Saturday, December 22

A Southern Six-Pack for Jake Adam York

Today in Gadsden, Alabama Jake Adam York will be laid to rest.  His wife, Sarah, his brother, Joe York, his parents, grandparents and a host of family and friends are gathered there to say good-bye.

This week, in celebration of Jake's life and work, a community of poets and writers have done what they do best, put pen to paper.

What we can do today is to hold Jake's family in our hearts and remember.

1.  Jake Adam York, Poet Who Chronicled the Civil Rights Movement,  The Denver Post.

2.  Remembering Jake Adam York, Southern Spaces.

3.  Jake, Shenandoah, Snopes Blog.

4.  Remembering Jake Adam York, The Rumpus, Poetry Wire.

5.  Jake Adam York, Colorado Poet and Teacher, Westword.

6.  Acclaimed Auburn Educated Poet, Jake Adam York, The War Eagle Reader.

Monday, December 17

Jake Adam York, 1972–2012

The SFA family regrets to announce that poet Jake Adam York, age 40, died on Sunday in Denver, Colorado, where he taught at the University of Colorado, Denver. Born in Alabama, educated at Auburn University and Cornell University, he was the author of four books, including A Murmuration of Starlings.

Jake, the brother of SFA filmmaker Joe York, spoke at a number of SFA events through the years including the 2002 Symposium and our most recent Symposium, too. He wrote well and often of both race relations in the American South, and of how we define ourselves at table. He will be missed. Greatly.

Later in the week, we’ll post a more robust tribute to him. For now, please listen to his words, from the closing event of the 2012 symposium.

Thursday, December 13

We're on Pinterest!

We've started one of our New Year's Resolutions a few weeks early by joining Pinterest. We invite you to follow us for a visual window in to the SFA's projects, people, and events.

SFA Benefit Dinner in Hattiesburg, MS

Robert St. John and the nice folks at the Purple Parrot Cafe in Hattiesburg, MS, are hosting a special dinner on Monday, December 17, to benefit the SFA. A few tickets remain for this event; call the Purple Parrot for reservations (number below).

If you live in or near Hattiesburg, we'd love to see you there! Tickets are $75 plus tax and gratuity for a five-course dinner with wine pairings. The menu features local and regional ingredients including Gulf seafood, pastured pork, and Mississippi-grown produce.

We're grateful to chef St. John and the Purple Parrot for organizing this event on our behalf. 

Tuesday, December 11

Kitchen to Classroom: Grad Student Spotlight

Photo by Alfred T. Palmer, 1943. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Today's "Kitchen to Classroom" post is written by Paige Prather, a first-year MA student in Southern Studies here at the University of Mississippi. Paige is a native of Austin, Texas. She tells us about her final project for Professor Angela Jill Cooley's Foodways and Southern Culture class.

Photos by Paige Prather
After reading Cultivating Food Justice, edited by Alison Hope Alkon and Julian Agyeman, I was inspired to research food justice movements in the South. I was particularly interested in grassroots organizations addressing food sustainability in low income neighborhoods. I learned of the backyard gardens, Saturday market, and fishing industry run by the Vietnamese American population in New Orleans East from my current roommate here in Oxford, whose family immigrated to New Orleans from Vietnam.

I researched scholarship on Vietnamese history in New Orleans and discovered that New Orleans East inhabits the highest concentration of Vietnamese Americans in the United States. After the fall of Saigon in 1975, Vietnamese refugees established a community in the neighborhood’s Versailles Arms Apartment complex. Today, more than 11,000 Vietnamese Americans live within three contingent residential areas of the neighborhood. The agrarian and fishing background of the refugees and the comparable climate of New Orleans and of coastal villages in North Vietnam influenced gardening and fishing practices still prevalent in the New Orleans East community. I traveled to New Orleans and conducted interviews with the Mary Queen of Viet Nam Community Development Center and Vietnamese American residents in New Orleans about the gardens and fishing industry.

My paper explores the significance of gardening and fishing to Vietnamese Americans living in New Orleans East since 1975.  The strong cultural connection to agrarian practices learned in Vietnam provided the residents of New Orleans East with sustenance and employment that is now threatened by poor city planning and environmental disasters. In response the Mary Queen of Viet Nam Community Development Center has built a farmers' co-op and an aquaponics agricultural system to assist displaced fishing industry workers and elderly gardeners in New Orleans East. This system offers sustainable alternatives to the individuals most vulnerable to environmental catastrophes on the Gulf Coast. The solutions formed by the Community Development Center employ agrarian practices learned in Vietnam and reinforce the resilient and adaptive culture of Vietnamese Americans living in New Orleans East.

Craig Claiborne Exhibit on View in Jackson, MS

Our exhibit on the life and times of Craig Claiborne is now in Jackson, Mississippi. The Mississippi Arts Commission—which also contributed funding for the creation of the exhibit—will host a reception this Thursday, December 13. Please come by if you are in the Jackson area! The event is free and open to the public.

The SFA extends a big thanks to MAC for their support of this project and to Georgeanna Chapman and Devin Cox, who wrote and designed the exhibit in conjunction with the SFA.   

If your venue or organization is interested in hosting the Claiborne exhibit, please contact Sara Camp Arnold at

A Report from the Field: Women, Work, and Food in Richmond, VA

Oyster shucker Deborah Pratt with her son, Davila.
Photograph by Sara Wood.

In advance of our 2013 summer symposium to be held in Richmond, VA, in June, former SFA oral history intern, Sara Wood, is in RVA to collect fieldwork relating to women, work, and food. Last week, she met with oyster shucking champion Deborah Pratt and her youngest son, Davila.

A short report from Sara:
Davila started shucking two years ago. Apparently, he was working somewhere else and Deborah said he learned to shuck wrong (cutting into the middle of the oyster as opposed to the right way, starting at the hinge of the oyster). So she re-taught him how to shuck, and now he "shucks right alongside her with his bad self." She says he was out there in the wilderness, getting into trouble so she started bringing him in with her to shuck. 

We'll share more of Sara's reports from the field in the coming weeks.

Go here for our current calendar that lists the dates of our summer symposium, as well as other exciting SFA events in 2013.

Monday, December 10

Oral History in the Classroom: Oxford Elementary School

SFA oral historian Amy C. Evans visits second graders at Oxford Elementary School in Oxford, MS.

Part of what we love about oral history is the possibility it presents in the classroom. Whether grade school or graduate school, oral history is a wonderful educational tool that offers young scholars a unique opportunity to hone a variety of skills: communication, research, documenting, archiving, writing, and more.

Take the group of second graders at Oxford Elementary School in Oxford, Mississippi, pictured above. They are about to do their very first oral history interviews as part of a class project. Today, our own Amy Evans visited the class to talk about her work as a professional oral historian, offer some tips of the trade, and get them excited about doing fieldwork. She led the group in a discussion about geography (where is the South?), culture (what is culture?) and, of course, the nuts and bolts of conducting an interview. Amy even interviewed a few students to give them a feel for what it's like to sit down with someone and ask--and answer--questions. The takeaways: be curious, listen, make new friends.

The students' interviews and photographs will be part of an exhibit in early 2013. We'll be sure to share an update here.

