Wednesday, December 28


The newest issue of Gravy is perfect to enjoy...for lunch!  
Click here to read the SFA food letter online.

Tuesday, December 27


If you didn't make creamed corn this summer and stock your freezer, our friends at the Communal Skillet swear that you can use frozen kernel corn to make creamed corn.  I have to say that I am skeptical, as they were (initially), but creamed corn from frozen kernels is better than no creamed corn at all.  Check out the Communal Skillet's experience with our SFA Community Cookbook creamed corn recipe, serve it with some Christmas leftovers, and tell us what you think!

Wednesday, December 21


Rose DeShazer White with one of her cakes - Chicago, IL - 2008

Join us for our holiday edition of OKRACAST, the oral history podcast. In our ovens this season: caramel cake.

In 2008, we traveled to Chicago to visit Rose DeShazer White, a home cook, famous for the caramel cakes she shares with family and friends. 

Originally from Hollandale, Mississippi, Rose grew up eating the caramel cakes that her mother baked on a wood stove from a recipe that was passed down from her mother, Rose’s grandmother. When Rose was fourteen years old, she followed her brothers to Chicago, leaving her mother and the family recipe behind. She didn’t think about the family caramel cake again until she was married—and until her mother was in Chicago to teach her the recipe. Today, Rose makes old-fashioned, three-layer cakes with homemade caramel icing. And she always makes them using the tools that were handed down to her: three cake pans, an icing pot, and a spoon. But while Rose loves to bake (she calls it her therapy), she doesn’t bother to eat her own cakes. She makes them for friends and relatives, for special occasions, or just to have around the house. In fact, she’s probably standing at her stove right now, stirring her icing pot, baking multiple cakes to give out for the holidays.

Listen to Rose talk about what baking means to her and learn a few of her secrets along the way.

Go here to listen to this oral history interview on OKRACAST.

Grab some headphones and go!

Tuesday, December 20


We fell in love with Ridgewood Barbecue in Bluff City, TN, a few years back, when Amy Evans Streeter did an oral history with proprietor Larry Proffit and SFA events maven Melissa Hall staged an SFA Field Trip that included a Ridgewood meal, served from the owner's luxury box at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Now SFA friend and former board member Fred Sauceman has his say in a new film: Smoke in the Holler: the Saucy Story of Ridgewood Barbecue. 

The 26-minute film, produced by ETSU’s Office of University Relations and Center for Appalachian Studies and Services, traces the restaurant’s evolution from beer joint to barbecue house. 

Larry Proffitt, a pharmacist by trade, describes in detail how the restaurant barbecues fresh ham, in a pit with hickory wood.

“Stay with the pig until he makes a hog” was the never-quit philosophy of his mother, the late Grace Proffitt, who opened the Ridgewood Restaurant near Bluff City in 1948 with her husband Jim.

Smoke in the Holler: The Saucy Story of Ridgewood Barbecue is available now


At the Communal Skillet this week, they're pondering Velveeta cheese.  What exactly is it?  And how does the FDA define all the different types of cheese products?  Read their post to get the full info and dietary guidelines for labeling cheeses, but--for now--know that Velveeta is "classified as a process cheese spread, which is a variation on cheese food which must be spreadable at 70 degrees, have a moisture content of at least 60% and and 20% milkfat."  And it's good when properly heated, no matter how that description sounds.

For your holiday parties this week, try the SFA Community Cookbook's recipe for slow cooker crab dip.  It's easy to make, and it's Crock-Pot friendly.

Thursday, December 15


Photo Courtesy of

Inspired by a recent New York Times Magazine article, "Gifts for Drinkers," I made my own list for Santa, er, you.

1. Bloody Mary mixes.
This is a toughie. On the one hand, just a few weeks back we thoroughly enjoyed Fat and Juicy bloodies at Music to Your Mouth. Its "signature hint of smoky heat, fresh horseradish, celery and garlic" starts a day off right. On the other hand, Charleston Bold & Spicy Bloody Mary Mix, took home a 2011 Garden & Gun “Made in the South” award. The 'bold' kick doesn't come from the usual horseradish, it comes from Worcestershire, sea salt, habanero mash and celery seed.
And both call Charleston, South Carolina home.

2. Hollow Book Safe with flask.
Pick from titles including Sense and Sensibility, The Arabian Nights, The Chronicles of Narnia and this Gainesville, Florida-based company will hollow out enough pages for a 6 oz flask. Having a "good read" will take on a whole new meaning.

3. Bitters.
Drink to your health! What used to be sold as medicines, bitters are used as flavoring in cocktails. I'm sure you've had them in drinks at your local watering hole. But don't be intimidated to mix them in at home! You can buy Peychaud's Bitters and Regans' Orange Bitters from Buffalo Trace based in Frankfort, Kentucky.

