Sunday, October 30


Sunday's SFA symposium programming is now online via podcast at iTunesU.  Click here to be taken to the SFA iTunes U page, and listen to Ed Davis's musings on collard greens and hear the spectacular Collard Opera, composed by University of Mississippi student Price Walden and performed by UM's Opera Theater.


Saturday Symposium podcasts are now available on iTunesU.  Click here to be taken to the SFA iTunes U page to hear presentations from Michael McFee, Shirley Sherrod, Elizabeth Engelhardt, Rashid Nuri, Felder Rushing and Sara Roahen.  The morning began with poetry, moved to serious conversation about discriminatory farming practices, and ended with talk of mirlitons and the Long Beach Radish.

Saturday, October 29


The 2011 Southern Foodways Symposium, which explores The Cultivated South, began Friday morning.  Podcasts from the Friday presentations are now online at iTunesU.  Click here to be taken to the SFA iTunes U page and listen to Sean Brock ponder olives in the South, Emily Wallace argue that the pimento is a vegetable, Eleanor Finnegan and Ragan Sutterfield discuss the idea(l) of the farm, and Kevin Young offer poetic salute to the Groaning Table.

Friday, October 28


The Southern Foodways Alliance is pleased to share the story of Hardy Farms of Hawkinsville, Georgia, recipient of the 2011 Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame Award.


Greetings from the 2011 Southern Foodways Symposium! This weekend we are eating, drinking, learning, and listening our way through the Cultivated South. If you're not with us this in person, enjoy a cultivated six-pack to finish out the work day.

1. In just moments, we'll be hearing Sean Brock speak about the revival of olive cultivation in the South. Brock was the subject of an article in this week's New Yorker—don't miss it! (If you don't have a subscription to the New Yorker, you'll need to purchase it in order to read the entire article.)

2. This morning we sampled bitters—breakfast beverage of champions—from Brad Thomas Parsons, author of the new book Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-all.

3. Kevin Young, lauded bard of Southern foodstuffs, kicked off this year's symposium with a talk entitled "The Groaning Table." Read an excerpt from his new book Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels.

4. Cultivated craziness! Read about last week's produce trade show in Atlanta. Have you ever had a craving for a grape-flavored apple?

5. A food-distribution giant takes steps toward local sourcing. (Dig the high cuteness factor of the infographic.)

6. You're keeping up with us on Twitter, right? All of the action will be marked with the hashtag #foodways. Follow along or join the conversation.

Thursday, October 27


In 2009, Alabama "popped the cap" on craft beer, raising the ceiling for alcohol by volume (ABV) from 6% to 13.9%. The boys of Good People Brewing Company had already been at work for a few years by then, taking their homebrew operation commercial in 2007. The new law has allowed them to step up their production over the last couple of years, and Good People now offers over a dozen varieties of suds. Most popular is the Snake Handler double IPA, which scoffs at the former 6% ABV limit, clocking in at a stumble-inducing 9.3%.

Good People began rolling out cans in 2011, and we're hoping that they hit shelves beyond Alabama very soon. In the meantime, we'll be tapping a few kegs this weekend at the symposium.

If you can't join us in Oxford, follow our exploits 140 characters at a time by searching for the hashtag #foodways on Twitter (@potlikker).

Wednesday, October 26


"When you do good, good will follow you, especially with food." 
– Herman Sullivan

Food brought Herman Sullivan to Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Church in Greenwood, Mississippi. His high school principal was an elder member of the church and invited him to supper. Herman soon became a member and committed himself not only to God, but to the greater Greenwood community, as well. He and his wife started the church’s food bank in 1997. In 2009 Herman applied for a grant from Delta Health Alliance to start a church garden. He’s now the church’s head gardener and oversees the entire operation, from planting seeds to delivering collard greens to elderly people in the community who can’t get to the church’s food bank on their own. Food is his ministry. But it’s also a way of life. Seventh-day Adventists subscribe to health laws that dictate a strictly vegan diet, and the church’s garden has helped the congregation honor those laws and become healthier as a result. The garden has also served as a way to educate young people in the community about where food comes from. Herman looks forward to expanding the garden and collaborating with other churches to help plant seeds of inspiration throughout the Mississippi Delta.