A special thanks to Smith Stuart, pictured far left, who invited Amy to speak to his class.

Mid-South Farm to Table Conference in Memphis, TN, February 12

Green Leaf Learning Farm - Memphis, TN
Photo by Amy C. Evans

The farm-to-table and urban agriculture movements in Memphis, Tennessee, are...growing!

Save the date for the upcoming Mid-South Farm to Table Conference, happening in Memphis on February 12. From the press release:
The third annual Mid-South Farm to Table Conference will take place on February 12, 2013 from 8 AM to 5 PM at Rhodes College. The conference is designed to provide a forum for farmers, consumers, entrepreneurs and other interested groups to discuss ideas for developing the local food system of Memphis and the Mid-South.
The Mid-South Farm to Table Conference was established with the vision that a thriving local food system will strengthen farmer livelihoods by connecting more farmers to local consumers; will improve access to fresh produce and increase healthy food consumption; and will stimulate economic development and job creation in the region.
The 2013 conference will feature sessions on a variety of important topics for the local food system – from fruit and vegetable production to new farm start-ups, food hubs, food writing and how food shapes our culture and urban agriculture in Memphis. A networking lunch will provide attendees the chance to further develop relationships and collaborative opportunities.
Sponsors of the 2013 Mid-South Farm to Table Conference include the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, Slow Food Memphis, Rhodes College, Memphis Center for Food and Faith, and Grow Memphis.

Visit the Mid-South Farm to Table Conference website for more information.

*    *    *

Last week SFA oral historian Amy C. Evans traveled to Memphis to meet with Christian Man of Green Leaf Learning Farm, an urban educational agricultural effort that is a project of Knowledge Quest, a non-profit serving the children of South Memphis. Christian has spent the past few months conducting a handful of oral history interviews to document the farm, while also exploring changing experiences in, and conceptions of, agriculture in the South for African Americans. Christian shared his interviews with the SFA's permanent archive, and we will share moments from some of his interviews in the coming months.

Christian's tenure at Green Leaf will come to an end at the end of this month, but his work is far from done. In 2013, Christian will begin working for the Memphis Center for Food and Faith, a newly established effort that views eating and agriculture as acts of faith and will serve as an advocacy organization for the greater Memphis community on issues of food policy, access, and justice. He he intends to incorporate oral history fieldwork as part of the Center's mission. We will make sure to share more information as it is made available.

Friday, December 7

Southern Six-Pack

1.  A call to bring compassion and creativity to solving the nation's school lunch problem.  And a reminder that despite what I thought in 1980 (as an 8th grader), no one's high school cafeteria ever looked like this.

2.  Pie chart.  Pie movie.  Pie songs.  And, an entire issue of Indy Week devoted to pie.  You're welcome.

3.  Eat catfish before they eat you. Seriously, that's what they're up to.

4.  Want to know what else sucks about being over 40?  Losing your sense of taste, that's what.

5.  Five second rule!  Not so much.

6.  To help you get ready for the holiday season:  party food: 101 One Bite Appetizers, gifts: Eau de Pizza Hut, and a companion:  Your L.L. Bean Boyfriend. 

Thursday, December 6

Thirsty Thursday: All I Want for Christmas

Who doesn't love a holiday gift guide? The correct answer is no one. No one doesn't love one.

In the spirit of gift giving (and getting--hint, hint), here's a short list of gifts that will please a favorite drinker on your list. All I want for Christmas...

1. Bicycle Wine Rack
In their own words, "If you like wine and you like biking, you're going to love this." Obvs. This leather wine holder with antique brass fasteners is beautiful and handy. And you're gonna look totally badass pedaling up to your next picnic. Made by our clever neighbors in Montreal, Canada.

2. License Plate Coozie
The 3 Sisters Design Co. in Bradenton, Florida recycle, reuse, reclaim, and reinvent to make art, jewelry, and--in this case--coozies! These 3 ladies have molded old license plates into fabulous coozies to keep your beer cold/hand warm. Quantities are fact only the following states are currently available: AL, AR, GA, MS, TN, TX, and VA.

3. Bottle Opener and Resealer
 Ok, is this super necessary for the 12 oz Miller Light in your life? Nope. But local, craft breweries seem to be in most [awesome] Southern city these days. What do you do with your freshly opened growler? You're not going to let that brew go stale are you? Enter headache and aspirin. OR, use this resealer and enjoy the fresh beer again another day.

4. Rewined Candles
This summer, I ran across these candles on a trip to Charleston (where this brainchild was born). Summer lovin'...met a candle perfect for meeee! And you, I think. The candles are housed in recycled wine bottles. The scents, including pinot noir, chardonnay, and riesling, are "blended to mimic the flavors and aromas found in your favorite varietals of wine." If I could just find soap that smells like wine, it would be the makings of a perfect bath trifecta.

5. Leather Coaster Set
Confession time. I'm in love with all things Jon Hart. This San Antonio, Texas-based company sells classic bags and accessories (everything from duffles to rifle covers). I especially love these coasters, stamped with my a monogram. You may not even find yourself nagging guests to use a freaking coaster already.

Remembering Bill Dow

Photo by Ashley Young, August 2011
The SFA is sad to hear of the passing of Bill Dow, one of the founders of the Carrboro Farmers' Market. Bill sold his Ayrshire Farm produce at the CFM for over thirty years and was one of the interviewees in our Carrboro Farmers' Market oral history project. A former pediatrician and lecturer at UNC's School of Public Health, Dow was a passionate advocate for public access to fresh, healthy foods. Our thoughts are with his longtime companion, Daryl Walker.

Wednesday, December 5

Holiday Throwback Recipes: Dueling Cheese Straws

We've got a pretty solid collection of community cookbooks here in the office—and many more in our staffers' home libraries. And the holidays seem like the right time to whip them out and share some choice recipes with you, our readers. So fix yourself an eggnog, pull up a seat, and check back often between now and New Year's for our Holiday Throwback Recipes.

If we've got a holiday cocktail in one hand, nothing makes us happier than twirling (then chomping) a cheese straw in the other. There are many ways to make them and shape them, from shortbread-esque sticks to puff pastry spirals to cookie-shaped flats. In fact, we'd be willing to guess that there are as many recipes out there for cheese straws as there are for pimento cheese.

Here are three such recipes: a classic version, one with an extra crunch, and one that's got the blues.

Inverness Cookbook
Recipes collected by the All Saints Episcopal Guild, Inverness, Mississippi
(Publication date not given; probably 1960s)

Cheese Straws
1 lb cheese (N.Y. State)
1 stick butter
2 c. flour
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp red pepper or Tabasco

Put dough in cookie press with star point. Bake at 300 degrees about 20 min. Makes 81 straws. 

(Editor's note: If you were hoping to make 82 cheese straws, this might not be the recipe for you.) 


La Piñata 
Published by the McAllen Junior Service League, McAllen, Texas

Hot Corn Flake Cheese Cookies
3 sticks butter
1 1/2 lbs sharp cheese, grated
2 2/3 cups flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp red pepper
1 8-oz pkg. corn flakes

Mix above ingredients. Roll into balls about the size of a marble. Flatten with a fork. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet.

