TrueSouth is a series on SEC Network which features different cities and towns across the American South and connects with them through food in the little mom-and-pop shops that are unique to their location. Food tells a story for people. It tells you their ethnic and financial background, where they grew up and where they’ve been. It often tells a story of family and community. Those are the things this show tries to unearth in every place they visit, and they do a beautiful job with it.

Here’s an episode that was done in Athens, Georgia:

The show regularly makes me reflect on my growing up on the Gulf Coast in Pensacola, Florida and how food was a part of that. My mom used to have house parties with her coworkers at the medical rehabilitational hospital she worked at. There was always a spread at these events. There would be meat being grilled in the backyard, while attendees would bring a side dish. It became engrained in my mind this is how a gathering should be: several folks coming together around plates of food, having conversations and laughs as afternoons quickly became late evenings.

Even when us kids would have a get-together for a birthday at one of our houses, there would be something to eat there, even if that something was pizza. Food helped bring us together.

I remember a few years after I moved to Nebraska, I was college age, though not in college at the time. A good friend of mine told me about a party happening, saying it would be a good time, so, I rode along with him. I get to this house where there’s one of those white buffet tables and the entire thing was nothing but different kinds of liquor and mixers. Not a single entrée there.

Me being who I was and growing up the way I did, I found this unacceptable. So, I decided to walk about a mile to the nearest McDonald’s and got myself a combo meal there. There was no way I was going to sit and drink all night without having something to eat along the way. Culturally, I found it unacceptable. I still remember feeling the looks other party goers were giving me, like “what’s with this dude and his Big Mac?”.

Luckily, my current circle of friends gets the concept I grew up with. We’ll have potlucks on holidays or other occasions. I’m thankful to have that experience in my life again. My girlfriend and I have talked about having some sort of gathering soon, but with busy schedules and holiday chaos, that hasn’t materialized yet. But, I do look forward to doing so and sharing a plate with a few friends.

TrueSouth can be seen on the SEC Network or on Hulu with the Disney+ bundle.