13th Southern Foodways Symposium Recap
The SFA presented programming that challenged existing cultural concepts and complicated beliefs about the region. Among the speakers was Chingo Bling, a Mexican-American rapper from Houston, Texas, whose album, "They Can't Deport Us All," examined immigration policy and prejudice. Also on the roster was Francis Lam, a senior editor at Salon magazine, who profiled Croatian and Vietnamese shrimping communities in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Jim Peacock, professor of anthropology at University of North Carolina, argued for grounded globalism, his theory for how the South has evolved to accommodate new arrivals. Jessica Harris, the Ray Charles Chair in Material Culture at Dillard University in New Orleans, along with Theaster Gates and the Black Monks of Mississippi, paid tribute to the African roots of Southern street vending.
Guests feasted on meals prepared by chefs from across the region. Eddie Hernandez of Taqueria del Sol in Atlanta served turnip green tamales with cracklins. Michelle Bernstein of Michy's of Miami dished shrimp and sweet potato ceviche and braised oxtail stew with gnocchi. Also on the bill of fare were platters of of pit-cooked barbacoa de cabeza from Kelly English and Jonathan Magallanes, both of Memphis, and whole hog barbecue tacos from Jim 'N Nick's of Birmingham.
Each year the SFA presents three awards. Peter Nguyen accepted the Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame Award on behalf of the Vietnamese fishing communities of the Gulf Coast. The Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame Award honors an unsung hero or heroine of the culinary world, a foodways tradition bearer of note. In honor of Nguyen's work, SFA collaborator, Joe York made a short film, "Phat Thai," which focused on Vietnamese labor and life on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
The John Egerton Prize--which comes with a $5,000 cash stipend--was awarded to Calvin Head on behalf of the West Holmes Community Development Organization (WHCDO), based near the Mississippi town of Mileston. Twelve African American-owned vegetable farms participate in the WHCDO farm initiative. The John Egerton Prize recognizes artists, writers, scholars, activists, and others whose work addresses issues of race, class, gender, and social and environmental justice through the lens of food.
The SFA's Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Christiane Lauterbach, editor and publisher of Knife & Fork in Atlanta, recognizing her 30-plus years of determined documentation of the South's emergent global food scene. The Craig Claiborne Award goes to an individual who has made an indelible mark upon our cuisine and our culture, the sort of person who has set regional standards and catalyzed national dialogues.
The SFA's mission is to document, study, and celebrate the diverse food cultures of the changing American South. That mission is grounded in the notion that food is a lens through which a region and culture as vast and varied as ours can be embraced and understood.
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