—Mrs. Robert Whitis (Linda)


The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook 
edited by Sara Roahen and John T. Edge, published by University of Georgia Press

Blue Cheese Straws
Makes about 6 dozen
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
8 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
1 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts
2 large egg yolks, slightly beaten

Stir together the flour, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Use a pastry blender or your fingertips to cut in the butter and cheese until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in the nuts and egg yolks until the mixture forms large clumps. Press and knead the clumps until the dough is well mixed. (It will stay crumbly.) Divide the dough in half and shape each piece into a 9-inch log with round or flat sides. Wrap the logs tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Cut the logs into 1/4-inch thick slices. Arrange the slices about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Sprinkle the tops with salt. Place the pan on a wire rack and let the shortbreads cool to room temperature. They will firm up as they cool.

—Steven Satterfield of Atlanta, Georgia

Tuesday, December 4

Holiday Throwback Recipes: Fudge

We've got a pretty solid collection of community cookbooks here in the office—and many more in our staffers' home libraries. And the holidays seem like the right time to whip them out and share some choice recipes with you, our readers. So fix yourself an eggnog, pull up a seat, and check back often between now and New Year's for our Holiday Throwback Recipes.

Today's Cookbook:
Talk about Good!
"Le Livre de la Cuisine de Lafayette" 
Published by the Service League of Lafayette, Louisiana
First edition 1967; annual subsequent printings 1968–1971

Someone (read: me) had a chocolate craving this afternoon, so I took the opportunity to deck the halls of SFA World HQ. Or, at least spruce up the coffee table with the best seasonal flair that Walgreen's had to offer. What I should have done was make some fudge. It's quick and inexpensive, yet it feels fancy—perfect criteria for holiday gifting!

The ladies of the Lafayette Service League offer a handful of fudge recipes; here's one that claims a presidential pedigree.

Mamie Eisenhower's Fudge
4 1/2 c. sugar
pinch salt
4 tbsp. butter
1 tall can Pet milk

Boil the above ingredients for 6 minutes (time it after it comes to a boil). Remove from the fire and add:

12 oz semi-sweet chocolate
12 oz. German's sweet chocolate
1 pt. marshmallow cream
2 c. nut meats

Beat until everything is melted. Pour out onto waxed paper and allow to set for 3 hours. This recipe makes quite a lot so have a large place to pour it out. This is excellent. It never dries out but remains moist for a week or more. Once you have made this fudge, you will never want to make any other kind.

—Lady Helen Hardy

Editor's note: We're not sure whether Lady was her first name, whether there's a royal Louisiana lineage we don't know about, or whether she bestowed the title on herself. In any case, we think it's pretty fly. 

Monday, December 3

Holiday Throwback Recipes: It's Game Time

We've got a pretty solid collection of community cookbooks here in the office—and many more in our staffers' home libraries. And the holidays seem like the right time to whip them out and share some choice recipes with you, our readers. So fix yourself an eggnog, pull up a seat, and check back often between now and New Year's for our Holiday Throwback Recipes.

Today's Cookbook:
Talk about Good!
"Le Livre de la Cuisine de Lafayette" 
Published by the Service League of Lafayette, Louisiana
First edition 1967; annual subsequent printings 1968–1971

It's game time, folks—and no, we're not talking about the college football post-season. Think wild game from land, air, and marsh: venison, quail, duck, and the like. We're not exactly avid outdoorsfolk here at SFA world headquarters, but you don't have to have a Mossy Oak wardrobe to notice that hunting season is in full swing. And really, we think it's pretty darn festive to serve up a holiday main dish you—er, bagged, yourself.

Apparently, the ladies of the Lafayette Service League were in agreement with us. Except they had a better idea of what they were doing with that deer (and rabbit, and goose, and squirrel...) 

To wit, the following recipes and tips, culled from an entire chapter of possibilities:

Hints to Game Cookers
Don't be afraid to season thoroughly with salt, red and black pepper.
Bell pepper compliments the flavor.
Too much garlic isn't good.
Don't hesitate to cook until it nearly falls apart.
"Steam" heat is the best method.
By all means use plenty of parsley.
—Mrs. F. M. McGinn

Goose Casserole
Soak 1 1/2 quarts white beans overnight in cold water. Drain. Place in a large kettle with:

3/4 lb salt pork
1/2 lb fresh pork rind
1 carrot
1 onion stuck with 2 cloves
1/4 tsp ground thyme
fresh ground pepper
Bouquet Garni composed of 3 cloves garlic, 4 sprigs parsley, 3 sprigs celery tops and 1 bay leaf (all tied together in a cheesecloth bag)

Cover mixture completely with boiling water and simmer very gently for 1 1/2 hours.
Meanwhile, heat 4 tablespoons goose fat or lard in a large skillet and ad 1 1/2 pounds loin of pork and 1 pound boned breast of lamb, both well seasoned with salt and pepper. Brown meat on all sides and add 2 onions, finely chopped and continue to brown a little. Add:

2 cloves garlic, mashed
1/2 cup meat stock

Cover. cook slowly for 1 hour, or until meat is tender, adding more stock from time to time. When beans have cooked 1 1/2 hours, remove carrot, onion and Bouquet Garni. Put mixture in a large kettle and add to it the cooked meat (reserving the meat juice). Add also:

1 garlic sausage (about 1 lb.)
3 fresh pork sausages
all the meat from a roasted goose

Simmer slowly 1 1/2 hours. Remove meat. Cut lamb, pork, and goose in small slices, pork rind in rectangles; remove skin from garlic sausage, cut it in thick slices and cut pork sausages in halves. Cover the bottom of 2 large earthenware casseroles with the pork rind. Add to each a layer of beans, then a layer of the meats, and sprinkle with some of the meat juice. Continue the layers to the top, sprinkling each also with coarse black pepper and a little salt. On the last layer of beans, place a few slices each of salt pork, pork rind and garlic sausage. Add enough bean broth to cover and sprinkle top with coarse bread crumbs, dotted with butter. Bake, covered, at 300 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Remove cover and bake 30 minutes more.

This recipe will serve at least 20 people, and costs $7.50 per portion at the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York.

—Mrs. A. J. Shepard

Friday, November 30

Southern Six-Pack

1.  Previously on Pete Wells Has Had Quite Enough of Guy Fieri:  Pete Wells reviewed Guy's Times Square Restaurant.  Guy Fieri took to the Today Show to call Pete Wells a bully.  Next came parody.  Finally, Robert Moss offers a thoughtful look at middlebrow food and why doing it badly or belligerently makes the thinking eater so angry.  Or should.

2.  Rabbits and squirrels and raccoons better scurry away from Squirrel Fest in Hampshire County, West Virginia and George Drayton's family in South Georgia! Scurry the heck away from Awendaw, South Carolina too.

3.  Bored with Facebook and Twitter but still addicted to your computer?  Try Crowdsource Archiving.  The University of Iowa Libraries has a huge collection of (in some cases) centuries old recipes that need transcribing.  If you're a history buff or a recipe geek, this may be the job for you!

