The Northern Southerner: What is a Meat & Three?

June 22, 2015 | By | Comments (11)

Raised in Washington state, Hannah Norling has never lived in the South before. Now habituating to Alabama, she is experiencing the South for the first time as a resident and documenting the whole thing. Welcome to the Northern Southerner. 

Photo courtesy of Johnny's Restaurant

Photo courtesy of Johnny’s Restaurant

When my co-workers said they were going to take me to my first meat and three, I smiled and nodded. Meat and three…What?! I could make two quick assumptions, it was lunch time so I knew it had to be food. The word meat in the title was a dead giveaway that some sort of meat was involved. Granted, I didn’t know what kind. The “three” remained a mystery. We entered Johnny’s Restaurant in Homewood where I realized that the ambiguous three was the number of side vegetables accompanying a meal. Who knew mac and cheese was considered a veggie down here? I definitely wasn’t complaining, I could eat mac and cheese all day! I was about ready to order my three vegetable sides of mac and cheese when I was advised differently. For the betterment of my Southern experience, I was told to diversify in my vegetables. Fried chicken or fried catfish? Garlic mashed potatoes or collard greens? I ordered whatever my co-workers recommended because I was overwhelmed by all the choices.

Meat: Fried chicken

Three: Squash casserole, fried green tomatoes, mac and cheese.

I almost fell asleep when I got back to work, where in my stupor I got the chance to reflect on the lesson Southern food had to teach me. I learned three very important things.

1. You get a biscuit with pretty much everything.

2. They fry vegetables down here.

3. Southern people make their food with a whole lot of love.

I have far more to learn about the South, and far more to see (like, every southern state besides Alabama.) If you keep tuning in to The Northern Southerner you’ll get a first hand account of me embracing the culture through food, travel, and lifestyle. Till next time y’all.


  1. Judith

    I’m from Pennsylvania. In Virginia on my honeymoon, I had my first taste of grits. When I saw them on my breakfast plate, I wondered why they would include rice with the eggs and bacon! I love them now.

    August 7, 2015 at 11:03 am
  2. Judith

    As a Northerner myself, none of the words were familiar to me. Believe they are mostly colloquial to Seattle or Washington state. I’m from NEPA (North East Pennsylvania).

    August 7, 2015 at 11:00 am
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    July 30, 2015 at 9:03 am
  4. Memphis Cait via the West Coast

    Bless your heart, but don’t you mean “inhabiting” instead of “habituating”?

    July 22, 2015 at 4:28 pm
  5. Luchana Wilson

    I love this new column! I’m originally from Philadelphia PA, but have been a resident Texan since 2001. I learn something new almost every hour. Just found out what a “crepe murder” is……..

    July 22, 2015 at 2:28 pm
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    July 22, 2015 at 11:58 am
  7. lovelysouthernlife


    July 2, 2015 at 8:29 pm
  8. Ray Hickey

    My first experience with Southern Cookin’ was happened when I was in the Navy in Meridian, MS. As the bus left the base and headed for the mall, it passed a small roadside cafe. This intrigued me. Being from CA, I was too familiar with malls and their quik bites. Hey! I’m in the South! I wanted Real Southern Cooking. That cafe served it with hot, delicious food, warm hospitality and a lot of friendliness.

    There is a restaurant in Concord, CA called NOLA’S. Mmmmmm, mmmph! The staff is from NOLA, the foods are NOLA style and so is the service. *Don’t be in a hurry ’cause Southerners take their time and it’s definitely worth the wait.

    So Miss Norling,
    I do relate to your openess to experience all that you can having transplanted to the South. We did likewise and are enjoying every venture.

    June 23, 2015 at 10:46 pm
  9. gail innes

    Great fun for all what a great new expereance

    June 22, 2015 at 5:32 pm
  10. Elizabeth

    I’m a Northerner who loves all things southern especially the people and the food. I’ll be watching for your next column.

    June 22, 2015 at 3:42 pm
  11. Lauren |. Spoonbred

    Sounds like an absolutely divine lunch! Looking forward to reading more about your experiences.

    June 22, 2015 at 3:25 pm

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