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These 14 Southern states lay claim to a rich tradition of belly-stuffing comfort foods — all worth a detour drive to sample.
Alabama: White barbecue sauce
Pecan pie and fried green tomatoes are beloved 'Bama dishes, but for something uniquely Alabamian, try some tangy white barbecue sauce. Unlike regular barbecue sauce, which is typically tomato-based, white sauce is mayonnaise-based. “It’s traditionally used as a finishing sauce, popular with poultry and pork,” says Stacey Little, author of The Southern Bite Cookbook. White sauce originated at Big Bob Gibson in Decatur, where the Gibson family has been smoking BBQ since 1925.
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Arkansas: Possum pie
No small mammals in this classic, crazily sinful Arkansas dessert, just crust with a cream cheese filling and chocolate custard, topped with a pillow of whipped cream (no one seems to agree on the origin of the name; it’s also sometimes called chocolate layer pie or striped delight). If you’re ever in the Fayetteville area, locals say, stop into Sassy’s Red House for Southern smoked baby back ribs and a big slice of its possum pie, while others favor the possum pie at Old South Restaurant, a diner in Russellville. Wherever you get it, don’t ask for the calorie count.
Florida: Key lime pie
The sublime (no pun intended) taste comes from the fresh, pale-yellow juice from locally grown key limes — smaller than the more common Mexican-grown variety. The pie also usually includes sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks in the filling, with egg whites fluffed up for a cloud of meringue topping. If you really want to sink your teeth into the stuff, visit Key West during its annual Key Lime Festival every July 4th weekend. It includes a raucous hands-free Mile High Key Lime Pie Eatin’ Contest.
Georgia: Peach Pie
It only takes one bite of a luscious, fresh peach, juice running down your chin, to understand why Georgia is nicknamed the Peach State. Its swoon-worthy peaches became big business here around 1870, soon after the first seeds were planted in Marshallville. Now the state grows 130 million pounds of them every year. The perfect peach is eaten in many forms: sliced or whole, in cakes and cobblers, but top a warm slice of peach pie with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream and you've got a piece of heaven. Some swear by a buttery, flaky crust, while others throw a dash of nutmeg into the mix — and Lane Southern Orchards fries its version.