4.  The sweet potato doll is not just a holiday threat from a harried parent.  Sweet potato dolls inspired a book.  Were the catalyst for the childhood pastime of a generation of Johnston County, North Carolina school children.  And, foster the imagination of the young at heart.  Who knew?

5.  Chicken is brown.  Waffles are brown.  You know what else is brown?  Torani Chicken and Waffle Syrup, which started life as an April Fools joke but is in production in time for holiday gifting.

6.  If I Had a Million Dollars I'd buy a plane ticket to Japan for the sole purpose of then booking a premium economy or economy class ticket on Japan Airlines from Narita to New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego,  London, Paris or Frankfurt so that I could enjoy (during my second meal) the Air Kentucky!  With the leftover cash, I'll pay someone to offer deeper insight into the startlingly intense relationship between urban Japanese and KFC.  Money well spent.

Kitchen to Classroom: Grad Students Present Research

Photo by Alfred T. Palmer, 1943. Courtesy of the Library of Congress 
A weekly dispatch from our postdoctoral fellow, Jill Cooley. 
This week, my students in Foodways and Southern Culture—all first-year MA candidates in the Southern Studies program—delivered oral reports of their independent research and shared a variety of homemade dishes with the SFA staff. I was impressed to see how the scholarly literature of southern foodways informed their work.

Two students found inspiration in the issue of “food sovereignty” as it relates to ethnic communities in the South. Cultivating Food Justice: Food, Race, & Sustainability (ed. Alkon and Agymen) defines food sovereignty as “a community’s ‘right to define their own food and agriculture systems.’” This concept is broader than mere access and considers to what extent populations exercise self-determination over their food systems.

Paige Prather examined the Vietnamese community gardens and farmers' market in New Orleans East. She found that the same tradition of communal agriculture that had given this neighborhood autonomy over their foodways since the 1970s helped in its recovery after Hurricane Katrina. Paige shared a taste of Vietnamese New Orleans with her classmates by bringing a selection of sweets from a popular Vietnamese bakery and oranges from a Vietnamese-American family's backyard orange tree.

Photo by Paige Prather

Over on the Atlantic coast, Anna Hamilton related food sovereignty to mythology surrounding the datil pepper. Anna connected the datil pepper to St. Augustine’s Minorcan community—descendants of indentured servants originally from an island off the coast of Spain. But historical research suggests the pepper may have other origins. Anna examined the ways in which this community continues to claim the pepper as its own.

Photo by Anna Hamilton

Another popular theme for student research was the relationship between food and gender. Southern Kate Hudson was inspired by (new SFA board member) Elizabeth Engelhardt’s book A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender & Southern Food to examine turn-of-the-century boys’ agricultural clubs. Kate wanted to see how issues of masculinity may have influenced these clubs. She found that, unlike the tomato clubs—which often exposed girls to new opportunities—corn clubs tended to limit rural boys to farming.

Students at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture are making significant contributions to our knowledge of Southern foodways. Tune into the blog over the next few weeks to read the students' guest blog posts about their projects.

Wednesday, November 28

SFA to Present at 2013 FoodBlogSouth Conference in Birmingham, AL, Jan. 26

Join the SFA's Amy C. Evans and Sara Camp Arnold in Birmingham in 2013 FoodBlogSouth conference.

FoodBlogSouth is a food-blogging conference held annually in Birmingham, Alabama. The 2013 conference will be held on January 26 at Rosewood Hall in Homewood. This year's gathering includes three tracks of speakers: one on technology, marketing, and branding; one on creativity, photography, and writing; and one for beginning bloggers who want to learn the basics. SFA oral historian Amy C. Evans will present "Gathering the Stories Behind the Food: An Introduction to Collecting & Sharing" as part of the creativity, photography, and writing track.

This conference isn't just for bloggers. FoodBlogSouth is a gathering of like-minded people who are passionate about sharing food stories from our region and are interested in disseminating them through various forms of social media. The event also happens to be a benefit that supports the Desert Island Supply Company (DISCO), a non-profit children's writing center in Birmingham.

Visit the FoodBlogSouth website for more information and to register.

Tuesday, November 27

We Saved You a Plate: On Sports and Competitive Cooking

Photo by Marion Post (Wolcott), 1940. Courtesy of the Library of Congress
"We Saved You a Plate" is a weekly series showcasing an article from Gravy or Cornbread Nation, or a past symposium presentation, or a film. We serve it up, you gulp it down.

This week's installment comes from Gravy #45, a sports issue guest-edited by Wright Thompson. 

Impossible Fantasies
Sports and cooking, viewed from the armchair
by Chris Jones

 My TV viewing habits consist almost entirely of two distinct genres: live sports and competitive food shows. Sure, there are surface similarities—there is usually some sort of manufactured pressure, some ticking clock; there are moments of genius and beauty but also calamitous failure; there is often vicious duplicity set against a backdrop of underlying brotherhood; and for some reason, at least on TV, most of the growling, tattooed participants in both football games and cook-offs are total assholes. (I don't believe all of you are assholes. Just most of you.) But the truth is, on some deeper level, I watch for totally, totally different reasons.

I've played sports. I understand sports and their mechanics. I've talked to hundreds of athletes, and I like to think that I know what they're thinking and how they do what they do. I watch sports because watching sports makes me feel competent. It is a world in which I somehow feel as though I belong.

And that makes no sense. That particularly rarefied universe couldn't be farther removed from me. When I was younger, I subscribed to the usual male fantasy that if only I'd practiced more, if only my dad had pushed me a little harder, I could have been a professional athlete. After years of writing about sports, now I know: I never had a chance of being one of those guys. They are fundamentally different machines. And yet I sit there, nodding.

Illustration by Emily Wallace

Cooks and cooking represent the opposite intellectual experience. I once lived in an apartment with two other guys for nearly three years, and I made exactly one meal. Apart from the plate of slimy pasta I made on the first night there, I ate every single meal out. I am baffled by even the most basic act of applying heat to food. (Would that be toasting? Boiling? I have no idea.)

Just this morning, I waddled down to the hotel buffet and marveled at the waffle iron; I couldn't have been more impressed by an alien spacecraft. I took the prescribed cup of yellow goo—a completely inedible substance, as far as I can tell—and put it in this machine, and out came a fluffy, delicious waffle. I have no explanation for how that happened. I don't know what goes into waffle batter, and I don't know why making it hot transforms it into something so good. No joke, I have a better chance of explaining the physics of black holes than the alchemy of waffles.

And you, you assholes who can make waffles and all sorts of other tasty things out of oil and flocks of dead birds and maybe some kind of root vegetable? You are strange and glorious wizards.

You might think I'm making fun of you at this point, but I'm being completely sincere. When I watch sports, I sit back and revel in my understanding, in my perceived (and wrong-headed) closeness to the participants. When I watch food shows, I sit there mystified and salivating, like a dog that doesn't understand how his bowl keeps getting magically filled. And even though I have a far, far greater chance of becoming a decent cook than I do of becoming even a remotely passable athlete—every house has a kitchen, including mine for some reason—I am wedded to the illusion that hitting a home run makes perfect sense, and turning an octopus into something not only edible but amazing is the product of an elusive witchcraft.

