Thursday, March 28

Kitchen to Classroom: SFA to Co-Host Graduate Student Conference in September

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

The Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies and the Southern Foodways Alliance, two University of Mississippi institutes, announce a graduate student symposium, focused on the theme of Women, Work, and Food. The conference will take place September 12 and 13, 2013, on the University of Mississippi campus in Oxford, Mississippi.

Dr. Kimberly Wallace-Sanders of Emory University will present the symposium’s keynote lecture. Her publications include Mammy: A Century of Race, Gender, and Southern Memory. Dr. Wallace-Sanders is also the editor of the anthology Skin Deep, Spirit Strong: Critical Essays on the Black Female Body in American Culture.

The symposium will function as an important bridge to the 16th Southern Foodways Symposium, scheduled for October 4-6 at the University of Mississippi and focused on the same theme.

We welcome innovative proposals from graduate students that interrogate the conference’s theme through lenses such as economics, health and nutrition, history, labor, race, sexuality, ethnicity, the marketplace, identity construction, representations of the body in popular culture, and notions of space and place in both transnational and regional contexts.

Individuals from the fields of Anthropology, American Studies, History, Southern Studies, Visual Culture, Cinema Studies, Gender Studies, Sociology, Literary Studies, Food Studies (including Health and Nutrition), Economics, Hospitality, Labor Studies, and Cultural Studies are encouraged to respond to the call. All disciplines are welcome to submit. 

Submissions sent to should include a working paper title, an abstract limited to 300 words, a current one-page CV and contact information. Panel proposals should include a one-page summary for the panel. 

Please indicate technology needs, such as PowerPoint or DVD. Proposals are due by May 31, 2013.  Acceptance notifications will be sent out on July 1, 2013.

[Editor's note: We also have an application packet in PDF form. Please e-mail if you could like a copy.]

RVA Eats: Meet Winburn Carmack

All photos by Nicole Lang.

Throughout the spring, Nicole Lang will be blogging for us about her adopted hometown of Richmond, Virginia (aka RVA). We've chosen Richmond as the site for this year's Summer Foodways Symposium, which will take place from June 20–23.

*      *      * 

Richmond, VA, April 2, 1863: Midway through the Civil War, the men off fighting, women were left to provide for their families under crippling economic strain. A group of starving women, (defying social and gender constraints of the time) gathered and rioted at Capital Square and in bakery shops, demanding bread for themselves and their children. This dark moment in the city's history is now known as the Richmond Bread Riot. 

*      *      *

Once a basic necessity, homemade bread is now an art form. Thankfully, today in Richmond, artisan bread is widely available. Richmond native Winburn Carmack returned to the city after spending more than a dozen years as a pastry chef in Charleston, South Carolina. She wanted to learn bread baking from the folks at Billy Bread, a beloved Richmond bakery that supplies bread to some of the area's favorite restaurants and markets. 

When I arrived at Billy Bread on a recent morning, it was 8 a.m. Winburn had already been at work for hours.

You have worked in kitchens for 15 years, a very male dominated space for sure, what have your experiences been like in that respect?
“I of course wanted to be treated as an equal to the guys in the kitchen. Once the guys forgot about me being a girl, I was privy to what I could only imagine you’d hear in a men’s locker room. It did wear off a bit on me—I felt like I became one of guys. Then, the longer I worked with them, I started to want girly pink tools.”

Along those lines, Winburn mentioned mentoring newbie young women cooks who started their careers in the kitchens where she has worked: “As the minority gender in this profession, it’s important to show your strength, but you can still be a lady.”

A daily workout: 150 lbs. of dough

What is challenging about bread baking?
"Maintaining consistency on a daily basis is a challenge I enjoy. It can be physically demanding, attempting to lift 150 lbs of proofing bread dough from floor to table. I have to wait for someone to help me."

Finished loaves fresh out of the oven at Billy Bread

Why Bread?
“Besides the terrific smell and loving to eat it, [I'm drawn to] the history. Bread has a 30,000 year history! It began with unleavened bread and evolved into leavened bread.”

How has Richmond changed since you grew up here?
“Richmond’s food scene has come a long way in the past 15 years, and I'm honored to have had a warm welcome in Richmond and to be a very small part of that community.”

If you're in Richmond, you can sample the results of Winburn's hard work at plenty of local restaurants, including Secco Wine Bar, Mamma Zu, Lemaire at The Jefferson, and many more.

Wednesday, March 27

Director's Cut: SFA Book Series, with Inspiration from Athens

"Director's Cut" is a new(-ish) weekly series on our blog, chronicling the travels and musings of our director, John T. Edge. 

I lived in Athens, Georgia in the 1980s. That was a great time for music—REM, Love Tractor, the Squalls—but (for me, at least) a not-so-great time for college. Let’s just say I was less than focused and move on.

In the years since my departure from Athens and the University of Georgia, I’ve returned many times. For The Oxford American I wrote an Athens-focused piece about the Klan, a murder, and a diner. For the SFA, I worked with locals and colleagues to stage a Potlikker Film Festival in Athens. More recently, I’ve traveled to Athens to eat Hugh Acheson’s food and drink deep from Steven Grubbs’s wine list.

A couple weeks back, along with Brett Anderson, SFA board vice-president and Nieman Fellow; Elizabeth Engelhardt, SFA board member and University of Texas professor; and Psyche Williams-Forson, SFA founder and University of Maryland professor, I traveled to Athens to meet with the good folks at the University of Georgia Press.

