Let's start our story with Coca-Cola. Coke, (the southern word for soda), was invented in Atlanta on May 8th, 1886 by a pharmacist named Dr. John Stith Pemberton. The local pharmacy loved Coca-Cola -- it originally contained cocaine! In fact, Coca-Cola didn't become completely cocaine-free until 1929, but there was barely any left in the formula by then. Coca-Cola sold as a soda fountain drink until its bottling in 1894. I still think Coca-Cola is most delicious when drunk from a frosty glass bottle.
Krispy Kreme makes melt-in-your-mouth, exquisite glazed doughnuts. Krispy Kreme actually started in North Carolina, but it spread throughout the Southeast. My kindergarten class in Decatur, Georgia went on a field trip to their factory. I think I recall catching chicken pox that day, but my most vivid memory of the visit is of dozens of crullers moving through an assembly line.
Chick-fil-A is a real Atlanta original. Truett Cathy opened the Dwarf Grill in 1946, revolutionizing fast food with the most delicious chicken sandwich ever invented. In my opinion, their breading is unparalled in flavor. The first Chick-fil-A store in a mall opened in 1967 in Greenbriar Mall. Chick-fil-A's are always closed on Sundays so that employees can have family time or attend church.
Traditional Georgian Food
Here's the short list of Georgian foods (which I grew up eating) -- Everyone should know that Southern Breakfasts are as big as all get out. Then there's Biscuits, Molasses, Grits, Deep-Fried Chicken, Cornbread, Sweet Tea, Sweet Potato, Ham, Chicken-Fried Steak, Collard Greens, Barbecue, Fried Okra, Black Eyed Peas, Hominy, Peaches, Peanuts, and many kinds of pie. I love Apple Pie with Sharp Cheddar Cheese. It's right tasty. A la Mode is scrumptious, too! Georgians love their sweets!
Why is Southern Food the way it is?
Originally, Native American tribes such as the Cherokee and the Creek lived in Georgia. Then, immigrants flooded in from Europe. Many immigrants to Georgia were Scots-Irish and English, including my ancestors. Native Americans died from imported diseases as well as conflicts with settlers.
Legislation enabled the Europeans to oust Native Americans from their homes and force them to move to reservations. The Georgia state government held lotteries and gave all of the Cherokee land to whites. Cherokees' rights were basically taken away. Even though the U.S. Supreme Court supported the Cherokees' rights to their land, the decision was unenforceable.
My county of residence, Cobb, was a starting point for The Trail of Tears, when the Cherokee had to walk without enough provisions and under terrible conditions all the way to Oklahoma . It is estimated that more than 4,000 Cherokee died on the journey, almost a fifth of their entire remaining population at the time.
Despite the horrors and difficulty of the warfare between the settlers and Native Americans, most Georgians adopted Native American food and methods of cooking, and blended them with English, Scottish and Irish food. Corn, whiskey, and potatoes are some New World foods.
Another important factor in Southern Food is the influence of African-American Cuisine. The forced immigration of slaves from Africa was legal in Georgia from 1751 to 1865. Slave traders and Africans actually imported food from Africa to the South. These include field peas, okra, eggplant, peanuts, and yams. Peanuts and Yams are extremely important to Southern Cuisine, but who knew that they hail from Africa?
On plantations, African-Americans ate meal, rice, vegetables, salt, molasses, pork, and sometimes fish and coffee. There was rampant malnutrition since slaves were forced to do heavy labor, but were not fed sufficiently or nutritiously in most cases. African-American Southern Cuisine today still derives directly from the time of slavery. When African-Americans were emancipated, many continued to eat the same cuisine as in times of slavery, but over time the traditional slave diet has evolved into "soul food," and a modern African-American Southern Cuisine which is a major part of the rich heritage of Southern Food.
Food in Modern Atlanta
Cuisine in Atlanta today is metropolitan and varied. However, Southern Cuisine still reigns in many Atlanta restaurants. Atlantans regularly eat fried chicken and barbecue, and they still eat hearty breakfasts of biscuits, pancakes, or waffles accompanied by grits and bacon. In the future, Atlanta will continue to embrace its growing diversity of cuisines and cultures, but Atlantans could never live without sweet tea ... and what Atlantan could ever give up Coca-Cola!