Tuesday, January 29

Kitchen to Classroom: Understanding Restaurant Segregation

Photo by Alfred T. Palmer, 1943. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
A weekly dispatch from our postdoctoral fellow, Jill Cooley.
The study of Southern foodways often involves learning hard truths about our history and culture. This week, in my food and civil rights class, we are studying racial segregation by reading municipal ordinances that required the segregation of Southern restaurants.

In December 1914, for example, Birmingham passed an ordinance prohibiting “a restaurant or lunch counter at which white and colored persons are served in the same room.” The city later revised this law to require a seven-foot wall separate white and black dining rooms. In reality, few cafe owners invested in such accommodations, so African Americans were often excluded from the modern consumer experience of dining out.

Photo of a segregated cafe in Durham, NC, in the tobacco warehouse district. Photo by Jack Delano, 1940, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Surprisingly, Southern cities generally segregated eating facilities with little public fanfare or arousal, at least initially—quite different from the experience of railroads and streetcars, the segregation of which caused much protest. This difference may stem from timing. Southern states segregated transportation as early as the 1890s while public eating places did not experience formal segregation until the 1910s and 1920s—well after legal racial discrimination had become a tragic way of life.

Also, many Southern cafes experienced some form of segregation in practice before the implementation of formal segregation laws. Announcing the proposed ordinance, the Birmingham Age Herald noted that in many city lunch rooms black customers sat on one side of the room and white customers on the other. Among other things, our class will consider why white municipal authorities in the South deemed such laws to be necessary.

For a more in depth discussion of the culture that sustained racial segregation, see Grace Elizabeth Hale, “‘For Colored’ and ‘For White’: Segregating Consumption in the South,” in Jumpin’ Jim Crow: Southern Politics from Civil War to Civil Rights, edited by Jane Dailey, Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore, and Bryant Simon (Princeton University Press, 2000) or Hale’s book Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890-1940.

Monday, January 28

Going Nuts for Coconut Layer Cake

Edna Stewart (1938–2010), SFA Oral History Subject, Chicago, IL. Photo by Amy Evans.
In the most recent issue of Vogue, Jeffrey Steingarten reflects on his 20-year quest to recreate the perfect coconut cake, which he proclaims "The Queen of Cakes." And actually, he refers to it throughout the article as the Classic Southern American Coconut Layer Cake, always capitalized, never shortened. We appreciate his reverence!

After you read the article, you can attempt Steingarten's favorite incarnation of the coconut cake, which he adapts from The Prudhomme Family Cookbook, or you can try ours, from The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook. 

Coconut Layer Cake

When longtime SFA member Angie Mosier was growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, a trip downtown meant a visit to the Rich's bakeshop and a purchase of its famous coconut cake. Angie adapted this recipe from Carl Dendy, who was the head baker at Rich's for thirty years.

Makes 1 eight- or nine-inch layer cake, 12 servings 

Basic Yellow Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 lb. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Easy Buttercream Icing
1/2 lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 lb. 10x confectioners' sugar
1 to 3 tablespoons whole milk, half-and-half, or cream

Coconut Filling
2 (14-oz) bags sweetened, shredded coconut, divided
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup easy buttercream icing

To make the cake layers: Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour 2 eight- or nine-inch cake pans and set aside. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; set aside. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture in 3 equal additions, alternating with half of the milk, beating only until the batter is smooth after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as you go. Beat in the vanilla. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pans.

Bake until the center of the cakes springs back when pressed lightly with your finger, about 25 minutes. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to cook completely.

To make the icing: Beat the butter and vanilla in a bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually beat in the sugar, letting each addition blend into the butter before adding more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as you go. The mixture should look a little dry at this point. Add the milk 1 tablespoon at a time, beating on high speed until you get the right texture. The icing should be smooth but not so creamy that it won't hold onto the cake.

To make the filling: Stir 1 bag of the coconut and the cream together in a bowl. Let sit and soak for 10 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the easy buttercream icing.

To assemble the cake: Place 1 of the cooled cake layers on a serving plate or cake stand. Tuck pieces of wax paper or plastic wrap under the edges to catch the excess coconut. spread the filling over the top of the cake. Stack the second cake layer on top. Spread the remaining icing over the top and sides of the cake. Cover the icing with the coconut in the remaining back, gently pressing to adhere. When all of the coconut is on the cake, gently ease the wax paper strips out from under the cake.

Angie Mosier of Atlanta, Georgia

Friday, January 25

Kitchen to Classroom: Grad Student Spotlight

Today's "Kitchen to Classroom" post is written by Erin Scott, a first-year MA student in Southern Studies here at the University of Mississippi. Erin is a native of Dallas, Texas. She tells us about her final project for Professor Angela Jill Cooley's Foodways and Southern Culture class.

Photos by Erin Scott

Every October, I get the urge to visit The State Fair of Texas. It’s been years since I lived in Dallas, and I have visited many cities and other state fairs since then, but nothing compares. I grabbed the opportunity to visit the fry capital of Texas for my research in foodways.