We all need our impossible fantasies.

I watch you because I will never be you.

Chris Jones is a writer for Esquire and the winner of two National Magazine Awards.

Wednesday, November 21

Southern Six-Pack: Thanksgiving Edition

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! To knock the edge off today's cooking bonanza—or to grease the wheels of conversation with your step-great-aunt Martha—we got you a six-pack.

1. New York butcher Tom Mylan pens an open letter to the nation's Thanksgiving home cooks. The takeaway: Keep the food simple and the guests liquored up. Wise advice, sir.

2. And while we're on the subject of libations, GQ offers a beer-pairing guide to the Thanksgiving meal. (You might want to keep Uncle George away from the 10% ABV Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout.)

3. Forget Tofurkey. Up your veggie game with the Veggieducken, a tongue-in-cheek take on the meatless-alternative main course. We tip our pilgrim hats to Dan Pashman, the creator of this behemoth.

4. Are you a snacks-and-appetizers kind of eater? We feel you. Sometimes the little pre-dinner morsels are just plain better than the main event.* (Let Sam Sifton disagree!) Which is why we'd be happy with a Thanksgiving meal made up of these clever chefs' snacks from Saveur. Move over, glazed ham, and make room for the ricotta-and-honey sandwich.

5. In a vintage New Yorker article, Calvin Trillin reflects on his favorite Thanksgiving meals: Chinese food and spaghetti carbonara.

6. Planning on doing some hand-to-hand retail combat on Black Friday? Saturday Night Live advises that you start your shopping engines at Mega-Mart.

*Heretical? Maybe. But you can have your turkey, and I'll be in the corner with my Triscuits, cream cheese, and pepper jelly. 

Tuesday, November 20

Holiday Throwback Recipes: Cranberry Relish

We've got a pretty solid collection of community cookbooks here in the office—and many more in our staffers' home libraries. And the holidays seem like the right time to whip them out and share some choice recipes with you, our readers. So fix yourself an eggnog, pull up a seat, and check back often between now and New Year's for our Holiday Throwback Recipes.

Today's Cookbook
The NEW Lovin' Spoonfuls
By John and Ann Egerton and family
published in 1980; 1982; 1984; 2009

Yesterday we introduced you to the Egerton family cookbook and gave you John Egerton's grandmother's cornbread dressing recipe. Which means that today, it's time to clue you in on the Egertons' cranberry relish, a recipe they've been using for half a century.

Cranberry Relish  (from the 1980 Lovin' Spoonfuls; revisited in 2009)

In the November 1961 issue of Farm Journal, there appeared a recipe for cranberry relish that since has become a staple of our holiday diet. It's disarmingly simple, and we've barely modified it over the years. This is precisely how I made 1/2 gallon in November 2009—almost enough for Thanksgiving and Christmas too: I cut up 3 thin-skinned oranges (everything but the seeds) from Liz Williams's backyard Valencia tree in New Orleans; did the same with two crisp Arkansas Black apples; coarsely chopped 3 lbs of fresh Massachusetts cranberries in the food processor; mixed these fruits by hand in a large bowl; and added to the mixture 1 Tbsp. of fresh lime juice, 1 cup of refined sugar and 2 cup of unrefined raw sugar (all from Florida). You can use more or less sugar to suit your taste. Stirred well, this batch was sweet-tartly delicious at first bite—a sure sign it will age and ripen to perfection until it's all gone. It keeps exceptionally well in the refrigerator, or can be frozen.

[Years ago, we used an old-fashioned metal food grinder to process the fruit, and it left a juicy mess. We now prefer to cut up the oranges and apples by hand and give the cranberries a few quick whirls in the food processor. However you do it, the recipe never fails, and we never tire of it.]

Monday, November 19

Holiday Throwback Recipes: Cornbread Dressing

We've got a pretty solid collection of community cookbooks here in the office—and many more in our staffers' home libraries. And the holidays seem like the right time to whip them out and share some choice recipes with you, our readers. So fix yourself an eggnog, pull up a seat, and check back often between now and New Year's for our Holiday Throwback Recipes.

Today's Cookbook
The NEW Lovin' Spoonfuls
By John and Ann Egerton and family
published in 1980; 1982; 1984; 2009

In 1980, SFA founder John Egerton and his wife, Ann, came up with a much better holiday dispatch than the much-mocked Christmas letter: a hand-typed, spiral-bound cookbook of some two dozen recipes from their family and friends. That was the first edition of The Lovin' Spoonfuls, and the Egertons published volumes 2 and 3 in 1982 and 1984, respectively. Twenty-five years later, they bundled the original three Lovin' Spoonfuls with an all-new fourth edition. The NEW Lovin' Spoonfuls boasts some 100 recipes, from civil rights activist Rev. Will Campbell's "All-Purpose Sauce" to the late Hap Townes's famous stewed raisins.

We dig the charming, funny stories that accompany many of the recipes, but the best part of the whole thing is the introduction to the 1984 volume, which hints at the publication of the book that would become Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, in History:

"This may be a good time to tell you about our grander plans for 1986. If all goes well, Alfred A. Knopf of New York will publish that fall or the next our volume of collected wisdom about food in the history and culture of the South. The working title is Southern Food: An Entertainment. We'd love for you to help us. If you know of any rare old cookbooks, magazine articles, recipes, great places to eat, memorable quotes, funny stories, wise people, etc., that we need to be acquainted with, send us word."

We think it's safe to say that all went well on that front! Now pass the cornbread dressing, please.

Grandmother White's Cornbread Dressing (from the 1980 Lovin' Spoonfuls)

There is no telling how far back this prize recipe goes; John has been eating it for over four decades, and it was a venerable specialty in his family long before he took his place at the table. Grandmother white, and after her Rebecca, John's mother, passed the recipe down in a cryptic shorthand that only wise cooks could understand. Here it is, with as much interpretation as we can add for clarity. Mix together:

2 cups white cornmeal
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp soda
1 tbsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp pepper
2 eggs

Add enough buttermilk to give the mixture the consistency of cornbread batter; pour into a black skillet greased with hot bacon grease; bake in 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until crispy brown—like cornbread (which, in fact, it is). When done, take out and dump on rack to cool.

When the bread is cold, crumble it up thoroughly. Then saute a little onion and celery (how much, you may wonder; enough to make their presence felt), add them to the bread, and sprinkle on a little sage to suit your taste. Moisten the mixture with turkey broth, making it sticky enough to shape by hand into patties about the size of large eggs. Lay these onto a cookie sheet and run into a 350 degree oven until they're piping hot, well-browned, and crusty (about 30 min).

(If you prefer, you can stuff the dressing into your turkey, but we seem to like it better served in patties alongside the sliced meat and mashed potatoes, where it can be generously doused with gravy.)

This recipe should make enough dressing to serve four hungry holiday diners. We routinely double it, and have been known to triple it. Whether fresh or left over, hot or cold, it is superb, and never in memory has a single crumb of it gone begging at any house or in any generation of our clan. We would consider a turkey without this dressing to be indecently exposed. Properly prepared, it is more to be sought and savored than the big bird itself. Grandmother White attained greatness with this one.

