Southern Thing Column

What is a Southern trifle and why is it called that?

Below is an excerpt from a column that appeared on It’s a Southern Thing ( To go directly to the full column, click here.

Not long ago, I mentioned the word “trifle” in a column. As in, the dessert kind of trifle. I don’t get to have it often but it is definitely a favorite of mine. A reader, however, had never heard of it. He wrote: “I’ve never heard of trifle as a food, only as something of no value. Maybe that is why the food is named that.”

But no. Trifle is not trifling. Trifle is actually a Really Big Deal. It’s like putting every dessert you ever loved in your mouth at one time. It is also a beautiful, layered dessert that is as suitable for the most elegant luncheons as for a church potluck. Every Southern kitchen should have a trifle serving dish, stored right beside the deviled egg platter.

A trifle dish is typically bowl-shaped with a pedestal and it should be clear so people can see the colorful layers of fruit, cake and pudding – and then drool until the blessing is over.

Check out “Things you think when the blessing gets too long.”

Most of us know “trifle” can mean an object of little value, like a doodad or geegaw, or to treat someone without seriousness or respect (ie. Don’t trifle with Aunt Ella Dean. She’ll jerk a knot in your tail). To go directly to the full column, click here.

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