I was curious about how county and state fairs stay relevant in the present day. Yes, it's a cliche, but I found that there really is something for everyone. The fair has midway rides, livestock and agriculture, a car show, installations, music, football (the fair always falls on the weekend of the Texas-Oklahoma game), and food. Old food traditions, for me, mean a visit to Fletcher’s Corny Dogs, Owens for sausage and biscuits, and ending the day with a Belgian waffle.

Although the food doesn’t represent all of the diversity of Texas foodways, it is an important part of the fair's identity. In that way, the culinary offerings could collectively be called "State Fair of Texas cuisine." I tried a dizzying array of fried novelties, including fried Frito pie and Ranchero Pizza’s deep-fried divine tres leches cake. The tres leches cake was my favorite sweet offering, but a fried Samoa (Girl Scout coookie) came close.  I interviewed Abel Gonzales, the owner of the "Big as Texas" food stands, and tasted a fried peanut butter, jelly, and banana sandwich and balls of fried jambalya. I even ate fried cactus—perhaps a twisted nod to the state's Mexican heritage—and a fried bacon cinnamon roll. After a three-day fair weekend, I'd had my fill of fried delicacies, both the familiar and the over-the-top.

My research into fairs and expositions make the State Fair of Texas a living example of evolution of this spectacle from the Chicago Columbian Exposition and beyond.  For over 100 years, Fair Park has hosted this spectacle and celebration of Texan identity and culture, and it continues to evolve in the 21st century. In a world of digital connections, the State Fair of Texas might be most important as a physical gathering place for fair-goers of all ages and backgrounds.

Give us some Gravy!

We've been getting some questions lately about how writers can submit articles to Gravy, our quarterly journal. We are always excited to hear from new potential contributors.

First, click here to browse past issues of Gravy and to read about our editorial process and submission guidelines. Each issue normally contains an oral history from our archives, a recipe, and three to four articles of 500-900 words each. We also enthusiastically accept illustrations, cartoons, and photos.

If you believe that your work is a good fit for Gravy, we are willing to read pitches (100-200 words) or submissions (500-900 words) on any topic at any time of the year. (Give us a few weeks to get back to you—Gravy is a small operation!) That said, we do organize each issue around a theme.

The next issue of Gravy, #47, will be dedicated to all things sweet. Look for it in your mailbox in early March, or at the SFA Culinary Hub at the Charleston Wine and Food Festival. (Submissions for this issue are closed.)

We hand the Gravy reins to a guest editor about once a year, and this summer, we will have a "Food and Crime" issue guest-edited by Jack Pendarvis. Jack will have the final say on content for this issue, but we are accepting pitches and submissions to pass along to him.

In the fall, Gravy will be dedicated to home cooks and home cooking. Submissions for this issue, which prints in early September, will be due in mid-July.

Check back with us later this year for issue themes for December 2013 and beyond.   

If you have more questions about getting on the Gravy train, e-mail editor Sara Camp Arnold at saracamp@southernfoodways.org or gravy.sfa@gmail.com.

Thursday, January 24

David Shields on the Sweet and Sinister Tale of the Watermelon

As we mentioned last week, our annual Taste of the South weekend at Blackberry Farm was a huge success! Though we couldn't bring back any leftovers from the fantastic meals, we can share this history lesson with you. This year's Taste of the South scholar in residence was David Shields, a culinary historian who teaches at the University of South Carolina. Shields has been instrumental in bringing back some of the staples of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Lowcountry cuisine, such as Carolina Gold Rice, Sea Island Red Peas, and—coming soon—Palmetto Asparagus. Shields often collaborates with Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills to cultivate these crops and Sean Brock of Husk and McCrady's to make them shine on the plate. 

At Blackberry Farm, Shields went deep into the history of the watermelon, revealing tales of sweetness, yes, but also of greed, intrigue, and even murder. Who knew melons were so dangerous? And who knew Shields had such a talent for voices? (Yes, he acts out characters, and yes, it's a hoot.)  

Mississippi Delta Tamales Are Red Hot

Surely all of you are, by now, well acquainted with our Mississippi Delta Hot Tamale Trail. Established in 2005, the Tamale Trail is home to about 25 oral history interviews with Delta tamale makers and an interactive map that plots the locations of dozens more. It's the project that inspired our other culinary trail projects (check out our BBQ, Boudin, and Gumbo Trails), and it was also the catalyst for the first culinary marker in the state of Mississippi.

It should be no surprise, then, that people still can't get enough of Delta hot tamales. Just this month, two national magazines sing the praises of these particular bundles of meat and masa.

