[Southern Foodways Alliance talks about the food and drink culture
of the South and tells stories that hope to change people’s
perceptions and understandings about the South.]
[https://portside.org/] 

 PORTSIDE CULTURE 

 SOUTHERN FOODWAYS ALLIANCE SYMPOSIUM TELLS STORIES OF FOOD  
[https://portside.org/2018-03-19/southern-foodways-alliance-symposium-tells-stories-food]


 

 Susan Swagler 
 February 27, 2018
Alabama Newscenter
[http://alabamanewscenter.com/2018/02/27/southern-foodways-alliance-symposium-tells-stories-of-food/]


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 _ Southern Foodways Alliance talks about the food and drink culture
of the South and tells stories that hope to change people’s
perceptions and understandings about the South. _ 

 The Southern Foodways Alliance's Winter Symposium focused on the ways
food can tell a story, Brittany Faush/Alabama NewsCenter 

 

Storytelling and food are two things that Southerners do very well. So
it makes sense to talk about how food has influenced our South and how
the ever-changing culture here is increasingly reflected in the foods
we share.

That’s exactly what happened at the Southern Foodways Alliance
[https://www.southernfoodways.org/] 2018 Winter Symposium, which has
found a new, permanent home in Birmingham.

“The Southern Foodways Alliance tells stories about the South,”
says SFA director John T. Edge. “We tell stories that we think will
change people’s perceptions about the South, might change
understandings about the South. And we’ve begun to tell those
stories out of Birmingham. We think Birmingham is a citadel city of
the South. If you want to tell stories about the food culture of the
South, the drink culture of the South, this is the place to start.”

More than 150 people from all over the country gathered in Birmingham
this past weekend to talk about what it means to produce, grow, cook,
eat and love food in the South. They were James Beard Foundation Award
[https://www.jamesbeard.org/awards]-winning restaurateurs and chefs as
well as some of the latest crop of nominees. They were coffee growers,
food writers, oral historians, educators, activists, photographers,
farmers and filmmakers. And some were there simply because they love
Southern food.

The day started with a concert of _corridos_ (storytelling folk songs)
by the celebrated female mariachi band La Victoria
[https://www.facebook.com/LaVictoriaMusic1/]. The trio traveled to
Birmingham a few days early to meet with people in the Hispanic
community for a _corrido_ workshop. “El Corazón de Alabama”
(“The Heart of Alabama”) was the result, and these collaborators
(and some of their children) joined La Victoria on stage for that one.

Then there were stories, because, as Edge says, “the stories we tell
each other change our place and change us.”

Some highlights included CNN’s Moni Basu
[https://www.cnn.com/profiles/moni-basu-profile] talking about growing
up in an Indian household in the American South and how food
narratives can effect change. Fawn Weaver and Clay Risen talked about
Nathan “Nearest” Green, the former slave whom many believe taught
Jack Daniel [https://www.jackdaniels.com/en-us/] how to distill
whiskey. And filmmaker Ava Lowrey debuted “Dol,” a short
documentary about Dolester Miles
[http://alabamanewscenter.com/2016/06/03/birmingham-pastry-chefs-delectable-delights-draw-national-recognition-highlands-bar-grill/],
the twice James Beard-nominated pastry chef at Birmingham’s
Highlands Bar & Grill [https://highlandsbarandgrill.com/].
Atlanta-Journal Constitution [https://www.ajc.com/] reporter Rosalind
Bentley talked about the women who fed the Civil Rights Movement and
sustained protesters with home-cooked meals respectfully served on
their good china.

Of course there was delicious food involved.

This started Friday night with clam chowder from Bettola
[https://www.facebook.com/BettolaBirmingham]’s James Lewis and
Muscle Shoals native Adam Evans (formerly of The Optimist
[http://theoptimistrestaurant.com/] restaurant in Atlanta), who is
opening a new restaurant in Birmingham. Attendees ate at picnic tables
set up in a 1920s warehouse near Lakeview.

Saturday morning was fueled by fresh Royal Cup
[http://www.royalcupcoffee.com/] coffee and big pieces of Dolester
Miles’s golden corncake with strawberry preserves. Lunch was the
work of Duane Nutter of the newly opened Southern National
[http://alabamanewscenter.com/2018/02/14/125037/] in Mobile. (He and
business partner Reggie Washington got their own James Beard nod a few
weeks ago as a semifinalist for Best New Restaurant.) Nutter’s salad
of Sea Island Red Peas and Shrimp with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette was a
hit. Everything wrapped up with Conecuh County Gumbo from local chef
Becky Satterfield, of Satterfield’s Restaurant
[http://alabamanewscenter.com/2017/11/15/satterfields-offers-fine-dining-in-relaxed-setting/]
in Cahaba Heights.

The day actually was about experiencing food in a much deeper way, and
Birmingham has long played a part in this. Edge credits Frank Stitt of
Highlands and the late Bill Neal of Crook’s Corner
[http://www.crookscorner.com/] in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for
ushering in the “new Southern food movement.”

When Highlands opened in 1982, there was a barbecue restaurant down
the street, Edge says. “They were growing _cotton_ in a planter out
front. Highlands offered a different kind of narrative. It offered a
narrative that says, ‘Here’s a newer South. Here’s a different
story to tell, to tell by way of food.’”

The story will continue this time next year at the next SFA Winter
Symposium, and it will happen in Birmingham because exciting things
are happening in the city, which has become an epicenter of changing
food stories.

Little Donkey [http://www.thelittledonkey.com/] in Homewood is an
excellent example. “It’s a Greek-owned, Mexican-Southern
restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama, serving fantastic fried chicken,”
Edge says. “That’s what the South looks like today. That’s what
the South tastes like today.”

Edge says, “I think what Birmingham will do over the next five to 10
years … chefs, restaurateurs, food folk will do two things:
They’ll dig deeper into their pasts and understand the resonance of
what has made us. They’ll face down ugly truths and unearth
beautiful, redemptive stories at the same time. And, yes, I’m
talking about food when I say that.

“And I think the other thing is they will embrace new narratives and
new people. Rates of immigration into Alabama, into Georgia, into
Mississippi are high,” he says. “So newer South stories will
emerge in Birmingham, too. Newer people will claim Birmingham, will
claim Alabama, and the South will benefit from that. Birmingham will
benefit from that.”

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