This fall, UGA will publish The Larder: Food Studies Methods from the American South. It’s a collection of new essays by leading food studies scholars that showcases interdisciplinary methodologies employed in the American South to study food and cultural life.

That book will be the first in the series Southern Foodways Alliance Studies in Culture, People, and Place. The series, for which Brett, Elizabeth, and Psyche will serve as advisers, explores key themes and tensions in food studies—including race, class, gender, power, and the environment—on a macro scale, and also through the micro stories of men and women who grow, prepare, and serve food.

The series presents a variety of voices, from scholars to journalists to writers of creative nonfiction. If you’re one of those sorts of people and you have a book proposal that’s ready to shop, drop us a line.

Tuesday, March 26

Sustainable South: Invisible Farmworkers

 Emilie Dayan, our office intern, will be blogging regularly about issues of nutrition, sustainability, and food policy in the South.

It is National Farmworker Awareness Week. Andrea Reusing preluded the week with an informative TEDxUNC talk in Chapel Hill.

A lot of us are obsessed with food. “We argue about whether pork tastes better if the pig eats peanuts or if the pig eats acorns…But there is a problem,” she says. We often ignore something that is much more fundamental to the way we live: The lives of the people who harvest the food we eat.

Reusing is not alone in raising awareness of the plight of farmworkers. In a course entitled Roots of Poverty, Roots of Change, students at Duke University collaborated with Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF) to produce a series of short videos to be used as part of the media campaign for the National Farmworker Awareness Week. The topics range from child labor to pesticides, health, and safety.

With statistics reminiscent of those published in Tracie McMillan’s American Way of Eating, the videos inform us that:
  • There are 150,000 farmworkers at any given time in North Carolina.
  • The average farmworker workday lasts 12-14 hours, without overpay.
  • The average farmworker household income is $16K/Year.
  • Farmworkers have the highest rate of toxic chemical injuries and skin disorders than any other type of worker.
  • Each North Carolina farmworker brings in $12K in profit for the state’s economy.
  • North Carolina farmworkers don’t have the protection to organize a union or to take sick leave.

The problem with our food system is that these farmworkers are invisible. Reusing acknowledges that when we eat food that another person has grown and harvested for us, we become connected to them. Let this week be a reminder of those connections and an opportunity to reset a table where all may gather.

Leah Chase's Gumbo z'Herbes

Today, for Easter week, we bring you a recipe for Gumbo z'Herbes by Leah Chase and Sara Roahen.  Gumbo z'Herbes is traditionally eaten in New Orleans on Holy (Maundy) Thursday, so you've got a couple of days to gather your ingredients and prepare this labor-intensive—but oh-so-worth-it—gumbo.

Leah Chase (l) and Sara Roahen.

Gumbo z'Herbes
from the Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook (UGA Press 2010, edited by Sara Roahen and John T. Edge)

Much was lost in the wake of the levee failures that followed Hurricane Katrina. Armed with a sense of collective responsibility to avoid further losses, many work to preserve what remains. We do that, in part, by recovering imperiled culinary traditions. Gumbo z'Herbes is an example of a dish that, at least to outlanders, was little known before the storm and is now better known. Leah Chase, who cooked this gumbo for innumerable post-Katrina events, is largely responsible for that.

Leah grew up eating green gumbo every Holy Thursday in Madisonville, Louisiana. The idea then, and now, was to feast on the hearty, meat-heavy soup before fasting on Good Friday. This recipe is an expansion of Leah's original, amended after she and Sara Roahen shopped and cooked together. Leah says that Creoles always add filé to their gumbo z'herbes, even though few recipes call for it.

Maundy Thursday Gumbo z'Herbes at Dooky Chase Restaurant in New Orleans. Photo by Dave Grunfeld for the Times-Picayune, 2011.

serves 12–15


2 ham shanks
1 gallon of water
Between 7 and 11 of the following greens, to total 6–8 lbs: collard, mustard, turnip, spinach, cabbage, carrot tops, beet tops, arugula, parsley, green onions, watercress, romaine, curly endive, kale, radish tops, and/or pepper grass
3 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped
8 whole garlic cloves, peeled
2 lbs. fresh hot sausage
1 lb. chicken drumettes
1 lb. andouille sausage, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 lb. smoked pork sausage, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 lb. beef stew meat, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 oz. ham, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
vegetable oil
3 tsp. dried thyme 
2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
3 bay leaves
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. filé powder (optional)
Hot, cooked white rice for serving


Place the ham shanks and water in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer until needed.

Wash all of the greens thoroughly in salt water, being sure to remove any grit, discolored outer leaves, and tough stems. Rinse in a bath of plain water. (A clean double sink works well for this.) Drain the greens in a colander. Place the greens, onions, and garlic in a very large stockpot and cover with water. (If all of the vegetables won't fit in the pot, cook them in batches, using the same cooking liquid for each batch.) Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the greens are very tender, about 45 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked greens into a large bowl to cool for a few minutes. Pour cooking liquid into a large bowl and set it aside. Working in batches, puree the greens in a food processor or by running them through a meat grinder. Use a little cooking liquid to loosen the puree, if needed. Transfer the puree into a large bowl and set aside.

