Thursday, May 31

Smokin' with Singleton

Yesterday George Singleton sent us this photo of himself smoking a couple of pork shoulders outside his writing shack in upstate South Carolina. His dog Dooley serves as co-pitmaster.

If you're not familiar with Singleton's writing, find yourself one of his knockout short fiction collections, which include Drowning in Gruel, The Half-Mammals of Dixie, and These People Are Us. Singleton, who wrote about his high-school barbecue adventures for the last issue of Gravy, will also speak at our barbecue symposium in October. His newest story collection, Stray Decorum (Dzanc Books), hits shelves in September.

Smoke on, George!

Update from the Classroom: 2012 Oral History Workshop

Thirteen students from across the country arrived in Oxford on Tuesday to take part in our annual oral history workshop. The group spent the first day learning SFA-devised methods and techniques as they relate to conducting foodways fieldwork.

Yesterday, the group accompanied SFA oral historian Amy Evans Streeter to Yokna Bottom Farms, where they watched Amy conduct an interview and took documentary photographs.

Today, they're back in the classroom, learning how to process their work--one step closer to having all the tools they need to collect the stories behind the food.

Wednesday, May 30

Meet the Polished Pig

The SFA is pleased as pork to introduce you to our brand-new partners at Polished Pig Media. Melany Mullens and Michelle Charak will help us keep you informed about SFA news and special events.

Melany Mullens is a Virginia native who founded Polished Pig Media in early 2012. She’s lived in Chicago, Park City, and Charleston, before returning home to Roanoke. When she’s not "polishing the pig," you'll find Melany knee-deep in her garden, running muddy trails, water skiing, or biking in the mountains.

Michelle Charak was born in Chicago and raised in Houston. She later moved to Milan, Italy, where she explored and ate throughout Europe, from Lisbon to Tallinn. Now, living in New York, she enjoys eating, cooking, learning about wine, doing yoga, running, or exploring the crevices of the city.

Stay tuned for more to come from these ladies who say they like things shiny but aren’t afraid to get a little dirty.

Friday, May 25

Continuing Education: Brush up on Your Barbecue

Photograph by Simon Wheeler

In this, our year of barbecue, we share with you two upcoming Mississippi events featuring barbecue maven Adam Perry Lang. Lang's new book, CHARRED AND SCRUFFED, is hot off the—yes, the grill.

Turnrow Book Co. hosts a special Mississippi cookout with Adam Perry Lang at Tallahatchie Flats outside Greenwood on Friday, June 8, at 5 p.m.

Lang will demonstrate advanced techniques from his new book. Sampling plates for $10 will include Clinched Strip Steak, Bubbling Bacon Butter Beans, and Crispy Moonshine Onion Rings. Call Turnrow Books (662-453-5995) for more details.

On June 16, Lang takes a turn as guest chef at Oxford's City Grocery.

Southern Six-Pack

Happy Memorial Day!  Let's kick off the weekend with a virtual cookout.  SFA's got steaks, ketchup, fried pies, and very small cakes (no longer) cooked on a light bulb. We've even got music.  What should you bring?  How about a six-pack?

1.  The USDA officially names cuts of beef BUT compliance in using those names is voluntary. Your supermarket chain decides which cuts to sell and what to call those cuts. Give Denver steak (shoulder) and coulotte steak (sirloin) a try this grilling season.

2.  With a name like Pink Slime, it has to be awful.  Temple Grandin says, "Not so fast."  Rename it.   Maybe switch acids since most folks don't mind ingesting lemon juice but balk at swallowing ammonia. And, be honest about what you're up to.

3.  Don't want to head into a weekend of food fun without first having done your research?  Me neither.  Consumer Reports has you covered.

4.  Finally, MIT students throw themselves into solving the problems that matter.  Every last drop of ketchup is coming out of that bottle!

5.  Here are some holiday weekend facts:  It's strawberry season in much of the upper South.  Its always moonshine season.  And, no self respecting Southerner ever turns down a fried pie.  Joe Trull and Kim Severson embrace those truths and roll them into a mouthwatering recipe for Strawberry Moonshine Fried Pies.  Prefer to buy your pies rather than make them?  Head to New Orleans and pick up a dozen (or two) Hubig's pies.

6.  Loretta Lynn lied about her age and Easy Bake Ovens aren't powered by lightbulbs anymore.  What's the world coming to?

Popdust's supercut of Call Me Maybe will make you very very happy!

Wednesday, May 23

Okracast: Sam Jones of Skylight Inn in Ayden, NC

Sam Jones, 2011. Photo by Denny Culbert. 

