Wednesday, February 29

In A Bowens Island State of Mind

Heading to Potlikker Charleston tonight for honest food, hip films, and good company? Lucky you!

For those of us who couldn't make it out to South Carolina, let us take a virtual trip to Charleston and Bowens Island Restaurant via SFA documentary projects.

Let us get you into a Bowens Island State of mind.

The short film featured above was produced last year by SFA filmmaker Joe York. Joe also did a short portrait of Victor "Goat" Lafayette, an oyster picker for Bowens Island.

In 2007, SFA oral historian Amy Evans Streeter collected interviews with Bowens Island owner Robert Barber, his parents, employees, and loyal customers. You can find those oral history interviews in our online archive.

Even though some of us won't be at Potlikker Charleston tonight because we're holding down the fort at SFA World Headquarters here in Mississippi, we might just host a little in-office film fest of our own--porgy toss included.

Tuesday, February 28

Tonight's menu: pork stuffed pork chops

Photo courtesy of the Communal Skillet

Yes, they're as decadent as they sound.  Our friends at the Communal Skillet have tested the pork stuffed pork chops from SFA's Community Cookbook. A couple of years ago, SFA hosted a staff retreat out in the country. There was a mouse in the house and a cat got shut up in someone's car (smells ensued), but there were many highlights at that gathering--besides good company and productive work, of course. Topping that list of highlights was the meal we prepared from the (then) waiting-to-be-published community cookbook. Greens, mac and cheese, and these pork chops actually silenced our chatty group for a full hour while we ate.  Pork in pork--really, what could go wrong (besides having a mouse in the house)?  We invite you to try these out, too, and see if you agree with our friends at the Communal Skillet that this recipe is delicious.

Friday, February 24

Southern Six-Pack

Varsity fishing, a criminal conspiracy, and $1tacos, this week's six-pack has it all.

1.  C-A-S-T, CAST, CAST, CAST!  The Kentucky High School Athletic Association announced this week that beginning next year, fishing will be a varsity sport.  The Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in western Kentucky will host the first state championship.  Followed by a fish fry.

2.  "You want a felony with that hot-dog?"  In New Orleans, a confederacy of stupidity lead Joseph Edwards, a former Lucky Dog Vendor at the corner of Canal and Bourbon Street, to conspire (albeit badly) to rob a safe.

3.  You don't have to leave Atlanta to find a great $1 meal.  But you will have to venture outside the perimeter.  Gene Lee tells you where to go and what to order.  And, for that matter, what not to order.  Gene's helpful that way.

4.  Linton Hopkins got some love and a well deserved platform to talk about his philosophy of eating and cooking and sourcing.  Enjoy part one and part two of Gabe Ulla's profile.

5.  A Starkville, Mississippi pre-school rolls out an ambitious and (so far) successful farm to table food program.  The key to getting it done?  Parents, administrators, cooks, and farmers all working together.

6.  Tracie McMillan's book The American Way of Eating is making quite a splash.  Ms. McMillan took the jobs that few people seek and learned what it is to harvest, stock, and serve America's food. Excerpts from the book chronicling her time as an Applebee's expediter can be found here.  Check it out.  You're already a good eater, you might as well be an informed one too.

Thursday, February 23

A Southern Revival @ Yardbird Southern Table & Bar

A Southern Revival

Location: Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, 16th and Lenox on Miami Beach.
Date: February 25th, 2012
Time: 8 PM

Culinary enthusiasts will have a chance to travel back in time during this year’s Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival as James Beard Award-Winning Executive Chef Sean Brock of Husk and McCrady’s in Charleston unites with the culinary team at Yardbird Southern Table and Bar. “Top Chef” alums Jeff McInnis and Kenny Gilbert, and Pastry Chef Gail Goetsch will team up with Chef Brock to cook the ultimate Southern menu inspired by the region’s history. “A Southern Revival” will be an 1800’s themed dinner, featuring time-honored recipes from the era which has influenced the innovative cuisine at both Yardbird and Husk.
Ticket prices start at $375 per person and will benefit the Southern Foodways Alliance. Premium seating at a limited number of Chef’s tables will also be available for $475 per person and will include a bourbon flight presented by Julian Van Winkle, III.
For more information, or to purchase tickets, call (305) 538.5220.

