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Writing in the Kitchen - Essays on Southern Literature and Foodways

Writing in the Kitchen

Essays on Southern Literature and Foodways

Edited by David A. Davis & Tara Powell
Foreword by Jessica B. Harris
Paperback : 9781496807977, 258 pages, February 2016
Hardcover : 9781628460230, 224 pages, August 2014

Readings of food in southern literature that reveal hunger and creativity and that go beyond deep-fried clichés


Scarlett O'Hara munched on a radish and vowed never to go hungry again. Vardaman Bundren ate bananas in Faulkner's Jefferson, and the Invisible Man dined on a sweet potato in Harlem. Although food and stories may be two of the most prominent cultural products associated with the South, the connections between them have not been thoroughly explored until now.

Southern food has become the subject of increasingly self-conscious intellectual consideration. The Southern Foodways Alliance, the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, food-themed issues of Oxford American and Southern Cultures, and a spate of new scholarly and popular books demonstrate this interest. Writing in the Kitchen explores the relationship between food and literature and makes a major contribution to the study of both southern literature and of southern foodways and culture more widely.

This collection examines food writing in a range of literary expressions, including cookbooks, agricultural journals, novels, stories, and poems. Contributors interpret how authors use food to explore the changing South, considering the ways race, ethnicity, class, gender, and region affect how and what people eat. They describe foods from specific southern places such as New Orleans and Appalachia, engage both the historical and contemporary South, and study the food traditions of ethnicities as they manifest through the written word.


"This collection of essays will make readers think again about what they thought they knew about southern food. Taking on clichés about southern food and its cultural place, the authors discuss a spectrum of issues ranging from Colonial-era agriculture to the performance of southernness in the contemporary, post-agrarian South. . . . This book adds nicely to the current literature about food and foodways in the South. "

--C. Holt, CHOICE


"The essays . . . include interpretations as to how authors of everything from novels to cookbooks use and have used food to explore the changes in the South and the ways that different factors--including region, race, gender, class, and ethnicity--affect how and what southerners have traditionally eaten. Each chapter is relatively short and includes footnotes and a bibliography.

"Intended as an intellectual consideration of food, this title succeeds as such and is recommended for scholars who are interested in the history of food, the folkways surrounding it, and an academic interpretation of foodways. "

--Pam Kingsbury, Library Journal


"This collection of scholarly essays examines southern food as a unique cultural phenomenon, specifically examining its relation to literature. Recent analyses of the South's food have tended to emphasize the profligacy of the region's cooking at the end of the twentieth century (e. g., Paula Deen), but the genesis of southern cooking lies more in a focus on imaginatively using scraps or less-desirable parts of an animal to fill impoverished tables. One essay describes Thomas Jefferson defending contour plowing to preserve topsoil from erosion. Another examines the interplay of Native Americans, European colonials, and African slaves on foodways. Particularly compelling are analyses of how different, yet complementary, literary representations of white cooks (intellectual, analytic) and black cooks (instinctual, emotive) mirror the South's slave heritage. One contributor links vendor's outcries in New Orleans's markets to poetry. "

--Mark Knoblauch, Booklist