Cook the fresh sausage in a large skillet over medium heat until it renders its fat and moisture, breaking up the sausage with teh side of a spoon. Transfer with a slotted spoon into a large bowl and set aside. Brown the chicken in the rendered sausage fat over medium-high heat and then transfer with a slotted spoon to the bowl with the cooked sausage. (The chicken will cook more later, so it does not need to cook through at this point. Set the skillet and the drippings aside.

Remove the ham shanks from their cooking liquid, reserving the liquid to use as stock. When cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the bones. Chop the meat into bite-sized pieces and add it to the bowl with the sausage and chicken. Discard the bones and the fat. Pour the ham stock into a large bowl and set it aside.

Return the vegetable puree to the large stock pot. Add the hot sausage, chicken, andouille, smoked pork sausage, stew beef, ham-shank meat, and chopped ham. (If it will not fit into one pot, divide between two pots.) Cover with equal parts ham stock and greens-cooking liquid and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.

To make the roux, place the skillet containing the hot sausage pan drippings over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the flour over the drippings and stir well with a wooden spoon. If the mixture is dry and crumbly, stir in enough vegetable oil to make a smooth, thick paste. Cook, stirring constantly, slowly, and intently until the roux turns light brown. (This isn't a dark roux, but the flour should be cooked.) Drop tablespoons of roux into the simmering gumbo, stirring well after each addition. Stir in the thyme, cayenne, bay leaves, and salt. Simmer the gumbo until the stew meat is tender and the chicken is cooked through, about 1 hour. Stir often to prevent scorching. If the gumbo gets too thick to stir, add more stock or water.

If desired, slowly add the filé at the end of cooking. (It will lump if you're not careful.) Serve hot over cooked white rice. 

Leah Chase and Sara Roahen of New Orleans, Louisiana

Monday, March 25

Penny De Los Santos: Five Real Kitchens, from Mexico to Senegal

Food and travel photographer Penny De Los Santos blogs for us about her sources of inspiration, her travels, and her favorite bites and sips along the way. You can follow Penny on Twitter at @pennydelosantos. 

I’m redesigning my website, and so I’ve been going through my photo archive the past few weeks. I keep coming across these incredible cooking spaces—some are so humble, modest, and simple. These are the ones I’m drawn to most, the ones that tell me about the history of a place, or the story of their family line. They evoke a feeling and a sense of place. You know where you are just by the details of their kitchen.

With each kitchen I flip through, I realize how sweet, beautiful, and intimate it is to let someone into the space where you make and share your food, and how honored I felt when I visited each of these kitchens.

The really cool thing I see when I step into someone’s kitchen is how differently people cook. At the end of the day, I realize that what really matters is what is behind the food. What is the inspiration, where is the soul? Who passed down the recipe? Why do the people in a certain regions cook a particular way? It never matters how fancy or beautiful the kitchen is; when I’m there, it is because their food has depth, soul and meaning.

Here are a few of my favorite food spaces I have had the privilege of shooting.

All photos by Penny De Los Santos. Click to enlarge.

[Above] The great Diana Kennedy in her home kitchen in Michoacan, Mexico. Her kitchen was more like a personal food library/archive of Mexican culinary history. I loved being there.

A subject's kitchen in Mexico City.

A roadside kitchen in northern Honduras, where I stopped one morning to have coffee and eggs before the long trek to a remote village. This cook used maguey leaves, sugar cane, and anything else she could find to create a fuel for her fire.

A kitchen in Croatia, where the house had a wood-burning oven next to the more modern gas stove.

A sweet, tiny kitchen in Dakar, Senegal. The family made the national dish of Senegal for me that day: a fish-and-rice stew called Thiéboudienne, or Ceebu Jën. [Editor's note: Click the link for a recipe courtesy of Saveur—including Penny's shot of the finished product!]

Give Me Some Sugar: Lisa White

Photo of Lisa White by Pableaux Johnson
In "Give Me Some Sugar," Emily Hilliard introduces us to some of the South's most talented female pastry chefs. They do right by the classics while developing a new canon of their own. Check back every Monday to meet a reason to save room for dessert. 

Who: Lisa White
Where: Domenica, 123 Baronne Street, New Orleans, LA

When Lisa White has a bad day, she makes bread. “It’s so simple—flour, water, salt, and yeast—but it’s magical,” she says. “You don’t know if it’s going to turn out, but when it does, it’s so awesome. It hits people on all levels—you can smell it walking down the street.”

She speaks from experience: Bread is what prompted her to change careers and become a pastry chef. “In March of 2008, I took a personal pilgrimage to France. While walking the isolated trails of the Camino of Santiago de Compostela, I was drawn into the village bakeries by the smell of bread baking. It’s then that I remembered what I had always wanted to do.” Three months later, White had enrolled in culinary school to become a pastry chef.

Originally from California, White now lives in New Orleans and works at Domenica, a rustic Northern Italian restaurant. She makes bread, pizza dough, pasta, and Southern-influenced Italian desserts like caramello crostata (a caramel custard pie with a pistachio torrone) and banana zuppa inglese (banana cake with crema cotta mousse and peanut brittle). Though she’s fairly new to the South, the place-based approach to food feels familiar. “Farm-to-table has been popular in California for so long. Southern food has also always been farm-to-table—it may have been detoured a little, but it’s not new here. It’s part of the tradition.”

