Food of the American South – Kentucky

My Old Kentucky Home


With rolling hills of lush ‘bluegrass’ dotted with horse farms and miles of white fences, Kentucky offers a warm invitation to travellers and family alike.  Renowned as the ‘Horse Capital of the World’, it is a hub for equestrian enthusiasts, and even HRH Queen Elizabeth II owns land and horses here. It is in Kentucky at the Churchill Downs racetrack that the legendary Kentucky Derby is held, one of the most prestigious horse races worldwide.

















Not only famous in the equine world, Kentucky also brings us many household favourites. Happy Birthday to You, the most recognized song in the world was written in Louisville, Kentucky by two sisters in 1893. Post-it Notes were also created in Kentucky, and of course, there is Kentucky bourbon and KFC!


Dishes with Distinction


The Mint Julep is a refreshing beverage and a very traditional part of the Kentucky Derby. With gently muddled spearmint, exquisite Kentucky bourbon, and simple sugar syrup, it is poured carefully over shaved ice and customarily served in silver or pewter cups.

This cocktail is so steeped in tradition there is even a correct way to hold the goblet, touching it lightly at only the top and bottom of the cup, so frost builds up on the outside.

In bygone eras, the ability to serve a drink over ice indicated wealth, as did the traditional silver cup.

Like each of the states that make up the Deep South, Kentucky is known for its food and barbecue.  The smoky showpiece in this region is barbecued mutton, grilled low and slow over coals then smoked for hours. Once tender, the mutton is served over toasted bread rolls with a delicious dip on the side.















Here in Kentucky we also find ‘Hoppin’ John’ – now a quintessential Kentucky combination but inspired by the cultures of Africa, France and the Caribbean that shaped the state as we know it now. This wonderful assortment of pork or ham, black-eyed peas and rice appears at most Kentucky thanksgiving dinners and serves up a lavish helping of comfort and tradition.

Spoonbread is another favourite with Kentuckians and originates back to the Native Americans. This custard-like cornbread is scooped from the dish with a serving spoon – hence the name Spoonbread.

Another creative favourite is the Hot Brown.  Hailing from Louisville, it was the inspiration of chef at the Brown Hotel in the 1920s.

Looking for a new alternative to ham and eggs, Chef Schmidt’s combination of turkey, ham, bacon, and a creamy Mornay sauce was served as an open sandwich and is still popular nearly 100 years later.

In the manner so typical of the Deep South, Kentucky is a gentle, friendly region, where the people are hospitable, the horses are magnificent, and the cuisine is a true blend of creativity and southern comfort.

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