Monday, April 29

What Do Oreos, Nutter Butters, and Milk Bones Have in Common?

Photo by Jeremy Lange, courtesy of The Independent Weekly.
Emily Wallace guest-blogs for us about food, art, and design. You can check out more of her work here.

The pattern is familiar: a small, circular border hatched with short, shallow lines; an interior ringed with four-leaf clovers. I craned my neck to glimpse a blueprint of one of the world’s best-known designs—that of the Oreo cookie. A copy of the line drawing for its emboss, drafted in 1952, hangs above a closet door in the Chapel Hill home of William J. Turnier.

Turnier handed me a step stool. “His name is in the lower right corner,” he told me. And I climbed up for a look at the print in an attempt to answer one of modern life’s biggest questions—one that had recently appeared as a headline on The New York Times website—“Who Made That Oreo Emboss?” The query, posed by designer Hillary Greenbaum, caught my eye, and I clicked the link in hopes to learn more. What I found near the top of the comments section was Turnier. He appeared as “Bill, Chapel Hill, NC,” and claimed that his father, William A. Turnier, was the artist.

Could it be that Nabisco’s insanely popular manufactured cookie—a thin, pasty smear of vanilla cream sandwiched between two crisp chocolate wafers that is sold in the ballpark of 12 million per year—had ties to North Carolina? A quick online search proved that it might. William J. Turnier, a stately man in his early seventies, appeared wearing an oversized red bow tie on the UNC law school website, so I wrote the tax law professor an e-mail to ask if he shared a name with the Oreo’s rumored artist. “You indeed have the right person,” he shot back. And soon after, we met for a cup of coffee.

As I reported in a story for the Indy Week, William Adelbert Turnier worked as a member of Nabisco’s engineering team in New York between 1923 and 1973. There, he designed dies—basically industrial cookie cutters—to stamp patterns on the company’s baked treats.


According to the younger Bill Turnier, his father also worked on the waffle-patterned Nutter Butter, the vine-embossed Cameo, and the Milk-Bone dog biscuit. “I can be walking down the dog food aisle and choke up,” Turnier said about glimpsing his dad’s distinct lettering style on the grocery-store shelf.

But of all of those, or of any designed cookie for that matter, the Oreo is the stuff of legends. Numerologists used to contact the senior Turnier to inquire about the number of ticks around the cookie’s edge. Even today, bloggers speculate about Masonic-like images in its middle.

Such attention was no surprise to architecture critic Paul Goldberger. As he wrote in the Times on the cookie's 75th anniversary in 1986, "It stands as the archetype of its kind, a reminder that cookies are designed as consciously as buildings, and sometimes better."

Give Me Some Sugar: Dolester Miles

Photo courtesy of Bottega restaurant.

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: Dolester Miles
Where: Highlands Bar and Grill; Bottega, Birmingham, Alabama


One of my favorite themes to explore in my research and writing is the idea of women’s domestic creativity, acknowledging the home as a place of empowerment for creative pursuits. In the days when fewer women held “public work,” the home provided a non-commercial space for practice and experimentation, where women could hone a variety of skills—from cooking to quilting—and share them in a supportive environment. Domestic creativity is alive and well today, too: It could mean making a pie with the ingredients in your pantry, holding a community dinner out of your kitchen to raise money for a cause, or hosting a creative writing group in your living room.

Pastry chef Dolester Miles remembers her mother as a beacon of domestic creativity in their family’s Bessemer, Alabama, home. “She used to make us pecan pies, lemon meringue pies, and peach cobblers, with fresh homemade ice cream and fresh fruit from local farmers,” recalls Miles.

Miles has taken the skills her mother taught her and turned them into a career. For thirty-one years, Miles has been a pastry chef for Frank Stitt’s Birmingham restaurants, starting at Highlands Bar and Grill. She, too, enjoys being in the kitchen for the creativity it allows. “I go in early in the morning when it’s quiet, and I have my own space and time to concentrate and create,” says Miles. “I just love it.”

Sometimes Miles brings a reminder of her mother ‘s kitchen with her to work. “My prized kitchen tool is a wooden lemon juicer my mother passed down to me,” she says. “She used it to make her lemon meringue pie, lemon cakes, and lemonade. Now I use it to make those, too.”

Though Miles makes a variety of desserts for the three restaurants—including strawberry semifreddo, Bailey’s chocolate cake, and raspberry-white chocolate bread pudding—the desserts she makes with her mother’s lemon juicer are her personal favorites. “I love lemon pie. Lemon meringue, lemon cream cakes—lemon anything; you got me!”


Photo courtesy of Southern Living


Lemon Meringue Tart
recipe courtesy of Dolester Miles and Bottega Restaurant
Serves 10 to 12

For the crust:
2 1/2 cups flour
Pinch of salt
2 sticks of butter (cut into cubes)
3 egg yolks
1 cup powder sugar

For the filling:
Finely grated zest and juice of 7 lemons
1 ¾ cups sugar
6 whole eggs
9 egg yolks
1 ¼ cups (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened

Combine flour, salt, butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Add sugar and egg yolks and pulse until the mixture combines and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Spray the tart pan with a pan release. Pat dough into a tart pan in an even, thin layer and place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Remove from freezer and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, put all filling ingredients except the butter in a large saucepan over very low heat, and whisk until the eggs have broken up and the sugar has dissolved.

