Thursday, August 16

From the Kitchen to the Classroom: Teaching Foodways and Southern Cultures

 A back-to-school note from Jill Cooley, postdoctoral fellow in Foodways.

A new semester is starting here at the University of Mississippi. And, at the SFA, we are hungry for the latest scholarship on Southern foodways and culture.

This is the second year that the SFA, with generous support from its members and from the Chisholm Foundation, has offered foodways classes under the auspices of the University's Center for the Study of Southern Culture. As the lucky professor teaching this course, I wanted to use my inaugural blog post to anticipate the coming semester.

Appropriately (considering the SFA's homage to barbecue at this fall's Symposium), our first reading is is Republic of Barbecue: Stories Beyond the Brisket, by Elizabeth Engelhardt and her hard-working (but well-fed) graduate students at the University of Texas-Austin. I like to start the semester with this book because Engelhardt and her students set forth the questions that scholars need to ask about foodways: questions about place, space, gender, race, socioeconomic class, ethnicity, labor, short, questions about what dirves the decision-making process when it comes to what we eat and why. Foodways, after all, is not just about physical sustenance. 

Throughout the semester, we will analyze works that explore these questions written by interdisciplinary scholars such as Marcie Cohen Ferris, Psyche Willaims-Forson, Rebecca Sharpless, and James E. McWilliams, among others. In class, we will discuss, question, examine, debate—and, yes, eat—in an effort to understand how foodways reflects regional cuisine.

Can't join us in Oxford for the fall semester? Don't despair. I invite you to follow along with our class and engage with food in a new and thought-provoking way. Check out the course syllabus. Follow us on Twitter at @FoodandRace or by searching the hashtag #SST555. And stay tuned each week for my blog posts from the classroom.

—Angela Jill Cooley