Wednesday, February 22

1965 Oral History Interview with FSA Photographer Marion Post Wolcott

Marion Post, "Up Stinking Creek, Pine Mountain, Kentucky": photographer unknown, February 1940 (Library of Congress)

Yesterday, the Internet led us to a wonderful post by Tom Clark on his blog Beyond the Pale: Marion Post Wolcott: A Modern Gypsy in an Automobile. Featured are more than 20 of FSA photographer Marion Post Wolcott's color images from her travels through the South in the 1930s and 40s, as well as excerpts from a 1965 oral history with this celebrated documentary photographer. The post offers great insight into Wolcott's experiences in the field, documenting the lives of rural Southerners in the first part of the twentieth century.

The full transcript of the 1965 interview with Marion Post Wolcott is available on the Archives of American Art website.

A grand archive of Wolcott's FSA photographs can be viewed on the Libray of Congress website.

Tuesday, February 21

Become a 2012 member of the SFA!

Membership Matters

This has been an incredibly affirming year for all of us who believe that food is a central component of the identity of the American South. As periodicals like Bon Appetit and the New York Times reminded us on a regular basis, the hottest trend in food today is Southern.

As a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, you were way ahead of the curve on all of this. What some see as a trend, you see as a simple and basic truth—the stuff that comes from Southern farms and is then prepared and shared in Southern home kitchens and restaurants says a great deal about who we are and how we got here. I thank you for your continued support of the SFA and remind you that your membership matters.

By now you know that your annual dues support our shared celebration of the American South's rich and diverse foodways. You’ve may have joined us at our famously informative and entertaining annual Symposium, summer Field Trips, Potlikker Film Festivals, or Stir the Pot dinner series. You’ve seen the fruit of the educational and documentation efforts of the SFA. You’ve watched one or more of our 35 documentary films, read one of the SFA’s 650 oral histories, perused an issue of our quarterly food letter, Gravy,dug deep into the Cornbread Nation book series, or cooked from the SFA Community Cookbook.

We are now compiling the member-only mailing list that gets you advance notice of these SFA events,a fresh copy of each issue of Gravy, and inclusion in the 2012Membership Directory. I deeply appreciate those of you who have renewed your membership for 2012 —we couldn't do it without you.

If you haven’t already joined us, there is still time to get on board. By following the membership link, you can become a part of what Atlantic Monthly has called “this country’s most intellectually engaged (and probably most engaging) food society.” You’ll also get the stylish 2012 membership sticker which, when placed on one’s lunchbox, will almost guarantee admission to the cool kid’s table.

Hope to see you at that table soon,

Jay Oglesby
SFA Board Member

Tomato Gravy: Tomatoes, Onion, and Bacon Grease

Tomato Gravy, courtesy of the Communal Skillet
Our friends at the Communal Skillet are in the midst of winter like the rest of us, but -- lucky them -- they have a canning room full of summer tomatoes.  What to do with them?  Make tomato gravy, of course!  Tomatoes, onion, and a little bacon grease combine to create the perfect topping for biscuits or pot roast, and leftovers can be stretched to make a bit of soup!

Monday, February 20

Okracast: Debbie Holt of Clyde Cooper's Barbecue in Raleigh

Debbie Holt. Photo by Denny Culbert/The Barbecue Bus.

On this month's okracast catch Rien Fertel's interview with Debbie Holt of Clyde Cooper's Barbecue in Raleigh, NC. 

This oral history will soon be added to the Southern BBQ Trail archives. In the meantime, find more information on The Barbecue Bus blog, where the following rundown on the place also appears. 

"Preservation. It’s on the menu at Clyde Cooper’s Barbecue in downtown Raleigh. Preservation, along with chopped, sliced, and coarse ‘cue; ribs, fried chicken, and Brunswick stew; and more varieties of fried pork skins than there are toes on a pig's foot.  

Clyde Cooper opened his place on New Years‘ Day 1938 and ran it for a half-century. The building that houses the joint dates back to 1884. But developers aim to erect a multistory apartment building on its Davie Street foundation. Downtown Raleigh is being re-imagined, rebuilt, and repopulated. Gentrification comes at many a price, and Clyde Cooper’s might any day utter its last squeal. 

Present owners Debbie and Randy Holt have taken up the fight to preserve culinary and architectural history. They'd rather buy the crumbling brick structure than relocate. Preservation, Debbie says, “Ain't all about the money. It’s about saving it for people and generations to come.” Defend Clyde Cooper’s Barbecue. Eat it to save it."

Want to explore North Carolina barbecue with SFA? Watch out for details on the summer field trip.

Grab some headphones and go!

Thursday, February 16

SFA Finalist for TWO 2012 IACP Awards

Today the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) announced the 2012 IACP Awards Finalists.