* * *

SFA members joining us in Greenwood for our 9th Annual Delta Divertissement will enjoy a church potluck of dishes made with vegetables from the Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Church's garden.


The Downtown Greenwood Farmers’ Market was established in 2008 as a project of Main Street Greenwood, a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote economic development and revitalization in this Delta town, once known as the Cotton Capital of the World. Located along the old Columbus and Greenville Railway, the Market connects two parts of Greenwood that have long been racially divided. Every Saturday from May through September, up to 15 vendors from Greenwood and surrounding counties set up tents, offering everything from blueberries to barbecue. The Market has proved to not only offer support for local growers and make fresh foods available to people who might not otherwise have access to them, but it has become a gathering place for all members of the community—rich and poor, young and old, black and white.

The Market is within walking distance of the Alluvian, a Viking-owned boutique hotel, as well as some of Greenwood’s low-income neighborhoods. A tourists might take home an easy-to-pack loaf of European-style bread baked by Donald Bender of Mockingbird Bakery, while a local might purchase turnip greens from Hallie Streater of Streater Farm and pay with cash-value vouchers, the product of a government program created to ensure low-income families access to fresh food. Vendors at the Market offer fascinating insight to Mississippi Delta’s agricultural history, as well as examples of small-scale producers who have found a new way to supplement existing income. They also speak to the community that is cultivated at the Market every Saturday during the season.

Meet John D. Ashcraft III, who grew up on Roebuck Plantation, a cotton farm just outside of Greenwood, and is now the only Delta-area producer of blueberries. Hear Leann Hines talk about how the Downtown Greenwood Farmers’ Market was the catalyst for her pastured poultry business. Listen to Hallie Streater talk about harvesting pears from the orchard that sits on 460 of acres of land that have been in her family for generations. And more.

These are the stories of the Downtown Greenwood Farmers’ Market.

* * *

We're celebrating these oral history subjects during our 9th Annual Delta Divertissement, which kicks off tomorrow, Oct. 27, in Greenwood.

Tuesday, October 25


Today's recipe comes to us from The Happy Table of Eugene Walter: Southern Spirits in Food and Drink, edited by Tom Head and Don Goodman (UNC Press, 2011).

3 tablespoons peanut butter
1 tablespoon nut or corn oil
5 tablespoons yogurt or 4 tablespoons buttermilk
½ cup whole-wheat flour
½ cup Martha White yellow cornmeal, slightly moistened with milk
Pinch of Salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Beat thoroughly together ingredients in order listed. Let dough sit 5 minutes or so. If dough is too stiff, add more yogurt or buttermilk. You can add to dough sesame seeds or 1 tablespoon dried and pounded basil, thyme, dill, or oregano, as you like.

Lightly flour a board and knead dough enough to form a ball; cut into 3 sections, dust with flour, and carefully roll out each section into a sheet 1/16 of an inch thick. Keep dusting the rolling pin. Now, according to weather, altitude, and temperature, you might want to cut out your crackers with a cookie cutter before the dough is rolled so thin. Then roll crackers out flatter, so they will be crisp crackers, not doughy biscuits. Sprinkle more sesame seeds. Prick each cracker with a fork. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet and let them dry a bit, then bake crackers from 5 to 8 minutes. They burn easily, so check often; hover over oven. When they’re golden, they’re done. Let them cool thoroughly. Store in airtight container of not devoured immediately. If humidity gets to them, just crisp them up in a 200-degree oven. These are delightful with all manner of soups, vegetables, and salads.

* * *

If you'll be in Oxford on Thursday evening, don't miss Thacker Mountain Radio. This week's show will take place outdoors on the Oxford Square from 6–7 p.m. (In case of rain, it will move indoors to Off Square Books.) Featured author Randy Fertel will be discussing his new memoir, The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steak. Musical acts are Oxford locals Young Buffalo and Eleanor Friedberger of the Fiery Furnaces, who is touring behind her first solo album.

* * *
Don't forget to follow this weekend's symposium fun on Twitter (@potlikker) by searching for the hashtag #foodways.


