A southern meal of fried chicken or barbecue, homegrown tomatoes, a mess of greens, and peaches. Should they be subjects of academic research? Does southern food matter?
We live in an era of great interest in food—with high stakes questions of who has enough food, what food contributes to our society’s and our planet’s health, and how food makes reputations of people or places. Simultaneously, a cultural fascination with the US South has continued for at least two hundred years. Civil rights, identity, definitions of home and away are debated in portraits of southern culture. When we bring the two together and apply academic lens to southern food, we access complex gender, racial, and class politics of the past as well as our present. Our discussion reveals the southern food matters in a meal, a can of tomatoes, a pot of greens, and a pitmaster’s story.
About Elizabeth Engelhardt
Native North Carolinian, Elizabeth Engelhardt is Professor of American Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Texas. Her most recent books are A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender and Southern Food (2011) and Republic of Barbecue (2009). Her work has appeared in two volumes of Cornbread Nation, recognizing the best southern food writing. She is a founder and board member of Foodways Texas, an organization to preserve, promote, and celebrate Texas’ diverse food cultures; that work emerges from her longstanding collaborations with the Southern Foodways Alliance. Her teaching has been awarded the President’s Associates Teaching Excellence Award and Silver Spurs Teaching Fellowship Award. She received her doctorate from Emory in 1999 and has been at UT since 2004.
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