4. Govino wine glasses.
The notch makes them easy (and fun?) to hold. The plastic means they can go anywhere. They are like the Snuggie of wine glasses. And I mean that it the nicest way possible.

5. The gift that keeps on giving.
Give Wine to Water wine. Founded by a Raleigh, North Carolina bartender, Wine to Water is a non-profit organization that provides clean water to needy people around the world. When you purchase a $16 bottle of wine, $7 goes right to WtW to fund their efforts.

Wednesday, December 14


True to our mission, we are as committed to teaching as we are to documenting. In an effort to mentor students in the field of oral history, we offer scholars the opportunity to visit SFA headquarters at the University of Mississippi to learn SFA-devised methods and practices as they relate to the field.

Internships are available to current graduate and undergraduate students who already have basic fieldwork experience via the classroom or personal projects.

Applications are due February 1, 2012.

Visit the Internship page on our website for details on how to apply.

Tuesday, December 13


Granted, the word congealed doesn't sound particularly appealing.  But our friends at the Communal Skillet took the SFA recipe for cranberry congealed salad with poppyseed dressing, and they loved it!  Though it's not salad in the traditional sense of lettuce and vegetables, it does have the added bonus of necessitating a Jello mold to make it pretty for the table.  Try it out this weekend!  (And use their tip about soaking the bottom of the pan in warm water before turning the salad out of the mold--it works.  Really, it does.)

Monday, December 12


Thanks to UM's Media and Documentary Projects, presentations filmed at the SFA symposium are now streaming online via Vimeo.  Click here to view them.

Friday, December 9


1. Spoiler Alert: A football team from the Southeastern Conference will win the National Championship. That will be six in a row -- Florida, LSU, Florida, Alabama, Auburn, and (as of January 9, 2012) Alabama or LSU. Why the Southern football dominance? The Washington Post says it has got to be the food!

2. Food and Wine Magazine has picked its 50 favorite bars in the U.S. No surprise, the South gets a lot of love on this list.

3. Corby Kummer offers up a stack of the year's best regional cookbooks.

4. Food Republic has compiled a list of the 50 food words we all need to know. SFA is certainly down with burgoo, fatback, and scrapple!

5. Whole Foods is making a list of the books they want to get. You'll find a list of favorite cookbooks and a list of favorite books about food. And, you'll be delighted to find SFA members and friends among the authors. You haven't finished shopping yet. Have you? Go get one (or three).

6. All right. Let's talk about the fruitcake. It's just sitting there. Are you going to try a bite? Or just mock it? These Southerners think you should at least try it. You might like it!

Thursday, December 8


photo courtesy of Jennifer Davick Photography

...for punch! And festive drinks of that nature. Whether you're hosting a party or just entertaining a passer-by or two, being prepared (read: well-stocked) means you might just be named the Host[ess] with the Most[est]. And I'll drink to that.

We look no further than the cocktails historian/guru, David Wondrich, to learn about all things punch. His book, Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl, schools you in not just recipes, but also the history behind them.

David shared the recipe for Chatham Artillery Punch with us at our Southern Foodways Symposium this year. (And we drank it out of a bathtub, which by the way, is how most unrememorable stories begin.) The Chatham Artillery is the oldest military organization in Georgia. Based in Savannah, it has continued (passed through family lineage, no doubt) as a social club. We give a hat tip to the CA for this deliciously potent drink, which when tasted by President James Monroe in 1819, was called "suave and deceitful".

(post punch)

No need for such large portions? Read Eatocracy's "Chilled Out & Cheery" about what to have on hand when guests stop in. And leave the stressing to someone else.

Wednesday, December 7


The Barbecue Bus is pointed home to Louisiana. Rien Fertel and Denny Culbert just completed their fifteenth and final interview for the North Carolina leg of our Southern BBQ Trail.

The audio slideshow featured above is from their recent trip to the Skylight Inn in Ayden, NC, where James Henry Howell has been manning the pit for nine years.

Visit the Barbecue Bus's blog for a great collection of Rien and Denny's notes from the road.

Rien and Denny's North Carolina fieldwork will appear on the Southern BBQ Trail soon, but you can still visit the Trail to experience stories about 'cue from across our region.

For more on the Skylight Inn, watch our documentary short, Capitol Q, by Joe York.

Tuesday, December 6


The question sounds like one from fire safety class in second grade, but it's really the question posted by our friends at the Communal Skillet.  Do you roll your dumplings out like noodles before adding them to the pot?  Or do you drop spoons full of sticky wet batter into the boiling broth?  The debate, depending where you are from, may be fierce.

Check out the SFA's recipe for chicken and dumplings from the community cookbook to see how we make dumplings, and read how our friends fared with this favorite cold-weather dish.  Tend the stove carefully while they cook but, should you need some fire safety advice, the answer is "stop, drop AND roll."  But that's fire safety only -- dumpling instructions are stop, roll, and drop!