What we eat to prepare our palates for the Southern Foodways Symposium. #foodways

Monday, October 24


Symposium week is officially here! If you can't join us in Oxford this weekend, follow the symposium action on Twitter (@potlikker) by searching for the hashtag #foodways.

We've got exciting news about our symposium programming for Sunday, October 30. The world premiere of Leaves of Greens: A Collard Opera will take place at 10 am at the Lyric Theater (just off the Oxford Square). Sunday morning of the symposium is free and open to the public, and we invite you to be our guest. 
Remarks by scholar Ed Davis will be followed by an original live operatic performance, composed by Price Walden and performed by the University of Mississippi opera students with support from the UM Department of Music. Nationally renowned designer Natalie Chanin will provide original costuming.

Dr. Ed Davis completed a master’s research thesis at UNC-Charlotte comparing migration rates to thirty metropolitan areas in the U.S. South. He then earned his doctorate at the University of Illinois-Urbana, where he studied cultural, political and social theory, and completed a dissertation on Americans’ perceptions of foreign countries. He is currently Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Geography at Emory and Henry College, and is the author of a forthcoming book about the diffusion of collard greens as a cultural tradition in the U.S. South.

Natalie “Alabama” Chanin is owner and designer of the American couture line Alabama Chanin and author of The Alabama Stitch Book and Alabama Studio Style. Natalie has a Degree in Environmental Design from North Carolina State University and works simultaneously as designer, manufacturer, stylist, filmmaker, mother, artisan, cook, and collector of stories from her home in Florence, Alabama. Her designs for hand-sewn garments constructed using quilting and stitching techniques from the rural south have been lauded for both their beauty and sustainability.

Composer Price Walden is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree at the University of Mississippi, where he is a member of the wind ensemble, orchestra, and percussion ensemble. His diverse catalog includes works for wind ensemble, percussion ensemble, choir, and voice, as well as chamber works.

Friday, October 21


Creole culinary history, LGBT farmers, sake from the Lone Star state, and more: Crack open something Oktoberfest-ive and enjoy this week's six-pack.

1. Rien Fertel uncovers the history of The Picayune Creole Cookbook, a seminal volume of New Orleans foodways.

2. Texas is already the home of top-notch breweries, Tito's vodka, and an emerging wine region in the Hill Country. Now, add sake to the state's growing drinkways repertoire. Yes, really.

3. If yesterday's hard cider post left you with a craving for apples, Sheri Castle offers creative ways to make the most of leftover peels and cores.

4. From a "Red Dirt Road" to a fine red wine: Kix Brooks, half of the late country duo Brooks and Dunn, boot-scootin' boogied home from the Wines of the South competition in Knoxville with a Best in Show award for his Arrington Vineyards KB 308 Cab. (Full disclosure: The grapes are from the West Coast, but the wine is aged in Tennessee.)

5. In Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kansas, and elsewhere across the country, gay and lesbian small farmers are making important contributions to sustainable agriculture.

6. E-reading devices might be changing the rules of cookbook publishing—and cookbooks, in turn, are offering new possibilities in print publishing. (But could a Kindle community cookbook recreate the unmistakeable squeak of plastic spiral binding?)

Thursday, October 20


Illustration by Sidney McLaren, Courtesy of

The temps have [finally] fallen, and it's feeling like fall. Perfect time to discuss the fall-ey-ish of drinks, cider. I'm talking hard cider. As Leslie Pariseau explains on, "apples are to cider what grapes are to wine." And can range from "wildly sweet, and sour and tart and bitter and all the rest."

Cider's on my mind for several reasons today.

1) It's all over the web. Check out "Cider Houses Rule" on Food Republic and "The Best Hard Cider. For Men. No, Really." on Esquire and the recipe for hard cider-soaked apple-sage sausages on the Washington Post. So I almost can't not think about it. [<---secret fact: I love a double negative]

2) It's New York Cider Week. Seriously.

3) We are about to imbibe great quantities of two delicious (and Southern) ciders at the Southern Foodways Symposium next weekend. Foggy Ridge Cider made in the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains and McRitchie Hard Cider made in Thurmond, North Carolina. Can you tell I'm a little excited about it?

