The New "IT- City"
A Blossoming Settlement
Founded by James Robertson in 1779, Nashville quickly became a bustling city due to port access via river and the later booming railroad industry. Landlocked and central in what would eventually become the entire continental United States, Nashville residents learned to take whatever resources they could find and use them to their full advantage. These days, this region has better access to a wide variety of ingredients, and has developed their agricultural and livestock production to become one of the most delicious cities in the south!
HOT, HOT, HOT
True to their southern nature, Nashville residents don’t shy away from the heat. Dishes are often flavored heftily with a multitude of spices, including paprika, cayenne, and chilis. Many cooks in this city rely on vegetables like cucumbers, onions, garlic, tomatoes, collard greens, and okra for a wholesome add-on to their recipes. The rolling plains, both in Tennessee and from nearby states, produce an ample amount of corn. Quintessential southern fruits, such as apples and peaches, also grow from trees in orchards nearby. With many local farms, cattle, chicken, goats, and sheep provide dairy, including the popular buttermilk, used in many fried recipes. Most unique to this region, however, is a near-limitless supply of catfish from the local, flowing rivers, which presents a sweet and mild palate.
Speaking of fried recipes, it’s no secret that Tennesseans have a deep love for the deep fryer. Many meats are fried, grilled, or roasted in Tennessee. Barbeque is another common form of cooking savory meats, and you can likely find many public cookouts, smoke outs, or picnics held in the community. When you attend one of these cookouts, or even go to a restaurant, you can order what Nashville locals call, “meat and three”. This means exactly what it sounds like– you’re served one item of meat, then three accompanying side dishes to tie the delicious meal together.
One of the most famous dishes to come out of this city is Nashville Hot Chicken. A cut of chicken is dipped in a buttermilk, eggs, and hot sauce batter, deep fried, and then generously seasoned with cayenne pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, and paprika and served on its own or on a bun. It is aptly named, so be warned– if you can’t take the heat… be sure to accompany this spicy with a soothing dairy-based side, such as Mac and Cheese. An American staple, this pasta dish as been claimed as a perfect complimentary side to a serving of spicy, tangy, or herbal chicken, ribs, brisket, or other meat. Another complimenting side is sauteed collard greens, which are best with just a hint of chili flakes to balance out the slightly bitter flavor. You can also reach for a biscuit, fried pickles, bread pudding, or any other side dish. After all, you have to pick three!
Resilience and Community
Nashville draws culinary influence from many different places, like from surrounding states such as the Carolinas, Georgia, and Louisiana. Additionally, you’ll likely find hints of Western European and Southeastern Indian in quite a few local restaurants and recipes, as a result of continuous immigration to the United States. However, the most notable inspiration came from those who were discredited, ignored, and brushed to the side.
Despite a harsh, difficult history, Nashville’s black community has made this city the way it is today– rising above slavery, segregation, and further injustices throughout the years. In fact, many popular dishes can be accredited to the African-American workers employed to middle-to-high class white households in the years during and following the Jim Crow era. Most of the Nashville food you see today is a result of these recipes being shared throughout families, passed down through generations, and cooked for others. These days, Nashville has a proud, resilient community, constantly morphing and growing stronger, bigger, and even more creative in the kitchen!