Monday, December 5


The first SFA-underwritten foodways class at the University of Mississippi concluded last week. As the students presented their research projects to Dr. Angela Jill Cooley, a post doctoral fellow here at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, SFA staffers watched and listened.

A sampling of what we heard is below. In the picture above, students present, nosh, and visit. Next semester, Dr. Cooley will teach an undergraduate class focused on historicizing the book and film editions of “The Help.”

Kate Kenwright
Undergraduate, Southern Studies
Documented syrup grinding at Eclectic, Alabama, and poured cane syrup for all. What was labor is now leisure, that was the theme of her presentation.

Roy Button
Graduate Student, Southern Studies
In northern Mississippi, he learned that small farms are increasing, so are large farms, but middle sized farms are being squeezed out. Southern foodways being redefined by new farmers and new ethnicities at markets like Liz Stagg’s market on ole Highway 7.

Susie Pennman
Graduate Student, Southern Studies
Brooks Shaw's Old Country Store in Jackson, Tennessee, is a possible inspiration for Cracker Barrel.
She studied narrative of the place. Interviewed Clark Shaw and his son Brooks Shaw. Clark's father, also Brooks, started a museum of country store memorabilia, added food to get people in the door

Amy Ulmer
Graduate Student, Southern Studies
Joe St Columbia of Helena, Arkansas, grew up in a family of Italian immigrants. He says that his family taught Mexicans to make spaghetti sauce and they taught his family to make tamales.

Kirsten Schofield
Graduate Student, Southern Studies
She’s studying performative culture in the South, and is especially interested in brand mascots like Paula Deen and Colonel Sanders. She wonders, how did a guy from Indiana become the quintessential Southerner? How did he perform Southerness?

Jordan Shoemaker,
Graduate Student, History
She’s studying the role of salt in the Civil War. Salt was so scarce that Southerners had to salvage salt from dirt of smokehouse floors. (She brought ham biscuits for all.)

Katherine Bailey
Undergraduate, Journalism
She studied “The Face of Restaurant” how various Mississippi restaurants present themselves, including Ajax, Volta, and, for good measure, Cracker Barrel, present themselves. She included a slideshow on how Cracker Barrel sources and restores its country gewgaws

Danielle Anderson
Graduate Student, Southern Studies
She studied Indian restaurants in Mississippi, and was able to locate only 4 in the whole state, which makes sense when you consider that Mississippi has only 3 million people, and ranks 49th in states with foreign born populations.

Jonathan Bowdler
Graduate student, History
While studying national identity and how it’s linked to memory through cookbooks he’s come to conclude that the South may be a culinary “nation” with a collective memory.

Patrick Weems
Graduate Student, Southern Studies
He studied a community garden project in the Baptist Town of Greenwood Mississippi, where a 17 year old named De’vante Williams is leading the charge.

Rob Cornelius
Undergraduate, English
Yokna Bottom Farms, the first Community Supported Agriculture initiative in Mississippi, was his focus. In addition to doing documentary work, he labored on the farm.

Keith McCall
Graduate Student, history
Salt was his subject of focus, approached through the WPA narratives. He learned that in times of scarcity, Southerners sometimes boiled floorboards, wrenched from smokehouses, in pots of beans to flavor them with salt.

Meghan Holmes
Graduate Student, Southern Studies
She read memoirs of white Southerners, looking at their relationship with black women in three books, including Killers of the Dream by Lillian Smith; From Southern Wrongs to Civil Rights by Sara Parsons; and Making of a Southerner by Katherine Du Pre Lumpkin.

Kelsie Ruff
Graduate Student, History
Using the Southern Living annual cookbook series, she looked at changes over time in concepts of the South, representative dishes, and other measure.

Camilla Akin,
Graduate Student, Southern Studies
Reading the works of Eugene Walter, a native of Mobile, Alabama, she concluded that, as an expatriate, food was a way for him to connect with his roots. She showed a video clip of Eugene singing an ode to cholesterol

Thursday, December 1


The Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC) is now offering their Folk Art Apprenticeship Grants to foodways practitioners. From the MAC website:

MAC recognizes the creativity and cultural significance of foodways to the history and identity of Mississippians. The program honors foodways artists who make dishes that are directly related to the soil and climate of the state, or to the ethnic and regional heritage of their families or communities. Whether you are frying fish, rolling dough, stuffing tamales or canning figs (or something in between), MAC encourages you to share your expertise by participating in the Apprenticeship program.

The very first culinary apprenticeship grant was awarded to Julian Brunt of Biloxi, MS.

If you or someone you know might be interested in applying for the $2,000 grant, please visit the MAC website for more information.

To learn more about some of the foodways stories we've collected in our home state as part of our oral history initiative, visit our Oral History Project Index.