If you're considering turning on your heat or visiting a pumpkin patch this weekend or tailgating for your college team or ANYthing else in the least bit fallish, consider cracking a bottle of hard cider to celebrate. It is Cider Week, afterall!

Wednesday, October 19


SFA oral historian Amy Evans Streeter is presenting on the University of Mississippi campus today as part of Food Day 2011. Go here to see a schedule of campus events.

Find out more about Food Day here.

Tuesday, October 18


Our Cultivated South symposium is just days away! Whether you’re making the trip to Oxford or not, we want to introduce you to some of our symposium participants. You likely have eaten with some of the chefs who will be cooking for us.

But we’re betting you haven’t heard Ed Davis of Emory and Henry College map out the geography of collard greens. Maybe you haven’t looked closely at the hand embroidery that distinguishes Natalie Chanin’s work for her Alabama Chanin fashion label. Perhaps you haven’t listened to Shirley Sherrod holding forth on race relations and agricultural possibilities.

Below, in their own words, meet a baker’s dozen of scholars, artists, and farmers with something important to say about the Cultivated South.

Phil Blank is an artist and a librarian for the State Library of North Carolina’s NCKnows virtual reference project. He also plays the accordion, tenor banjo, and tsimbl in the klezmer band Gmish. He is the recipient of this year’s John Egerton Prize.

“There is a natural joy and humor at seeing the mind’s many images at the same party, talking to each other. I invite everyone I know and try to create a place that is neither sad nor happy, neither ironic nor sober, as weighty as history and as light as sound. In this way, the paintings keep me in an enjoyable state of chaos.”  —Artist’s statement for an exhibition at Blue Spiral gallery in Asheville, North Carolina, winter 2010

Natalie Chanin is a fashion designer who markets her hand-embroidered clothing under the name Alabama Chanin. She designed the costumes for the Leaves of Greens collard opera.

“Sustainability also relies on the human skills necessary to manipulate materials into usable objects.... In striving to build truly sustainable communities, we must learn to respect and honor the relationships between materials, products, and individuals—skilled workers and artisans, who keep our traditions, manufacturing processes, and ‘Living Arts’ alive.”  —“Does the Art of Craft and Handmade Matter in Fashion?” by Natalie Chanin,, January 2010

Ed Davis is a professor of geography and environmental studies at Emory and Henry College in Virginia. He will speak on the origin and diffusion of collard greens as a cultural tradition in the South, and he has a book forthcoming on the same topic.

“My colleague John Morgan and I have been curious about several things: the decline of home gardening since World War II, and the unique history, botany, and geography of collards as a leafy vegetable—none of the other vegetables have such an interesting background! No geographer has done a food study at this scale, since the South is such a large cultural region, so it made for a fascinating challenge.”  —In an interview with Mary Lou Cheatham, June 2011

Elizabeth Engelhardt, professor of American studies at the University of Texas-Austin, is the author of A Mess of Greens. She will speak about the working-class farm woman as prototypical locavore.

“Greens can be seen as a protest against the time clock that industrialization introduced. Gathering greens served as a means for both men and women to resist new factory and mine-driven gender roles, as a walk in the woods did not involve company scrip or time clock.”  —In an interview with VivĂ© Griffith, November 2005

Eleanor Finnegan teaches religion at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina. She will speak about the Nation of Islam’s farming projects. [To read a preview of Finnegan’s symposium talk, please click here]

“The Islamic textual tradition concerning land is built upon the idea that land is owned by God and given as a gift to God’s creatures. Therefore, people can use land for their benefit if it does not cause excessive harm.... Land has often been a place where Muslims can embody their religious and environmental values and are free to create religious communities, institutions, and identities.”  —“Images of ‘Land’ Among Muslim Farmers in the U.S.,”by Eleanor Finnegan, 2010

Amos Kennedy is the proprietor of Kennedy Prints!, a letterpress operation in Gordo, Alabama. You can ogle his letterpress and prints with such slogans as “Okra: The People’s Vegetable” at Southside Gallery on Friday morning of the symposium.