Lisa White's 2013 St. Joseph's Day cornucopia at the Crescent City Farmers' Market. Photo by Marigny deMauriac.
After four years in New Orleans, White is compelled by the city’s emphasis on tradition and has embraced some of the local customs. As she explains, “There’s a lot of tradition in New Orleans—like red beans and rice on Mondays. You’re sitting around the table with a pot of beans, but you’re also talking and visiting. It’s more than food—it’s a full moment.”

The blessing of the 2013 St. Joseph's Day altar at St. Luke's church in Slidell, LA. All [non-floral] decorations made by Lisa White and her team out of bread and pasta dough. Photo by Barrett DeLong. 

Close-up of an altar decoration. Photo by Barrett DeLong.
Another New Orleans tradition she upholds is St. Joseph’s Day, the celebration of the patron saint of workers, which is popular in the Italian community of New Orleans. It’s celebrated with giant altars filled with elaborate breads and pastries symbolizing an offering to the saint.

Photo by Barrett DeLong.

For the past two years, White’s intricate bread sculptures—cornucopias with vegetables, crawfish, and flower bouquets all made entirely from dough—have adorned the altars of St. Luke’s in nearby Slidell, LA. She also donates to the church a tempting assortment of cookies, like fig involtini and almond fingers; and breads, including grissini, fougasse, and Italian Easter egg bread with gold leaf (recipe below).

White’s contribution to her community aligns with her general food philosophy: “I just want to make people happy. What it comes down to for me is just making someone smile and their heart happy, and it could be with something as simple as a warm cookie or extravagant as a perfectly set semifreddo.”

*    *    *
Lisa White's Easter Egg Bread. Photo by Marigny deMauriac.

Italian Easter Egg Bread
Recipe courtesy of Lisa White

2 ⅔ cups bread flour

1 ½ tsp instant yeast

1 cup whole milk

½ cup egg yolks (depending on egg size, around 7 yolks)

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

¼ cup honey

2 ½ tsp kosher sea salt

¼ of a whole vanilla bean, split & beans scraped out with the back edge of a knife
Zest of ½ orange
4 whole eggs (you can dye them if you want)
pan spray
Swedish pearl sugar for sprinkling (optional)
egg wash (see recipe below)

Dissolve instant yeast in warmed milk (not hot to the touch, warm). Using a whisk or a spoon, stir until it gets frothy looking - it should take 8 – 10 min.

In a large mixing bowl, first place milk & yeast mixture, honey, extra virgin olive oil, vanilla bean, orange zest, and egg yolks. Then add bread flour & salt last. 

Mix on slow speed with a dough hook attachment for 4 minutes. Then scrape the bowl and mix again on medium speed for 4 more minutes.

 Remove attachments from bowl. Gather dough from the bowl and on a lightly-floured counter, knead dough a few times just to gather it all together. Spray a container or bowl with non-stick food spray. Set dough inside the container & cover. Let bulk ferment (rest) for 30 minutes.

After thirty minutes, remove dough ball from container and divide into 4 pieces, leaving the remaining 3 pieces covered with either a clean dish towel or loose plastic.  Divide the remaining piece into 2 pieces. Next, roll these out like long ropes. Once equal in length, twist them together and bring the ends together to form a circle. Place circle on your baking sheet, tuck the ends underneath each other, and place your uncooked whole egg in the center (it cooks as the bread bakes). Brush with egg wash and do the same to the remaining pieces.

Brush the bread again with the egg wash. Put the whole tray into a loose fitting plastic bag and place in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, remove the bread from refrigerator & the plastic bag. It should be almost doubled in size. Brush with egg wash and let sit out until room temperature, approx 20 minutes.

Preheat oven for 340 degrees F.

Brush with egg wash one more time and sprinkle with Swedish sugar or sprinkles and place in the oven. Bake for approx 25 minutes or until the internal temperature is 185 degrees F. Remove from oven and let cool.

Egg Wash
1 whole egg
2 egg yolks
Pinch salt
½ cup heavy cream
Whisk together; strain. It is now ready to use.

*    *    *
Emily Hilliard is a writer, folklorist, and baker based in Washington, D.C. She blogs at Nothing in the House and tweets at @housepie.


Friday, March 22

Southern Six-Pack

1.  The first annual Houston BBQ Festival is sold out. No worries. To celebrate all that is unique about Houston BBQ, meet the Pitmasters and drool a little over the dishes you won't be eating on Sunday.

2.  It's a nice day for a White Castle wedding. Seriously. Not only did Kim Hein and Craig Welby marry at White Castle, they competed against others for the chance to marry at White Castle. And, yes, you do get fries with that.

3.  What is fair trade coffee? That depends on what you mean by fair. Chances are you're buying fair trade coffee and feeling pretty good about yourself for making that choice. But here's the reality, the farmer who grows your beans makes about $1.50 per pound on coffee you're paying $8.00 for at the grocery store. Enter Thrive Farmers Coffee, a collective which requires a greater up-front investment from farmers but, yields them a nearly 50% return on every pound of beans.

4.  Simply put, synesthesia is the stimulation of one sense which produces an experience in a totally different sense. Synesthetes can taste music, hear shapes, or translate emotions into flavors. To learn more about synesthesia, work your way through a stack of the latest research. Better yet, treat yourself on this rainy weekend to a copy of Monique Truong's novel, Bitter in the Mouth. Linda Hammerick, the book's main character, can taste words. And, they're not all delicious.

