The History of the Classic Southern ‘Meat and Three’ Meal

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(Southern Partisan) – There’s a reason Southern food has such a legendary place in American culinary psychology: it’s been responsible for more classic food innovations than any regional cuisine in the country (even if fried green tomatoes aren’t actually from there). Along with New Orleans (which, while certainly distinct, is also by definition Southern), the South more broadly has had a profound effect on the world food landscape; you don’t get fried chicken or American BBQ without it.

And one of the lesser-known Southern meals (outside the South, at least) is a meat ‘n’ three. This isn’t simply a meat with three sides — there’s a process involved in this cafeteria-style meal. But where did it come from? How did it become a thing in the first place? No one knows for sure, but the best guess is it came from the growing push for urbanization. A meat ‘n’ three, in other words, is (recently-minted) city-slicker food.

A meat ‘n’ three isn’t like diner food

It’s helpful to explain how a meat ‘n’ three actually works for the uninitiated. The cafeteria-style restaurants are pretty simple, serving a rotating selection of meats and vegetables. You just grab a tray, pick your meat, then pick your sides — which can be anything from various vegetables to…

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