Add half the butter and continue to whisk. At this point the eggs will start to cook and the mixture will coat the back of a spoon. Add the remaining butter and continue stirring until the mixture becomes very thick. It is important to continue whisking throughout the cooking process to prevent the mixture from curdling. Remove from the heat, place on a cool surface, and continue to whisk until lukewarm. Refrigerate mixture until cold (about 1 hour). Spoon the cool mixture into the pastry shell and add meringue.

For the meringue:

8 large egg whites
2 cups sugar
A pinch of salt

In the heat proof bowl of an electric mixer combine egg whites, sugar and salt. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly until the sugar has dissolved and whites are hot to the touch (3 or 5 minutes). Attach bowl to electric mixer and mix on medium-high for about 2 minutes.  Increase speed to high and beat until stiff glossy peaks form (for about 6 minutes). Use immediately.

Spoon the meringue over the filling decoratively, mounding it in the center and spreading it all the way to the outer edge so it touches the crust.

Bake the pie in the center of the oven until the meringue is lightly browned on the edges, about 5 to 7 minutes. Do not allow the meringue to over color. Cool the pie on a rack. Refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving.

Friday, April 26

Southern Six-Pack



1.  From barbecue, with love.  In the wake of last week's tragedies in West, TX and Boston, MA, a story about the power of food to comfort and console the helpers.  Sometimes, one good turn really does deserve another.

2.  Carolina Rice Bread?  Yes, please. Serious bakers need to be able to say that they've mastered at least one batch.   John Martin Taylor first championed this recipe 21 years ago in Hoppin' John's Low Country Cooking.  That was just 7 years before this guy decided to save his McDonald's hamburger for later.  Much, much later.     

3.  This guy can cut up a watermelon in 21 seconds. 

4.  Food Saver Vacuum Sealers are a valuable kitchen tool.  Then there's the moment when the nightclub hook-up turns into, wait for it, the nightclub suck-up.  Same technology.  Different application.

5.  Do what you love even if there's no money or fame.  "Find what you love and let it kill you."

6.  George Jones died today.  Good night, Possum.  We toast you with your own glass of White Lightning. 


Kitchen to Classroom: When Food Production Hurts

Photo of Annie Mae Gudger, Hale County, AL, by Walker Evans. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.
"Kitchen to Classroom" is a weekly dispatch from our postdoctoral fellow, Angela Jill Cooley. You can follow Professor Cooley on Twitter at @foodandrace.


Last month, National Public Radio's "Planet Money" program featured Hale County, Alabama, in a story about the nation’s rising disability rates. According to NPR, 1 in 4 Alabamians living in Hale County receive disability benefits. Nationally, as the number of Americans on welfare rolls has declined, federal disability payments have increased. Hale County reflects this trend. (The story was expanded into an episode of This American Life, which you can access here.)

The reasons for this rise are varied and complicated, according to NPR reporter Chana Joffe-Walt. But rural areas, such as Hale County, seem to have higher incidences of disability claims because of the predominance of jobs that require physical labor. Joffe-Walt interviewed Ethel Thomas, a Hale County resident, who indicated that she had never seen a sedentary job until she walked into the local Social Security office where disability claims are processed.

So, what does any of this have to do with food? Well, possibly, a whole lot. Historically, the strenuous jobs of rural America involved agriculture. In the 1941 book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, writer James Agee and photographer Walker Evans document the physically demanding and poverty-stricken lives of sharecroppers living in Depression-era Hale County. At this time, men, women, and children engaged in the hard labor involved in running a farm.

Much of the strenuous labor in rural areas today revolves around producing food. In the 1960s, as sharecropping declined, Hale County became the center of the state’s commercial catfish industry. In fact, Ethel Thomas, a Hale County resident featured in the NPR story, performed physical labor at a local fish plant before her bad back compelled her to go onto disability.

Food access, or lack thereof, in rural areas may also be a cause for the rise in disability claims. Joffe-Walt spoke with several local ministers at a Hale County coffee shop who suggested food as a culprit for poor health in the area. “It’s very hard to find healthy food in Hale County,” Joffe-Walt reports. “There’s a lot of obesity.” In fact, the Social Security Administration indicates that back pain, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease—all of which are exacerbated by obesity—account for many of the diagnoses that result in disability claims.

NPR’s story on Hale County reminds us of food’s prominent, and surprising, role in building individuals and communities. The nourishment and fellowship food often provides can sustain us bodily and spiritually. But the physical labor demanded by our food system and the insufficient nutrition that system occasionally returns can just as easily diminish us.