“The American dream is about self-determination. And self-determination can only occur through cooperation of all people. You cannot be free unless you depend upon other people.”  —From the documentary film Proceed and Be Bold: Bringing Race and Art to the Masses, by Laura Zinger/20k Films, 2009

Richard McCarthy is the director of Market Umbrella in New Orleans, Louisiana. He will share his hopes for small-scale agriculture and local farmers’ markets in a dialogue with Rashid Nuri.

“Market Umbrella’sparticular belief in farmers’ markets is the promise for these ancient mechanisms (when purposefully reinvented) to serve as platforms for experiential learning. Farmers and fishers learn about the consumer trends; shoppers learn about food sources and seasons. And ultimately, everyone learns about each other. Food is a discussion starter that takes us all into unknown territory about one another’s lives.”  —In an interview with The Oxford American, May 2010

Rashid Nuri, an urban farmer and agricultural advocate, directs Truly Living Well Natural Urban Farms in Atlanta. He will discuss small farms and markets with Richard McCarthy.

“If I control your food, I control you. So I think food sovereignty, food self-sufficiency, is very important. We have so many food deserts in the city. We use the food production as a leverage for helping people attain horticultural literacy and providing agricultural education. And through that process, we are engaged in community building and community development.”  —Informational video from

Felder Rushing is the “Gestalt Gardener” on Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s Think Radio and the father of the slow gardening movement. He will chronicle the history of Long Beach, Mississippi’s Long Red radish.

“Felder has had a small garden of flowers, herbs, and vegetables—along with assorted accessories—in the back of various pickup trucks since 1988, when he started with just a sack of potting soil. He worked up to a larger bale of potting soil, and currently to a custom-made rust-proof box (and rubber mat to prevent rust in the truck bed) in the back of his dad's 1988 Ford F-150. He drives many thousands of miles a year—from Mississippi to San Antonio, Chicago, Toronto, Boston, and down to Key West—through wind, rain, snow, and drought; the garden has withstood temperatures ranging from 105 down to 9 degrees F, and Felder has an official document (compliments of the Lake Charles, Louisiana police department) attesting that it can tolerate at least 81 mph (speed is a great insect control).WHY? Simply to prove that anyone can have a garden, anywhere. ’Nuff said.”  —Part of Rushing’s self-description from his website,

Shirley Sherrod is a community organizer and rural activist. She is the former USDA director of Rural Development for the state of Georgia. Her talk will discuss the history of African Americans in Southern agriculture as well as her hopes for rural economic improvement and racial reconciliation.

“I made the commitment on the night of my father's death, at the age of 17, that I would not leave the South, that I would stay in the South and devote my life to working for change.”  —From a speech given at the GA NAACP 20th annual Freedom Fund Banquet March 27, 2010, which resulted in Sherrod’s forced resignation from the USDA

Ragan Sutterfield is a farmer and writer based in Little Rock, Arkansas. He also co-founded a school farm and teaches sustainable farming practices to middle school students at Little Rock’s Felder Academy, an alternative school for students with behavior issues. He will speak about sustainable farming practices as an extension of Christian theology. [To read a preview of Sutterfield’s symposium talk, please click here]

“Of course we cannot take on farming and expect to learn about our role within creation any more than we can fast and expect to learn about the nature and control of our desires. If we are to practice farming and learn from it we must take it on as an intentional discipline—ready to see and hear its lessons.”  —Farming as a Spiritual Discipline, by Ragan Sutterfield, 2009

Price Walden is an undergraduate in the music department at the University of Mississippi. He composed Leaves of Greens, an original opera about collard greens, for the symposium.

“The first issue was how to write 30 minutes of music about collard greens without it being a novelty piece. I decided then that instead of explicitly talking about collard greens the entire time, we could talk about other things, but through the lens of collard greens.”  —From his blog,, August 2011

Kevin Young is one of the most highly acclaimed contemporary poets in the country and a professor at Emory University. Though not all of his poetry focuses on food, he has written odes to such totemic Southern ingredients as pork and pepper vinegar.  He will deliver this year’s opening address on what it means to be cultivated.