In the February 2013 issue of Travel + Leisure magazine, Shane Mitchell's piece "Southern Revival" celebrates the small-town culture of the Mississippi Delta. Many SFA oral history subjects are mentioned, as well as our hometown of Oxford, and Delta tamales definitely get their due:
An old-timey lunch spot, Crystal Grill specializes in such staples as fried chicken livers with stewed lima beans and candied yams. But the days when Southern food could be easily categorized by a greasy prefix are done and gone. Successive waves of immigrant workers have introduced Sicilian “pasta gravy,” Lebanese kibbeh, Vietnamese pho, and Mexican tamales to the region. Greenwood alone has seven listings on the Mississippi Delta Hot Tamale Trail.
The new February/March 2013 issue of Garden & Gun just hit newsstands and includes a long piece on Delta tamales by author, Delta-native, and friend of the SFA Julia Reed. In "A Delta Original: How the Humble Tamale Came to Represent A Region and Its People," Reed references the Tamale Trail throughout and spreads the good word about the first-annual Delta Hot Tamale Festival, which was held in Greenville in October (the 2013 festival is scheduled for October 19).

March 17-20, the 2013 Delta Cultural Tour, an annual event organized by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, will share the tamale love, as well. Amy Evans, SFA oral historian and chief architect of the Tamale Trail, is a featured presenter and will speak to the group about all things Delta and tamale.

The short documentary film featured above is a profile of Elizabeth Scott of Scott's Hot Tamales in Greenville, one of the stops on our Tamale Trail. Mrs. Scott was the 2007 recipient of our Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame Award.

Visit the Mississippi Delta Hot Tamale trail for more. Better yet, come to Mississippi! Your first dozen tamales is on us.

Tuesday, January 22

SFA featured in Southern Living

Check out the February issue of SOUTHERN LIVING, which includes a feature on the Southern Foodways Alliance. Jennifer Cole and Hunter Lewis profile nine SFA members, from Creole chef Leah Chase to foodways scholar Marcie Cohen Ferris. Each member contributed a recipe, ranging from the traditional (John Egerton's buttermilk biscuits) to the New-South-global (Bill Smith's pozole).

If you can't wait to get your hands on a copy of the magazine, or if you're already hungry for more, head to the Southern Living website. There, you can watch the SFA founders tell more of their—and our—story.

Friday, January 18

Southern Six-Pack

Rain, ice, sleet, snow, and now sunny blue skies!  What a week.  Open your windows and enjoy a six-pack.  (Friends to the east, wait till Sunday or so for the open window part.  Go ahead and have the six-pack now.)

1.  Barrel aged hot sauce isn't a new idea, that's the way they've been making it on Avery Island, LA for nearly 150 years.  What comes next?  Charred whiskey barrel aged hot sauce is the hot condiment for 2013.  Get it?  Hot.

2.  These are either grown up Fruity Pebbles or fruity pebbles for folks who'd rather be eating a cookie.  Either way,  yum!

3.  Symposia:  Helpful Seminar or Self Indulgent Nonsense?  You decide.

4.  Texas Foodways is preserving the stories behind Texas' iconic restaurants.  Plus, they're doing a lot more.  Stop by and sit a spell.

5.  Smoked olive oil.  Why, oh why, did this bit of genius not originate in the South?  Up next, smoked lard.  Which will be much better.

6.  Imitation crab?  Made from seafood.  Fake lobster?  Actually crawfish.  Imitation calamari?  Swine rectum.  Seriously.

Thursday, January 17

Kitchen to Classroom: "Bigger than a Hamburger"

Photo by Alfred T. Palmer, 1943. Courtesy of the Library of Congress
In a few days, the spring semester will begin here in icy Oxford. I’m excited about my Honors College class, “Eating Jim Crow: Food in the Civil Rights Movement.” We have a lot on our plates this semester (pun intended). To summarize, we’ll analyze sources exploring the relationship between food and race in the South, and students will write about segregation and desegregation in public eating places. Our primary objective is to explore the notion of food access as an American civil right.

Ella Baker in the early 1960s (photographer unknown)
Syllabus highlights include the following readings: 
* Deep South: A Social Anthropological Study of Caste and Class to understand the social structure of the South in the early twentieth century
* an essay by University of Virginia professor Grace Elizabeth Hale to consider the historiography of segregation culture
* selections from the papers of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to examine early examples of activism in public eating places
* Anne Moody’s memoir Coming of Age in Mississippi to consider the experiences of the civil rights generation
* legal statutes and court cases that describe the legal process by which segregation developed and then broke down over the course of the twentieth century.

We’ll have no shortage of issues to consider as we explore food and race. Throughout the twentieth century, race determined an individual's connections to food in many unsuspected ways. Race influenced the type, quantity, and quality of food most readily available for consumption and whether a person was more likely to serve or consume food in a public eating establishment (or a private club).

Anne Moody (seated at right) participates in a sit-in at Woolworth's in Jackson, Mississippi, on May 23, 1963.

Most importantly, however, as public eating places became more democratic in nature, consuming food became a political act. Excluding African Americans from downtown lunch counters paralleled exclusions from the ballot box. Lunch counter sit-in activists consciously recognized this analogy. At the founding of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960, civil rights veteran Ella Baker famously stated, “sit-ins…are concerned with something much bigger than a hamburger.” She went on to explain that activists desired “to rid America of the scourge of racial segregation and discrimination — not only at lunch counters, but in every aspect of life.”