(It's worth noting that not everyone agrees with Joffe-Walt's analysis. If you're curious, you can read one economist's critique here.) 

Thursday, April 25

RVA Eats: Sub Rosa Bakery

Brother and sister bakers Evrim (l) and Evin Dogu. The Dogu siblings were born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Turkish parents. They credit their love of food to the dual cultures of Louisiana and the Mediterranean. All photos by Nicole Lang.

Throughout the spring, Nicole Lang is 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 20–22. Over on her own blog, Food Punk, Nicole is telling more stories of the folks—from musicians to fashion bloggers—who make Richmond awesome. Check out her "One Day in RVA" series to meet these men and women. 


A few years ago, I heard of a fellow baking the most wonderful bread and selling it out of the back of his car in Richmond. I’m telling you, there was a waiting list to get on the waiting list for this bread. It was something else.

That baker was Evrim Dogu, who in 2009 started preparing wood-fired, naturally leavened bread in the kitchen of his father’s restaurant in Northern Virginia. He'd bake the loaves in the middle of the night, then drive them to Richmond the next morning to sell to eager customers at the farmers' market.




On December 15th, 2012, he and his sister, Evin, opened Sub Rosa Wood-Fired Bakery in the historic Church Hill area of town. Richmonders were smitten, and the place was immediately packed. 

Evin left a teaching position to focus on baking full-time; her pastries and desserts round out Evrim's selection of leavened breads. Evrim has enjoyed watching his sister refine her baking skills, laughing that, “There is nothing more satisfying for me than watching my sister enjoy—or dislike!—a dessert she is eating."

“Temperatures in a wood oven are always falling, so there is an order of what goes in according to the heat: first breads, then pastries, then tarts, and so on," Evrim explains. "Having Evin make them, it just happened organically." 


Using North Carolina–grown grains, the Dogu siblings mill their own flour nearly every day. Everything at Sub Rosa is done by hand, without machines.

The atmosphere at Sub Rosa is both familiar and exotic—you can follow a slice of local beet-greens quiche with a Turkish-influenced dessert, like a rose water-pistachio shortbread cookie. (If you're wondering, the fig and manchego croissant is my personal favorite.) 

***

In the early morning hours of April 3nd, a fire started in the back of the Sub Rosa building, causing extensive damage. Just as swiftly as the community had fallen for Sub Rosa, they took action to help.

“Within hours, a customer started a fund to help the people who lost their apartments upstairs—including Evrim—and to help us rebuild,” Evin says.




Across the street, The Roosevelt scheduled a benefit dinner, drawing food donations from a handful of other local restaurants. The Dutch and Company restaurant, another  Church Hill newcomer, offered the use of its ovens so that Evin and Evrim could bake off their remaining dough.

By nightfall, Hardywood Brewery and the RVA Street Foodies banded together to host a raffle and benefit at their Food Truck Court.



“To have the community speak out like that, in so brief a period, to say, ‘Hey, we need you, we want you back’—it’s priceless," says Evrim.

***

The siblings tell me that, in the wake of the fire, they feel an even stronger commitment to be part of the fabric of Richmond foodways. In fact, says Evrim, he sees a great deal of overlap between the food in Richmond and that of his parents' native Turkey. 


“In Turkey, we have many dishes that could be Southern if you swapped out the lamb for pork," he says. "And there are tons of collards there, too!” 


Evin tells me she has been a nomad her whole life, but now she feels like Richmond is her home.
The Dogu siblings hope to reopen Sub Rosa in approximately six months. Speaking on behalf of the fledgling bakery's eager customers, I can hardly wait.

Penny De Los Santos: A Visual Study of Neighborhood Pizza

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. 

The classic, New York City slice of pizza.

In my neighborhood (Manhattan's West Village) I can get five different styles of pizza—New York, Neapolitan, and Roman—all within three blocks. It's pretty incredible.

I can get the classic, New York City–style pizza-by-the-slice, cooked three different ways at three different pizza joints. At Joe's, it's cooked in a gas oven. If that's not my fancy, I'll walk up the street a block and get the same New York–style pizza cooked in a wood-burning oven, which imparts a hint of smoke. Or I head just a few blocks east to Arturo's and get the same style of pizza, only cooked in a coal-fired oven, giving the dough a pleasantly charred flavor.


On a Neapolitan pizza, fresh ingredients share a co-starring role with great dough, which is made by hand and lightly stretched into shape before baking. The pizza cooks in a wood-burning oven that hits 1000 degrees F. They're in and out of the oven in just one minute, imparting a smoky flavor and a crispy crust while retaining the fresh taste of the ingredients.


And then there's Neapolitan-style pizza. I have Keste right across the street. This place abides by strict rules to make its pizza truly Neapolitian. The dough is made with particular ingredients, mixed by hand, and cooked in an oven that is filled with wood and heated to 1000 degrees, allowing the pizzas to cook in only 60 seconds. If you don't believe me, Google "Keste" and read the scores of reviews and testimonials singing its praises.


