Friday, May 29, 2009

More Southern memory that requires harsh critique

Oral Histories From Mercer Foodways Class Students in a Southern foodways course at Mercer University collected oral histories from cooks in Macon, Georgia. Professor David A. Davis explains that "these interviews are an important archive for both culinary arts and Southern identity."

Here's where their methodology breaks down. When you look at culinary records from Northern sources, you find severe discrepancies between type and numerical combination of ingredients between any two foods of the same name, which make Southern recollection highly suspect. And even if you take Southern records at face value, the records show so much variation across the states that you really cannot claim there is any such thing as a "Southern food" much less a "Southern culinary tradition."

In addition, economic disparities precluded African American cooks from gaining access to the same quality ingredients as their white counterparts, so it is a myth that white and black cooks could have similar sentiments towards their cooking or those that who were eating it.

A little levity, gentlemen.

Truth be told, I am intrigued by this class and have read their online interviews. Fascinating stuff. It makes me miss my grandmother- may her memory be eternal. Oh, the culinary magic she conjured!


cenantua said...

Ok, here's something about Southern foodways that I've always found interesting. There's a debate about the use of sugar in cornbread. On one hand, we have some Southerners who argue that any REAL Southerner would not dare put sugar in cornbread, and yet many other Southerners do it! I wonder if, laid-out on a map, we could pinpoint where it is acceptable and where it is not or if it is just interspersed opinion with no real sectional stuff behind it.


Justin said...

hehehe, that's actually a funny idea. I'd like to see the same thing done with sweet tea, but on a national map.

I hope you're doing well.