Wednesday, January 16

Oral History Spotlight: Foodways Texas Documenting Iconic Restaurants in the Lone Star State

Our friends at Foodways Texas (FTX) didn't waste any time getting on the oral history train. In the almost three years since the organization was founded, they've collected a wonderful array of stories from some of the Lone Star State's greatest culinary contributors and lasting legacies through their documentary efforts.

This week, the Austin American-Statesman highlighted FTX's Iconic Restaurants oral history project. From the article:

Last year, the statewide nonprofit...teamed with the Texas Restaurant Association and the University of Texas’ American Studies department to preserve the stories behind some of the state’s most iconic restaurants through oral histories... 
...As the Texas Restaurant Association celebrated its 75th birthday last year, the organization wanted to find a way to recognize the members and other restaurants that have been around almost as long, says Wendy Saari, TRA’s vice president of marketing and communications.
 With the help of a handful of American Studies students at the University of Texas, Foodways Texas and the TRA came up with a list of the state’s longest lived (and best loved) restaurants and sent out the students, some of whom had completed additional training with Southern Foodways Alliance’s oral history program, to record interviews with the proprietors.

Sherri Sheu, a UT grad student who conducted some of the interviews for the FTX project, attended our 2012 Oral History Workshop and will be collaborating with the SFA in 2013.

You can find out more about our 2013 Oral History Workshop here. Please note that the deadline for applications is April 1, 2013. The workshop will take place at SFA World Headquarters in Oxford, May-28-31.

Taste of the South: A Big (and Tasty) Success

 This past weekend, the SFA celebrated its ninth annual Taste of the South weekend in conjunction with Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee.

Highlights of the weekend included:

* For his Southern cuisine, which is informed by history but not afraid to break new ground, Chef Sean Brock of Husk and McCrady's in Charleston, South Carolina, was inducted as the newest member of the Fellowship of Southern Farmers, Artisans, and Chefs.
*Jamey Whetstone of Whetstone Wine Cellars in Napa, California, poured his best bottles all weekend long.
* Blackberry Farm chef Joseph Lenn orchestrated not one but FOUR separate supper menus on Friday night: one to showcase artisan ingredients and three others to complement whiskey, wine, or beer pairings.
* Saturday lunch, prepared by Ashley Christensen, Karen Barker, Betsy Hitt, Vivian Howard, Cassidee Dabney (executive sous chef of Blackberry Farm), and Krissy Blauvelt (Blackberry Farm head baker) paid homage to the SFA's 2013 programming theme: "Women, Work, and Food."
* Guest chefs Vivian Howard, Tyler Brown, and Mike Lata prepared a knockout supper on Saturday night.
* Speaking of knockouts, "Natureboy" Ric Flair, 16-time World Champion and one of Sean Brock's idols, made a surprise appearance. Though Flair didn't put anyone in his signature Figure Four lock, many guests took to the ring (which had been specially constructed for the event by the Blackberry Farm staff) to show off their WWE moves.
* Adventurous guests participated in a scavenger hunt led by the Fellows, which included a crash-course in whiskey tasting and a quiz on identifying heirloom vegetables in the garden.
* Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers played a Friday-night concert for the guests, including his number-one fan, Sean Brock.
* The Taste of the South auction, emceed as always by SFA member Mike "Rathead" Riley, was an overwhelming success. It raised more than $165,000 in operating funds for the SFA, a Taste of the South record.

Thanks to Blackberry Farm and to all of the chefs, farmers, artisans, and guests who supported the SFA on this most successful weekend!

Monday, January 14

Watch "Soul Food Junkies" tonight on PBS

"Soul Food Junkies," an hour-long documentary by Byron Hurt, premieres tonight on the PBS series "Independent Lens." We've seen a preview copy, and we suggest you watch it, too! The film focuses on issues of nutrition vs. tradition in the African American community, drawing upon the story of Hurt's own family. Check your local PBS listings and tune in or set your DVR. Hurt explores issues that are particularly relvant to African Americans and Southerners, but the film's themes of personal and public health, and inherited culinary preferences, and access to healthy food are universal.  

Friday, January 11

Southern Six-Pack

Graphic by Emily Wallace
How are those resolutions working out for you so far? If you've been holding strong, you deserve to celebrate with a Friday six-pack. And if not—well, you might as well have a six-pack, too.

1. We were excited to hear of Richard McCarthy's new position as the executive director of Slow Food USA. Since 1995, McCarthy has been the director of the Crescent City Farmers' Market in New Orleans and served as an adviser to hundreds of markets across the nation as the director of the non-profit Market Umbrella. He was featured in a 2010 issue of Gravy about the BP Gulf Oil Spill and also spoke at our 2011 symposium on the cultivated South. Richard is thoughtful, compassionate, and creative; full of business sense and people sense. We look forward to watching Slow Food USA evolve and flourish under his leadership.