The Southern Foodways Alliance is a finalist in TWO categories:
-Intriguing Use of New Technology [for our SFA Stories iPhone app]
-Audio Series (Short Format) [for our Oral History collection]

And, spoiler alert, we're the ONLY ones nominated in the Audio Series (Short Format) category. So, we can humbly announce we won (at least one) 2012 IACP Award!

Special thanks to our fantastic oral historian, Amy Evans Streeter. Also to our associate director, Mary Beth Lasseter, who was instrumental in developing our SFA Stories iPhone app. And finally, to Jim Titley, our iPhone app developer, who besides creating a scrumtrulescent app, did all of his work pro bono.

See all the 2012 IACP Awards Finalist on Eater.

Wednesday, February 15

Heading to New Orleans for Mardi Gras? Get you some gumbo!

If you're heading to New Orleans this weekend for the pre-Mardi Gras festivities, consider fitting a stop from our Southern Gumbo Trail on your eating itinerary.

Dorothy Finister of Two Sister's Restaurant, featured above, only serves gumbo on Fridays and Saturdays, so plan accordingly. And bring your appetite. Servings of Two Sister’s gumbo are epic bowls of shrimp, crab, fresh hot sausage, chicken giblets, okra, filĂ©, bay leaves, thyme, and a jumble of other offerings from the seasoning aisle. Each bowl comes with a side of potato salad, which some diners dump directly into their gumbo. Miss Dorothy, who agrees that potato salad is an essential gumbo accompaniment, keeps hers on the side.

Save room for dessert, too: New Orleans' sno-ball season has officially begun. Visit our New Orleans Sno-Balls oral history project to learn about this local tradition and find out where you'll find sno-ball flavors from king cake to cream of nectar and everything in between.

Tuesday, February 14

Tuesday Recipe: Braised Collard Greens with Ham-Hock Broth

Photo courtesy of the Communal Skillet

Either you love collards, or you hate them.  That's the argument of our friends at the Communal Skillet this week. The cook loves collards, fortunately, and loves the SFA recipe for cooking them.  The secret: ham.  Lots of ham.  A splash of vinegar and a dash of hot sauce will round out the dish's collard goodness. Try it, especially now that cold winter weather has settled upon us. It's also a good way to test the compatibility of your valentine.  If you love collards, s/he should, too.

Friday, February 10

Southern Six-Pack

Hello, winter.  It's about time you showed up!  Snuggle up on this cold, rainy, and in some cases snowy (Nashville, you're so lucky!) Friday and let your six-pack keep you warm.

1.  The National Portrait Gallery tells the history of America through individuals who have shaped its culture. It is only right and fitting that a portrait of Leah Chase working in her kitchen (painted by Gustave Blanche III) will join the NPG's permanent collection.

2.  Squirrel hunting and cooking are making a comeback.  Don't call it a comeback, Grist!  For many Southern families like the Colleton-Greens of Awendaw, SC these are skills that never disappeared.

3.  The folks at Perennial Plate want to introduce you to a Bhutanese family now living in Atlanta and farming a small plot of land in the Jolly Avenue Community Garden.   Take a minute to get acquainted.  You'll be glad you did.

4.  If you don't know about Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, you should.  This group, organized in the wake of 9/11, seeks to paint a clear picture of the restaurant industry; to be a voice for restaurant workers; and to address historic and often ignored injustice within the restaurant industry.  A couple of weeks ago they published their annual Diners Guide.  The ROC guide doesn't focus on where you'll find the most succulent cut of meat or the most inventive cocktail.  Rather, it points out which restaurant owners pay a sustainable living wage, provide health care, or offer opportunities for advancement.  And, on the heals of that gem, released this week (just in time for Black History Month) Blacks In the Industry Brief.  Eat ethically, indeed.

5.  Emily Wallace and Kate Medley don't just pay at the pump and drive on.  And, if you find yourself in the Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill area of North Carolina, you shouldn't either.  Wander in.  Have a bite to eat.  Visit with the locals.  As Mary Jo Shively of the late great Designing Women said, "Can you believe it? I mean, who would have thought — homemade food in a gas station? I mean, is that just in the South or what? Now you can go in get your tires checked, buy some birth control in the bathroom and have a little turkey and dressing on the way out."

6.  Valentine's Day is just around the corner.  You didn't think we forgot?  Our friends over at Cook to Bang offer you the tips and tools to cut to the chase.  Dining room to bedroom in 60 minutes is their promise.