Friday, November 16

Toward an African American Barbecue Aesthetic

One last dispatch from barbecue guest blogger Adrian Miller. Thank you, Adrian, for the informative, thought-provoking posts you wrote for us all summer and fall! Follow Adrian on Twitter at @soulfoodscholar, and look for his book on soul food (UNC Press) to hit shelves in 2013.

"You don't have to be a black pit master to serve good barbecue." Barbecue aficionado John Egerton raised this point during a "Barbecue Interrogatory" that he presented with Lolis Eric Elie—another superb subject matter expert—at the Southern Foodways Alliance's recent symposium on barbecue. Egerton's conclusion was part of his effort to explode enduring barbecue myths, and it certainly squares with my personal experience. In recent years, barbecue culture has witnessed an impressive wave of new cooks, enthusiasts, judges and restaurateurs.

With all of these new people joining the party, I expected to see more barbecue experimentation. Instead, barbecue proprietors have put more energy into standardizing the meats, sauces and sides they offer.  My main gripe with this trend is that barbecue restaurants try to be all things to all people ,which makes them kind of boring. If you're as alarmed by that state of affairs as I am, black-run barbecue joints are a refuge from the rising tide of homogenization. The proprietors know their customers, and they cling more closely to tradition…even when such tradition evokes a time when African Americans were less prosperous as a group. 

After years of reviewing historical sources, menus and doing some good old-fashioned eating, I've distilled some unique qualities that black-run barbecue joints have had. One distinction is serving untrimmed pork spareribs with the brisket bone, skirt meat and rib tips intact as opposed to the popular "St. Louis cut" that removes these to create a visually-appealing, rectangular shape. Black-run places are more likely to bring comfort to those craving some unusual, lesser cuts or types of barbecued meat like alligator legs, bologna, goat, coarsely ground and bright-red hot link sausages, mutton, or rib tips.

Not surprisingly, some distinctions that black-run restaurants had have evaporated. A number of mainstream barbecue places have gone beyond the baked beans-coleslaw-potato salad trinity to include southern sides and desserts like greens and peach cobbler on their menus. Another converging point has been the proliferation of fiery barbecue sauces now offered in restaurants—something that was almost exclusively the calling card of black pit masters.

As the African American experience shows, we can still come to a common barbecue table without forsaking some cultural culinary preferences. Vive la difference!

Join us on Sunday in Brownsville, TN

Pitmaster Helen Turner with SFA filmmaker Joe York. Photo by Brandall Atkinson
Join us on Sunday in Brownsville, TN, for a hometown celebration of pitmaster Helen Turner.

Mrs. Turner won the SFA's Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame Award at this year's symposium for her work as the owner/pitmaster of Helen's Bar-B-Q.

Joe York will screen his film about Helen's Bar-B-Q and the mayor of Brownsville will commend Mrs. Turner for her hard work—and her awesome barbecue. 

The event is free and open to the public; we hope you can join us.

Where: College Hill Center, 127 N. Grand Street, Brownsville, TN

When: Sunday, November 18 from 3–4:30 pm.

Thursday, November 15

Kitchen to Classroom: Food Justice and Sustainability

Photo by Alfred T. Palmer, 1943. Courtesy of the Library of Congress
A weekly dispatch from our postdoctoral fellow, Angela Jill Cooley. 

This week my class continued our exploration of food systems by reading Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class, and Sustainability, a collection of essays edited by sociologist Alison Hope Alkon and environmental social scientist Julian Agyeman. These essays argue that institutional racism, public policy, and the industrial food system work to create marginalized communities and then limit access for these populations to foods that promote health and reflect their cultural values.

Two essays focusing on the American South examine how race affects food cultivation. In “From the Past to the Present: Agricultural Development and Black Farmers in the American South,” sociologists John J. Green and Anna M. Kleiner and oral historian Eleanor M. Green trace the process by which African American farmers were systematically dispossessed of their land in the twentieth century. Although all small farmers suffered land loss, the authors contend that structural inequality disproportionately harmed black farmers—with an estimated 98% of black farmers losing their land since 1900.

In “Community Food Security ‘For Us, By Us’: The Nation of Islam and the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church,” Priscilla McCutcheon examines more recent acquisitions of land in Georgia and South Carolina by two black separatist groups that use communal agriculture to battle hunger and enable empowerment. McCutcheon explains the Nation of Islam’s belief that consuming healthy foods cultivated by black farmers can fight white supremacy and encourage self-reliance. She reveals a similar commitment to black autonomy by the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church, which argues that farming can nurture “tangible liberation [of the black community] through mental and spiritual transformation.”

Collectively, this volume questions whether the contemporary food movement provides a sufficient critique of, or alternative to, industrial agriculture. It suggests that the motto “vote with your fork,” which is popular among sustainable-food advocates, means little to the populations that are essentially disfranchised by way of their race, ethnicity, or socio-economic class. Nevertheless, the editors call for leaders of the food movement to recognize food justice as a potential ally in the common goal of reforming the current food system.

Citation: Alison Hope Alkon and Julian Agyeman, ed., Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class, and Sustainability (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011).

Wednesday, November 14

Holiday Throwback Recipes: Surprise!

We've got a pretty solid collection of community cookbooks here in the office—and many more in our staffers' home libraries. And the holidays seem like the right time to whip them out and share some choice recipes with you, our readers. So fix yourself an eggnog, pull up a seat, and check back often between now and New Year's for our Holiday Throwback Recipes.

Today's cookbook:
Gardeners' Gourmet
Compiled and published by the Garden Clubs of Mississippi, Inc.
First edition 1970; subsequent editions 1973 & 1978

If recipe titles are any indication, Watergate Salad wasn't the only surprise at a Nixon-era dinner party. Flipping through Gardeners' Gourmet, we found a multitude of recipes with "Surprise" in the title. This prompted a "guess-the-surprise" game at SFAWHQ (never go up against Melissa Hall in where community cookbook trivia is concerned), but then it got us thinking.

Was cocktail-party food more playful 40 years ago than it is now? If so, why? Do you like surprises in your food? For that matter, when is the last time you had a dish with "surprise" in the name? Do I smell a holiday theme party idea?

If you're getting nostalgic—or just curious—at this point, read on for three surprise recipes. (Spoiler alert: We're going to tell you what the surprise is. But see if you can stump your buddies.)

The recipe: Sweet Potato Surprise
The surprise: marshmallows

2 c cooked sweet potatoes
1 egg
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
8 marshmallows
1/2 c corn flakes

Combine warm mashed potatoes with beaten egg, salt, and pepper. Add a little milk to the mixture if it is too dry to form into balls. Make 8 balls with a marshmallow in the center of each. Roll in crushed corn flakes and bake on cookie sheet in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Can be fried in deep fat until golden brown, if desired. Serves 8.
Mrs. Joe Baird, Inverness

The recipe: Surprise Cheese Balls
The surprise: olives

2 sticks oleo or butter
10-oz stick Cracker Barrel cheese
2 c flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. red pepper
4-oz bottle stuffed olives
Garlic powder to taste

Mix grated cheese, flour, salt, pepper, and softened butter and make into small balls. Punch hole in the center and put in one half of an olive. Close ball and roll into round ball. Grease cookie sheet and bake in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Makes approximately 60 balls. These may be frozen before baking.
Mrs. Charles LeBlanc, Gulfport

The recipe: Surprise Muffins
The surprise: cherry preserves

2 c all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 stick butter
1 egg
1 c milk
1/2 c cherry preserves

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Form well in center. Beat egg and milk together and pull into well. Stir just until dry ingredients are moistened—about 25 strokes. Batter will be lumpy. Fill greased muffin cups 1/3 full. Carefully center 2 teaspoons preserves in batter, then cover with additional batter to fill cups 2/3 full. Bill in preheated oven at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Yields 12 muffins.
Mrs. Sam Gunter, Clinton  

Where can you find a piece of Pride & Joy?

