, and in the summer even had fresh fish. We had put-up produce like chutney and pickles and peach and plum jelly, and vast amounts of frozen sweet Silver Queen corn, beans, etc. We even got to eat things that others paid dearly for, like quail and dove.

    As a kid, I remember banana sandwiches with mayo, definitely. I also remember fried bologna sandwiches with ketchup and mayo–something I had almost forgotten about until one night when David Letterman mentioned having had them as a kid. I remember they were one of the first things I learned how to cook. I’d slice the round meat with four gashes around the edge, pointing partway into the center. Then I’d make an X cut in the very center. This helped the bologna not to bow up unduly during cooking. We also ate fried spam sandwiches, but as a kid I preferred the fried bologna sandwich.

    We also had Vienna Sausage (but without cheese). We had hot dog and baked bean casseroles. That’s something I still make today every once in a great while–a true comfort food for me, though I jazz it up a bit with onion, bacon, and the like. I can only eat a little, but it’s still good on a cold, dark day.

    One thing we had that I remember to this day is milk toast. Anyone else have that? We only ever had it on a Sunday morning, because Daddy made it for me and my sister while Mama was still getting ready for church, mostly on a cold winter’s morning. It was simply slices of plain toasted white bread, put into a saucepan of scalded milk which had sugar added and dissolved into it, along with a little butter, a tiny bit of vanilla, and a little salt. You served it very quickly after you added the bread. It made a sort of dumpling effect as the toast broke up and semi-dissolved into the sweet buttery milk. Something about the taste of the toast gave the milk an unusual flavor, almost with caramel undertones. Goodness, I haven’t thought of sunday morning milk toast in ages. Thanks for the trip back in time!

  65. 80

    People are taking this show too personally. It has nothing to do with them being poor or from the south. They are f*cking idiots. That’s it. When the ratings start to decline they will be asked to do more stupid sh*t to sell the show. If they can do that they stay on TV making a nice paycheck, if not they go back to doing whatever it is they do. This show is just a spin off of the shows where the mothers exploit their little girls by having them pole dance or dress like strippers. When behavior like this is considered normal the country slides downhill, & it’s been an ongoing issue for some time. An example would be Watergate resulted in Nixon leaving office prematurely. Obama juggles 4,5,6, lost count, much worse than Watergates & he’s still in office.

  66. 81

    i live in mississippi,and i feel embarrassed that this is what the rest of the world sees as southern behavior.i cant think of one shhow that shows southern people in a positive family wasnt rich,but we have a long history of being southern ladies and gentlemen.we are clean,fit educated…we are none of these things that serve to perpetuate a negative steriotype of southern people.

  67. 82

    I had all of that stuff except cows tongue. However, I did have liver cheese, which was a type of lunch meat made from liver and iced with fat. You could eat that fat or pull it off. Really good with mustard and a slice of hoop cheese and a bag of fritos. Also had BBQ sauce sandwiches, which I still enjoy on occasion as I do the PB and Banana and a banana sandwich with a little mayo. I did not like PB and mayo but my friend Margaret did.

    We also would put BBQ sauce in a bag of potato chips and shake it up to make BBQ potato chips. MMmmm!

  68. 84

    so this didnt really answer my question is corn mixed with mashed potatoes white trash cause ive been doing that all my lif and i was curious.

  69. J

    I grew up in a working class household in Ontario and we did eat some of the food. My parents still do eat tomato and peanut butter and banana sandwiches but they also grew up during the war. The struggle of the depression and war has affected my family so that may be part of the situation.

    Mayonnaise sandwiches-just mayo on it? nope
    Ketchup sandwiches-parents eat this on occasion
    Stale cornbread in milk-nope, I’m guessing this is southern food
    Saltines in milk-nope
    Hot dog and baked bean casserole–maybe once
    Tomato sandwiches–parents love these so yes.
    Cows tongue–nope
    Peanut butter and banana sandwiches–parents eat this.
    Mayonnaise and banana sandwiches–nope
    Peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches–nope
    Peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwiches–nope
    Tuna noodle casserole–maybe once? Hate tuna though
    Vienna sausages wrapped in American cheese–nope
    American cheese and mayonnaise sandwiches–Is there lunch meat added? If so, then yes
    American cheese garlic toast–don’t know what that is
    Hot dog meat sloppy joes–maybe once or twice
    Saltines in thousand island dressing–nope
    Canned fruit with Cool Whip–on occasion but usually use fresh fruit
    Coke with salted peanuts (yes, peanuts in the coke)–nope
    Mashed potatoes with ketchup–once or twice
    Eggs with ketchup–what’s wrong with eggs with ketchup?! I’m also cdn so it’s mandatory
    Peanut butter and pimiento cheese sandwiches–nope
    Pimiento cheese and tomato pie–nope

  70. 86

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  71. 87

    You know what’s funny about the comments to me? The little jabs and the “my Mom used to save margarine bowls” blah blah blah, we were poor, blah blah blah. NOW I bet half or more of these folks that made these comments consider themselves as “green”. You know, recycling trash, donating their clothes, eating kale and the other yuppie things.
    Well first of all, I bet they BUY the plastic containers (Rubber Maid)! Why??? Save the dang containers from yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese , etc.
    Secondly, I bet that the Honey Boo Boo clan would help YOU nasty narcissism pitching turds if you needed food or a hug or milk for your kids! I also bet that half of these roaches wouldn’t spit on their fellow man if he was on fire!
    Some of these crappy comments that are so easily spewed towards others, remind me that our country is in need of a damn overhaul! Who gives a rat’s ass if some people eat road kill, sweets, are overweight and anything else that America has decided is unattractive! Whatever happened to loving your fellow man?
    Remember, what goes around comes around so be careful how you judge others just because they are different than you and your neighborhood!!

