Wednesday, November 30

Volunteer Vacation in New Orleans: Save Willie Mae's Scotch House

Want to make a difference in New Orleans? Want to be a part of reinvigorating the city's culinary culture?

The SFA is partnering with the Heritage Conservation Network, a non-profit that organizes hands-on architectural conservation workshops around the world, to save Willie Mae's Scotch House, a landmark neighborhood restaurant in an historic vernacular building.

You will recall that, during our July 2005 Field Trip to New Orleans, we awarded 89-year-old proprietor and fried chicken wizard Willie Mae Seaton with a Guardian of the Tradition award.

We are asking members to sign up for a series of three-day workshops aimed at preserving and repairing Ms. Seaton's home and attached business, allowing her to return to the work she loves.

Workshop participants will provide free labor for the project while learning building conservation skills from an expert leader and teacher. Not so handy with a hammer? Have no fear. NO EXPERIENCE IS NECESSARY.

A series of 3-day weekends are scheduled during which crews of 8 will work. These weekends begin January 13-15, 2006 and continue through February 10-12.

Volunteers will pay for their own transportation and lodging, although, upon request, the SFA will work with local folks to help secure -- but not guarantee -- the latter.

Expect to work hard during the day and then join your co-workers (and maybe New Orleans locals like Lolis Eric Elie and Pableaux Johnson) for dinner in the evening at one of our member restaurants, say Upperline, Restaurant August, Bayona, Cuvee, Jacques-Imo's, Emeril's, or Herbsaint. And to help you find your way in the city, the SFA will provide a primer of sorts, pointing the way to the city's best midday eats, too.

Here's the pitch: Willie Mae Seaton needs your help. So do the right thing. Lend a hand and join your fellow SFA-ers in the quest to make New Orleans whole.

If you would like to participate, please email the SFA at by December 9. Weekend choices and work team captains will be assigned on a first-come first-served basis.

If you have questions about Heritage Conservation Network, email or visit

To learn a bit more about Ms. Seaton, read Lolis Elie's Times Picayune piece:

Tuesday, November 29

SFA Members Contribute Oral History Work

While the SFA's Oral History Initiative is gathering the stories behind the food, many of our members are doing the same. Whether as journalists, historians or curious consumers, SFA members are out in the field documenting the people of our region. We have just added an area to the Oral History section of this site, featuring the work of our colleagues who are dedicated to telling the stories behind the food through oral history. Click on the link above to view recent contributions.

If you are an SFA member and have an interview you would like to share, please contact Amy Evans at

Monday, November 28

SOS Sharpies Going Fast!

SOS Sharpies are featured in the holiday shopping foldout section of Newsweek's November 28 edition. Scroll down this blog for details on how to order your case today.

Sunday, November 27

Memories of Triple Crown Brownie Cupcakes

Those that took part in the October symposium will no doubt remember the delicious Triple Crown Brownie Cupcakes prepared by Sara Gibbs. In response to a number of inquiries, Sara has passed along the recipe to us. You'll find it below.

If you'd like to sample some of Sara's other recipes, including the Cheerwine barbecue chicken, check out Sara's book, Southern Thighways: Thigh Recipes with a Southern Accent. It is available through Border Spring Press:

And now, here's that Triple Crown Brownie Cupcake Recipe:

Cream Cheese Filling:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
Dash salt
3/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

Brownie Batter:
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Woodford Reserve bourbon (or bourbon of your choice)

For the cream cheese filling:
Beat the cream cheese, sugar, egg and salt in a small mixing bowl on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Scrape the bowl and beaters and mix again briefly, then reduce the speed to low and stir in the chocolate chips. Set aside.

For the brownies:
Beat sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla in a mixing bowl on medium speed until well combined. Scrape bowl and beaters, then reduce the speed to low and add the remaining dry ingredients. Beat at low speed for about two minutes, scraping the bowl and beaters halfway through.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place 24 cupcake liners in muffin pans and spray lightly with non-stick pan spray. Divide the batter in half. Portion half of the batter (about 2 tablespoons) in each cupcake liner, then top with about 1 tablespoon of cream cheese filling. Portion the remaining batter (about a tablespoon) over the top of each cupcake. Bake on the top rack of the oven for 30 minutes. Cool completely on racks.

While the brownies are cooling, prepare the ganache:
Heat the cream in a small saucepan just until it begins to simmer. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate slowly in a double boiler over simmering water. Whisk until smooth, then temper in the cream, stirring until smooth. Add the butter, vanilla and bourbon, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat and stir occasionally, until the ganache is thick enough to spread.

Using a small spatula, spread a thin layer of ganache across the top of each cupcake.

Yield: 24 brownie cupcakes

Sara Gibbs
Lynn's Paradise Cafe
Louisville, KY

Tuesday, November 22


In the wake of the worst natural disaster in our history, the SFA has endorsed an independent member effort to create a PICKLE BANK. More than 90 percent of all funds received from the sale of hot and spicy pickles known as SOS SHARPIES goes to the New Orleans Hospitality Workers Relief Fund, which is solely for the benefit of unemployed Gulf Coast food workers. The PICKLE BANK is a way to rally the broad community of Southern food lovers to the aid of those whose labors have given so much pleasure.

