Tuesday, May 22

Willie Mae's Scotch House Opens!

When the levees failed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Willie Mae's Scotch House, a corner restaurant (and residence) in the Treme neighborhood, succumbed to the destructive power of the rising water. Over the past year-and-one-half, Oxford, Mississippi, restaurateur John Currence has led volunteers from the Southern Foodways Alliance to restore this culinary and cultural landmark and put ninety-one-year-old Willie Mae Seaton back in her home, back in her kitchen.

In March, Seaton moved back into her home. On Monday, April 1st, Seaton stood at her stove once again, turning out the plates of fried chicken and beans and rice that, two years ago, earned her a James Beard Award (the highest culinary award bestowed in America) and served to inspire Currence and a host of others.

To date, nearly 200,000 dollars has been raised. And more than 200 volunteers - from as far away as California and as close as the French Quarter - have worked the job.

In the weeks to come, the Seaton family will endeavor to operate the restaurant on a daily basis. Call 504-822-9503 to get the latest hours and days of operation. As of today, May 22, Willie Mae's is open for lunch!

'Above the Line: Saving Willie Mae's Scotch House,' a documentary film by Joe York of the University of Mississippi Center for Documentary Projects, celebrates their efforts, the determination of Seaton, and the import of neighborhood New Orleans institutions. Look for a screening soon in your neck of the woods.

Monday, May 21

SFA Film at Big Apple BBQ Block Party June 9-10

Film Partnership between Big Apple Barbecue Block Party and Southern Foodways Alliance yields "Something Better than Barbecue"

"Something Better than Barbecue," a Joe York film, produced for the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party by the Southern Foodways Alliance and the Center for Documentary Projects at the University of Mississippi focuses on Chuck Ferrell of Chuck's Bar-B-Q in Opelika, Alabama.

Ferrell and his style of barbecue represent an oft overlooked barbecue subculture, one that finds its home on either side of the lower Chattahoochee River which separates Alabama from Georgia. At every turn, Ferrell and his ilk defy easy categorization and give the lie to those who believe that all barbecue obeys borders and plays by the rules.

Forget low and slow, down here the style of cooking is hot and fast. Forget the idea that mustard-based barbecue sauces belong in the Carolinas. Pulled pork? Not so much. Here you get it chopped or chipped, with barbecue slaw and a not-so-kosher dill crown.

But that's not all. As the free religious tracts that lie stacked beside the counter at Chuck's Bar-B-Q proclaim, for Ferrell there's "Something Better Than Barbecue." Twenty years after accepting Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior, Ferrell uses his barbecue joint to point wayward souls toward the Lord.

In exploring this aspect of Ferrell's food and faith, we find ourselves at a crossroads, the intersection of religion and barbecue, two worlds which many southerners find hard to separate. (Running time: 30 minutes.)

Culinary Historian Karen Hess Passes

Karen Hess, an esteemed culinary historian who did much to highlight African American contributions to the kitchen, has passed away. She was a friend to the SFA, speaking at one of our symposia and contributing an article to an edition of Cornbread Nation. She will be missed. Click on the link above for her obituary, from the New York Times

Monday, May 14


"Southern barbecue is a proud thoroughbred whose bloodlines are easily traced. Texas barbecue is a feisty mutt with a whole lot of crazy relatives."

~Robb Walsh, from the TX introduction

The SFA launched the Southern BBQ Trail on-line last fall, unveiling a collection of interviews that document barbecue in Alabama. In January we set our sights on Texas.

For the past four months, the SFA has been collaborating with the American Studies Department at The University of Texas at Austin and the Central Texas Barbecue Association to begin documenting barbecue in Texas. Dr. Elizabeth Engelhardt dedicated her graduate level American Foodways class to the collection of fieldwork for the Trail. SFA oral historian, Amy Evans, traveled to Texas to give a workshop on conducting interviews. Graduate students sat down with restaurant owners in and around Austin to collect their stories. Robb Walsh, SFA member and author of Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook, wrote the introduction for this, our Texas leg of the Southern BBQ Trail.

Go here to view the project on-line. Listen to Ben Wash of Ben's Long Branch explain how brisket became the foundation of Texas barbecue. Learn what Vencil Mares of Taylor Cafe puts in his sauce. Meet the Texans who have dedicated their lives to the craft of 'cue.

Thursday, May 10


SFA member Ann Stauss has embarked on a project to document the neighborhoods of New Orleans through recipes. The finished work will take the form of a cookbook entitled New Orleans Neighborhoods, A Culinary Tribute. The majority of the proceeds from the sale of the book will go directly to the communities she documents. Ann is still looking for stories and recipes from New Orelans natives. If you or someone you know would be interested in participating in the project, please contact Ann Stauss by email anniedd@charter.net or phone (504) 220-2906. You can also visit her website.

Wednesday, May 9

Beard Awards for Southern Boys

SFA members racked up at the 2007 James Beard Awards. Winners include Best Chef, Southeast, Scott Peacock of Watershed in Decatur, Georgia, and Best Chef South, Donald Link of Herbsaint in New Orleans. And Matt and Ted's Lee Brothers Southern Cookbook won Cookbook of the Year.

Thursday, May 3


In 2005, as part of our "Sweet Home New Orleans" field trip, we celebrated a handful of Tabasco Guardians of the Tradition, honoring them with awards. Two months later, Katrina hit. Businesses were ruined, their owners displaced. Over the past nine months, SFA member Sara Roahen has followed up with these folks, capturing their stories through oral history. They are stories that, thankfully, were not lost to the storm. They are stories of New Orleans' rich culinary traditions and the people who continue to keep them alive. Read interviews from Hansen's Sno-Bliz, Roman Chewing Candy Co., the Vietnamese Farmers' Market, Brocato's and more right here.

Wednesday, May 2


It's May, time for farmers to back their loaded trucks into parking lots and buyers to fill plastic sacks with fresh produce.

See how one SFA member, Anne Freeze, is organizing in her community:
The Hitching Lot Farmers Market


After a successful inaugural trip in March, CulinaryCorps is gearing up for a second trip to New Orleans from June 1-8th. They are currently working to create a team of 14-18 people to participate in the week-long service experience. During their second trip they'll be volunteering with several organizations including the Crescent City Farmer's Market, Emergency Communities (a feeding kitchen in the lower 9th ward) and NOLA Edible Schoolyard. Along with the service activities, the trip incorporates educational events that will allow participants to experience the vital food culture that makes New Orleans the tremendous city that it is. There are tours, classes, tastings and excursions planned throughout the week that will illustrate the vital importance of preserving a community's food heritage. CulinaryCorps is commited to building culinary leaders committed to social change within their communities and beyond. For more information, visit www.culinarycorps.org