Biscuits are the foundation upon which Pine State has built their entire menu. The question to be asked is why are, and why were, biscuits such a common food in the South? According to Joe Gray Taylor, two significant changes in the late 19th century made their mark in the evolution of southern foodways. The first change was the food that people were eating. With increased wheat productions and new milling method, the price of flour fell significantly[i]. This reduction in price increased the demand for flour because now relatively low-income southerners could afford to buy flour. With this drop in price people started making more wheat-flour biscuits and they became a substitute good for cornbread. The second change, he says, is the growing trend of people “eating out” and the emergence of fast food[i]. Food to be consumed by mass quantities was prepared differently than food cooked for a family meal. He notes that the fried chicken establishments in the South provided meals for numerous southerners everyday. Fried chicken has been an integral part of the southern diet for 200 years, and, to this day, the chicken is still fried[i]! Pine State prides itself for serving up some of the best southern style fried chicken sandwiched between two halves of a classic biscuit. Pine State also prides itself in preparing biscuits the old fashioned way with “tender love and care”. The video below showcases some of the intricate processes that Pine State goes through to make the perfect homestyle southern biscuit.
A BBQ biscuit is an item on the Pine State menu. BBQ has a deep history in the south, particularly NC, and it makes sense that this item shows up on the Pine State menu. Barbecue is a food that represents southern heritage. The term barbecue comes from Spanish conquistadors upon seeing Taino-Arawak and Carib natives roast, dry, and smoke meat on wooden frameworks over coal[i]. These apparatus’ were called babracots, and the Spaniards then changed the name of the framework to barbacoas[i]. The fascinating thing about this style of cooking was not that they were cooking over coals, but that they were cooking the meat at such a low temperature. As Europeans arrived in Virginia, they noticed that the natives were cooking their meats using a barbacoa and when they used this method they were said to be ‘barbecuing’[i]. BBQ became popular in the south because it comes from pigs, and pigs were very low maintenance animals to own[ii]. Many lowbrow and middlebrow folks were able to raise and own their pigs for consumption. BBQ was also a practical food to consume because every part of the pig was used, and nothing went to waste. When cooking the meat at such a low temperature, it took longer for the meat to fully cook through. Barbecuing turned into a social event. The guests gathered, socialized, played games, and enjoyed beverages while they waited for the meat to cook. The traditional southern barbecue arose from these gatherings. William Byrd writes that, “hog meat was the staple commodity in North Carolina[ii].” This makes it no surprise that BBQ makes an appearance on Pine State Biscuits’ menu.
Grits have been a staple food in the South for quite a while. Grits originated from the Native American Muskogee tribe’s method of preparing corn[iii]. Recall that corn was one of the most useful foods that Native Americans had access too, and corn was equally integral during the settlement of America. The Native Americans would grind the corn in a stone mill, giving it the gritty texture[iii]. This method of preparation was passed down to settlers. Since then, grits still maintain their simplicity in some aspects of southern food, but they have also been revamped in many ways. Shrimp and grits is a dish that takes a simple ingredient like grits and adds a twist. This dish is a traditional southern dish that has been around for a very long time. There are known writings from the Gullah Geechee (descendants of slaves from West Africa) that mention meals resembling shrimp and grits[iii]. The Gullah slaves were sent to work on coastal plantations in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida[iv]. The slaves utilized their coastal resources by adding shrimp (possibly other types of seafood as well) to grits, which was one of the very common foods for slaves to eat[iii]. Ever since then, shrimp and grits has been a principal dish in the southern diet. Shrimp and grits is a very popular item on the Pine State menu due to its uniquity and rich southern history.
Moving on from traditional southern foods, Pine State also features a beverage that doesn’t have such an aged history, but an importance in the South nonetheless. “Its flavor is sweet, its color is red, and its history is inextricably intertwined with our own. At soda fountains and from vending machines, we grew up with it. This is our drink. But we’re happy to share it with the rest of the world.” –Our State Magazine[v]. Cheerwine; the legend. Cheerwine originated in 1917 in Salisbury, North Carolina[vi]. Salisbury, NC is only about forty minutes outside of Brian Snyder’s hometown of Albemarle, NC. The founder of Cheerwine, L.D. Peeler, wanted to create an original soft drink of his own. On a whim bought some very peculiar cherry flavoring from a traveling salesman[v] . He mixed this flavor with other flavors similar to Pepsi and Dr. Pepper and eventually stumbled upon the flavor sensation that is Cheerwine. No shocker, that the Carolina Boys brought this southern delicacy to Pine State in Portland. Pine State serves their Cheerwine in the classic glass bottles with the same branding and labeling as the glass bottles from the 1920’s[v] . This menu item is very popular because Pine State is one of the very few places in the Northwest that serves Cheerwine. Cheerwine continues to gain popularity nationwide, but with its main distribution channel in NC it is difficult to distribute the beverage to the Northwest. Brian had to pull some strings to get Cheerwine to Pine State, but he says it was important to them to get Cheerwine into their restaurants because “it tastes like home.”
The bottle of Texas Pete can be found right beside the salt and pepper on every table in Pine State. Texas Pete is yet another southern delicacy essential to the southern taste the Pine State strives for. Texas Pete is not only the element of heat that complements the sandwiches so well, but also a key part in the making of the fried chicken. Texas Pete is part of the soak that the Biscuit Boys use to marinate their chicken everyday. Texas Pete originated in Winston Salem, North Carolina, which is only an hour and a half from Brian’s hometown[vii]. Thad Garner owned a BBQ restaurant in NC and made a special hot sauce to accompany his sandwiches. The restaurant didn’t survive, but the hot sauce recipe lived on[vii]. Texas Pete is nationally out-produced by its direct competitor, Tabasco, but Texas Pete dominates the hot sauce market in the Southeast[vii]. Pine State uses Texas Pete in their restaurants not only because of its ties to the South, but because of the unique blend of flavors in Texas Pete[viii]. In the video below, the Biscuit Boys will tell you themselves how important Texas Pete is in Pine State culture.
Key concepts: culture, class, mass, authenticity
[i] “Southern Food Primer.” Southern Foodways Alliance. Web. 2 Dec. 2015.
[ii] “The History of Barbecue.” The History of Barbecue. Web. 2 Dec. 2015.
[iii] “Shrimp and Grits: A History – Deep South Magazine – Southern Food, Travel & Lit.” Deep South Magazine. 1 Oct. 2014. Web. 2 Dec. 2015.
[iv] “Gullah Geechee Corridor.” Gullah Geechee Corridor. Web. 2 Dec. 2015.
[v] “The History of Cheerwine.” Our State Magazine. 31 July 2013. Web. 2 Dec. 2015.
[vi] “Cheerwine.com.” History –. Web. 2 Dec. 2015.
[vii] “Texas Pete.” North Carolina History Project :. Web. 2 Dec. 2015.
[viii] “The Big Apple: Texas Pete (hot Sauce from Winston-Salem, NC).” The Big Apple: Texas Pete (hot Sauce from Winston-Salem, NC). Web. 2 Dec. 2015.
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“Pine State Biscuits.” Pine State Biscuits RSS. Web. 2 Dec. 2015.