2. Earlier this week, legions of fans marked the birthday of Elvis Presley, who would have been 78 years old on January 8. (Or maybe he is 78 and hanging with Tupac on an island paradise? We're not sure.) No doubt many of the faithful observed the occasion with a somber peanut butter and banana sandwich or a Fool's Gold Loaf. Others chose to display his likeness on a cake, with mixed results. If you've got a velvet Elvis portrait in your living room, why not have one in red velvet on the dining table?

3. We're enjoying the smart, engaging new(-ish) website American Food Roots. Possibly the best feature is its state-by-state organization of stories, great for those doing research on a specific place—or those with a lot of state spirit. For starters, check out recent posts on oyster roasts in South Carolina, vegetables at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, and catfish in Mississippi.

4. If a six-pack isn't your style, we've got you covered this week. For those who prefer grape over grain, check out this genius infographic (did we mention we love an infographic?) to help you expand your oenological horizons.

5. Kat Kinsman of CNN's Eatocracy shares her 8 most food-stained (read: best-loved and most-used) cookbooks. Two of them are Charleston classics; one old and one new.

6. Today's New York Times includes its annual round-up of the top places to visit this year—it's always one of the most addictive, wanderlust-inducing ways to spend a January morning. This year there are 46 destinations on the list, including Houston and Washington, D.C.: two Southern(-ish) destinations that are garnering renewed attention for their respective food scenes.

Chaser: If you dig lists as much as we do (see #5 and #6), and if your productivity at work has already sunk to Friday-afternoon levels, check out the 2013 Saveur 100. The annual, global roundup includes a handful of Southern restaurants and iconic dishes: shout-outs include the cannoli at Angelo Brocato's in New Orleans and the stewed tomatoes from the late, great Hap Townes in Nashville. (Want to know more? Click on the links—both Hap Townes and Arthur Brocato, grandson of Angelo Brocato, are SFA oral history subjects!)

Thursday, January 10

[Post-] Holiday Throwback Recipes: Keep It Simple

We've got a pretty solid collection of community cookbooks here in the office—and many more in our staffers' home libraries. The holidays seemed like a good time to whip them out and share some choice recipes with you, our readers. But even now that we've rung in 2013, we'll keep sharing an oldie-but-goodie from time to time.
2013 might be the year that you cut back on the bread and butter...or at least you're still telling yourself that. If you don't believe in resolutions—or you've already thrown in the towel—why not enjoy the simple goodness of a bread stick? 

Today's Cookbook: The Cook's Book
Compiled and published by the Calvary Episcopal Church of Cleveland, Mississippi, 1972
(5th printing, 2003) 

Bread Sticks
8 hot dog buns
1 lb. butter or margarine

Slice each bun lengthwise into four sticks. Roll each stick in melted butter. Toast in 150 degree oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until very crisp. Dust with paprika. Store in Tupperware container. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired, when about half toasted. 

—Mrs. Frank Paden, Rosedale, Mississippi 

Kudos to the women of the Delta for keeping it real since 1972!

Wednesday, January 9

Women, Work & Food: Alzina Toups of Galliano, Louisiana

This year, the SFA celebrates women, work, and food. As we embark on new documentary projects in keeping with this theme, we'd like to share some of the wonderful stories we already have in our archive. Today, we introduce you to Alzina Toups of Galliano, Louisiana, whose interview is part of our Down the Bayou oral history project.

Alzina Toups’ paternal ancestors came to Louisiana from Nova Scotia, as did so many Cajuns. Her mother’s family—“great, great cooks”—was Portuguese, though both of Alzina’s parents primarily spoke French at home. Alzina still peppers her conversation with French words and phrases. A woman whose faith infiltrates all areas of her life, Alzina treated us to a French prayer-song during this interview (watch/listen to the slideshow to hear it).

She describes her late father as a workaholic shrimper—an occupation she also undertook as a young married woman. On a pittance of a salary, her father saved enough money to purchase the land that she and her family still live on in Galliano just steps from Bayou Lafourche.

It’s on that land that Alzina, now in her 80s, carries on her father’s strong work ethic by operating Alzina’s Restaurant in a former welding shop. Alzina’s offers a one-of-a-kind dining experience. In the chef’s own words, it’s more of “get-together place” than a traditional restaurant. She entertains only one party per mealtime and accepts no walk-ins. Once you reserve the space, and her cooking talents, they are yours for the duration of one relaxing, home-cooked, serve-yourself meal.

While she’s currently renowned for specialties such as crabmeat lasagna (she boils and picks her own crabs) and fig tart, Alzina has a vast repertoire that spans two cookbooks and numerous composition notebooks stacked in the corner of her kitchen.

We Saved You a Plate: "5 Under 35" Gravy

Photo by Marion Post (Wolcott), 1940. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

"We Saved You a Plate" is a weekly series showcasing an article from Gravy or Cornbread Nation, or a past symposium presentation, or a film. We serve it up, you gulp it down.