“If we cannot see the ways soul food’s ethos of reclamation and reuse—making more than making do, of taking leftovers and leavings and making them not only palatable but also desirable, making it right—if we cannot see this desire as not mere survival but a heroic act of reinvention—then we’re missing out on a large part of the storying tradition of black culture.”  —“Moanin’,” by Kevin Young, Tin House vol. 13, no. 1

For more works by these and other symposium participants, you can download the symposium bibliography by clicking here.

Monday, October 17


Perhaps the biggest hurdle to making this recipe is making sure that you have "a squirrel guy."  A pack of boys in the woods might could find a few for you.  And if you can't find a pack of kids with BB guns, perhaps you can befriend the Colleten-Green family of Awendaw, South Carolina.  Don't know them?  Check out Joe York's film on their annual Thanksgiving squirrel hunt, Giving Thanks in Awendaw.  And then click over to the Communal Skillet to read about how to make fried squirrel with gravy.  In brief, it goes something like this: (1) Find a squirrel guy. (2) Dress the squirrel. (3) Fry the squirrel.  Try it this fall.  Squirrel season opened in North Mississippi on October 1.


Media and Documentary Projects and the Southern Foodways Alliance, two institutes of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, will present Three Recent Foodways Films by Joe York on Thursday, October 20 at noon in Paul B. Johnson Commons on the University of Mississippi campus. The event is free and open to the public.

"Hot, Wet Goobers" is York's latest film. It honors Hardy Farms of Hawkinsville, Georgia, the 2011 Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame Award Winner. Hardy Farms is a family-owned enterprise, in business since 1935, specializing in fresh-dug green peanuts which they sell on the wholesale market, and boil at roadside stands.

A graduate of the Southern Studies Master’s program at UM, York has made more than 30 films with the Southern Foodways Alliance, including the feature-length Saving Willie Mae’s Scotch House. York also made Mississippi Innocence, a film about two wrongly-convicted Noxubee County men exonerated from murder through the Innocence Project, which was shown several weeks ago at the Newseum in Washington and will be screened at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival this week. 

This screening recognizes a milestone for the Media and Documentary Projects of which York is an employee.

This fall, Media and Documentary Projects formally joined the College of Liberal Arts as an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture. This partnership will ensure that Southern Studies students have access to an excellent filmmaking program as part of their academic studies. The Center’s documentary photography program, led by Dr. David Wharton, has seen significant growth over the years, and the formalization of filmmaking as part of the curriculum will strengthen UM’s already strong reputation as a center for documentary studies.

MDP director Dr. Andy Harper said “When I took over Media and Documentary Projects eight years ago my goal was to find an academic home from which to tell stories of the people and traditions around us. The Center for the Study of Southern Culture has been doing that for over 30 years, and I can’t think of a better place for us to be.”

The Center has created a new Tumblr blog to highlight the work of Media and Documentary Projects.

For more information about this and other Center events, visit us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @SouthernStudies.

Friday, October 14


What's on tap for this weekend? If you're in North Carolina, you might be planning a trip to the State Fair, which began yesterday and runs through October 23. Writer and illustrator (and 2011 symposium speaker) Emily Wallace has created an illustrated fair-food game plan to help you make the most of your stomach space. Whatever your plans, be sure to enjoy the fall weather!

1. Check out this frame-worthy infographic of complementary flavor pairings. It's a visually pleasing answer to the home cook's question of, "What the heck do I do with all of the [fill-in-the-herb-blank] in my garden?"

2. Alabama historian (and ordained Baptist minister) Wayne Flynt takes a stand against Alabama's immigration law. The man loves his Sand Mountain tomatoes, but that's just the beginning of his resentment toward "the meanest, most hateful thing I've ever read."

3. From the humble beginnings of a jar of starter and her grandmother's dinner-roll recipe, Tennessean Shana Martin is making a name for herself in her new hometown of Greensboro, NC, and beyond. Find her Anna Mae Southern Rolls at any Fresh Market location.

4. A New York–based writer reflects on meals savored and lessons learned at his grandfather's fishing camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

5. How do the experts on Avery Island, Louisiana, know when a Tabasco pepper is ripe for the picking? Saveur has the answer.

6. David Wright visits the Whip-In convenience store, a slice of the Global South in Austin, TX.


Photo by Amy Evans Streeter, 2011. 