At an SFA event in Louisville on Sept. 16, the 12-jar cases of "S.O.S. Sharpies"-short for "Spicy Old Southern-Style Hot Pickles"-were offered for sale at $120 per case, with 90 percent of the amount going directly to a worker relief fund. Half the cases were sold that weekend. The other half were spoken for the following week.

Orders are now being taken: your check should be made out to Pickle Relief Fund in the amount of $135 ($15 of that is for shipping) and mailed to PICKLES, 425 East Burnett St., Louisville, KY 40217. Allow two weeks for delivery.

Egerton's uncle and namesake, Nashville author John Egerton, a founder and former board member of SFA, says the pickles are "a perfect symbol" of the organization's commitment to helping others through food. "We first came together in 1999 out of a belief in the unifying power of Southern food," he explained. "Along with music and a few other things, food casts a very positive light on the region's past."It's deeply engrained in the Southern psyche to respond to tragedy with gifts of food. This time, we're selling a tasty, non-perishable food item to raise moneyfor people caught up in a disaster."

The funds generated will be disbursed through the New Orleans Hospitality Workers Disaster Relief Fund, which has been set up within the Greater Houston Community Foundation exclusively for the benefit of displaced food and restaurant workersin the Gulf Coast areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Texas.

If you still have questions, please call 502-523-6154 or email
Lens on the Larder: The Foodways of Southern Appalachia in Focus

Carroll Reece Museum
Johnson City, TN
Through 12/21/2005
Information: (423)439-4392

An exhibition of photographs and oral histories by Larry Smith and Fred Sauceman of East Tennessee State University that documents traditional and emerging foodways of Southern Appalachia.

Says Fred Sauceman, We focus on the first sorghum of fall as it enrobes a pan of country biscuits made from soft, red, winter wheat, sit at the side of a famous chow-chow cook, get elbow deep in cheese curd...

Monday, November 21

Cornbread Nation 3 HOT OUT OF THE SKILLET!

Pick up your copy today. Heck, buy three.

For those who missed Fred Sauceman's remarks on Cornbread Nation 3 at the Southern Foodways Symposium, you may enjoy the edited version here:

Editor Ronni Lundy and Mary Beth Lasseter deserve our highest praise and congratulations for creating this book. As we say in the mountains, they did right by us. They did us proud. Book editors and national television producers haven't always accomplished that.

Ronni writes in the introduction to Cornbread Nation 3 that she came to understand, in a book written by our bean man, one of our Ruth Fertel Keepers of the Flame, Bill Best, why mountain ways have persistently been translated in pejorative terms in the larger American culture. To quote Ronni directly:

For the last century and then some, the culture of America at large has been a culture of things. From its onset, the culture of the Southern mountains has been one of connection. Being intangible, the treasures of the latter are virtually invisible to the citizens of the former. Consequently, a life focused on fostering connection, as opposed to acquisition, might seem to the dominant culture, at best, quaint and anachronistic, at worst, ridiculous and perverse.

In other words, if you value a person most in terms of the number of things he or she has-cars, Cuisinarts, face lifts, cell phones-you will not value a person who has few things but is, instead, rich only in connection. If you see time as well spent only when it is spent in pursuit of things, you will see time as wasted when it is spent instead nurturing connection.

In the mountain South, the green bean is the center of a network of amazingly complex connections. Beans are grown for nourishment, so the favored varieties have plump pods that are allowed to fill out with protein-rich seeds. The time it takes to simmer these, slow and low on a back burner, can be spent outside by cooks who are as connected to the earth and their garden as they are to the stove.

These beans are bred for flavors and textures so idiosyncratic that Bill Best has acquired some 200 seeds of distinctly different characteristics. Mountain people name their homegrown varieties of green beans; some are linked to specific families, some belong to communities, some have names that suggest poetry or stories: Lazy Wife, Roan Mountain, Tobacco Worm.

This is not humdrum food writing. This, friends, is the real stuff. Cornbread Nation 3, it's what your friends want to find in their stockings.

Wednesday, November 2

Joe Dabney Honored with 2005 Jack Daniel Lifetime Achievement Award

Joseph E. "Joe" Dabney of Atlanta, Georgia, is the winner of the 2005 Jack Daniel Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern Foodways Alliance, an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi in Oxford.
The award, underwritten by Jack Daniels' Distillery of Lynchburg, Tennessee, recognizes the region's leading culinary lights, men and women whose lifework has proved a beacon for us all.

Lynne Tolley, great-grand niece of Jack Daniel himself, presented the award -- a custom portrait by Mississippi artist Blair Hobbs -- to Dabney at a ceremony on the University of Mississippi campus.

Dabney, a native of Kershaw, South Carolina, born in 1929, is the author of a number of books about the American South including Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, and Scuppernong Wine and Mountain Spirits: A Chronicle of Corn Whiskey from King James' Ulster Plantation to America's Appalachians.

Mountain Spirits, first published more than 30 years ago, defined the modern understanding of American moonshine. Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, and Scuppernong Wine, a chronicle of mountain life told by way of oral histories and recipes, won the Cookbook of the Year award from the James Beard Foundation.