Don't miss Rien Fertel's interview with pitmaster Sam Jones of Skylight Inn in Ayden, North Carolina, on this month's special Southern BBQ Trail edition of okracast

The Trail's introduction to the man behind the meat posits, "At age four, Samuel Jones told a newspaper reporter that, when he grows up, he wanted to be a trash man and the Prince of Barbecue. Sam's grandfather, Pete Jones, the designated 'King of Barbecue,' opened the Skylight Inn in 1947. Then only seventeen, Pete set out on his own after learning the trade from his extended family, the Dennis clan, whom history shows to be the first in North Carolina to serve pit barbecue to the public. Pete Jones liked to boast that barbecue ran in his blood. Sam's father, Bruce Jones, jokes that he used to put hog grease in his son's milk bottle to make sure that barbecue would course through his veins too.  Despite his barbecue birthright, the teenage Sam quit the Skylight Inn. 

Sam now runs the family business and compares his return to that of a flag bearer maintaining the standard on the battlefield. For the once and future Prince of Barbecue, the Skylight Inn smokes pigs the same way since time began: 'Whole hog cooked over wood, the way my ancestors and my family did it year and years ago.'"   

Hungry for more after a listen? Watch Joe York's film on Skylight Inn: Capitol Q. And check out the High on the Hog Carolina Field Trip itinerary to see where SFA-ers will get their of pig in eastern North Carolina next month.  

Grab some headphones and go!  

Tuesday, May 22

Students Heading to Oxford for 2012 SFA Oral History Workshop, May 29-June 1

A group of fourteen students from across the country will make their way to Oxford next week for our annual Oral History Workshop.

This intensive four-day workshop is an effort to train young scholars and bring more people into the field of oral history. The group will meet at SFA headquarters on the campus of the University of Mississippi and work directly with SFA oral historian Amy Evans Streeter.

Students will learn SFA-devised oral history methods and practices. The focus will be on digital audio and still photographs, applied to the study of foodways. Workshop participants will be introduced to the field via examples from the SFA archive, become familiar with equipment, acquire interviewing skills, explore the art of documentary photography, and learn a variety of processing techniques.

Through the generous support of SFA member Edward Lee of Louisville, Kentucky, we are pleased to be able to offer two minority scholarships. These funds are intended to help defray some of the costs associated with attending the workshop. This year's minority scholarship recipients are:

PhD candidate, Afro-American Studies – UCLA
* * *
From her letter of intent: "My research interests include Southern African-American culture, foodways and folklore, and the ways in which such works express the stories and the history of the African-American experience. I am interested in oral history because I am interested in learning about history from the unique perspectives of those who lived it."

MS candidate, Plant Science - CUNY – Lehman College – Bronx, NY
* * *
From her letter of intent: "I aim to document the ethnobotanical food traditions of my culture and evaluate its changing status…this documentation is integral to my research as Vietnamese knowledge transmission is traditionally oral in nature…Documenting their oral history will ensure their knowledge is preserved for future generations to discover and enjoy."

We'll share reports from the workshop all next week. 

Monday, May 21

From the Southern BBQ Trail: "You Just Gotta Know That Smell"

In the video featured above, Rudy Cobb of Jack Cobb & Son Barbecue Place discusses how hogs have changed in quality, taste, and aroma over time.

Rudy Cobb is Son, inheritor of his father’s legacy. For a half-century, Jack Cobb constructed barrels for the tobacco industry. On Saturdays, Cobb, aided by Son, moved from making hogsheads to smoking whole hogs, selling the meat out of his car to his warehouse coworkers.

Father and Son eventually setup shop in Farmville, a tobacco-town for which a more apt name could not have been chosen. Here, Son still prepares food Jack Cobb’s way: oak wood-fired pigs, collard greens, hushpuppies, slaw, and boiled potatoes. For three days each week, the Place is the space for barbecue.

Visit The Southern BBQ Trail for more oral history interviews from North Carolina and across the region.

Recap of 2012 International Biscuit Festival & Southern Food Writing Conference

Photograph by Heather N. Robinson

Last weekend, the International Biscuit Festival, held in Knoxville, TN, featured a Southern Food Writing Conference. Many SFA members and friends were speakers at the inaugural event. Festival organizers added the writing conference in an effort to "celebrate the tradition of Southern food writing and its important connection to the culture of the South."

Our friend Ted Ownby, director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, was one of the judges for the savory biscuit category.

University of Mississippi alumna Liz Blanchard won Best of Show with her Cajun biscuit.

Visit the International Biscuit Festival's website for a recap of the weekend's activities, contest winners, and more information about the event.

Heather N. Robinson documented the festival. Visit her Tumblr page to view her photos from the weekend.

Friday, May 18

Southern Six-Pack

The sun is shining.  Ole Miss students have deserted town for a few weeks.  Memphis in May is heating up.  Time for a six-pack.