Joe York's feature film Pride & Joy will begin making the festival rounds soon. Look for it on South Carolina Educational Television in the spring of 2013, and stay tuned for more details about screenings in a city near you. Meanwhile, you can watch the trailer right on our homepage, then get in on the Pride & Joy action yourself. All you need is a set of wheels and an eager tummy, because many of the people, places, and foodstuffs featured in the film are open to the public and/or available for purchase.

We've gotten you started with this source list, but be sure to call ahead before you hop in the car!

If you go to Scott's Bar-B-Q, respect the sign.

Dori Sanders
Sanders Peach Farm and Roadside Market (open during the summer)
Highway 321 between York and Filbert, South Carolina

Rodney Scott
Scott’s Bar-B-Que (open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday)
2734 Highway 261 (Hemingway Highway), Hemingway, South Carolina

Lee Ross – paddlefish caviar
Mr. Ross’s caviar is sold through distributors, not directly to the consumer.
However, he also owns The Catfish Shack, 306 South Whitehead Drive, DeWitt, Arkansas
(870) 946-8057

Hardy Family
Hardy Farms Peanuts
1659 Eastman Highway
Hawkinsville, Georgia

Kendall Schoelles
Schoelles tongs for wild (as opposed to cultivated) oysters in Apalachicola Bay, Florida, on a parcel of the bay that his family has held the grant to for more than 100 years. He does not sell his oysters directly to individual consumers, but you might find them at seafood restaurants and oyster bars in the Apalachicola area and beyond.

Thomas Stewart
Pascal’s Manale Restaurant
1838 Napoleon Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana

Will Harris
White Oak Pastures
22775 Highway 27, Bluffton, Georgia
(White Oak Pastures beef is available at Whole Foods stores in much of the South and along the East Coast; see website for locations)

Julian Van Winkle
Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery
113 Great Buffalo Trace, Frankfort, Kentucky
502-696-5926 (information about distillery tours)

Ben Lanier
L.L. Lanier & Sons Tupelo Honey
318 Lake Grove Road, Wewahitchka, Florida

Allan Benton
Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams
2603 Hwy 411 North
Madisonville, Tennessee
(423) 442-5003

Bill Best
Best is a farmer of heirloom tomatoes and beans in Berea, Kentucky.
He shares his seeds at
In season, Mr. Best’s produce can be purchased at the Lexington (KY) Farmers’ Market. The market takes place on Saturdays in Lexington’s Cheapside Park, April through November.

Geno Lee
Big Apple Inn (aka “Big John’s”)
509 North Farish Street, Jackson, Mississippi
(601) 354-4549

Rhoda Adams
Rhoda’s Famous Hot Tamales
714 Saint Mary’s Street, Lake Village, Arkansas
(870) 265-3108

Leah Chase
Dooky Chase’s Restaurant
2301 Orleans Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana
(504) 821-0600

Cherokee Baptist Church
812 Tsalagi Road, Cherokee, North Carolina
(The potluck church supper featured in the film takes place in early autumn.)

Martha Hawkins
Martha’s Place Buffet and Catering
7730 Atlanta Highway, Montgomery, Alabama
(334) 356-7165

Ida Mamusu
Chef Mamusu’s Africanne on Main
200 E Main Street, Richmond, Virginia
(804) 343-1233

Slovacek’s Market
Highway 60 at Slovacek Road, Snook, Texas

Earl Cruze
Cruze Dairy Farm
3200 Frazier Road, Knoxville, Tennessee (includes information about farmers’ market and retail locations)

Helen Turner
Helen’s Bar-B-Q
1016 North Washington Avenue, Brownsville, TN
(731) 779-3255

Bernard Colleton family
Squirrel stew is a Colleton family Thanksgiving tradition. If you want to try more Colleton-Green family dishes, visit Buckshot’s Carry-Out, 10030 U.S. 17, McClellanville, South Carolina
843-887-3358 (Call before you visit; hours vary.)

Red Coleman family
Each fall for over 40 years, the extended Coleman family of Coffeeville, Mississippi, has come together in the fall to make a stew of meat and vegetables, included wild game hunted by family members. 

Sam and Bruce Jones
Skylight Inn Barbecue
4618 South Lee Street, Ayden, NC

Gerald Lemoine and friends – boucherie (hog killing) and cochon de lait (roast suckling pig)
Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana
The Cochon de Lait Festival is held each May in Mansura, Louisiana (in Avoyelles Parish)
Ronnie Durand, who is also featured in the cochon de lait segment, is the proprietor of Durand Food Store, 2059 Leglise Street in Mansura. He sells a variety of meats and other Cajun foodstuffs.

Tuesday, November 13

Holiday Throwback Recipes: Pumpkin Bread

Sometime in the last week or two, it became "THE HOLIDAYS," a brief but intense season that merits all-caps for the eight weeks or so it comes around each year. We're not sure when this happened, because here at SFA World Headquarters, we're still munching on Halloween candy. But then our dog came home from her vet check-up wearing a turkey-emblazoned bandana, and now all of the shops in Oxford have decked their proverbial halls.

We haven't checked our local listings yet, but pretty soon the network television specials will ramp up, with Burl Ives crooning the ballad of Rudolph the Red-Nosed (ClayMation) Reindeer and the Peanuts shuffling to the sweet melodies of the Vince Guaraldi trio.

In other words: if you haven't planned your holiday menus (or placed your catering orders) already, time's a-wastin!

But that's where your good friends at SFAHQ come in. You see, we've got a pretty solid collection of community cookbooks here in the office—and many more in our staffers' home libraries. And THE HOLIDAYS seem like the right time to whip them out and share some choice recipes with you, our readers.

So, fix yourself an eggnog, pull up a seat, and check back often between now and New Year's for our Holiday Throwback Recipes.

Let's keep in mind, friends, that Thanksgiving is still more than a week away. You don't want to go overboard this early and risk getting sick of the turkey-dressing-cranberry-pumpkin-pecan goodness that's about to come your way. So let's start out by just dipping a toe, with some simple pumpkin bread. Just so you don't forget which season it is. You'll thank us later.

One note: We're reproducing the Holiday Throwback Recipes verbatim from their cookbooks—our editorial oversight doesn't extend to recipe testing. So if you see, oh, say, 4 cups of sugar in a single pumpkin-bread recipe, don't look at us.

