Southern Thing Column

How Fannie Flagg claimed fried green tomatoes for the south

“How Fannie Flagg claimed fried green tomatoes for the south.” Following is an excerpt from this week’s column on It’s a Southern Thing. The link at the bottom takes you to the full column. I do that because It’s a Southern Thing owns the rights to this column and I can’t blog it in its entirety.

Most folks know I want to be Fannie Flagg when I grow up. The Alabama native is not only a quintessential southern lady but she is hilarious, not to mention she shares my love for quirky Alabama history, which she references in several of her books.

But Fannie’s greatest achievement, and one for which she deserves an award, is sealing the south’s claim on fried green tomatoes. Flagg’s 1987 novel, “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café,” and subsequent film ensconced the dish forever in the hearts and stomachs of southerners.

My love affair with this culinary delight began as a child when my mother would make them for supper. I loved them because a) they were tomatoes, one of my fave veggies, b) they were battered and fried, and c) they were battered and fried. (My mom knew the best way to make me eat veggies was to fry them, or to cook them until they were a yummy, buttery mush … in other words, the correct ways to prepare veggies in the south.)

Then I read something shocking: Fried green tomatoes didn’t originate in the South at all. According to the book “The Fried Green Tomato Swindle and Other Southern Culinary Adventures” by food historian Robert F. Moss, “By all accounts, they entered the American culinary scene in the Northeast and Midwest, perhaps with a link to Jewish immigrants, and from there moved onto the menus of the home-economics school of cooking teachers who flourished in the United States in the early-to-mid 20th century.” Click here to read the full column on It’s a Southern Thing.

Fannie Flagg anecdote - Kelly interviewing Fannie photo by Wil Elrick
Kelly Kazek interviewing Fannie Flagg. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)

4 thoughts on “How Fannie Flagg claimed fried green tomatoes for the south”

  1. My mom called me when we lived in GA to tell me about the book, Fried Green Tomatoes, that had just come out. Idgie the main character, was based on a family friend, Bess Fortenbury, who was Fannie’s aunt. My aunt (mother’s sister) lived in Irondale and Bess was regularly at her house. They had Friday night poker games. My uncle Forrest was known by everyone as Snookie. Fannie had a character in the book called Snookie and I’ve always thought she used his nickname for the character. So many places in Bham were mentioned in the book. It was a wonderful book to read and I loved the movie.

    I remember as a child when she was on the morning local TV shows and her participation in the Miss Alabama pageants. Bess was so proud of her. I tried clicking on the It’s a Southern Thing site, but it kept saying “error”, but I will try again. Thanks for a wonderful column!
    War Eagle!
    Barbara Assell


  2. Kelly your link doesn’t work.

    Bob Barnett, PE, SEBC, LFASCE, FACI, FACEC Structural Engineer Barnett Jones Wilson, LLC Bob’s rule 4 feel free to call or text me @205-369-6551 ________________________________


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