1.  The due process rights of bourbon sealed in red wax were affirmed this week by Sixth Circuit Judge, Boyce Martin.  Clearing the way for constitutional amendment 28, the right to keep and bear Pappy Van Winkle.

2.  A little more than a year after tornadoes ripped through Alabama and devastated Joplin, Missouri Brett Anderson asks if a tragic events can transform a city's food scene.  Seven years after the levee breaches in New Orleans, the answer is a resounding and pretty positive, "Yes!"

3.  Atlanta Food and Wine elevates and celebrates the South's working chefs.  Josh Ozersky thinks they just might be on to something!

4.  Beware KFC, K(entucky)R(oasted)G(oat) might be looking for a turf war.

5.  What's delicious and NUTRIA-itious?  Give up?  Why, Marsh Dog Biscuits of course.

6.  Cut/Chop/Cook and then open a beer.  Make it happen, Rodney Scott.  Make. It. Happen.

Go for a drive this weekend.  Roll down the windows.  Open the sun roof.  Heck, if you've got a convertible then for heaven's sake put the top down.  And, turn this up really loud.  Remember 1978. Or visit it for the first time.  Thank you, Donna Summer.

Wednesday, May 16

Forum All About Pralines

Styling and location by Lucullus, New Orleans. Photograph by Keely Merritt, THNOC
When: Saturday, June 9, 8:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Where: Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres St., New Orleans, Louisiana

Creole Sweet is a day-long forum focused on the quintessential Louisiana candy, the praline. This is a presentation of The Historic New Orleans Collection and Dillard University’s Ray Charles Program and Institute for the Study of Culinary Cultures.

Talks and panel discussions about the vending, production, and consumption of pralines will journey from Mexico to Jamaica, from Puerto Rico to the Pelican State (that's Louisiana, to the rest of us).

The forum opens with a keynote address by Dr. Jessica Harris and brings together a variety of speakers including Mary Margaret Pack, Nicole Taylor, Poppy Tooker, Liz Williams, and Rien Fertel.

Registration: $50 per person, $35 for Dillard faculty, THNOC members and students
Call (504) 523-4662 or click here to register.

Monday, May 14

Cornbread Nation 6, coming to a town near you!

Our latest installment of our Cornbread Nation series (number 6!) hits shelves this month. CN6, edited by Brett Anderson, the restaurant critic and a features writer at the New Orleans Times-Picayune, tells the story of the American South—circa now—through the prism of its food and the people who grow, make, serve, and eat it. 

See the list below to attend a book signing near you. 

Or visit your locally-owned independent bookseller to pick up a copy!

May 17th-18th
Southern Food Writing Conference
Knoxville, Tennessee
Book signing on May 18th at 7:00pm

May 19th
International Biscuit Festival
Knoxville, Tennessee

May 19th from 3:30pm-5:30pm
Heirloom Book Company
Charleston, South Carolina
Cornbread samples to be provided by Sean Brock

May 20th from 1:15-2:05pm
SC Book Festival
Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center
Lexington Meeting Room A
Columbia, South Carolina
"Southern Recreated: More than Cookbooks" Panel

May 22nd from 7:00pm-9:00pm
New York, New York

Wednesday, May 9

3rd Annual Bob Sykes BBQ & Blues Festival June 2

Van Sykes, one of our 50 founding members and owner of Bob Sykes BarB-Q in Bessemer, Alabama, is hosting the 3rd Annual Bob Sykes BBQ & Blues Festival. From the event website:
Barbecue and blues are a great combination so start planning for the 3rd Annual Bob Sykes Bbq and Blues Festival. The festival will be held on Saturday, June 2nd, 2012 at the beautiful DeBardeleben Park located in downtown historic Bessemer from 1-9pm. It is a relaxing secured atmosphere for the whole family to enjoy talented blues musicians from local to nationwide. There will be delicious Bob Sykes bbq, childrenʼs activities, arts and crafts area, giveaways and demos by the sponsors, and much more.

Visit the BBQ & Blues Festival website for more info.

Listen to Van and his mother, Maxine, talk about the history of Bob Sykes BarB-Q in their oral history interview that's part of our Southern BBQ Trail.

Friday, May 4

Southern Six-Pack

There's a whole bunch of fancy clothes and competition in the air this weekend.  Tonight sees about half of the James Beard Awards handed out.  Saturday brings the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby and presumably the 138th wearing of fabulous hats.  Monday night, the James Beard folks will turn loose of the rest of their awards.  If you can't celebrate with a mint julep or a glass of champagne then a six pack will have to do.

1.  Ben and Karen Barker announced this week that on May 31, 2012 they are closing their Durham, North Carolina restaurant,  Magnolia Grill.  Reactions this week ranged from surprise and sadness to good for them. At the SFA, we're in the good for them camp and we're anxious to see what the next chapter in the lives of these SFA Founders and stalwarts of Southern food.