Roman-style pizza has a thicker dough. It's cooked in a square dish, cut with scissors, and sold by the [rectangular] slice.
Finally there is my go-to place, Roma. It's just a few doors down from Keste, and it's where I head when I'm lagging after a long day. They make great Roman-style pizza and sell it by the slice. I did a story in Rome a few years ago for Saveur magazine. I spent two weeks shooting the food in different neighborhoods, and one thing I remember really well is the pizza. I'd order a square of it, hang my camera around my neck, and head outside and watch the locals. While I ate the pizza, I'd try to find my next photograph. Roma on Bleecker Street reminds me of that assignment. I like to go there and order a glass of white wine and my favorite slice, the zucchini pizza, and I feel like I'm back in Rome in the Campo di' Fiori neighborhood.

This is what makes New York City so great: It's a city rich with the stories about the migration of food. The next time you're in NYC, hit the West Village and get your pizza ethnography study on.

Director's Cut: Food and Immigrant Life


"Director's Cut" is a weekly blog series written by SFA director John T. Edge.  

I’m just home from a visit to New York City, where I attended a conference on Food and Immigrant Life: The Role of Food in Forced Migration, Migrant Labor, and Re-creating Home. Hosted by the New School, the conference examined the relationships between food and migration and framed immigration and food service employment as cultural as well as social justice issues.

After a day of listening to smart, engaging talks, I ate a great dinner at the Brooklyn restaurant Nightingale 9. There, Arkansas expat Rob Newton constructs dishes like shrimp and pork boudin, served on a bed of Vietnamese greens, topped with toasted rice powder.

During my short visit to New York, I learned lots, picked up a few programming tips we plan to apply to SFA events, and began conversations with the New School that I hope will lead to future collaborations. Here are five takeaway moments, in no particular order: 

Monique Truong reads at Thacker Mountain Radio in Oxford the evening before the 2012 Southern Foodways Symposium.

1) The Vietnamese-American novelist Monique Truong read her response to Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings, saying that, as an immigrant, “I have benefitted from and been the target of the effusive hospitality and the recalcitrant racism of the South.” (Click here to listen to Truong deliver a love letter to Red Bridges Barbecue in Shelby, NC, at the 2012 Southern Foodways Symposium.)

2) On that same panel, Tiphanie Yanique, a poet and fiction writer from the U.S. Virgin Islands, read a short story, “Kill the Rabbits,” that was, in part, a paean to brown sugar. One line that stayed with me: “White sugar seemed smooth and fake, like a girl in my fifth grade class who wore too much makeup.”

3) During a presentation on the role of Chinese restaurants in American culture, Yong Chen of U.C. Irvine declared that, in the 20th century, Chinese food went from being reviled by mainstream audiences to becoming the most popular so-called ethnic cuisine in America. (That quick transformation reminded me of how Southern food, long maligned by outsiders, has experienced a recent renaissance.)

4) Krishnendu Ray of N.Y.U., speaking of Indian restaurateurs in America, talked about how authenticity can be a resource for less empowered restaurateurs. For example, if a new immigrant restaurateur takes down the sign written in English and removes the English-language menu, the authenticity telegraphed may appeal to American consumers in search of something real.

5) Saru Jarayaman, author of Behind the Kitchen Door: What Every Diner Should Know About People Who Feed Us, argued that restaurants and other food service companies should take the high road to profitability. She questioned the policies of the National Restaurant Association, which she believes keeps restaurant worker wages artificially deflated. Going for the jugular, she referred to the National Restaurant Association as the other NRA.

Wednesday, April 24

Sustainable South: New Roots Against Food Deserts

Karyn Moskowitz. Photo by New Roots.

Louisville, Kentucky is often hailed as one of the emerging food-and-drink capitals of the South. But Karyn Moskowitz believes that her city is afflicted by what she calls "food apartheid," and that thousands of low-income Lousiville residents suffer from preventable illnesses due to lack of access to fresh, healthy food. As the founder and director of New Roots, a non-profit that works to improve the distribution and utilization of fresh foods, Moskowitz strives for a just and sustainable food system in the Ohio River valley.

A passion for food justice inspired Moskowitz to create the non-profit. Through New Roots, she works with farmers and food justice leaders to facilitate leadership development in Louisville neighborhoods with limited access to fresh produce. The mission is to provide education about healthy eating, to provide access to fresh food, and to work with communities to adjust food policy on a local level. By working with traditionally marginalized neighborhoods to relearn community food history and gain leadership skills, so-called "food deserts" in and around Louisville are transformed into centers of plenty.
Fresh Stop. Photo by New Roots.
One of the organization’s programs, Fresh Stop, serves hundreds of low-income families every year by selling produce shares on a sliding scale. The program brings together communities to make wholesale purchases of fresh, organic food from local farmers. In doing so, costs are reduced for participating families. One summer, for example, Fresh Stop customers could buy cantaloupes for 25 cents a piece. Beyond serving as a low-cost CSA, Fresh Stop also offers recipes and tips on how to prepare the produce it sells.

