What do the restaurants of your childhood say about the place you grew up? In Jack Hitt’s case, the Oysters Mornay and Escargots Bourguignonne of his Charleston, South Carolina home revealed a South attempting to be less… Southern.

This was the 1970s, an era in which serving shrimp & grits in a fine dining restaurant was about as chic as wearing your bathrobe out on the town. Fine for home, not for going out. But the fancy fake French food of that period tells us plenty about Southern identity—then and now. In this episode of Gravy, Jack Hitt digs through his youthful dining exploits to see what Baked Alaska uncovers about what the South longed to be and what it was.

A crane places the Scarlett O'Hara Restaurant in place on November 13, 1974. (Photo courtesy of The Post and Courier.)
A crane places the Scarlett O’Hara Restaurant in place on November 13, 1974. (Photo courtesy of The Post and Courier.)

You can read more about the Scarlett O’Hara floating restaurant here.

This episode was originally a talk Jack Hitt gave at the Southern Foodways Alliance Fall Symposium in October 2015. You can watch that here.

If you liked this piece, you’ll enjoy Jack Hitt’s other work. You can find his stories for This American Life here.That article for Saveur that Jack wrote about turtle-hunting is here. Jack’s also written a couple of books, Bunch of Amateurs: A Search for the American Character, and Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim’s Route in Spain.

Oh, and you can find a recipe for Escargots Bourguignonne here.