This week's installment comes from Gravy #46, featuring "5 under 35" in Southern food and drink.

More than Moonshine
In Kentucky, Anna Bogle crafts cocktails with a sense of place
by Lora Smith

Photos by Brett Marshall
The musicians from the Cajun Country Revival, up for the night from Louisiana, seem to be getting a kick out of drinking bourbon in its native habitat. Their faces are flushed from slow pulls of Bulleit, a favorite at Summit City Lounge in downtown Whitesburg, Kentucky.

Housed in a historic building that once served as the office of the late lawyer, author, and mountain people's advocate Harry Caudill, the bar has become a landmark for another reason. Summit was the first bar to open five years ago when the city voted to legalize the sale of alcohol by restaurants, something referred to in the rapidly disappearing dry counties of eastern Kentucky as "going moist."

Joel Savoy, flicking his fiddle bow, motions to the backlit bar. "Anna, come dance a little with us." A lovesick waltz starts. And Summit's dark-haired bartender, thirty-four-year-old Anna Bogle, momentarily sways in the arms of a handsome young man in a red-checkered shirt. The crowd swells to a sweaty mix of flatfooting and two-stepping bodies.


Whitesburg, set at the base of Pine Mountain, Kentucky's second highest peak, straddles the crossroads of a complicated social history and an uncertain economic future, based on the region's dependence on a declining coal industry. Since the 1960s, Whitesburg has largely been synonymous with Appalshop, a multimedia arts center. Conceived as a War on Poverty program for local youth, it continues to attract national acclaim for producing award-winning documentary films. Despite the best efforts of that program, Whitesburg, like most of Appalachia, still struggles with persistent poverty and inordinately high unemployment.

But tonight, with the rowdy crowd of miners, politicians, and artists, drinking and dancing under star-shaped paper lanterns, Whitesburg feels like the most carefree place on Earth.

During the band's second set, the drinkers draw a bead on Anna's cocktails, including a wild mountain grape–infused take on a Ramos gin fizz, shaken with egg whites, cream, orange flower water, simple syrup, and lime juice. Those same wild grapes undergird a grape-and-lavender-infused vodka tonic with a splash of Saint Germain that tastes like a country cousin of the cosmopolitan.

Anna talks me through her creative process, equal parts improvisation and something out of a field guide to wild edibles of the Southern Appalachians: "I was up hiking on Little Shepherd's Trail and came across a ton of wild grapes—the seedy kind, not good for jelly, so I made some infusions."

My pick for the night's star is a frothy, nameless wonder with a delicate beige color that Anna hands me in a champagne coupe. "I'm really horrible at naming things," she admits, "but I've been wanting to figure out a sorghum cocktail."

Discovering a pear tree on a friend's property, she found her inspiration. The result is something I took to calling the "Winter Pear," a riff on a White Russian that features heirloom pear–infused vodka and a dab of pear butter, with local sorghum instead of Kahlua.  

 Anna is quick to say that it would be hard to live in Whitesburg and not be influenced by place. "The physical landscape here is unmistakable, all around, holding you. You're always encircled by these mountains," she says. But her approach is also a natural expression of her experience as a young Appalachian.

Raised in a small community outside Maryville, Tennessee, Anna's earliest memories are of bringing her family's surroundings to the table. "We always had a big garden, cows, chickens, and goats," she recalls. "Our neighbors hunted game and raised hogs. As kids, we'd go down and help with the hog killing."

After moving north for college, Anna returned to the region to work as a chef, including stints in Asheville and Greensboro, North Carolina, before eventually settling closer to home in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The call to eastern Kentucky came when Amelia Kirby, a childhood friend of Anna's and the owner of Summit City, asked Anna to help redesign a bar menu focused on local ingredients and regional tastes. Anna's approach to bar food and spirits is to call forward the overlooked multicultural and ethnic influences that shape the mountain experience, making it clear that eastern Kentucky offers more than just moonshine, soup beans, and chow chow.

This playful treatment of Appalachian identity translates to a menu of cocktails like The Stone Mason, a liquid homage to the city's Italian immigrant ancestors who cut distinctive stone buildings and bridges. (Shake together 1.5 oz bourbon, .5 oz Campari, and 1 oz freshly made sour mix; garnish with a lemon or lime twist.)

As the night comes to a close, Anna's mind is on the black walnuts awaiting transformation in her apartment, steps away from the bar. She tells me a black walnut liqueur is in the works and, if successful, will make an appearance in some as-yet-unnamed cocktail. I suggest a walnut bitters, and Anna's eyes light up.

Lora Smith splits her time between a day job in Greensboro, North Carolina, and weekend work in Egypt, Kentucky, where she and her husband are developing 120 acres at the head of a holler into an organic farm and heirloom cider orchard.

Want a full helping of Gravy? Become an SFA member, and you'll receive Gravy four times a year. You can also find this issue at Highlands Bar and Grill, Chez Fon Fon, and Bottega in Birmingham; at The Roosevelt in Richmond; and in Billy Reid stores. 