Moskowitz believes in social change from the ground up. In addition to projects with New Roots, she works in the areas of public interest and environmental law for citizens’groups nationally. She has an MBA in environmental management, and has been named one of twelve Jewish Women in Environmental Activism by the National Women’s Archive in 2010, one of ten “Green Jewish Women” by Jewish Woman Magazine in 2009, and was a member of Slow Food’s Terra Madre Conference delegation to Italy in 2008 and 2010.

Emilie Dayan, our office intern/assistant/chief collaborator, blogs weekly about issues of nutrition, sustainability, and food policy in the South.

Business in the Front, Party on the Beach

Photo courtesy of the Flora-Bama lounge.
This weekend is the 28th annual Interstate Mullet Toss at the Flora-Bama Lounge. Participants male and female, young and old, of athletic prowess and—er, not so much, will gather on the Alabama side of the state line and attempt to fling a mullet (the fish, not the haircut; see photo above) as far as possible onto the Florida side of the beach.

Two years ago, our filmmaker Joe York visited the Flora-Bama for the 26th annual Mullet Toss. We invite you to watch Deadliest Throw, his short film about the (fish) guts and glory he witnessed that weekend.


Tuesday, April 23

Nicole Taylor: A Familiar South, A World Away

When Souths collide: U.S. Southern and Aboriginal Australian cookbooks at Melbourne's Books for Cooks bookstore. Photo by Nicole Taylor.

SFA guest blogger Nicole Taylor is Brooklyn-based writer and radio host with Georgia roots. 

Familiarity is something I seek when traveling to a foreign space—a coffee bar with aromas identical to my favorite skinny latte, or a breakfast sandwich with the exact biscuit crumb of the defunct Katherine's Kitchen. At this year's Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, I met chefs from Australia, of course, but also from cities like Charleston, Lima, and Honolulu. In conversations where chefs took the time to detail the earth-to-plate journey of their ingredients, I was reminded of the work of Dr. George Washington Carver. Mostly, I was drawn to the native lifestyle in Australia. It mirrors my South—hospitality, rich agricultural history, and race-related complexities.


Photo of Aunty Carolyn Briggs by Daniel Mahon for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival

During my visit, Aunty Carolyn Briggs, an elder of the Boon Wurrung people, told me, "I'm trying to help people reclaim and remember aboriginal people's stories of food." If the white-tablecloth chefs evoked Carver, my interview with Briggs reminded me of the writings of Zora Neale Hurston. Her words were balanced with memories of her mother and mentions of wattleseed, native pepper, macadamia nuts, lemon myrtle, and natural springs. The first people of Melbourne's foodways are more than kangaroo and crocodile (certain groups don't dare eat such proteins). As a daughter of Dixie, I sometimes struggle to explain that heirloom platters aren’t always covered in fried chicken. Ten thousand miles away, cultural food ambassadors are celebrating and welcoming visitors to their South—just like us.

Interested in hearing more about the connections between bush and Southern food?  Listen to Hot Grease episode 141 on Heritage Radio Network.

Monday, April 22

Give Me Some Sugar: Carla Cabrera-Tomasko

Photo by Andrew Cebulka
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: Carla Cabrera-Tomasko
Where: Bacchanalia, 1198 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta, GA


“The Global South” is a popular concept in cultural studies these days. Simply put, it’s a way to compare cultural, political, historical, and socioeconomic trends among the world’s many “Souths”—places like Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and sub-Saharan Africa. Here at home, examining the Global South also means looking at international influences on American Southern culture—as well as the American South’s cultural influence on other parts of the world. In 2010, the Global South was the theme of the Southern Foodways Alliance’s annual symposium, and featured talks on topics ranging from the Cuban influence on Floridian cuisine, to Croatian and Vietnamese shrimpers in Mississippi, to the African origins of rice production in the Lowcountry of South Carolina and Georgia.

The work of pastry chef Carla Cabrera-Tomasko is part of this picture of the Global South. Growing up in Ecuador, she started selling cakes at age 16. “My aunt taught me to make cakes and flan,” says Carla. “I always liked being in the kitchen.” As her cake business grew, she wanted to learn more about the culinary arts. Her cousin told her about the Atlanta Art Institute’s Culinary Arts program, and in 2000 she moved to Atlanta to enroll.

Now the pastry chef at Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison’s Bacchanalia, Carla’s desserts often feature locally sourced ingredients and typical Southern products, interpreted through her memories of what she grew up eating in Ecuador. Earlier this month, for example, the Bacchanalia dessert menu featured a tres leches cake with fresh Florida strawberries. Last summer she made blueberry hand pies, which simultaneously recalled South American empanadas and traditional Southern fried pies.


Carla's SFA-iced Tango cookies. Photo courtesy Star Provisions.
“I try not to be too crazy or copy something that’s already been done. I don’t want to recreate, but I want to inspire the memory,” she says. She explains a dessert she recently made for the Southern Foodways Alliance’s New South Family Supper: her take on the Tango, a popular packaged cookie in Ecuador. “It’s two vanilla wafers sandwiched with vanilla cream and covered in chocolate. It’s like a Moon Pie,” Carla says. “When I was little, I would buy them all the time.”


The Tango cookie: Moon Pie's long-lost cousin?

Carla likes finding these intersections between the cuisines of her two homes, and says it’s a way for her to feel connected to the South while expressing her own heritage. “There’s a lot of overlap between Ecuador and the American South,” she says. “For instance, I grew up eating grits, but in a different way. It’s prepared differently, but the grain itself is the same. It’s from this region, but also reminds me of home.”

Meet Shayne Figueroa, 2013 Oral History Intern

Photo courtesy of Shayne Figueroa

Shayne Leslie Figueroa is a doctoral fellow in the Food Studies program at New York University. Born and raised in Charleston, S.C., she received a BA in American Studies from Lafayette College and earned a MA in Humanities and Social Thought at New York University's Draper Program. Shayne's current research focuses on food and families during the postwar period in America and utilizes both archival materials and oral history interviews. Her proposed dissertation topic is a social history of the first two decades of the National School Lunch Program (1946-1966). In addition to her academic work, Shayne is also currently the administrator for the TaubCenter for Israel Studies at NYU. Growing up in the Lowcountry, Shayne believes in the holy integrity of mustard-based barbecue sauce as THE perfect condiment and even though she's been vegetarian for a while now, she freely admits that great biscuits need lard. Or at least Crisco.

We look forward to hosting Shayne at SFA World Headquarters this summer.

Sunday, April 21

Southern Six-Pack: Sunday Edition


Whether you've spent the last two days doing yard work, hanging with your family, or just catching up on sleep, we think you deserve a Sunday afternoon six-pack.

1. Stephen Colbert asks, "breakfast, anyone?"

2. The gourmet cupcake bubble has officially burst, the Wall Street Journal proclaims...

3. ...so what's the next bubble on the horizon? Could be the toilet restaurant, with diverse incarnations from China to the U.K. (We'll admit the yuck factor varies by location, but still.)

4. Or is high-end juice the next big concept? In cities like New York and Los Angeles, juice-bar chains are duking it out for the loyalties of the hip and health conscious (not to mention affluent—a single bottle of cold-pressed juice can go for upwards of $10!).   

5. In another piece of disconcerting dessert news, Breyer's is now hawking "frozen dairy dessert." In a passionate lament, Dan Barry explains, "when translated from the original Orwell, [frozen dairy dessert] means: not ice cream." 

6. We'll end on a more serious note: It was a long, tough week, from Boston to West, Texas. However small, food can offer a measure of comfort, says Jim 'N Nick's pitmaster Drew Robinson. We think he's right.

Friday, April 19

Kitchen to Classroom: An Evening with Diane Nash, Civil Rights Heroine

 
Diane Nash leads a 1961 march in Nashville. Photo courtesy of the Tennessean.

"Kitchen to Classroom" is a weekly dispatch from our postdoctoral fellow, Angela Jill Cooley. You can follow Professor Cooley on Twitter at @foodandrace.

On Wednesday night, the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South at Tulane University in New Orleans hosted a discussion between civil rights leader Diane Nash and Tulane Political Science professor Melissa Harris-Perry. Among other achievements, Diane Nash was a cofounder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In 1960, she was a key figure in the successful effort to desegregate downtown lunch counters in Nashville.

During last night's conversation, Nash attributed lunch counter successes to strategy and negotiation. Activists developed their strategy with the economic interests of downtown business leaders in mind. At first, Nash recalls, store managers politely listened to student complaints of segregated lunch counters, but then quickly dismissed these concerns. Business disruptions caused by sit-ins and a downtown boycott by the black community during the Easter season led to the desegregation of six downtown eateries in May 1960.


Harris-Perry (l) and Nash in conversation at Tulane University on Wednesday night.

When business leaders worried that desegregation would hurt their business with white customers, the students acted to alleviate these concerns. They recruited several older, progressive white women, widely recognized as “dignified ladies,” to sit at the lunch counters for three weeks following desegregation. Their presence, Nash recalls, ensured the white community that whites and blacks could eat together, thereby avoiding a white boycott of integrated restaurants.

The following year, a new round of protests in Nashville catalyzed further progress. Again, Nash credits this achievement to strategy and negotiation. She recalls that one of the store managers who had initially opposed desegregation the previous year served as an ally in these later negotiations. He talked with managers at other cafés and lunch counters, insisting that integration did not hurt his business.

This experience taught Nash an important lesson: “People are never your enemy,” she said Wednesday nigth night. “Attitudes, racism, sexism, mental illness, unjust economic systems...all those are the enemy.” The basis of nonviolent activism is to love the person while you fight the unfair system. This was Nash’s message for students who seek to fight injustice today: “The task is to break up oppressive systems.” C-Span American History TV filmed the conversation between  Nash and Harris-Perry, and the event should be available to view online shortly.