This month we celebrate the Cultivated South by sharing an interview from one of our newest oral history projects, which documents the vendors at the Greenwood Farmers’ Market in Greenwood, Mississippi. This oral history project is dedicated to the memory of Alisa Lay, who passed away unexpectedly earlier this month on October 4, 2011. 

On this month’s okracast, meet Alisa Lay and her sister Brenda Lay of Carrolton, Mississippi. Under the business name Two Sisters in the Kitchen,  they’ve sold a wide variety of goods at the Greenwood Farmers’ Market: apple jelly, black bean and corn salsa, peach pies, zucchini muffins, and more. Their most prized offering, though, is the pickled okra. But this isn’t just any pickled okra. It’s a variety known as Longhorn, and the seeds have been saved and passed down in Alisa and Brenda’s family for almost 200 years. Brenda remembers her grandmother telling her, as they dried okra pods outside, that this is their heritage. And now, they’ve passed their heritage on to their customers and the Greenwood Farmers’ market. 

Look for the Greenwood Farmers’ Market oral history project in SFA’s online archive soon!

Grab some headphones and go!

Thursday, October 13


Photograph by Ashley Rose Young

Our newest oral history project, Carrboro Farmers Market, is now part of our online archive. Twenty oral history interviews with market vendors and customers help tell the story of the South's rich agricultural history, how the face of farming has changed and continues to change, and how one of the oldest markets in the state of North Carolina continues to inspire the community it serves.

Read and listen to stories from the Carrboro Farmers' Market right here.

Welcome to the Cultivated South!

Red (Wine) Velvet Cake

Photo courtesy of

What's not to love about red velvet cake? A couple weeks back on GILT Taste, we were given a brief history lesson (and a myth-debunking) on one of the South's treasured desserts. Turns out it was created and named at least 15 years before food color dye was conceived and sold by John A. Adams in 1888. The red in the original name was referring to "red sugar," or what we now know as brown sugar.

What really intrigued me is what happened the day after this was posted. The author, Stella Parks, came up with a new (and historical?) recipe for red velvet cake. Instead of dousing the batter with red dye, she uses brown sugar and red wine in her recipe. "It ain’t Grandma’s recipe, but Red Velvet aficionados will recognize it at first bite."

Don't want wine in your cake? Check out a wine pairing for your red velvet cake (and other favorite cakes too). Cake and wine?! Go on, you know you are excited as I am to read about it.

Tuesday, October 11


SFA friends at the Communal Skillet have been working with  The SFA Community Cookbook recipe for refried black-eyed peas.  Shared by Eddie Hernandez, of Taqueria del Sol, the recipe reflects the growing influence of Latino foods in Southern cuisine.  Click here to view the recipe and read a home cook's experience with these Southern peas and jalapeno peppers.


Our colleagues at the Center for the Study of the American South -- at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill -- have a strong track record of foodways work. Jim Ferguson has been taught a generation of students about how food is a cultural product. More recently, Marcie Ferris, onetime SFA board president, has been teaching and mentoring foodways-focused students.

As part of their work the good folks at UNC also stage a number of different lecture series, including the Charleston Lecture. Later this month, on October 26th, as we kick it into high gear for the 14th annual Southern Foodways Symposium, they will host Nathalie Dupree, author of, among other works, an early and important book that helped codify New Southern Cooking.

A past winner of the SFA's Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award, Nathalie was an SFA founder and has served on the SFA board of directors.

Details on her talk are here.

Friday, October 7


1. Much has been written and said this week about the passing of Steve Jobs. Apple has changed how all of us interact with technology. Right now at SFA, we're even working on our own iPhone App.

But SFA's lens for understanding who we are and how we are with each other is the South. As such, we note with great sadness the passing of the Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Professor Derrick Bell. Both men, Bell in Mississippi (He supervised 300 access to education cases in the state including James Meredith's) and in halls of the legal academy, and Shuttlesworth from pulpits and public podiums in Alabama and Ohio, changed for good how we think, learn, and interact with each other.

2. Alabama's immigration law (the strictest in the country) went into effect yesterday. Today, farmers across the state struggle to harvest their crops.