Thursday, February 9

Smokin' Cocktail

Photo courtesy of

Tobacco + bourbon = classy cocktail?

It appears so. Joe Raya, owner of Charleston's The Gin Joint, has proceeded to the final stages of Woodford Reserve's competition to find the best manhattan with his recipe including tobacco-infused bourbon.

According to The Local Palate, "Raya’s Connecticut Shade Manhattan is made with fresh leaves of shade-grown tobacco procured from the Connecticut River Valley. The fresh leaves are submerged for ten days in Woodford Reserve bourbon. After the steeping process is complete, the tobacco-infused bourbon is used to make a smoky, uniquely earthy version of the classic Manhattan cocktail."

At first glance it may not sound particularly appealing, but "smoky, uniquely earthy" doesn't sound so bad! Just please don't serve it in a Tiffany & Co silver cup with ice from a 10,000-year-old glacier and charge $1,000. [Listen, it happens.] And if you DO, then don't go stealing the glacier. [I can't make this stuff up.]

Wednesday, February 8

On the Tamale Trail: A 1906 News Item from the Yazoo Sentinel

Headline from the July 26, 1906, edition of the Yazoo Sentinel in Yazoo City, Miss.; tamale image by Amy Evans Streeter

A friend of the SFA, who happens to be researching the architectural history of Yazoo City, Mississippi, stumbled upon this gem of an article from the July 26, 1906, edition of the Yazoo Sentinel:

Manufactured in Vessels Used for Family Washing

Citizens of Yazoo who have been liberal patrons of the Mexican hot tamale vendors who cry their wares on the streets every evening will read the following from the Jackson News with a feeling of nausea:

"For several weeks a colony of Mexican hot tamale peddlers have been enjoying a thriving business in Jackson, but their business is likely to enjoy a sudden and very painful slump if the report in current circulation are o [sic] authentic nature.

"It is alleged that at the home of these Mexicans the housewife was discovered a day or so since in the act of washing her stockings in the self-same wooden bowl where the tamales are manufactured, and the premises were a scene of the mot [sic] indescribable filth.

"Stories of the Upton Sinclair variety are also told of the ingredients used in the manufacture of the tamale, which the patrons have hitherto regarded as so delicious and altogether appetizing. It is more than likely that the peddlers from the land of the Montezumas will have good reasons for complaining of dull business and seek out other localities for the disposal of their wares.

"This is even worse than the report from Chicago to the effect that it is customary to keep packing house chickens in cold storage for twelve years, and who knows but what our Mexican friends are importing their chickens from Chicago, with which they manufacture these tamales?"

* * *

While obviously preying on the paranoias that erupted after the publication of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, which was published the same year, and reflecting the sociopolitical climate of the time, this news item also sheds some fascinating light on the Delta's long history with tamales.

More than a century after this article went to print, tamales remain a vibrant part of the Delta's culinary fabric. 

Wendell Berry to lecture in Birmingham: Feb. 27

Monday, Feb. 27 @ 7 p.m.
Leslie S. Wright Fine Arts Center at Samford University
Birmingham, Alabama
for more info and tickets, see

Tuesday, February 7

SFA Web Redesign: A Request for Proposals

The Southern Foodways Alliance will redesign its current website in 2012.  We are seeking qualified web designers who are interested to contact the SFA via Mary Beth Lasseter, at  Upon contact, SFA will reply via email with our request for proposal attached.

In brief, SFA is looking for a web team that is experienced in graphic design, responsive design, customization of e-commerce sites, and management of robust content management systems. Deadline for proposal submission is 5 p.m. CST, Friday, February 17, 2012. Interested parties should send queries as soon as possible.

Earp's Seafood Market reopens in Raleigh, NC; time for broiled flounder!

Earp's Seafood Counter

Broiled Flounder
Photos courtesy of the Communal Skillet

At the Communal Skillet this week, SFA friends learn two good bits of news.  First, Earp's Seafood Market in Raleigh, North Carolina, reopened their doors last week after tornadoes forced a shut down over nine months ago.  (Remember those severe storms they had?)  Second, Earp's Seafood sells good flounder, flounder fit for a recipe from the SFA Community Cookbook.  Use a bit of mayo, broil for less than 10 minutes, and you'll have a delicious dinner on the table before you can even begin to tell the story of Earp's 43 year history in the Raleigh community. Click here for the recipe.

Monday, February 6

Texas Preserved, Foodways Texas Symposium, set for March 23-25

SFA is proud to have advised the good folks at Foodways Texas, back when they were in their infancy. Looks like they're proving to be the best sorts of chips off the foodways blocks. 

