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Hog Meat and Hoecake

Food Supply in the Old South, 1840-1860

Sam Bowers Hilliard

Publication Year: 2014

When historical geographer Sam B. Hilliard’s book Hog Meat and Hoecake was published in 1972, it was ahead of its time. It was one of the first scholarly examinations of the important role food played in a region’s history, culture, and politics, and it has since become a landmark of foodways scholarship.

In the book Hilliard examines the food supply, dietary habits, and agricultural choices of the antebellum American South, including Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. He explores the major southern food sources at the time, the regional production of commodity crops, and the role of those products in the subsistence economy.

Far from being primarily a plantation system concentrating on cash crops such as cotton and tobacco, Hilliard demonstrates that the South produced huge amounts of foodstuffs for regional consumption. In fact, the South produced so abundantly that, except for wines and cordials, southern tables were not only stocked with the essentials but amply laden with veritable delicacies as well. (Though contrary to popular opinion, neither grits nor hominy ever came close to being universally used in the South prior to the Civil War.)

Hilliard’s focus on food habits, culture, and consumption was revolutionary—as was his discovery that malnutrition was not a major cause of the South’s defeat in the Civil War. His book established the methods and vocabulary for studying a region’s cuisine in the context of its culture that foodways scholars still employ today. This reissue is an excellent and timely reminder of that.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Series: Southern Foodways Alliance Studies in Culture, People, and Place


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Front Matter

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Figures and Tables

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pp. vii-ix

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James C. Cobb

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pp. xi-xiii

Sam Bowers Milliard and I grew up ten miles and seventeen years apart in Hart County, Georgia. Sam actually hailed from Bowersville, a once-thriving settlement named for his ancestors and still big enough when Sam was born in 1930 to sustain a railroad junction, post office, and cotton gin. His ancestry was more prominent locally than mine, but our forebears had crossed paths way...

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p. xv

To acknowledge one's debts for a work such as this is not easy. Soprobing into the geography of self-sufficiency has come from all...

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1. Self-sufficiency: The developing American Farm

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pp. 1-20

On Christmas day in 1827 Mrs. Frances Trollope, an Englishwoman, arrived at the mouth of the Mississippi River to begin a three and one-half year stay in America. Her observations on life in the new country, published five years later, proved to be a scathing commentary on the manner and customs of Americans....

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2. The Problems of Subsistence

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pp. 21-36

In the preceding chapter, it was suggested that the South differed from the remainder of the nation in its attention to commercial nonfood crops. This fact should not be particularly surprising to students of American agriculture, since the South has traditionally been seen as a land of cotton, rice, tobacco, and sugarcane. Yet, few attempts have been made to assess the role of food...

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3. "All kinds of good rations"

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pp. 37-69

Any discussion of food supply in the South must include the distinctive character of southern food habits and diet. Nowhere in the nation has a culture trait become so outstanding nor certain foods so identified with a single area as in the South. While it is true that recent trends indicate a mass homogenization of American food habits, the notable food preferences of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century southerners and the persistence of these choices into the twentieth century have consistently distinguished...

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4. The Forests, Streams, and the Sea

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pp. 70-91

The story of the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century pioneer has been, at least in the layman's mind, one of the rugged individualism, isolation, and dependence upon nature for sustenance. Sketches of settlement in the east during the early colonial period, and penetration into the Appalachian hill country, the Mohawk lowlands, and the Lake Plains north and west of the Ohio River...

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5. Pork: The South's first choice

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pp. 92-111

The use of swine for food in the South is proverbial. Seldom is food mentioned by travelers through the antebellum South, by historians of the area, or by twentieth-century chroniclers of current events without some reference to pork. Its place in the nation's economy during the early nineteenth century certainly was notable, but its importance in the domestic economy of the South was overwhelming. Swine were an integral part of southern...

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6. Beefsteaks and buttermilk

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pp. 112-140

The student of the antebellum South, whose task it is to study, interpret, and present the character of the area, faces some challenging tasks. Not the least among them is the assessment of the importance of cattle in the economy of the area. Many have wrestled with the problem, and while various answers have been suggested, the question remains essentially unanswered....

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7. The occasional diversion

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pp. 141-149

The traditional interpretation of the American farmstead is not unlike the theme of the children's song, "Old MacDonald's Farm." With "quacks," "gobbles," and "moos" everywhere, it supposedly contained animals sufficient to provide a variety of food for the needs of the farm family. Accordingly, diet in rural America has reflected this proliferation. From this menagerie a host of...

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8. Corn pone and light bread

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pp. 150-171

One of the most distinctive features of antebellum southern agriculture was the emphasis on crop production. The strong concentration on cash crops such as tobacco, cotton, rice and sugar is well known, but this preoccupation with field crops as opposed to livestock extended to the subsistence production as well. Most of the basic plants and animals common to American farms were...

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9. Rounding out the fare

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pp. 172-185

As elsewhere in the country, the garden and orchard were important segments of the southern food supply industry. Both small holders and planters had substantial acreages set aside to supply their fruit and vegetable needs; slaves often tended their own plots; and even urban dwellers cultivated small gardens that...

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10. Making up the shortage

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pp. 186-212

In the preceding chapters, the areal variation in the production and consumption of foodstuffs in the South was emphasized. In that discussion, some areas were cited as having had a relatively low production of one or more food commodities. Presumably, this resulted either in a lower consumption of such foods or a...

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11. Independence for some

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pp. 213-238

The preceding chapters have demonstrated that the food industry of the South was far from uniform throughout the area. In each of the commodities examined, wide variation existed in both production and consumption with some areas producing well above their mimimum needs and others falling far below. In the last chapter the southern food trade was examined and, where


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pp. 239-286


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pp. 287-296

E-ISBN-13: 9780820347028
E-ISBN-10: 0820347027
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820346762

Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 22 tables, 44 figures
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Southern Foodways Alliance Studies in Culture, People, and Place
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OCLC Number: 873853558
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Hog Meat and Hoecake

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Food supply -- Southern States -- History.
  • Food consumption -- Southern States -- History.
  • Food habits -- Southern States -- History.
  • Southern States -- History.
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