Monday, January 7

Kitchen to Classroom: Academic News Roundup

Photo by Alfred T. Palmer, 1943. Courtesy of the Library of Congress
A handful of spring semester classes at the University of Mississippi offer new and exciting pathways into food studies:

- Our postdoctoral fellow, Angela Jill Cooley, leads a seminar for Honors College undergraduates called "Eating Jim Crow," about the role of food in the Civil Rights Movement.

- Meek School of Journalism professor Bill Rose team-teaches an advanced reporting class with visiting professor Susan Puckett about food and health in the Mississippi Delta. Puckett is the author of Eat Drink Delta, which will be published later this month by UGA Press.

- Visiting professor of Anthropology Carolyn Freiwald offers "Drinking, Dining, and Divining in the Ancient World," which surveys historic food practices and examines how contemporary anthropologists make discoveries about ancient foodways.

Three Southern Studies graduate students have had foodways-themed papers accepted to academic conferences:

- Paige Prather will be presenting her work on food justice in the Vietnamese-American community of New Orleans East at the Global Gulf Conference at Tulane University in February.

-Erin Scott shares her paper, "Big and Bright: The Food of the State Fair of Texas" at the Southwest/Texas Popular Culture and American Culture Associations Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, also in February.

- Roy Button presents his paper on urban farming at the Annual Meeting of the Agriculture History Society in Banff, Canada, in June. Jill Cooley is also a presenter at the conference in Banff; she will be delivering a paper called "Freedom's Farms: Activism and Sustenance in Rural Mississippi, 1962–1974."

We'll continue to update you on developments in the classroom throughout the coming semester. It's great to see the growing interest in foodways at UM! 

Thursday, January 3

Shake, Rattle, and Roll into the New Year!

Awesome SFA membership sticker designed by Devin Cox
Welcome to 2013! It's time to renew your SFA membership. Joining as a 2013 member is fast, easy, and reasonably priced. And we promise your dollars are going to a great cause: supporting our mission to document, study, and celebrate the diverse food cultures of the changing American South.

When you join, we'll send you this sweet "Shake, Rattle, and Roll" sticker (see above), and you'll be subscribed to our quarterly Gravy newsletter.

Click here to become an SFA member for the 2013 calendar year.

Are you an up-and-coming female chef? If so, it's your lucky year! We've dubbed 2013 "The Year of the Young Female Chef." This means that if you're a newcomer to the SFA, work in a restaurant kitchen, and have been in the industry for five years or fewer, we welcome you to join at a discounted rate of $50 for the year. E-mail us at info@southernfoodways.org if you have questions.

Thanks for supporting us. Now, go rattle those pots and pans!

Kitchen to Classroom: Grad Student Spotlight

Today's "Kitchen to Classroom" post is written by Kate Hudson, a first-year MA student in Southern Studies here at the University of Mississippi. Kate is a native of Durham, North Carolina. She tells us about her final project for Professor Angela Jill Cooley's Foodways and Southern Culture class.

All photos from "Green and Growing," an archival project of the NC State University Library.

This semester, Elizabeth Engelhardt’s A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender and Southern Food, contributed to our ongoing exploration of the relationship between gender and food. Specifically, Engelhardt’s chapter on the girls’ tomato clubs of the early twentieth century led me to wonder how these club girls’ experiences may have differed from those of boys participating in similar agricultural clubs. My project explores the gendered division of labor in Southern foodways, considering the boys' and girls' agricultural clubs of the Progressive Era.

As a part of the Progressive movement, programs were put into place at land grant colleges to bolster rural economies by teaching new and improved farming methods and promoting agricultural science. Responding in part to farmers reluctant to change their ways, agricultural clubs were formed that would focus on educating farm children in the hopes of influencing the next generation. These clubs’ activities were chosen and divided based on overtly male and female gender roles that placed girls in gardens and kitchens and boys out in the fields.

For girls, tomato clubs became an avenue for empowerment and mobility, introducing them into a changing world. By emphasizing activities that, while domestic, taught girls the value of community, financial autonomy, and creativity these clubs gave girls a sense of power not previously afforded them. But literature on childhood and parenting from the time, as well as the boys’ clubs handbooks, reflect anxieties about these strong women. These texts likewise stress the dominant culture of masculinity to which boys were expected to conform.

The boys’ clubs discouraged intellectual aspirations outside the realm of agriculture, and were designed to teach the boys how to farm, but more importantly, to teach them that they were farmers. Both archival images and reports written by club members themselves exhibit similar gender divisions. Thus, while girls became specialists, educators, community leaders, and authorities on modern domestic practices, the club boys learned only to do as their fathers before them and work the land.

Wednesday, January 2

[Post-] Holiday Throwback Recipes: Chicken Spaghetti

We've got a pretty solid collection of community cookbooks here in the office—and many more in our staffers' home libraries. The holidays seemed like a good time to whip them out and share some choice recipes with you, our readers. But even now that we've rung in 2013, we'll keep sharing an oldie-but-goodie from time to time. 

