2018 Southern Foodways Symposium Reading Food: From Menus to Soap Operas to Novels

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From the organizers:

Join us for the 21st Southern Foodways Symposium, staged October 11-13 in and around Oxford, Mississippi. Through lectures, meals, tastings, and experiences, SFA will use text and subtext to explore issues like racism and gender inequity that roil the South and the pleasures of social engagement that reflect our best instincts.

Our year of programming began in February in Birmingham, Alabama, when SFA staged a Winter Symposium on the power of transformative narratives.  In June, we traveled to Lexington, Kentucky, for our Summer Symposium, and explored the linkages between the land and literature.

SFA’s definition of literature is broad. It spans modern soap operas and menu narratives and narrative song cycles. Novels, nonfiction, and poetry, too. Appropriately, SFA has booked a diverse roster of speakers from many disciplines.

Stepping to the podium will be longtime collaborators like novelist Monique Truong, author of Bitter in the Mouth, who will speak of Lafcadio Hearn, the chronicler of Japan and New Orleans. Novelist Randall Kenan, who has lovingly chronicled his North Carolina postage stamp, will speak from the porch at Faulkner’s Rowan Oak about Ralph Ellison’s use of the yam as a symbol in the novel Invisible Man. Zandria Robinson, who teaches at Rhodes College and describes herself as a “Dirty South black feminist” and a “Zora-type ethnographer” will serve as your Symposium coach.

Well-curated food and drink augment lectures. Chef Nina Compton of Compere Lapin in New Orleans taps Caribbean folktales for Friday lunch inspiration. Saturday lunch, a grand SFA tradition, comes courtesy of Mashama Bailey, the pride of Savannah. Joe Stinchcomb, barman at St. Leo right here in Oxford, is our Cathead Bartender in Residence. Lindsay Autry, a first-time collaborator, travels from her Florida restaurant, The Regional Kitchen and Public House, to cook catfish on the front porch at Taylor Grocery.

To prepare for this weekend, SFA documentarians have traveled the region. Annemarie Anderson, our new lead oral historian, began a new project this year on female food journalists of the last two generations. Among the subjects are Marcelle Bienvenu of Louisiana, Susan Puckett of Georgia, and Kathleen Purvis of North Carolina. This weekend, you meet some of those oral history subjects. And you come face-to-face, through a range of SFA films by Ava Lowrey and collaborators, with some of our region’s unsung heroes and heroines.

For our art commission, underwritten by 21c Museum Hotels, SFA is collaborating with Lauren Was and Adam Eckstrom of Ghost of a Dream, who are building a site-specific reading room where attendees may apprehend the building blocks of our food system.

Our 2018 performance commission, underwritten by the Cockayne Fund, was conceived and produced by Paul Burch. Trovatore: The Lives of Eugene Walter is a song-cycle narrative about the Mobile-born writer and bon vivant. Along with his WPA Ballclub, Paul performs the commision, with a few extra fillips, and attendees go home with a beautiful sleeved album.

SFA Twentieth Anniversary Celebration Continues

In July of 1999, John Egerton invited 49 others to join him to found the Southern Foodways Alliance. To commemorate our 20th anniversary, which we will mark at events over the next year, SFA has commissioned a series of founder documentaries. For this 21st symposium, we also welcome all past presidents of the organization to the stage to reflect on how far we have come and how far we have yet to go.


This event is not hosted by ASAN. As one of ASAN’s roles is to share information and resources across our network so as to maximize all of our impact, we routinely post events that we ourselves are not hosting. If you have questions regarding this event, please contact event organizers rather than ASAN.

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