5.  Add alpha-gal to the list of medical conditions that ought to scare the sh$% out of you. Alpha-gal is an allergy to the meat of mammals likely caused by tick bites. Guess who gets alpha-gal?  People who live in the southeastern US. You know, where there are so many people are bitten by ticks, Brad Paisley wrote a love song about it.

6.  Celebrate the 60th birthday of Peeps by trying one of the 22 possible best ways to eat them. Oh, and on March 27, log onto the Washington Post Style Section to see who triumphed in the 7th annual Peeps diorama contest, Peeps Show VII.  

Thursday, March 21

RVA Eats: Meet Mary Lee, Co-Owner of Peter Chang China Cafe

Photos by Nicole Lang
Throughout the spring, Nicole Lang will be blogging for us about her adopted hometown of Richmond, Virginia (aka RVA). We've chosen Richmond as the site for this year's Summer Foodways Symposium, which will take place from June 20–23. (Tickets for this event will go on sale in early April; we'll be sure to keep you up to date on the details.)

I’m sure that at least a few SFA blog readers have heard the tale of Peter Chang, King of Sichuan in the South. For years he moved almost constantly (D.C., Charlottesville, Atlanta), and it was next-to-impossible to know if his restaurant would still be there the next time you were craving his food. Here in Richmond, we are lucky to have him, and we know it. What we may not know is how lucky we are to have Mary Lee, who in no small part helps to execute the Chang magic.

Mary Lee is one of three business partners in the Peter Chang Virginia Restaurant Group. She can be seen at Peter Chang China Cafe, always smiling and laughing and talking to guests. She knows every detail of the dishes that come out of the kitchen as easily as if she prepared them herself. Mary is the face of the restaurant in Richmond and is also closely involved with Chang's newer establishments in Williamsburg and Charlottesville.

Pork belly bao (bun) with tofu skin at Peter Chang Café
For the past nine years, Mary, who is from Hong Kong, and her husband, Gen, a retired chef, have run restaurants as far away as California and as nearby as Charlottesville. “My husband worked all over the country, in many types of restaurants before I realized that I was good at it, too. I'm very good with people. I love them. I enjoy teaching others about Sichuan cuisine,” she says. 

Mary’s cheerful nature is evident as I ask her about the hectic business of running a restaurant and any difficulties she’s had in this role. “Staff training is a challenge, as serving can be a transient job, but I am able to find and keep good staff. That is my biggest challenge. I used to be a teacher, so I think that helps.”

Scallops with baby bok choy at Peter Chang Café

“In the past, it was harder to be a female restaurant manager. I wasn't working in a Chinese restaurant then, and sometimes customers did not speak well to me because I was Chinese, or because I was a woman—I'm not sure which.”

Her good experiences have far outweighed the bad. “I enjoy teaching through my work at Peter Chang. It's a simple place that we opened with little expense, but everything has meaning. The butterflies that hang from the ceiling represent the hundreds of types of butterflies found in Sichuan. Same with the orchids. The prints on the walls are nature scenes from old China. She tells me she thrives on meeting new and unique people everyday in the restaurants and adds, “I love my staff and my customers. We are family.”

When I ask Mary what she would tell any young women aspiring to work in the restaurant industry, she is both succinct and sage: “Get ready to work long hours and wear comfortable shoes. Enjoy it, because it is a lifestyle commitment. And be prepared for anything to happen.”

Kitchen to Classroom: Tools for Teaching Food History

Photo by Alfred T. Palmer, 1943, courtesy of the Library of Congress.
"Kitchen to Classroom" is a weekly dispatch from our postdoctoral fellow, Angela Jill Cooley. You can follow Professor Cooley on Twitter at @foodandrace.

 Last year Oxford University Press elevated the academic standing of food history by dedicating a volume to the subject in its well-regarded Oxford Handbook series. The book includes essays that cover food’s relationship to gender, religion, nationalism, social movements, and tourism, among other topics.

As a scholar and educator, I particularly appreciated the essay “Teaching with Food.” Authors Jonathan Deutsch of Kingsborough Community College (Brooklyn, NY) and Jeffrey Miller of Colorado State University, both former chefs who teach culinary arts, encourage teachers to use food in the classroom “as a uniquely multisensory tool with which to investigate history, culture, and society.”

It sounds obvious, right? Well, maybe not. Their review of a syllabi collection available to members of the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS) reveals many food studies classes that don’t incorporate food as an integral part of the course. Food studies professors often rely on traditional methods of reading, writing, and class discussion.

The authors identify three ways that professors can engage with food in their classes. First, use food as a “lens to explore diverse social and cultural issues.” Students can analyze advertisements, conduct oral histories, or visit an ethnic food market. Such assignments can help students understand food within traditional historical narratives.

Second, food is often “a topic worthy of study in its own right.” In this case, food helps to revise the standard narrative. Because contemporary food authors often rely on a mythical notion of our culinary past, the authors suggest that students interested in sustainability will benefit from a more accurate historical understanding of food systems.

Anna Hamilton (l) and Kate Hudson, Southern Studies graduate students at the University of Mississippi, engage with food in Professor Cooley's class.