Today's cookbook:
Gardeners' Gourmet
Compiled and published by the Garden Clubs of Mississippi, Inc.
First edition 1970; subsequent editions 1973 & 1978

Pumpkin Bread
4 c sugar
1 1/2 c Wesson oil
4 c canned pumpkin
3 eggs
1 c nuts
1 8-oz pkg dates, chopped
5 c flour
2 1/2 t soda
2 t cinnamon
1 t salt
1 t allspice and cloves
1 t vanilla

Cream sugar with oil and add canned pumpkin and mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time. Sift flour, soda, salt, and spices together and add to creamed mixture. Fold in the chopped nuts, dates and vanilla and bake in cans or loaf pans filled half full in 325 degree oven for about one hour. Cool in pans covered with foil.
—Mrs. James C. Johnson, Corinth

Friday, November 9

Southern Six-Pack

Celebrating?  Drowning your sorrows?  Either way, you'll welcome a six-pack.  This week donuts, peanuts, and cheese (three kinds:  pimento, artisan, and biscuit) make the ideal sipping companions.

1.  The Kentucky Bourbon Trail has lured many an explorer down winding roads toward limestone fed springs, aging barrels, and happiness.  Stagger away, and on your next journey through the Commonwealth seek out the Kentucky Donut Trail marked by stop and go traffic, cream filling, sugar glaze, and happiness.

2.  Speaking of staggering, To Have and Have Another:  A Hemingway Cocktail Companion just hit book store shelves.  This dream text for 20th Century American Lit majors explores Hemingway's writing, complete with page number references,  through 50+ cocktails (with recipes).

3.  We now pause for a crop report:  A very good year for Southern peanuts.  And, an excellent year for Hot Wet Goobers.

4.  Want to know where to eat pimento cheese, right now?  Eater to the rescue.  (Editor's note:  We appreciate that Eater went macro with this map.  Going micro, especially here in the South, would require Google earth technology.  The good stuff. Not the mucked up by Apple version.  As I type, I can name 6 places within 5 miles of my desk with non-commercial better than average pimento cheese.  And, yes, one of those places is a gas station.)

5.  Enjoy your cheese without mayonaise?  Sometimes.  John Kessler to the rescue with a brief survey of the Southern cheese scene (with pictures). 

6.  Glad to meet you, Eastern Carolina Cheese Biscuit.  Please, please, please never leave!

Wednesday, November 7

Kitchen to Classroom: How Easy Is it to Eat Local?

Photo by Alfred T. Palmer, 1943. Courtesy of the Library of Congress
A weekly dispatch from our postdoctoral fellow, Angela Jill Cooley.

Yesterday afternoon, as the nation’s “Walmart Moms” cast their votes to decide who would control our country for the next four years, my class examined some alternatives to relying on this ubiquitous behemoth for our continued sustenance. We read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, in which novelist Barbara Kingsolver recounts her family’s effort to eat for a year on what they could forage, cultivate, or buy near their southwestern Virginia farm. The purpose of Kingsolver’s memoir is to bring attention to the local food movement and encourage readers to be more mindful about what they consume.

A favorite part of class is how students interpret the day’s reading through food. Southern Studies graduate student Paige Prather brought homemade zucchini chocolate chip cookies, which she made using a recipe in Kingsolver's book. She purposefully used non-local ingredients, such as Ghirardelli chips, King Arthur flour, and organic zucchini distributed by Veg-Land, which she then attempted to trace to their source—with little success. She could not find, for example, where Ghirardelli grew its cocoa beans. “It is nearly impossible to find where these companies source [their] foods,” Paige concluded. “Not a single website provides this information.”

Southern Studies graduate student Anna Hamilton went in a different direction and tried to source her sweet potato casserole locally. Anna used sweet potatoes from Vardaman, Mississippi—self-proclaimed "Sweet Potato Capital of the World" home of the annual Sweet Potato Festival (going on right now!). She sweetened the deal with sorghum syrup from nearby Etta. But she could not find local pecans, flour, sugar, butter, or salt. Paige and Anna’s efforts seemed to support the local food movement’s contention that we have become so disconnected from our food that we often cannot determine its source.

And yet, this discourse is not sufficient to resolve the complicated issues involved in food consumption and access in the South. Kingsolver’s memoir reveals the difficulties that a white, college-educated, upper-middle-class family with flexible professional schedules has in trying to reconnect to their food. They had to move across the country to a Virginia farm and local community with agricultural resources and knowledge. And even with all of their advantages, Kingsolver’s family could not live a year entirely on locally sourced foods.

This realization caused the class to question how a family with fewer resources might realistically be able to control their diets and choose to eat locally. After all, food systems are built largely upon cultural constructions that affect accessibility, such as race, gender, ethnicity, and class. Next week, we will continue our quest to understand alternative food systems by reading Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class, and Sustainability, a collection edited by Alison Hope Alkon and Julian Agyeman.

Source: Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (New York: Harper Perennial, 2007)

You can follow Jill and her classes on Twitter at @foodandrace.

Monday, November 5

We Saved You a Plate: Recipe Edition

Photo by Marion Post (Wolcott), 1940. Courtesy of the Library of Congress
"We Saved You a Plate" is a weekly series showcasing an article from Gravy or Cornbread Nation, or a past symposium presentation, or a film. We serve it up, you gulp it down.

You can literally gulp down this week's installment, because it's a recipe for vegetable soup. Here in Oxford it's chilly and grey, and most of us in the office have some form of the sniffles. By 5:30, it will be totally dark. You must fight the urge to go to bed at 6! Instead, fix your fam this soup from Hal and Mal's in Jackson, Mississippi. It's a favorite among SFA staffers: one of us made the soup for her family last week, and another followed suit last night.

Vegetable Soup
(From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook, UGA Press, 2010.)  

Every day Hal White makes a soup from scratch at his neighborhood restaurant and bar in downtown Jackson. His waitstaff tries to guess the ingredients of his flavorful and intricate soups. This is quite a challenge because Hal's soup theory is from the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink school. What's so Southern about vegetable soup? Just check Hal's ingredient list for that most favored of Atlanta, Georgia, products: Coca-Cola.

Feel free to throw in a ham bone or some stew meat if you want a richer, meatier soup, but no matter how you tweak it, be sure to serve it with some hot, crispy cornbread.

Makes 2 quarts, or 8 servings
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 tsp seasoned salt
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp dried dill
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp paprika
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups v8 juice
1 or 2 good glugs of Coca-Cola (about 1/3 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 (15-oz) can diced tomatoes
3 cups chopped cabbage
1 cup chopped potatoes
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
4 cups assorted chopped vegetables (such as snap beans, peas, corn, butterbeans, carrots, okra)
Salt and ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring often, until they soften, about 8 minutes. Stir in the seasoned salt, basil, oregano, marjoram, dill, red pepper flakes, allspice, and paprika; cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Stir in the stock, wine, juice, and Coke and cook for 1 minute, stirring up any bits from the bottom of the pot. Stir in the parsley, tomatoes, cabbage, potatoes, mushrooms, and assorted vegetables. Bring just to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, partially covered, until all of the vegetables are tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

-Hal White of Jackson, Mississippi