Friday, November 30

Kitchen to Classroom: Grad Students Present Research

Photo by Alfred T. Palmer, 1943. Courtesy of the Library of Congress 
A weekly dispatch from our postdoctoral fellow, Jill Cooley. 
This week, my students in Foodways and Southern Culture—all first-year MA candidates in the Southern Studies program—delivered oral reports of their independent research and shared a variety of homemade dishes with the SFA staff. I was impressed to see how the scholarly literature of southern foodways informed their work.

Two students found inspiration in the issue of “food sovereignty” as it relates to ethnic communities in the South. Cultivating Food Justice: Food, Race, & Sustainability (ed. Alkon and Agymen) defines food sovereignty as “a community’s ‘right to define their own food and agriculture systems.’” This concept is broader than mere access and considers to what extent populations exercise self-determination over their food systems.

Paige Prather examined the Vietnamese community gardens and farmers' market in New Orleans East. She found that the same tradition of communal agriculture that had given this neighborhood autonomy over their foodways since the 1970s helped in its recovery after Hurricane Katrina. Paige shared a taste of Vietnamese New Orleans with her classmates by bringing a selection of sweets from a popular Vietnamese bakery and oranges from a Vietnamese-American family's backyard orange tree.

Photo by Paige Prather

Over on the Atlantic coast, Anna Hamilton related food sovereignty to mythology surrounding the datil pepper. Anna connected the datil pepper to St. Augustine’s Minorcan community—descendants of indentured servants originally from an island off the coast of Spain. But historical research suggests the pepper may have other origins. Anna examined the ways in which this community continues to claim the pepper as its own.

Photo by Anna Hamilton

Another popular theme for student research was the relationship between food and gender. Southern Kate Hudson was inspired by (new SFA board member) Elizabeth Engelhardt’s book A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender & Southern Food to examine turn-of-the-century boys’ agricultural clubs. Kate wanted to see how issues of masculinity may have influenced these clubs. She found that, unlike the tomato clubs—which often exposed girls to new opportunities—corn clubs tended to limit rural boys to farming.

Students at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture are making significant contributions to our knowledge of Southern foodways. Tune into the blog over the next few weeks to read the students' guest blog posts about their projects.