Third, food can be used “as the physical material for academic inquiry and learning.” The authors suggest bringing food into the classroom. At the University of Minnesota, for example, professor and Oxford Handbook editor Jeffrey Pilcher’s world history students celebrate an annual “Aztec banquet” during which a few “nobles” feast on tamales while the rest of the class eats one nacho chip. (Status is chosen by lot.) I’m sure few of Dr. Pilcher’s students forget the inequitable social system of this pre-Columbian American culture.

Source: Jeffrey M. Pilcher, editor, The Oxford Handbook of Food History (Oxford University Press, 2012).

Editor's note: This fall, UGA Press will release
The Larder: Food Studies Methods from the South, edited by John T. Edge, Elizabeth Engelhardt, and Ted Ownby. It will be another great resource for students and teachers of foodways. Stay tuned for more details. 

Wednesday, March 20

Women Who Rock: A Peek At Our "Women, Work & Food" Oral History Project in Richmond, VA

Ida MaMasu of Africanne on Main. Photo by Sara Wood.

Sara Wood, who interned with us last summer, spent the last handful of months gathering the stories behind the food from women who work in and around Richmond, Virginia. Here, Sara offers reflections on her time in the field and a hint of what’s to come.

Early last fall, I got a call from the one and only Amy Evans, the SFA's lead oral historian. She asked me if I'd like to collect interviews for a new oral history project about women, work, and food in Richmond, Virginia. All I've ever wanted to do with my life is work for the Works Progress Administration, documenting the lives of others, but that project wrapped up long ago. The idea of collecting oral histories in Richmond sent me straight into my old, reliable car and up Interstate 95. Six months and fifteen interviews later, I realize that this project could go on forever.

In Richmond, women grabbed the reins of entrepreneurship in food and paved their own way. Most of the women I interviewed work day and night; they've created culinary kingdoms but refuse the credit. Their presence is felt both on and off the plate, from the kitchen, the farm, the river, the back office.

Tanya Cauthen of Belmont Butchery. Photo by Sara Wood.

They've opened butcher shops from scratch because the community didn't have one. They teach men how to break down pigs. They spent years saving tips from waitressing to buy paint for their first restaurant. The blood, sweat, and tears from that first restaurant become the foundation for three more.

Argentina Ortega of La Sabrosita Bakery. Photo by Sara Wood.

They are spinning twine around your boxed lunch, frosting your cupcakes upside-down, starting their day at five in the morning to maintain a Richmond legacy almost a century old. They've opened restaurants and bakeries after fleeing other countries to escape dangerous and traumatic conditions. They've worked to bring their children and parents to safety. They've worked for decades to buy a house that is solely their own. They monitor the plates of their customers to make sure everyone's eating enough vegetables.

Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. Photo by Sara Wood.

They're on the Rappahannock River at sunrise, dropping peeler pots, catching blue crabs, working side-by-side with their sister. They're shucking oysters, something they swore they'd never, ever do. Years later, those oysters take them around the world and put them in glossy magazines and atop parade floats. They are teaching communities how to plant heirloom seeds with stories spanning decades, cultures, and traditions.

Katrina Giavos (L) and Stella Dikos (R) of Stella's (and for Katrina, many other restaurants). Photo by Sara Wood.

Some have spent the night at the restaurant because they've worked more than fifteen hours, and they're too tired to drive home. They blazed paths for their daughters who follow in their footsteps. They purchased catering vans and quit their jobs as deputy sheriffs, all in the same day, in order to feed a neighborhood trying to build itself back up again. They lay white linens on the table not to exclude others but to allow everyone—black or white, rich or poor—the opportunity to experience a meal with love.

Velma Johnson of Mama J's. Photo by Sara Wood.

They are gracious, bossy, patient, fierce, and kind. They elude the spotlight. They are busy, and they have to get back to work. Their stories will be added to the SFA’s online archive soon, and many of them will be a part of the SFA's Summer Symposium in Richmond. I'm terribly excited for you to meet them.

Sara Wood
Wilmington, NC

Sustainable South: Euneika Rogers-Sipp

 Emilie Dayan, our office intern, will be blogging regularly about issues of nutrition, sustainability, and food policy in the South.

Here at the SFA, it is the year of Women, Work, and Food. So, for this Sustainable South post, we highlight the efforts of Euneika Rogers-Sipp, social entrepreneur.

In Alabama and the Black Belt South, agricultural landowners and their families are overcoming systemic poverty with innovative, sustainable solutions, thanks to Sustainable Rural Regenerative Enterprises for Families (SURREF). This start-up social enterprise development initiative founded by Euneika Rogers-Sipp encourages the use of clean, renewable energy and culturally sound development practices. The organization aims to give small family farmers access to advanced technologies as one of a portfolio of strategies to improve rural livelihoods. The result: increased yields and reduced costs that allow the families to be economically sustainable and competitive in prospective markets.

As the driving force behind SURREF, Rogers-Sipp invests in the historical and future agricultural legacies of rural communities in the Black-Belt South. Since creating SURREF four years ago, she has helped develop ecologically sourced and locally produced products in over 50 Black Belt communities. She looks at the capacity and management of these small entities, and she emphasizes on-farm renewable energy resources as a form of sustainable management such as solar irrigation.