2.  The New York Times offered up an ode to Mason jars this week.  It's a little sad to know that John Landis Mason never got any real money from his invention.  Because, what a great invention!  Beyond preserving, any combination of flowers arranged in a Mason jar looks pretty.  Any beverage drunk from a Mason jar feels festive and fun (and sometimes naughty).  By the way, this isn't funny or cute.  Just tacky.  Word.

3.  Move over carrots,  there's a new motivator in town.

4.  Show up on time.  Show interest and a desire to learn.  Ask questions.  Know basic knife skills, safety, and sanitation.  Don't be afraid to use a mop.  Jeanine Williams did all that and more as she worked her way through the Careers in Culinary Arts Program offered at her high school.  Now she's on her way to Johnson & Wales University in Denver with a full four year scholarship.

5.  Going to the Derby?  No?  Billy Reid can help you dress like you are.  David Wondrich can help you drink like you are.  Who are we kidding?  You'll drink better and look better than anyone at Churchill Downs if you follow Wondrich's and Reid's advice.

6.  Lewis Black would like everyone to stop throwing the "a" word around.  Especially you, Dunkin Donutsowitz.

Thursday, May 3

New Oral History Project Online: Down the Bayou

We are pleased to announce that our latest oral history project, Down the Bayou, is now part of our online archive.

The people of Bayou Lafourche and Grand Isle, Louisiana, live and work smack dab at the center of nature—an aerial view of the area shows more water than land, and Grand Isle is definitively the end of civilization, tapering off into the Gulf of Mexico. They also live at the heart of our country’s most expansive oilfield. Steel structures crisscross the horizon, helicopters hum overhead, and drawbridges lift to allow crew and supply boats an easy path down the bayou to service and stock rigs in the Gulf. To the outsider, this intermix of oil and wilderness appears odd. Even ugly. But from the perspective of the bayou Cajuns (their more landlocked kin, the prairie Cajuns, live around Lafayette), the oilfield and nature coexist in harmony, the financial gains from the former funding good times in the latter.

Sara Roahen set out to talk with subjects who could help paint a picture of the area’s food culture. What she found was a set of people who necessarily walk a line between industry and nature.

Get to know the people of Bayou Lafourche and Grand Isle by visiting the project online.

And then listen to the latest edition of Okracast, the SFA podcast, to listen to a Down the Bayou interview in its entirety: Nick Collins of Collins Oyster Company.

Wednesday, May 2

Okracast: Nick Collins of Collins Oyster Company in Golden Meadow, LA

Nick Collins. Photo by Sara Roahen, 2011. 
On this month's okracast, catch Sara Roahen's interview with oysterman Nick Collins. It's one of the 15 oral histories she conducted for "Down on the Bayou," SFA's most recently published oral history project that documents the stories of people living near Bayou Lafourche and Grand Isle, Louisiana.

Here's the introduction from Nick Collin's oral history:

"Nick Collins, a fourth-generation oysterman, tends the reefs that his great-grandfather, Levi Collins, Sr., built in Caminada Bay around the turn of the last century. Back then, Levi Collins lived where he trapped and fished -- on the barrier islands of Chénière Caminada, which lies almost within shouting distance of Grand Isle. He traveled to the French Market in New Orleans to sell his oysters. Eventually the family moved inland, to Golden Meadow, where Nick lives and Collins Oyster Company operates today, but still they stayed at a camp on Chénière during the summers (shrimping season) when Nick was young. Nick learned oystering from his father, Wilbert Collins. Of six siblings, many who lend a hand in the business, he is the only one who has made oystering his life's work. It's where he always knew he belonged. Along with the oysters that he famously farms in Caminada Bay -- hauling them from other places to thrive and grow fat quickly in the bays particular salinity and currents -- he also fishes wild oysters on the west side of Bayou Lafourche. Those are the leases that Collins Oyster Company currently relies upon for income, as the Caminada Bay oysters on the east side of the bayou were killed off following 2010's Deep Horizon oil spill and the subsequent fresh water diversion. In this interview, Nick focuses heavily on the oil spill and the hardships that it wrought on his family's business. At the time of the interview, Nick was the company's only paid employee."

Grab some headphones and go!

Tuesday, May 1

Col. Mustard, in the Kitchen, with the Skillet

Killed lettuce. It's a funny name (description?) of what you make when you pour hot bacon grease dressing on lettuce. But let me and our friends at The Communal Skillet encourage you. This needs to be happening on your plate. Like now.

 Picture courtesy of The Communal Skillet

Even yesterday, Sean Brock posed a pic of killed lettuce. Let's just all agree that our lettuces should have a nice coating of bacon fat and move on. 

Check out a recipe from the Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook here.