Traditional Terms Used
in Southern Cooking
“A dash of this” and “a pinch of that” are traditional cooking terms used in southern cooking. When I say spices, I don’t mean hot and spicy, I simply mean how you use cooking spices to bring out the wonderful traditional flavors in your dishes.
Southern cooking is totally about how you add spices and seasonings to your food. When I say spices, I don’t mean hot and spicy, I simply mean how you use spices to bring out the traditional soul food flavors.
This method of cooking really started when the African American slaves prepared their food many years ago. They used terms such as “a dash of this” and “a punch of that” in referring to cooking spices and seasonings for their food.
Why were these terms used?
“A dash of this” and “a pinch of that” were used because back then there were no measuring devices, cookbooks, or cooking classes to learn from; they had to second guess their measurements and they only had each other to rely on to remember main ingredients. So they created terms that were easy for them to season their food. They also developed ways to know when their baked food was done by saying “ bake until golden brown.” Today, this method of cooking is still popular in many southern kitchens.
Sometimes adding “a dash of this” and “a pinch of that” may not be enough spice for your dish, just always remember to add spices according to your taste and what compliments the dish you’re preparing.
Any one who makes southern and soul food know that recipes are only a base for you to start with. The amount of seasonings and cooking spices a recipe call for, may be more or less to your taste. What’s important about this method is that you control the amount of spice that you use. Only you can determine the amount of seasonings to add for a particular recipe.
Because the base of southern cooking is spices, you will find cooking terms, “a dash of this” and “a pinch of that” throughout my new cookbook, Soul Food Lovers’ . The recipes in the cookbook also allow you to use your judgment when adding spices to your food.
Today, many southerners still cook without a recipe, just by remembering main ingredients and adding seasonings to their taste. So, go ahead, add “a dash of this” and “a pinch of that” to bring out the true flavors of your southern recipes.
For more information on cooking spices, check out these resources:
Cooking Spices for Specific Food Groups
Choosing Cooking Spices
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