Thursday, March 26


I am happy to bring everyone another update on the activities of two of the Southern Studies courses that pay particular attention to food this semester at Ole Miss.

Dr. Boyd and Dr. Nystrom's Intro to Southern Studies course has recently focused on Delta foodways. The class viewed SFA films "On Flavor," about catfish man Ed Scott, and the film on Elizabeth Scott, tamale maker and winner of the 2007 Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame Award (both available on the SFA website of course). With the help of Richard Schweid's book Catfish and the Delta (1990), a brief history of the Mississippi Catfish Industry, and some information regarding its recent struggles, students have learned the reasons behind this important Mississippi industry in crisis.

In Dr. Wharton's Studies in Fieldwork: Food and Culture class, the five student groups have formulated their ideas and begun the process of putting together documentary films. Joe York and Andy Harper, from the Center for Documentary Projects, have taught students how to use the FinalCutPro software that they will use to edit their films later in the semester (pictured above). The class recently finished reading Warren Belasco's Food: The Key Concepts and Dennis Covington's Salvation on Sand Mountain for more perspective on the big issues important in food studies, and the ethics and methodological issues associated with doing documentary work. We also viewed the film Stranger with a Camera about the 1967 murder of a Canadian filmmaker in Eastern Kentucky to address the responsibilities of filmmakers and ethical questions associated with insider and outsider perspectives.

Here are the topics of the five films that will be made by students this semester:

1. Dinner on the Grounds. This group recently documented the church tradition of dinner on the grounds at a Scared Harp singing here in Oxford. The project will explore the significance of dinner on the grounds in Oxford's African American and white churches with special attention paid to the foods eaten and the community atmosphere.

2. New Albany's Tortillarilla. This group is focusing on the Tortillarilla in New Albany and has already filmed the cooking down of corn and tortilla making processes there. They will profile Alberto Ocampo, Mexican immigrant and long-time Los Angelan, who moved to New Albany last year to run his father-in-law's Tortillaria. He sells the tortillas to farmer's markets and door-to-door in the Hispanic community throughout Northern Mississippi and Memphis.

3. Chicken on A Stick. This group will explore why Oxford's most renowned gas station cuisine is so popular. They have begun a relationship with the owners of the Chevron station and hope to capture the allure of fried chicken on a stick for late night patrons.

4. Honeybee Bakery. This group will profile this relatively new family-run and -owned bakery in Oxford. The mother runs the business while the oldest son and daughter are chef and pastry chef, respectively. The younger children often work the front of the house and the entire family is passionate about the business. They want to explore why the older children--culinary school and college grads--decided to come back to the family business and how the small bakery is faring in the current economic crisis.

5. Cooks in the Ole Miss Greek system. This group will explore the intersections of race in food preparation in the fraternity and sorority houses at Ole Miss. They will investigate the relationship between mostly African American cooks and the nearly all-white Greek organizations that employ them.

The class is very excited to begin and continue filming in the coming weeks, and I cannot wait to share how these films develop with all of you! I will return for another update in a few weeks.

Alan Pike
Graduate Assistant, Southern Foodways Alliance