A regenerative farmer, Rogers-Sipp specializes in growth strategies in the sustainable development field. In addition to having worked as a Grass Roots Support Organization consultant at Heifer International and Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network, she is co-founder of the Media Equity Collaborative and the Ida B. Wells Center for Media Justice at the U.S. Social Forum. The Ford Foundation recently recognized her innovative approach to wealth creation in marginalized communities in the South with seed funding investment. She received a BA from the American College in London, is a Rural Development Leadership Network Fellow, and is currently pursuing an Independent Masters in Sustainable Rural Economic Development from Antioch University.

For more information on SURREF and how you can help seed investments in the Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi Black Belt, please visit

Director's Cut: Buffalo, Barbecue, and Heifers in Little Rock

Last week was spring break here at the University of Mississippi. It was also spring break for the Oxford School District, which means my son Jess, soon to be 12, was footloose, too. His friends went to Disney World. And the Bahamas. The Florida Gulf Coast. And New York City. I took Jess to Little Rock.

We ate well on the way. First, an early lunch of hacked pork on white bread at Jones BBQ Diner in Marianna, AR. Then, a late lunch of fried buffalo-fish ribs at Lassis Inn, a juke house on the edge of downtown Little Rock.

Jess Edge at Jones Bar-B-Q Diner in Marianna, Arkansas. Photo by his proud papa.

Before the weekend was over, we took a trolley ride over the Arkansas River. We toured the Clinton Presidential Center. And the civil rights museum, set alongside Central High School, scene of the 1957 integration crisis.

Our first stop, at the headquarters of Heifer International, may have been the most resonant. Set alongside the Clinton Center, the Heifer headquarters is an exemplar of green architecture and building processes. Heifer Village, around back, is a hands-on learning center, focused on teaching children high concept principles of sustainable architecture and simple techniques like water transport.

Until Jess and I made the trek, we didn’t know that Heifer did much more than donate animals, like heifers and goats, to impoverished families. (Not to understate that impact, which is mighty.) Now Jess knows they work in 40-plus countries and do lots more.

After touring the Heifer Village exhibits, I think I saw his eyes glimmer with future prospects. Jess has long been interested in helping others who are less fortunate than he. (He’s also been long interested in video games, but never mind that.) Now, Jess knows about a dynamic nonprofit that does good work and just happens to be 3 hours down the road. He’s been asking follow-up questions all week. That boy’s gonna be alright.

Pride & Joy: April Screenings

We weren't kidding when we said Pride & Joy: Coming to a film festival near you. If you're hankering to see Joe York's feature-length documentary, we want to draw your attention to four opportunities in April:

April 6--Florida Film Festival in Maitland, FL
April 13--Crossroads Film Festival in Jackson, MS
April 14--River Run Film Festival in Winston-Salem, NC
April 19--Indie Grits Festival in Columbia, SC

We hope you'll join us! 

Tuesday, March 19

We Saved You a Plate: Te Quiero, La Michoacana

Graphic by Devin Cox
"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 #47, which celebrates all things sweet.

Te Quiero, La Michoacana
Mexican paletas find a following in Memphis 
by Mark Camarigg

Every morning, twenty-five-year-old Rafael Gonzalez delivers coolers laden with homemade ice cream and paletas, or popsicles, to his three Memphis-area La Michoacana ice cream shops. His recipe is simple: fresh fruit, fresh cream, and sugar. Horchata (a blend of rice milk and cinnamon) and pine nut are the most popular flavors, along with avocado, strawberry, and vanilla. Gonzalez sources dulce de leche from his father's ice cream shop in Chihuahua, Mexico. And he imports ice cream making equipment from the tiny village of Tocumbo, in the state of Michoacan.

Ice cream making is a Gonzalez family tradition. Says Rafael, "My father is sixty-five, and he started selling paletas when he was fifteen in Tocumbo. I started when I was seven years old, and my dad taught me how to make them. He gave me my recipes, and I'll show them to my kids."

The history of paletas is tangled in a seventy-year-old ice cream making tradition that originated in Tocumbo. In the 1940s, cousins Agustín Andrade and Ignacio Alcázar left behind field work in their native Michoacan and began opening paleterías (shops selling popsicles and ice cream) in Mexico City. Alcázar soon discovered he could make more money financing the paleterías of others than running them himself. He began lending money to Tocumbo natives who wanted to open ice cream stores. Decades later, an estimated 15,000 La Michoacana paleterías dot Mexico.

La Michoacana is not a corporation or a franchise, but a very loose network of independent businesses with no central marketing, accounting, or advertising. La Michoacana is not a registered brand in Mexico. Anyone with an ice-cream maker and a storefront is free to use it. The paletería supply company in Tocumbo makes money selling equipment, ingredients, and marketing advice to entrepreneurs.

La Michoacana stores hit the United States around 1990. Proprietors like Gonzalez have adopted the La Michoacana name to gain name recognition with Mexican customers. "If you go to Mexico, there are more La Michoacanas than there are McDonald's," he says. "I get a lot of people from St. Louis and Little Rock. They say, 'When I was a kid, my dad would send me to the ice cream store, and now I can come here.'"

Gonzalez's first Memphis location, on busy Winchester Road, initially catered to a Mexican clientele. Now, Gonzalez says, "I'm surprised by the response we get at our other stores. It's probably 70% American and 30% Mexican patrons."

Buoyed by success, Gonzalez will open a fourth Memphis-area location and a new store in Nashville in 2013. More operators are getting into the business, but Gonzalez is convinced he offers something that the start-up paleterías can't touch.

