July 22nd, 2014
10:45 AM ET
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Editor's note: The Southern Foodways Alliance delves deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of Southern food. Bernie Herman is the department chair and George B. Tindall Professor of American Studies and Folklore at UNC-Chapel Hill. He lives in Chapel Hill and on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. He wrote this essay for the place-themed issue #52 of the SFA's Gravy quarterly.

The Bayford Oyster House extends over the shallows of Nassawadox Creek, abutting the channel where the tides of the Chesapeake Bay ebb and flow. The heart of the two-story wood building, erected around 1902, serves seasonally for shedding soft-shell crabs. During the rest of the year it functions as a storage area, stacked with soft-shell crab floats, blue plastic drums crammed with gill nets, and the flotsam of fish and eel traps, blue-crab and peeler pots, floats, line, and salt water–worn hand tools. The creek side of the oyster house fronts a working dock where watermen land their catch. The landward side abuts the one-story shucking hall and office, added when the business was in full swing through the mid 1960s, before disease struck the oyster beds and shucking operations closed. The old post office and store stands next door, remembered by Bayford denizens for its bear-paw sandwich of hard cheddar and rag bologna on a sugar-glazed bun.
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The complicated politics of the school cafeteria
July 16th, 2014
09:30 AM ET
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Editor's note: The Southern Foodways Alliance delves deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of Southern food. Kat Kinsman is the managing editor of CNN Eatocracy. She wrote this essay for the place-themed issue #52 of the SFA's Gravy quarterly.

Angela H. pulled me aside in the lunchroom to tell me that everyone thought my family was poor. This was news to me. So far as I could tell, my sister and I didn’t look anything like the barefoot, swollen-bellied children on the sides of the UNICEF cartons into which we slipped spare pennies. Nor did anyone attempt to gift us with sacks of half-eaten sandwiches, the likes of which our Grandmother Ribando said starving Armenian children would be most grateful to have. (Clean your plates, girls. Clean your plates.)

I pressed her for evidence and she relished the words, tumbling them around in her mouth like a disc of butterscotch before spitting them out on her Jell-O dish: “My mom says it’s weird that your mom wraps your sandwiches in Saran Wrap instead of a Ziploc. And why do you always have carrot sticks and a couple of potato chips when we all have cookies? Did your dad lose his job or something?”

I bought my lunch for the rest of sixth grade, making sure to spring for the chocolate milk instead of white—extra nickel be damned (and sorry, faraway UNICEF urchins). It’s not that I especially enjoyed the grey-meated burgers and leathery green beans slopped on my plate by a rotating cast of conscripted parents, but I loathed the notion that my peers thought they could infer anything personal from my lunch tray.
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July 2nd, 2014
10:00 AM ET
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Editor's note: The Southern Foodways Alliance delves deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of Southern food.

The Southern Foodways Alliance presents Counter Histories, a series of short films documenting the struggle to desegregate Southern restaurants in the Civil Rights Movement.
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If you don't know beans, you don't know Appalachia
May 21st, 2014
07:00 AM ET
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Editor's note: The Southern Foodways Alliance delves deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of Southern food. Sheri Castle is the author of "The New Southern Garden Cookbook." She wrote this essay for the Appalachian-themed issue #51 of the SFA's Gravy quarterly.

This is a story about pinto beans. But first it’s a story about my mountain people and one of our curious traditions.

The Appalachian Mountain South is to the rest of the South what bourbon is to whiskey: It is distinguishable from the rest, yet part of the whole. That includes our food, which is rooted in our geography. Like the rest of the rural South, mountain people traditionally ate off the land. Unlike the rest of the rural South, my people live up and back in one of the oldest mountain ranges on the planet, where the landscape and climate are quite different. On a map, we’re in the South. In practice, we claim our own place.
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Filed under: Appalachia • Cultural Identity • Culture • Obsessions • Recipes • Soup • Southern • Southern Foodways Alliance • Staples


Chef's Jon Favreau talks food, family, filmmaking
May 13th, 2014
07:30 PM ET
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In Jon Favreau's new film, "Chef," the writer-director-star plays Carl Casper, a formerly adventurous and celebrated chef who's since stagnated in both his career and his relationship with his ex-wife and young son. An unexpected thrashing from Los Angeles' most prominent restaurant critic (and a major social media meltdown) sends Casper running for the open road - in a food truck - in search of his next course of action.

Favreau didn't just tie on an apron and step into the role as a seasoned chef. He put in hard hours on the line in chef Roy Choi's kitchens and food trucks, and brought him on as a consultant to achieve authenticity in everything from knife technique to kitchen culture.

Eatocracy spoke with Favreau about his lifelong obsession with food, connecting with family and the lengths he'll go to for a killer brisket. An edited transcript is below.

Eatocracy: Your character in the film spends a lot of time cooking food for people to show them how he feels about them. How conscious was that?