Today's post comes from SFA member April McGreger. A native of Vardaman, Mississippi, April now lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina, where she owns and operates the Farmer's Daughter brand of artisanal pickles and preserves. You can follow April on Twitter at @farmersdaughtr.

The community cookbook most important to my development as a cook and, particularly, as a Southern cook, is The Pick of the Crop. It was published the year after I was born in 1978 by the North Sunflower PTA of Drew, Mississippi. I do not know the details of the book’s journey out of the Delta and 100 miles east to the red clay hills of Mississippi in which I was raised, but it was hands-down the most constant source of recipes that sustained my family. My mother’s copy is littered with her left-handed checks and notes like “try this!,” “soo good!,” or “easy!”. Mark’s Chicken, Cabbage Casserole, and Sausage-Rice Casserole were all in regular rotation on the McGreger supper table, but the first dish that I personally ever became known for was Mrs. Archie Manning’s Chicken Spaghetti I.  I was 12 years old and had been born into a family of Mississippi State fans. I didn’t even know who Archie Manning was! Now I like to think that Eli, Peyton and I all grew up eating the same chicken spaghetti. 

This recipe makes a mountain of spaghetti. You could half the recipe, but I recommend doing what my sister and I do when we make it for our modest sized families: Make it all and freeze half for later. You’ll be very glad you did. Also, I’m not saying I don’t like it with Velveeta, but I am more likely to make it these days with cheddar or, even better, Gruyere.  A dash of hot sauce doesn’t hurt either. 

Chicken Spaghetti I

6 cups chicken, cut in bite size pieces
12 cups broth
4 heaping Tablespoons flour
2 can mushrooms
2 can Rotel tomatoes and chiles, chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 onions, grated
2 cups Velveeta cheese, grated
8 Tablespoons butter
2 packages Italian spaghetti, very thin
1 can English peas
2 cups buttered bread crumbs
Olives, optional
Pimiento, optional

Cook a large hen in lots of water, let hen cool in broth, cook spaghetti in chicken broth, let cool in broth.  Saute onions, garlic, and mushrooms 15 minutes in butter over low heat.  Add flour.  This will be real thick.  Add broth gradually, add tomatoes, garlic, onions, and cheese.  Cook over low heat.  In buttered casserole put layer of spaghetti, layer of small English peas, layer of chicken mixture, top with bread crumbs (I toast hot dog or hamburger buns for this) and dot with more butter.  Chopped olives or pimiento can be added for more color.  Serves 12 to 20.

—Mrs. Archie Manning (Olivia), New Orleans, Louisiana

Kitchen to Classroom: Grad Student Spotlight

Photo by Alfred T. Palmer, 1943. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Today's "Kitchen to Classroom" post is written by Anna Hamilton, a first-year MA student in Southern Studies here at the University of Mississippi. Anna is a native of St. Augustine, Florida. She tells us about her final project for Professor Angela Jill Cooley's Foodways and Southern Culture class. 

Photos by Anna Hamilton
The datil pepper is a knock-your-socks-off spicy pepper that is foundational to much of Saint Augustine, Florida’s cuisine. There’s the fiery, tomato-based Minorcan clam chowder, fennel-seeded datil sausage, and a wide array of datil-based sauces, to name a few. You can find it on Saint Augustine menus and nestled in worn family cookbooks.

An intriguing myth circulates concerning the datil pepper: that it was brought to the First Coast in the 1700s by indentured laborers from Minorca (or Menorca, in Spanish), a small island in the Mediterranean Sea belonging to Spain's Balearic Islands. Today, many natives of St. Augustine still trace their heritage back to Minorcan-immigrant ancestors. However, in recent years, doubt has increasingly been cast on the accuracy of the origin myth of the datil pepper as a transplant from Minorca. Not long ago, a 1937 article from The Saint Augustine Record resurfaced pointing to the datil’s introduction from the Caribbean in the 1800s. Additionally, anecdotes speak of the vast differences between the datil and the peppers cultivated in Minorca today.

My concern for Dr. Cooley’s final paper was the controversy and divisiveness stirred over this question of the datil’s origin. Some Minorcans are adamant about the pepper’s roots in Minorca. For this camp, the pepper is an invaluable lifeline to the Old World. According to the opposition, the specifics of the connection to a place of origin are less important; the birthplace itself is minor. They believe that the Minorcans are responsible for the pepper’s presence in Florida and have been the stewards long enough to establish an inextricable association. One datil lover weighs in: “As far as I’m concerned, even though they didn’t bring the pepper from...Minorca, they still own that pepper...They’re the culture that has used it all these years.”

I conducted oral history interviews and analyzed local cookbooks to examine the role of the datil pepper in Florida’s Minorcan culture. As an ethnic symbol, the datil illuminates the importance of a cultural narrative in identity formation. The datil’s highly symbolic nature exemplifies ways in which foodways can empower and lend agency to distinct cultural groups. I look forward to further pursuing this little fireball for my thesis.