"I won't change from what I'm doing here. If I change, it won't be La Michoacana." The other guys, he says, will never be able to recreate the flavor of the La Michoacana recipes. Nor can they top the magic of the La Michoacana name.

Mark Camarigg is the publications manager for Living Blues magazine at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture.

Get Your Sno-Balls! Hansen's Sno-Bliz in New Orleans Opens Today for 74th Season

First things first: a New Orleans sno-ball is not a snow cone, a pre-frozen, rock-hard concoction like those sold from ice cream trucks and concession stands elsewhere. New Orleans "sno" is a product of locally made, carefully stored, and expertly shaved-to-order ice. The sugary syrups that color and flavor a New Orleans sno-ball are equally important to the final product, and each sno-ball maker protects his own syrup recipes. In fact, a majority of the recipes at Hansen’s Sno-Bliz in Uptown, Williams Plum Street Snowballs near Riverbend, and Sal’s Sno-Balls in Old Metairie have survived several generations of stand ownership.

As you might expect to find in a subtropical city, New Orleans’ flavored ice tradition dates back to a time when vendors shaved the ice by hand and carried just a small selection of flavorings. “Tee Eva” Perry remembers choosing between just strawberry, spearmint, and pineapple syrups to flavor the coarse scraped ice at her neighborhood stand. Then, in the 1930s, two sno-ball pioneers—George Ortolano and Ernest Hansen—independently built the city’s first electric ice-shaving machines. While a version of the Ortolano machine is still produced and sold by George’s descendants at the company SnoWizard, Ernest Hansen built his machines primarily for personal use. His legacy is in the family sno-ball stand, still run today by his granddaughter, Ashley Hansen.

Today is opening day of Sno-Ball Season at Hansen's Sno-Bliz. If you're in new Orleans, hurry on over for your cream of nectar. Ashley is working the counter until 7 o'clock tonight!

If the Crescent City isn't in your travel plans, enjoy a virtual sno-ball by visiting our New Orleans Sno-Balls oral history project.

Join the Lee Brothers in Chicago to Feed the Piggy Bank

Paul Fehribach of Big Jones restaurant in Chicago, Illinois, hosts special guests Matt and Ted Lee for a Charleston-themed Piggy Bank Dinner on Thursday, April 18, to celebrate Matt and Ted's new cookbook, The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen.

Who: Paul Febribach, Matt and Ted Lee, and YOU!

What: Charleston-themed Piggy Bank Dinner benefiting the SFA. Menu highlights include kumquat-champagne sparklers, peanut oyster stew, deviled crab, and grapefruit chess pie. Click here to see the full menu.   

Where: Big Jones Restaurant, 5347 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL

When: Thursday, April 18—6 pm cocktail hour, 7 pm dinner

Tickets are $100 each and include cocktails, passed appetizers, five-course dinner, and wine pairings. 50% of the proceeds will be donated to the SFA. Space is limited; call the restaurant at 773-275-5725 to reserve your seat

Monday, March 18

Penny De Los Santos: The Assignment of a Lifetime

Food and travel photographer Penny De Los Santos blogs for us about her sources of inspiration, her travels, and her favorite bites and sips along the way. You can follow Penny on Twitter at @pennydelosantos. 

When my editor asked about my availability for a shoot in India with Madhur Jaffrey, I didn’t need much time to think. As a visual storyteller, I have devoted my career to documenting food culture with a focus on the history and lineage of foodways around the world. Getting the chance to travel with Jaffrey—arguably the most influential writer on Indian cuisine—was like hitting the mother lode.

Penny De Los Santos and Madhur Jaffrey. All photos by Penny De Los Santos; click to enlarge.

Within hours of landing in Hyderabad’s old city, Madhur and I were on a rooftop with a group of men making samosas. In one corner they were heating big pots of oil and in the other, they were on the floor, knee to knee, delicately folding triangles of dough filled with potato, chilies, ginger, garlic, and coriander, producing the goods for their samosa cart, which they would take to the street later that day. I made their portraits and photographed them in this wonderful moment of community as they all cooked together.

Here’s where the dream ends. A few hours into the shoot up on that rooftop, I fell horribly sick. A nasty water-borne food illness took me down. It was the first time, after traveling the world from end to end, I had ever succumbed to that kind of gastrointestinal drama. It took many days to recover enough to get back behind my camera and into the streets, but when I did, I still wasn’t fully there. I struggled the entire assignment to get better.

Typical spices in the Andhra Pradesh region

People always ask me if I taste everything I photograph and in this case, I certainly did not, but what I did take in was a colorful, rich people who are so humble and generous with their lives. Not a single person didn’t love having their photograph made—everyone who saw me with my camera smiled. And that, in the end, was what filled me up to the top.

The view from my hotel, the Taj Falaknuma, in Hyderabad.
Beautiful light streams into a kitchen through tiny windows in a small village along the coast.

Our boat guide, who also cooked for us.
Mutton hoof soup, a popular Muslim breakfast in Hyderabad.
Men make idlis (steamed fermented lentil-and-rice cakes) for breakfast in the old city of Hyderabad.
Morning coffee at the local bakery.
A mid-day meal called a "mess," or thali, is served all over India.
These restaurant cooks could not stop watching me as I set up a little make-shift studio in their kitchen. Eventually I made them all stand together and act as a big bounce card—their white coats were exactly what I needed.