Jon Favreau: I had been thinking about the film “Eat Drink Man Woman” and Roy Choi pointed me to “Mostly Martha.” It's a German film about a female chef who is a complete emotional basket case and could not communicate, but had such passion in her food. She would feed everyone around her. It's almost like someone who couldn't speak scribbling on a piece of paper like in "The Piano."

There's something romantic about that and I think it’s reflective of what I've seen in the chefs I've known. The most accurate, sincere communicating they do is through their food.
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The indulgence of pickled rope baloney
April 30th, 2014
03:15 PM ET
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Editor's note: The Southern Foodways Alliance delves deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of Southern food. Silas House is the author of five novels, three plays, and one book of nonfiction. He is the NEH Chair of Appalachian Studies at Berea College. He wrote this essay for the Appalachian-themed issue #51 of the SFA's Gravy quarterly.

Dot’s Grocery, owned by my aunt, was the community center of tiny Fariston, Kentucky: a therapist’s office, sometimes a church, and—always—a storytelling school. Everyone gathered there to gossip and to seek the sage kitchen wisdom of Dot. She kept a Virginia Slim permanently perched in her fuchsia-lipsticked mouth and latched her steely blue-eyed gaze on her customers while they spilled their guts and sought her advice. A few times I witnessed prayer services there. The epicenter of a largely Holiness community was hard-pressed to escape that, after all. There were always the big tales, swirling around like the twisting smoke of the regulars’ cigarettes (in my memory, all of them smoked, everyone).

Looking back, the stories are what matter the most. But when I was a child in the 1980s my favorite things were: the cakes-and-candy rack, the old-timey Coke cooler with the silver sliding doors on top, and the huge jar of pickled baloney that sat on the counter next to the cash register. Beside it were a loose roll of paper towels, a box of wax paper, a sleeve or two of Premium saltines, and a large Old Hickory–brand knife.
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Cherokee seed project sows respect for the past, hope for the future
January 16th, 2014
02:00 AM ET
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The Cherokee Indians are preserving the roots of their heritage with a program that allows officially recognized members of the tribe to access seeds that are unique to the Cherokee Nation.

Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Bill John Baker explained the seeds' lineage to CNN. "This strain of seeds came with us on the Trail of Tears," he said, referring to the forced migration of Cherokee nation from their land east of the Mississippi to an area that is now Oklahoma. The 15,000-person march took place in 1838 and 1839 under Andrew Jackson's Indian removal policy, and resulted in the deaths of an estimated 4000 Cherokees, due to starvation and sickness.

"They have been preserved and grown every year before that, and they are the basic foods God gave us that we grew long before the contact with Europeans," Baker continued.
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December 12th, 2013
01:30 PM ET
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CNN photojournalist John Bodnar is a second-generation Slavic-American whose grandparents emigrated from Eastern Slovakia, and his mother’s Carpatho-Rusyn ethnicity is the prominent influence for his cultural and family traditions. Previously, he wrote about haluski, holupki and paska.

I’ve always enjoyed the Slovak food my mother and extended family prepares. We eat these dishes at every family gathering: weddings, funerals and holiday celebrations. We eagerly approach the buffet display to find the holupki and haluski that usually occupy the first few trays, but at the end of the tables are the treats.

Cookies and cakes dominate that section, but the pastry that has always delighted my palate is the kolachi nut roll. Kolachi (sometimes spelled "kolache") is the name often given to a standard type of Slavic dough-filled pastry. Our kolachi is rolled dough filled with a walnut mixture, but other families fill theirs with a poppy seed mixture.

My aunt Eleanor was always celebrated as the one whose recipe held the quality edge over the other family members'. Obviously, this unofficial title has been disputed, but I concede that hers had a slight advantage in my childhood memories.

But Eleanor’s health eventually left her unable to make the delicious kolachi. As her health was failing, she insisted that her daughter Renee learn her kolachi recipe and carry on the tradition and her legacy. My cousin Renee embraced her mother’s challenge, and carries, in my mind, the title for making the best kolachi nut roll.
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Filed under: Baked Goods • Christmas • Cookies • Cooking • Cultural Identity • Culture • Family Recipe Index • Holidays • Make • Recipes • Step-by-Step


Comfort food, uncomfortable topics
July 1st, 2013
06:00 PM ET
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Good things happen when people gather together around a dinner table - and recent news has given us an awful lot to chew on.

Race has been front and center in the headlines recently. Businesses distanced themselves from celebrity chef Paula Deen after she admitted to using racially charged language. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on affirmative action and gutted the Voting Rights Act with the admonition to Congress that "things in the South have changed." The Senate passed historic immigration legislation. And the testimony of Rachel Jeantel in the George Zimmerman trial was filled with controversy.

Eatocracy's managing editor Kat Kinsman and Alicia Stewart, who covers issues of identity for CNN, invited a few expert guests to offer insight into some controversy that has arisen around issues of race, identity, food and redemption, and invited commenters to weigh in.
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Filed under: Cultural Identity • Culture • Paula Deen


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