Texas Preserved, the second second Foodways Texas Symposium, set for March 23-25, will explore the ways folks preserve Texas (as a region, as an idea) and the ways folks preserve food in Texas. They'll talk about preservation in pastures, on farms, in kitchens, and in the stories told around the dinner table. 

The weekend's sessions will include a broad range of topics, including a canning demo by Confituras owner Stephanie McClenny along with a history of fruits and vegetables unique to Texas. You'll hear from the folks behind the Shrimp Boat Projects out of Houston, and a group of intrepid Austin historians out to collect stories from iconic restaurants around the state. 

Saveur photographer Penny De Los Santos  will discuss photography as a preservative medium. Experts will update you on this historic drought and its effect on different segments of the food economy, while an expert panel of craft brewers will discuss the world of Texas breweries and help launch a Craft Brewery oral history archive. 

Registration includes lunch and dinner on Friday and Saturday as well as a Sunday Chuck Wagon Brunch from Tom Perini of Perini Ranch Steakhouse. Featured during the weekend will be Justin Yu of Oxheart Restaurant in Houston, Louisiana Food's Total Catch Market, Sonya Cote of East Side Showroomand Hillside Farmacy in Austin who will stage an 1840s farm dinner onsite at Boggy Creek Farm in east Austin. 

Register here. 

Friday, February 3

Southern Six-Pack

This week's six-pack offers a little history, a little trend spotting, and a little are you kidding me? A very good week, indeed.

1. The Times Picayune is celebrating its own quartoseptcentennial with a fascinating series of stories celebrating 175 years of life in New Orleans. Not surprisingly, food and drink get their due.

2. Planning some 7 Layer Dip or some Velveeta Spicy Sausage Goodness for your Superbowl party? Educate yourself before you tear open that bag of Fritos. Feel free to share what you learn. Your guests will love it. Just don't talk while Eli's on the field.

3. It's official. Sean Brock is a food trend.

4. Okay, all you people who have eaten all 100 of the 100 Foods to Eat Before You Die, there may be something wrong with you. Disgust, it seems, and with it the boldness to say, "You're going to eat that?" is an evolutionary imperative.

6. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. When 20 to life gives you garlic vitamin pills and potato chips, you create a baked potato. And, write a cookbook to prove it.

Thursday, February 2

Year of BBQ: Morris Barbeque in Hookerton, NC

William Morris, Jr. outside his smokehouse in Hookerton, North Carolina. 
(Photo by Denny Culbert/ The Barbecue Bus)

To find Hookerton’s only barbecue joint follow 1st Street southeast as it leads out of diminutive downtown Hookerton. The name of the cotton field-lined road you’re now driving along is named for the half-century-old plus smokehouse down a mile on the left. Yes, that’s right, Morris Barbeque is of such local import that the town went and named a highway after it.

Willie McKinley Morris opened his barbecue joint in 1956. The place began as a country store, where he soon started selling whole-hog cue out of a horse and buggy, Saturdays only. Morris operated a tobacco and hog farm with his wife Frankie, and the weekend barbecue became not only a way to sell pigs he could not sell at market but a break from his workweek, or “play time” in the words of his grandson.

That grandson, William Morris, Jr., born the same year as Morris Barbeque, now oversees the family legacy. The early morning chopping and seasoning of the meat is done by committee; a group of six taste and judge for texture, consistency, and spice. Though this is barbecue by ballot, the final word is reserved for Morris, Jr.’s daughter— and masterful baker of sweet treats—Ashley. Morris Barbeque still opens only one day a week (William Morris, Jr., after all, works as a professional landscaper). Most everybody in Greene County makes the drive to Morris BBQ Road, so the barbecue don’t last long.

-Rien Fertel

* * *

Look for this oral history and the rest of Rien's North Carolina fieldwork to appear on the SFA's Southern BBQ Trail in the coming months. In the meantime, check out Rien's notes from the road on his blog, The Barbecue Bus.

Pride & Joy: A Southern Foodways Alliance Film Project...the Trailer

You've heard us mention that Joe York's been working on a feature-length documentary, right? Well, the time is near. And he's got the trailer to tide us over.

Pride & Joy: A Southern Foodways Alliance Film Project (the trailer)

The film aims to answer a few core questions:

* What do foodways tell us about who we are as Southerners?
* How and why do traditional foodways endure?
* As the South's ethnic and racial makeup shifts, how do regional foodways change?

And keep up with Joe as he finishes the film: