Using the lens of food, this book examines the south from the Civil Rights Movement until today Edge takes cooks and chefs usually from an era, and using their story as a grounding, explores their era, environment and traditions It s an interesting book if you re interested in food, especially if you like tracing the evolution of dishes and cuisines Having a grounding in the history of the times and places he was discussing was helpful but certainly not necessary to enjoying this book.Also, this is straight history There are no recipes or anything of that sort. Maybe it s because in 2017 it feels like understanding the South is key to understanding America, or because I grapple with the meaning of being black and woman and Southern and choosing to mostly identify as the latter , or the fact that like jazz, I think Southern food is America s gift to the world, for all those reasons and I thoroughly enjoyed this history surprisingly fast paced or maybe it just felt that way because it was highly engaging of Southern food as it is known and better how should know it I could have read a whole book on each of the chapters, but loved the wn chores and individuals he introduces Highly recommended. An excellent read if you want to know about food, the South, or both Edge explores food in the South from the 1950 s through the 2010 s, and discusses various influences on cuisine I ve lived in Tennessee my entire life 55 years , and this book explores the background of foods, chefs, and restaurants in ways I ve never known about For example, how did Hurricane Katrina affect the food and restaurants in New Orleans I was very interested to learn how the ancestors of slaves had an impact on Southern food and cooking Now I want to read a similar history of food in the not so modern South 2.5 stars I feel guilty for settling on a rough, ungenerous rating for this book, because I did like it for many of its qualities Solid, thorough history documented research interspersed with personal interviews a discussion of race, socioeconomics, immigration, etc and overall a complex undertaking of the relationship between history and Southern food Super interesting stuff and a topic I didn t know too much about.Unfortunately, this started out really well but developed into a slog for me to read about halfway through I think I lost interest when I realized that the dry writing style of John T Edge would continue on for another 150 pages This read exactly like I expected a historical nonfiction book to read, which isn t exactly a good thing pretty dry, a few good observations here and there, a smattering of really good chapters, but so much descriptive reporting of events, delivered without an ostensible thematic roadmap aside from rough chronology and in a cold, somewhat distant tone Especially in some of the middle sections, I had a hard time following where the author was taking me as a reader and even how certain chapters were grouped together, because they seemed pretty random topic wise.One final note I wasn t sure how to feel whenever the author is white, male, from GA, a prominent professor, author, and editor at Garden Gun magazine spoke at length on the racial issues of the South There were a few points when he meandered pretty far from the connection to food to do a lot of recounting of racial events and tensions that have colored much of the South s history I have mixed feelings about this on one hand, I think that writing a food history of the South without devoting many chapters to slavery, race relations, and the role of the African American community would be a crime of the gravest nature That would be pointblank wrong and John T Edge avoids this for the most part In fact, he dedicates a large number of pages to acknowledge the black chefs, pitmasters, farmers, activists, and pretty much every profession of the South and goes even further in acknowledging that they have gone unacknowledged So props for that, especially since those are the chapters I found the most engaging.What gives me pause, though, is my questions about whether Mr Edge is taking liberties with these stories As an affluent white male, are they really his to tell Every now and then he mentions his own childhood in Georgia, his current life in Mississippi, and I can t help but wonder about his own place in all this His book smacks a little too uncomfortably of white man still having the loudest voice in the room I would have been less skeptical if he had taken a personal tone throughout the book less declaring history, telling stories from a hyper aware position as a white Southerner I don t blame the author or accuse him of anything serious than questionable topic choice Nothing in his very respectful words could be construed as racism, but he s exposed himself in a way such that he has to walk an incredibly fine line of white guilt and white ignorance By choosing to write this book, he put himself in a really difficult position, which he must have known from the beginning I admire that he has put himself out there and attempted to write about sensitive and difficult subjects from as objective a place as possible, but in the end, it s still the white man who is doing the talking and I just wish that that wasn t the case Take that as you will.Don t let me deter you, though if you have an inkling of interest in food and the South and the people who cooked it, then definitely give this book a go I didn t care for the writing, hence my kinda low rating, but there was enough fascinating history here to like that made me glad I picked it up. Potlikker is the liquid left in the pot after boiling greens like collards or mustard During slavery, the owners would dine on the greens, while the liquid in the pot was left for the slaves to consume This potlikker is far nutritious than the boiled greens and modern Southern chefs have reclaimed it The Potlikker Papers is a social history of food in the American South and how the food the South is known for, from fried chicken to hopping John to gumbo to po boys is a result of the African, Native American and European cultures that influenced what we eat now John T Edge is the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, and his passion for every aspect of Southern cuisine is evident in every page of this excellent book I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in food or who lives or has lived in the American South For those who appreciate good food and live in one of the Southern states, it s required reading. It isn t that The Potlikker Papers is a bad book, but it also isn t a Food History of the Modern South It is a social, cultural, and political commentary onto which a few food trends and fads are loosely tied That isn t a bad thing, necessarily In truth, I found it well written with some interesting vignettes However, I think the author could have greatly benefited from a class discussing differences in correlation and causation Just because two trends occupy the same general time frame doesn t mean each is causally related For example, was the increase in farms, growing your own food, and a resurgence of cheaper homemade products like sorghum truly a result of the cultural hippie trends of the 1960 s 1970 s or was it caused by the dire economic recession and inflation of the same time period leading people to look for cheaper food sources The answer to that is complicated and debatable, but this book seeks to put the two, and other food social political trends together in a direct causal relationship leading to several square peg, round hole scenarios This is the kind of book that would make for great debate in a good book club or a college seminar, but I can t say that I enjoyed it. More of a social history spiced with food than a book on food illustrated by social history, I enjoyed the commentary of how Southern food had evolved in multiple directions over time Be it New Orleans or Charleston or BBQ or Creole or Low Country, the cooks of the South have adapted or made do as my grandma would say It was interesting that everyone Colonel Sanders to Craig Claiborne to Paula Deen to Bill Neal gets equal time Interesting read with a fair amount of time devoted to history from the 1950 s through 2000 s that I remember. I am hungry The Potlikker Papers made me hungry Also made me want to buy a bunch of cookbooks Edge s anecdotal history of the south and food is fabulous Some very interesting points and great connections I discovered Southern Cooking when I was eighteen and living with my great uncle and aunt in East Texas My maternal grandparents were from North central Texas with heavy southern roots When they moved north, they left the food behind them I rediscovered southern food when my wife was pregnant with our first daughter Collard greens are great for morning sickness We lived in West Philly and could get collards and other southern foods cuts of meat Began with Craig Claibonre s Southern Cooking and haven t stopped The Potlikker Papers does a great job of linking the changes in the south through food. 3.75 stars The Potlikker Papers is largely about the politics of food who eats high on the hog, who eats low on the hog, who owns the hog and how that hog was raised The first 180 pages alone are worth the price of admission, and I hope they spark a renewed interest in Civil Rights figures such as Fannie Lou Hamer who I thought I knew something about, but I learned a whole lot here and Georgia Gil, a previously unsung hero of the movement.Edge does a marvelous job of documenting the changes in Southern food culture from the 1950s into the 1980s and 90s The chapter on fast food in particular really gets at how foodways evolved during this period Fast food, frozen food and canned biscuits did a lot to change the way Southern women like my mother in law cooked In fact, I know a whole lot of working women from that generation who hold no nostalgia for the hard labor of cultivating and preserving food They spent their childhoods doing it, and as adults they were than happy to feed their families beans from a can and cookies from a box They d grow a few tomatoes in the summer, but that s as far as it went.Edge also documents how economic growth transformed the South during the late 20th century and on into the 21st century Once considered one big backwater, the South turned into an economic powerhouse in the 1980s and 90s Atlanta, Charlotte, and North Carolina s Research Triangle Park became some of the fastest growing areas in the country Even Birmingham, Alabama, became nice place to settle down and raise a family Birmingham I ve lived in the South most of my adult life and some during my childhood as well , and it s been interesting to see the overall effects of this revitalized economy One thing is for sure the resulting hybrid vigor has served to flatten out a lot of regional idiosyncrasies, which makes it tough if you re a writer interested in local and regional foodways What Edge chooses to focus on as he moves into the 21st century is artisanal food And this, for me, is where the book stumbles where it s no longer a people s history of food, but a foodie s history of food His focus in chapters such as Artisanal Pantry and Restaurant Renaissance is on growers and chefs who are breathing new life into traditional foods, folks who occupy the esoteric corners of Southern foodways So, for instance, the star of Artisanal Pantry is Glenn Roberts, who founded Anson Mills with the aim of making grits from heirloom corn Roberts sounds like a fascinating man, and I d like to give those grits a try sometime Sam Edwards slow cured country ham also sounds delicious But while these men and the others profiled in these chapter all men, by the way, which is irritating may be doing the Lord s work, they re preaching to a fairly small choir, and it concerns me that Edge doesn t own that fact Quite the opposite at the end of Artisanal Pantry, Edge tries to convince us that in the 21st century Southerners ditched brine injected city ham for long cured country ham They rejected grocery store pap for stone ground grits In the 2000s, as the region awakened to the economic and cultural promise of craft production, Southerners embraced artisan possibilities across a spectrum that connected agriculture and industry and pop culture and included moonshine, antebellum grits, three year old heirloom ham, cane sugar Coca Cola, and twenty year old Pappy moonshine.Well, like I said, I ve lived in the south for a long time, and it s true that in the last ten years these things have been made available to me, especially if my husband and I trek to downtown Durham and eat in one of its finer restaurants But of my husband s thirty odd Southern Baptist cousins, the grandchildren of millworkers, the children of truck drivers and teachers, a number of them the first in their families to graduate college and move into the middle class, I can guarantee you that not one has an interest in artisanal whiskey, and if they eat ham at all they re mostly a health conscious bunch it s from a spiral ham bought at Harris Teeter or Honeybaked Ham at Christmas and or Easter I can t claim to know their grit preferences, but they re sensible people and unlikely to spend 6 to 10 on a pound of deracinated corn.I m not saying that that artisanal grits have no place in the discussion of Southern foodways I personally love what Glenn Roberts is doing, I just reject the claim that what he s doing is having a huge impact on how most Southerners eat There s something about this chapter and the next two that strike me as off the mark If you really want to talk about growers, thinkers and cooks that have had a large regional and national impact, then why not discuss heavy hitters such as Barbara Kingsolver, a Kentucky native, novelist and Wendell Berry acolyte, whose book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, published in 2007, joined Michael Pollan s The Omnivore s Dilemma in changing how many Americans, particularly middle class suburbanites, thought about food Or what about Chef Vivian Howard, star of the PBS show A Chef s Life Howard s trajectory strikes me as very similar to a lot of my smalltown Southern friends she grew up wanting nothing than to get the hell out of Dodge as soon as she could, and she did Eventually she moved to New York City with the intention of becoming a writer and ended up a cook When her parents offered to help her open a restaurant in Kinston, NC, she couldn t refuse, and so home she came A Chef s Life documents her experience opening a restaurant, but also it also documents how Howard came to re embrace her food heritage The show has struck a chord with a lot of people I know who grew up in the South, grew beyond the South, and then ultimately returned to reclaim their Southern roots The last two chapters of The Potlikker Papers return to a people s history of food and are well worth reading In particular, the final chapter, Nuevo Sud, gets at what s exciting about Southern food right now all these brand new southerners, recent immigrants from Mexico, India, Africa, and Asia, bringing their cultures foodways into the mix Unlike Glenn Roberts and Sean Brock, these cooks really are changing the way working class and middle class Southerners eat, as well as changing our ideas of what it means to be Southern in the 21st century. A People S History Of Southern Food That Reveals How The Region Came To Be At The Forefront Of American Culinary Culture And How Issues Of Race Have Shaped Southern Cuisine Over The Last Six DecadesTHE POTLIKKER PAPERS Tells The Story Of Food And Politics In The South Over The Last Half Century Beginning With The Pivotal Role Of Cooks In The Civil Rights Movement, Noted Authority John T Edge Narrates The South S Journey From Racist Backwater To A Hotbed Of American Immigration In So Doing, He Traces How The Food Of The Poorest Southerners Has Become The Signature Trend Of Modern American Haute Cuisine This Is A People S History Of The Modern South Told Through The Lens Of FoodFood Was A Battleground In The Civil Rights Movement Access To Food And Ownership Of Culinary Tradition Was A Central Part Of The Long March To Racial Equality THE POTLIKKER PAPERS Begins In As Black Cooks And Maids Fed And Supported The Montgomery Bus Boycott And It Concludes In As A Newer South Came To Be, Enriched By The Arrival Of Immigrants From Lebanon To Vietnam To All Points In BetweenAlong The Way, THE POTLIKKER PAPERS Tracks Many Different Evolutions Of Southern Identity First In The S, From The Back To The Land Movement That Began In The Tennessee Hills To The Rise Of Fast And Convenience Foods Modeled On Southern Staples Edge Narrates The Gentrification That Gained Traction In North Carolina And Louisiana Restaurants Of The S And The Artisanal Renaissance That Reconnected Farmers And Cooks In The S And In The S He Profiles Some Of The Most Extraordinary And Fascinating Figures In Southern Food, Including Fannie Lou Hamer, Colonel Sanders, Edna Lewis, Paul Prudhomme, Craig Claiborne, Sean Brock, And Many OthersLike Many Great Provincial Dishes Around The World, Potlikker Is A Salvage Food During The Antebellum Era, Masters Ate The Greens From The Pot And Set Aside The Left Over Potlikker Broth For Their Slaves, Unaware That The Broth, Not The Greens, Was Nutrient Rich After Slavery, Potlikker Sustained The Working Poor, Black And White In The Rapidly Gentrifying South Of Today, Potlikker Has Taken On New Meanings As Chefs Have Reclaimed The DishOver The Last Two Generations, Wrenching Changes Have Transformed The South THE POTLIKKER PAPERS Tells The Story Of That Change And Reveals How Southern Food Has Become A Shared Culinary Language For The NationMusic Copyright C , Lee Bains III
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