The culture that surrounds southern food is totally different than the culture that surrounds food in the Northwest. Brian elaborates upon the richness of food in the South, and the deep-rooted traditions that only enhance the special aura of southern food. After comparing the cultures of these two regions, I concluded that the regional culture of food in the south values tradition while the regional culture of food in the Northwest highlights modernity and innovation.
Brian says it’s very important for Pine State to do things the way they’ve always been done in order to maintain the importance of tradition in the South. Aside from the ingredients and methodology used in preparing southern food, there is a certain culture that revolves around food in the South. John Egerton writes, “within the South itself, no other form of cultural expression is as distinctly characteristic of the region as the spreading of a feast of native food and drink before a gathering of kin and friends. For as long as there has been a South, and people who think of themselves as southerners, food has been central to the region’s image, its personality, and its character.[i]” The food traditions in the South can be summarized in one word: hospitality. Brian attests to this in that hospitality is a vital element of Pine State’s business model. He wants to give his customers the full southern experience, and that means more that just the food. He expects his employees to treat their customers with that special southern hospitality and make them feel welcome.
However, he says there are certain things in modern Northwestern culture that play an important part in Pine State’s success. They integrate the things that the people of the hip Northwest value in the consumption of their food. Brian highlights the difference of consumer’s tastes from where he is from (southern NC) and the tastes of consumer’s tastes in Portland. He says the food scene in Portland places emphasis on the quality of the food they are getting. The Northwestern folk care and value where their food is coming from and the quality of the food. Those kinds of things are generally more important to people in the Northwest than for people in the South. Brian says this is one of the key changes that he had to make to his traditional southern recipes. Back home, his housekeeper Naomi, would use the foods that were available at the supermarket without knowing where they came from and would cook them up with oil and lard. This is not only a difference between Southern and Northwestern culture, but a difference in the time period as well. Back then, many people ate what was made available to them and whatever tasted good, but through modernity, the culture around food is constantly evolving. The customers in the Northwest tend to want to consume fresh and organic foods. In order to be competitive in the Portland food scene, Pine State’s recipes call for organic ingredients and free range chicken. They also cook with vegetable oil . You can get a fried chicken biscuit from Bojangles and a fried chicken biscuit from Pine State and pay $2.00 and $5.00 for each, respectively. Why is there such a difference in price? The answer is the quality of the food the people are consuming. It is important for any restaurant in the Northwest to deliver the best quality ingredients, although at a higher cost, because that is what creates value and attracts customers.
So, how does Pine State blend these two cultures? Brian says the food they make is “new southern.” It’s the best of authenticity with modern food values related to responsible sourcing practices. Although many of the ingredients involved in traditional southern cooking are considered to be foods categorized in lowbrow culture, he revamps the ingredients of his recipes in order to conform to the Northwestern scene. Pine State realizes the importance of these contemporary food values, but they really try to bring in the southern hospitality in order for their customers to get the full experience of Southern culture. Brian tells me their customers experience a connective experience that comes through the southern charm of each PSB establishment. Pine State focuses on training their staff in the southern charm that differentiates Southern culture from less authentic regions such as the Northwest. People in the service industry in the Northwest typically don’t know the names of their customers and Pine State makes it a point to get to know the community and regulars who are the backbone to Pine State’s brand. The culture that surrounds Southern food in its native region is viewed as a simple way of life, but the culture that surrounds those same foods in the Northwest is a new discovery for those unfamiliar with southern food and it also provides a nostalgic connection for southern transplants.
Key concepts: authenticity, modernity, culture, class, progress
[i] “Southern Food Primer.” Southern Foodways Alliance. Web. 2 Dec. 2015.
i. “Current Location of the Mason-Dixon Line (vs., Inclusive, Road) – General U.S. – Page 9 – City-Data Forum.” Current Location of the Mason-Dixon Line (vs., Inclusive, Road) – General U.S. – Page 9 – City-Data Forum. Web. 2 Dec. 2015.
ii. “Gardening in the Pacific Northwest.” Mother Earth News. Web. 2 Dec. 2015.