3. Southern cooking by way of South America is alive and well in this Brentwood, Tennessee kitchen.

4. Donald Link brings Cochon, his Cajun restaurant, to the capitol of Cajun country. This should be interesting.

5. Donald Goodman and Tom Head breathe new life into an unfinished Eugene Walter manuscript in The Happy Table of Eugene Walter. Mr. Walter's love of Southern food and his famous hospitality animate each page of the book. John Kessler has the review.

6. Paw paw season is upon us. Hurry. It doesn't last long.

Thursday, October 6


Alisa "Lisa" Lay, part of our new Greenwood Farmers' Market oral history project, passed away yesterday. She was 54 years old. Her passing was unexpected, and the loss is great. Lisa was a fixture at the market, and her personality energized Saturday mornings for vendors and customers alike each and every season--and beyond.

Lisa and her sister, Brenda, operated under the name 2 Sisters in the Kitchen, and canned all manner of foods: pickled green beans, dilly green tomatoes, black bean and corn salsa, apple preserves. But the jars they were most proud of held their pickled okra, which they grew from heirloom seeds. From Lisa's interview, which we collected just last month:

"We have okra that has been in our family, the okra seeds have been in our family almost 200 years, passed down from my grandmother from generation to generation…For them it wasn’t a sentimental thing; it was survival. And for us it’s a sentimental thing."

Lisa's interview painted a wonderful portrait of the market but, more than that, it spoke to the connections made through food. We only just got to know her, but we sure did love her. She was a gem of a woman, who touched an awful lot of people.

Our thoughts are with Lisa's family, especially her sister Brenda, as well as the market family she loved. 

We are glad her story lives on.


Our Greenwood Farmers' Market oral history project is being processed now and will appear online in the coming weeks. We will be featuring Lisa's interview on our next edition of Okracast, the SFA podcast, which we will air next week.

Tuesday, October 4


Photo collage by Amy Evans Streeter

We've just learned that Wilson's Soul Food in Athens, Georgia, has closed its doors after more than 30 years in business. From Online Athens:

“It’s the economy, the overhead is too high, and (the work) is just wearing me out,” said Angelish Wilson, who has been running the business with her brother, Homer Wilson, since 1998.

Angelish and Homer's father, M. C. Wilson, opened the restaurant in 1981. He opened it next to Wilson's Styling Shop, a business he started in 1954, after retiring from the railroad.

Wilson's Soul Food devotees will miss the crispy fried chicken, fresh vegetables, and Angelish's famous pies--and, of course, Angelish and her staff, who were loved by all.

For more on the Wilson family and Wilson's Soul Food, visit our oral history project Athens Eats.


As your summer garden vegetables have reached an end, and your fall garden is barely peeking through the dirt, it's likely that the last plant standing in your backyard patch is the hearty okra.  And, lucky for you, our friends at the Communal Skillet experimented with the SFA recipe for frying it.  It's an easy recipe.  All you need is salt, pepper, cornmeal, hot bacon grease, tender okra, and a good Lodge skillet (preferably seasoned for years by your mother or grandmother).  If you don't have a seasoned skillet yet, get to work!  It takes time to get just the right amount of flavor in your cast iron cookware.

Monday, October 3


In conjunction with the exhibit Divine Intervention: African Art & Religion, Emory University's Michael C. Carlos Museum stages a Yam Festival this week. Featured chefs include Billy Allin, Scott Peacock, and Steven Satterfield. Featured speakers anchor Tuesday and Friday, as below:

Tuesday, October 4: 
Dr. Jessica Stephenson, Curator of African Art, will talk about the yam festivals of Ghana and Nigeria and the importance of the yam in the ritual and daily life of the people of West Africa. Dancers and drummers from Giwayen Mata will perform and lead a yam festival procession to the Emory Farmers’ Market where farmers will offer many varieties of locally grown yams and sweet potatoes.
Friday, October 7: 
Dr. Jessica B. Harris, culinary historian and author of The Africa Cookbook: Tastes of a Continent and High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America, will give a talk titled "Those Aren’t Yams, Those Are Sweet Potatoes: Culinary Confusion in the African-Atlantic World."