Thursday, April 18

RVA Eats: Jen Rawlings, Roastmaster

All photos by Nicole Lang.

Throughout the spring, Nicole Lang is 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 20–22. Over on her own blog, Food Punk, Nicole is telling more stories of the folks—from musicians to fashion bloggers—who make Richmond awesome. Check out her "One Day in RVA" series to meet these men and women. 

RVA has many options for that magical bean-juice we call coffee. But if I wanted to show you a true cross section of Richmonders—and I do—I’d take you to Lamplighter


Lamplighter is not just a coffee house, it's a lifestyle. Centered around a DIY vibe and a love of bicycle culture, the main location—in a re-hauled 1920s garage in the Fan neighborhood—fills up early with bike punks, hipsters, students, artists, ad execs, moms and tots, and everyone in between. It is a true third place for many Richmonders: not work, not home, but an important public space for socializing and community interaction. Coffee nerds swoon for the pour-overs, and vinyl junkies can take turns playing their favorite records. 


Co-owner and roastmaster Jen Rawlings sources, roasts, and oversees the coffee program for Lamplighter—both its retail café and its fifty-plus commercial clients. (There is also a second, newer outpost of Lamplighter in Scott's Addition, a former industrial neighborhood that's enjoying something of a renaissance lately.)

“I was offered the opportunity to open a roasting café when I was 20," Jen says. "It was like boot camp for what was to eventually become my life: milk runs, espresso hangovers, machines going down. That was back in 1999. I was hooked."



As Jen has helped build the Lamplighter business, Richmonders have become more serious about their brew. They now recognize—and gravitate to—Lamplighter's "tall bike" logo in markets and restaurants around the city. Says Jen, “I used to pitch to restaurant managers who could care less about coffee. Now, when I approach a new client, I'm sent to see the sommelier or the beverage program manager.”


I tell Jen how much I admire Lamplighter's industrial aesthetic. When I ask her who designed it, she's surprised. "We did," she replies. "It's mostly inexpensive or used materials."  



That do-it-yourself, community-minded ethos permeates all aspects of Lamplighter’s culture. “What’s kept me in coffee is my love of community," says Jen. "Every part of the supply chain of coffee relates to community, from growing to harvesting to consumption. I can now Skype a farmer in Ethiopia and "handshake" on a price for a micro lot. My job evolves constantly. And I dream of growing and processing my own coffee!”




What began a few years ago on a corner of Addison St. has become a local institution; a successful small business built on self-determination and a commitment to values. “Coffee has saved me," says Jen. "It’s enabled me to stay in line with my personal politics of sustainability and equality. And now that we have kids, we have a legacy to pass on to them. I used to think, 'my poor kid has to come to work with me.' But he loves weighing out coffee and being a part of it all. Watching our children learn our family trade and doing business in the place where we grew up—it fills me with gratitude."

Director's Cut: Growing a New South Farmers' Network


Georgia farmers prepare to make their entrance at the New South Family Supper. Photo courtesy Star Provisions. Click to enlarge.

"Director's Cut" is a weekly blog series written by SFA director John T. Edge. 

The New South Family Supper, hosted this past Sunday at Ponce City Market in Atlanta by Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison, was a fundraiser for the SFA. More than 20 of the region’s best chefs cooked dishes like Kentucky bison empanadas and charred asparagus with sweet onion hushpuppy croutons.

In addition to celebrating the accomplishments of those chefs, we honored the women farmers who till the soils of Georgia, and whose farm goods graced our plates.

That group included Celia Barss, Woodland Gardens, Winterville; Erin Cescutti, Brightside at Mennonite Oakleaf Farm, Atlanta; Lauren Cox, Le Tre Lune Farm, Douglasville; Helen Dumba, Crystal Organic Farm, Newborn; Ceci Gatungo and Jamila Norman, Patchwork City Farms, Atlanta; Jenni Harris, White Oak Pastures, Bluffton; Halieth Hatungimana, The Burundi Women's Farm, Decatur; Susan Pavlin, Global Growers, Decatur; Charlotte Swancy, Riverview Farms, Ranger; Rebecca Williams, Many Fold Farm, Chattahoochee Hills; Judith Winfrey, Love is Love Farm at Gaia Gardens, Decatur; and Paige Witherington, Serenbe Farms, Chattahoochee Hills.

I was really pleased to see Susan Pavlin of Global Growers and Halieth Hatungimana of the Burundi Women's Farm again. We last saw one another a few months back. That’s when I traveled to Atlanta to write an Oxford American column about Global Growers' work on behalf of women like Ms. Hatungimana.

If you have a few moments, I would love for you to give it a read. Going forward, we at SFA plan to collaborate with Global Growers. They are doing vital work that contributes, in profound ways, to our New South Family.

