From US History Scene by Christina Regelski:
While many American regions and cities have famous fare, few will argue that the South wears the culinary crown. Southern identity is stronglylinked to its cuisine, and food has long been an enticing (and profitable) draw for tourism in the South. Southern food has inspired trails, websites, songs, books, television shows, and movies (Fried Green Tomatoes, anyone?).
The influences for many of the Southern foods we enjoy come directly from colonial and antebellum slave quarters. Southern food, often perceived as the quintessential American cuisine, is actually derived from a complex blend of European, Native American, and African origins that found realization in the hands of enslaved people. While Southern food has evolved from sources and cultures of diverse regions, classes, races, and ethnicities, African and African American slaves have one of the strongest yet least recognized roles (Though some culinary historians, like Michael Twitty, are attempting to change that). For enslaved people, cooking was about culture and community as much it was about survival. Through the horrors of the Middle Passage and bondage in North America, generations of slaves preserved and created culinary traditions that remain strong today. Southern food reminds Americans of this difficult past but it can also help us understand it and respect it.