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Unpalatable - Stories of Pain and Pleasure in Southern Cookbooks


Stories of Pain and Pleasure in Southern Cookbooks

By Carrie Helms Tippen
Series: Ingrid G. Houck Series in Food and Foodways

Hardcover : 9781496854797, 272 pages, January 2025
Paperback : 9781496854803, 272 pages, January 2025
Expected to ship: 2025-01-15
Expected to ship: 2025-01-15

An examination of how narratives of suffering balance the conventions of joy and success in the southern cookbook tradition


The cookbook genre is highly conventional with an orientation toward celebration and success. From glossy photographs to heartwarming stories and adjective-rich ingredient lists, their tradition primes readers for pleasure. Yet the overarching narrative of the region is often one of pain, loss, privation, exploitation, poverty, and suffering of various kinds. While some cookbook writers go to great lengths to avoid reminding readers of this painful past, others invoke that pain as a marker of southern authenticity. Still others use stories of southern suffering as an opportunity to make space for reconciliation, reparation, or apology for past wrongs.

In Unpalatable: Stories of Pain and Pleasure in Southern Cookbooks, author Carrie Helms Tippen attempts to understand the unique rhetorical situation of the southern cookbook as it negotiates a tension between the expectations of the genre and the prevailing metanarratives of the southern experience, one focused on pleasure and the other rooted in pain. Through an analysis of commercially published “southern” cookbooks from the 1990s to the present, Tippen examines the range of rhetorical purposes and strategies writers have employed, some of which undermine the reality of a painful past and cause harm or violence, and others which serve as tools for truth and reconciliation.


"Unpalatable: Stories of Pain and Pleasure in Southern Cookbooks presents a novel and sophisticated analysis of conventions within the cookbook genre within the metanarrative of the South. Author Carrie Helms Tippen extends previous work that grappled with notions of authenticity in southern cookbooks and looks specifically at how particular cookbooks contend with pain of various forms—slavery and racism, poverty, gendered labor, body shaming and illness, and death."

- Catarina Passidomo, Southern Foodways Alliance Associate Professor of Southern Studies and associate professor of anthropology, University of Mississippi