Wednesday, April 17

Of Pimentos and Paintbrushes: Meet Emily Wallace


 Hello, I’m Emily Wallace, an eastern North Carolina native who now lives in Durham. I work as a freelance writer and illustrator, and assist the MFA in experimental and documentary arts at Duke University. I hold a BFA in studio art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MA in folklore from UNC-Chapel Hill.

From both of those degrees, my walls benefited, as I've amassed a good deal of artwork. A little-known side perk of art school is the exchange: “I’ll give you my weird doodle for your cool photograph,” and so on. You can graduate with quite a collection, and I did. But I didn’t expect the same from folklore, particularly when I decided to write a thesis on pimento cheese (a subject I’ve also written about for Gravy and presented at the 2010 SFA Symposium). As it turns out, when you travel from sandwich factory to sandwich factory, and scour eBay to research out-of-print pamphlets or advertisements, you end up with a lot of what one of my professors dubbed “pimento mementos.” They have become some of my favorite pieces, particularly an image of pimento cheese soaring atop a celery stalk, embossed on a 1950s linen napkin.


In the coming weeks, I'll be blogging about art and design as it relates to food—from the story behind the pattern on an Oreo cookie to the inspiration for some of my own illustrations.

Until the next post, I leave you with some of my favorite pimento images.

Images courtesy Emily Wallace. Click to enlarge.

Check out the PC on the left, hanging out next to the Deviled Egg.

Nicole Taylor: When Southerners Go South (WAY South)


A "class picture" of the Rockwell and Sons staff, via their Facebook page. Casey Wall is front and center in an LA Dodgers hat and NY Jets jersey.
SFA guest blogger Nicole Taylor is Brooklyn-based writer and radio host with Georgia roots.

Last month, I attended the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival and learned that the spirit of the American South is alive in that city.

I consider myself a magician of sorts. Not like David Blaine, but similar to your aunt with the knee ache prior to a spring downpour. Spotting a Southerner in the “land down under” was pretty easy—we have this way.

After watching Charleston chef Sean Brock conduct a master class, I struck up a conversation with a bearded guy wearing khaki shorts and a super-soft-from-too many-washes T-shirt. He turned out to be Casey Wall, a North Carolina native who owns an American restaurant called Rockwell and Sons in the Melbourne suburb of Collingwood. If you ever find yourself Down Under, craving a hushpuppy, head straight to Rockwell and Sons.



Here’s a bit about Casey and Rockwell and Sons, in his own words:

North Carolina
I'm from Arcadia, a small town between Lexington and Winston-Salem.

Landing in Australia
One of my best friends, Luke Morrison (a filmmaker in Melbourne), studied abroad at the university I attended and we became friends, travel buddies, and global troublemakers. He came over one summer before heading to Canada for a couple of weeks, and it ended up just being a couple of months he spent on my couch. My initial trip to Australia was his payback to me. But I found an awesome job and fell in love with an Australian, so here we are.

On Educating Aussies about Southern Food
Hushpuppies require the most explanation. The hushpuppies will be coming back in the next week, as the kitchen is cool enough now to hold our maple butter without splitting it. We preserve our own vegetables, make our own hot sauce, use chow-chow in so many dishes—just as a finishing touch, for brightness. We make biscuits using this beautiful raw buttermilk and cultured butter we get made for us. Pimento cheese holds a special place in my heart, as my family were dairy farmers. I eat pimento cheese on anything. I'll spare you the details. 

Clearly, the boy can make a biscuit. Photo courtesy Rockwell and Sons.


Fried Chicken
I love our fried chicken. I really do. It is an involved process that requires 3 brines over 3 days. Then it's dredged in a slightly spicy, herb-heavy flour that just pops in your mouth. We use the same amazing buttermilk we use in our biscuits as one of our brines. We have fallen in love with this Saudi Arabian hot sauce that mimics some of the great Southern hot sauces. I love Texas Pete, but we can't get it in here. Between our in-house hot sauce production and imported selections like Rana (Saudi Arabia), Louisiana, and Kaitaia Fire (New Zealand), we have a steady source of incredible hot sauces. One of these hot sauces finds it way into our chicken.

Celebrating Foodways of the American South
I love the South—I love the passion for food, I love that we actually have a food culture. The best thing about that is that there are so many unique subcultures under the larger umbrella of Southern food. Creole, Cajun, Appalachian, Lowcountry, etc. This is what a lot of people misunderstand about Southern food in Australia. We deal with people who claim to be 'experts in Southern food' after a few trips to the South, but it offends me so badly when someone pontificates about the foodways of the South after only eating out in one city.  I suppose that happens everywhere, but it irks me. We had a lady get verbally abusive with me on the phone because I didn't make gumbo. I just said, "ma'am, Louisiana is about 800 miles from where I grew up, and it is just a completely different culture to what I know." I miss the South every single day. I miss the weather, the smell of hickory or oak burning, the sweet tea, the biscuits, college basketball, my grandparents' fruit trees, my grandmother's food. But I've made a decision to live in Australia, so I take what is in my blood and mix it with my new surroundings and hopefully we nail something fun and tasty to eat.