  72. 88


    Has anyone perhaps come to the obvious conclusion that all throughout america poor people eat the worst, most unhealthy shite because that is the cheapest crap you can find? I HATE speghetti(spll*??), kool-aid, hot dogs and of course the rest of the carb ridden processed expired nightmare that Assumes below poverty line living. Thank god we didn’t all starve to death(though at times…) but jesus christ, I can’t even watch somebody drink koolaid. Not that I’m not still broke, but I’m luckily at the age now where I can refuse to ‘indulge’. Ironically if you visit your local food pantry they give you the same crap you can afford at the store(when and if you have ‘money’)unless it’s expired beyond eatable, then you get to eat ‘gourmet'(real food). its like they have an official peasants food pyramid…

  73. C

    Yummy ideas! I’m Midwestern and we had creamed corn on toast, canned tomato soup
    And grilled cheese on wonder bread. Lots of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup and spaghetti Os. We also had the
    Disgusting box of fluorescent Mac and cheese. Living it up with pigs in a blanket– hot dogs in crescent rolls. My cousin would make ” weenie water soup” and throw celery and carrots in the water she boiled hot dogs in.

  74. C

    Potato patties- leftover mashed potatoes blended with some eggs and formed into patties and fried.
    Fried grits- cornmeal mush in a loaf pan, sliced and then fry the slices in butter
    Both so yummy:)

  75. 92

    I ate from old margarine bowls when I was growing up, and I still do now. I use them as Tupperware too. I ate a few things from the list, and I’d like to add that potato chip sandwiches are a favorite when I’m low on grocery money.

  76. Joe

    I grew up poor – we did get those food subsidies from the government – lots of peanut butter and american cheese and other things better less remembered. A couple of things I do remember fondly and sometimes indulge in now that I’ve clawed myself into the middle class are:

    Peanut butter and honey sandwiches
    Cinnamon and sugar buttered toast
    Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for dipping (extra points for melting some extra cheese in the soup) – my favorite
    Spaghetti with butter and salt
    Eggs and/or fried potatoes of any sort with ketchup
    Mashed potatoes with canned corn, butter and ketchup
    Sandwiches of baloney, dried beef, american cheese, potato chips and ketchup
    Triscuit, pepperoni and american cheese along with a beef hot dog
    Chili and stew are still staples in wintertime and appreciated by all

  77. 94

    Here, certain mustard comes in glasses that are perfectly fine in shape and feel to function as drinking glasses.

    Unconventional meals could be
    rice + salami
    rice + (the roasted and salted) gim + soy sauce

    I try to think about food as something that should better be learned and practiced, especially since certain episodes involving raw seafood …

  78. 95

    I’m from the deep south and I found Honey Boo Boo to be totally disgusting and I was embarrassed for that family! These people act brain damaged. We have plenty of poor common folk around here that are as good as gold but they don’t act inbred and ignorant. They might have a thick Appalachian brogue and use primitive rural vocabulary but even those mountain people aren’t like Honey Boo Boo. It goes beyond white trash. But now the food? Yeah I’ve had just about everything on that list. The sandwiches were usually a tide over or something. We didn’t have microwaves or easy ways to cook things back then. I well remember before bedtime telling my mother I was hungry and she would give me a butter sandwich. Just spread some butter on one piece of bread and fold it in half. That was a quick and easy thing to make instead of switching on the stove and cooking something. Now we can just pop stuff in the microwave but we didn’t have that luxury then. The “sketti” about made me vomit. I ate at family’s homes where their spaghetti was weak and not nearly as good as Mother’s but never ketchup and butter. BARF! We do a lot of things fried down here that the Yankees don’t understand. I’ll knock you down for some fried green tomatoes! LOL. Grits is the one thing Yankee just can’t get and it’s usually because they get them in places like Waffle House that don’t use any salt in the water when they are cooking them. They taste like warmed over wallpaper paste. I don’t care how much salt you pour on them they ain’t gonna taste right. Shrimp and grits or crawfish and grits are really good if they are made right.

  79. 96

    Ew. I cannot even believe, that these could be loosely considered cuisine. Now, I’m not super into beluga caviar either, but my family would never allow me to ingest any of that garbage- you are what you eat.

    1. 96.1

      Ok, try getting of your high horse and look at from this point-of-view:
      A single mom has to make money somehow, and those kids are probably not going to have mom’s home cooking if she isn’t around. Kids will concoct whatever they think sounds good (I remember eating crushed cheerios and banana!), so give someone a break! You are the personality you portray, a vile horrible person!

  80. Cat

    cheese and jelly sandwiches
    milk macaroni
    garbage soup (broth is the liquid from canned vegetables)
    creamed hot dog and egg on toast
    boiled potatoes with ketchup
    fried flour,milk and eggs…no rising…with sugar sprinkled on top
    Never welfare or food stamps, but definitely poor from Canada and upper state NY
    Thanks for the memories, all.

  81. 101

    I grew up in Brooklyn, NY and ate most of what you listed. I’ll still eat a mayo sandwich if the mood strikes me. My family called them “wish” sandwiches, as in, “I wish I had meat for this” sandwich.

    We had other things too. Matzah crackers with butter was a great afternoon meal. And you never knew what you were getting if you opened a Country Crock container in my grandmother’s fridge. Could be margarine, could be last nights spaghetti.

    A lot of it is practicality. Peanut butter can be stretched for a good long while.
    Tuna is cheap and if you have a lot of mouths to feed a casserole is the fastest way to do that.

    Anyone who passes judgment hasn’t ever lived through tough times.

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