The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South

The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South



10 thoughts on “The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South

  1. Greg Brozeit Greg Brozeit says:

    Yesterday, the individual who occupies the American presidency referred to the nations of Africa, Central America and Haiti as shitholes A few things related to The Potlikker Papers came to mind as I considered the stupidity of the racist who now is responsible for leading this nation He obviously has no idea of history Slaves from Africa built this country and American cuisine would be unthinkable without their essential contributions to its heritage.I lived in New Orleans during the most Yesterday, the individual who occupies the American presidency referred to the nations of Africa, Central America and Haiti as shitholes A few things related to The Potlikker Papers came to mind as I considered the stupidity of the racist who now is responsible for leading this nation He obviously has no idea of history Slaves from Africa built this country and American cuisine would be unthinkable without their essential contributions to its heritage.I lived in New Orleans during the most integral years of my life If you re from south Louisiana, then you know that gumbo is the culinary Holy Grail It s a dark stew that literally defines the region Everyone claims to know where to get the best My favorite is filled with shrimp, oysters and crab But there are also great chicken and sausage versions And I can still tase the version with chicken neck bones the chef at a restaurant I worked in used to make for the staff The common ingredient in all gumbos is okra, a vegetable that s hard to describe to anyone who doesn t know what it is It has small round seeds It is not native to North America it came from West Africa, where the word for okra was gumbo When captured Africans were rounded up on the coasts to be shipped to a place they could not have conceived, many of them grasped at the gumbo plants, took out the seeds, and put them in their hair When they reached their destinations, when they were the reason the South became the agricultural powerhouse of the U.S., they planted these seeds and gave birth to a new cuisine, a genuine American cuisine.Other slaves brought the small beans and rice kernels that were the foundation of Carolina cuisine and their signature dish, hoppin John The style of cooking large animals in the ground, covered with spices and simmered over the course of a day became what we now know as barbecue I love telling good ole white boys in the South that their favorite food would have never happened had it not been for the ancestors of the people they hate, deride and discriminate against.I am so embarrassed by the so called man in the White House He degrades not only our nation, but because of the power of his office, our world as well I find it fitting that he lives on fast food, that he takes pride in eating well done steak slathered in ketchup It helps explain his worldview The less diverse one s cuisine is, the narrower one s mind likely is John T Edge s book is a testament to explaining this thesis Our Dear Leader makes its conclusion inescapable.Original ReviewIt takes some doing to make sense out of the American South John T Edge s The Potlikker Papers A Food History of the Modern South gets pretty close to it Reading Edge is, for me, like viewing a Walker Evans photograph both create simple, profound narratives that are deeper than what s on the surface The cultural impact of Southern food is not as obvious as it is with music Mississippi Delta Blues gave birth to rock and roll Jazz, Folk, Bluegrass, Country, Soul and Western swing all children of the South added the other essential ingredients Ironically, although the South has long been identified with slavery and prejudice, fairly or not, its musical progeny was a vital expression of freedom and resistance in totalitarian and authoritarian societies of the 20th century I find it interesting that Southerners like Louis Jordan and Hank Williams sang about food Implicitly, I think they imply connections freedom of expression and a satisfied stomach.Like great provincial dishes around the world, potlikker is salvage food During the antebellum era, slaveholders ate the greens from the pot, setting aside the potlikker for enslaved cooks and their families, unaware that the broth, not the greens, was nutrient rich After slavery, potlikker sustained the working poor, black and white I lived on what I did not eat, Richard Wright wrote Perhaps the sunshine, the fresh air, and the pot liquor from greens kept me going The potlikker of Edge s narrative isthan a story about a nourishing broth It s a culinary heritage of a diverse, ever changing region that has mostly been underappreciated But Edge reveals a deeper, metaphorical, cultural potlikker It s about who we, as Americans, are.Edge begins on familiar ground, but not one normally associated with food the Civil Rights movement When Martin Luther King, Jr led the Montgomery bus boycotts and mass meetings at the Holt Street Baptist Church, how many thought about the vital roles women like Georgia Gil and many others played when they worked the kitchens of white families and, when they were off the clock, would cook and serve the meals nourishing the front lines of the movement Or that the freedom to eat where one pleased was integral to civil rights The symbolism of the long unbroken table was important to Southerners Many had been schooled from infancy in Last Supper imagery Sharing a meal signaled social equality And no eating space promiseddemocracy than a lunch counter, where diners stooped to take their seats and eat with people of other sexes and, eventually, other races The problem was, for much of the South s history, neither the people who owned lunch counters nor the people who patronized them were at their best.Indeed, when he was assassinated, King made the right to nourishing food central to the Poor People s Campaign Civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer believed that black Southerners would not achieve full citizenship until they claimed their sovereignty over their diet But Hamer s vision stalled and actually went in different direction with the proliferation of fast food, which had its roots in the South.McDonald s gets the credit for changing the diets and roadsides of suburban America, but it was the Pig Stand chain, founded in 1920s Dallas that popularized drive in service across the nation Its model may have served as an inspiration for McDonald s, which included barbecue pork and beef sandwiches on early menus Fast food offered a mirage of social mobility, Southerners with lower incomes were ideal fast food customers A burger, a sleeve of fries, and a shake promised a sugar rush, a full stomach, and temporary middle class status The first titan of fast food, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and its numerous imitators spread the gospel of deep fried, pressure cooked chicken around the country and the world, exporting a Southern experience in standardized packages But fast food came with a price obesity, cultural homogenization, and the proliferation of factory farms.But it came with a backlash Authenticity mattered to some Proliferation of processed fried chicken led to a yearning for its original form Skillet fried, not pressure fried, became the chicken grail In the 1970s, hippies and other counter culture types congregated in Tennessee and in the mountains of north Georgia created communities focused on a simpler existence of organic, sustainable diets and products Although they didn t have a broad cultural reach, their influence grew steadily and infiltrated affluent communities and big business in later years.The most critical event, however, in the changing perception of the South was political the election of former Georgia governor Jimmy Carter as president in 1976 His ascendancy changed how the nation viewed the South, it became cool It s largest metropolis, Atlanta, still shrouded in Gone With the Wind Hollywood nostalgia, experienced a rebirth, thanks in large part to its airport, built in the 1970s and now the busiest in the world Southern food also became ascendant, it had a vernacular cuisine, one that expressed its culture as distinctively as its spoken southern drawl, complete with regional variations One of the most important saints of the this movement was Edna Lewis, who elevated soul food and restored memories of the African origins of Southern cuisine, contributions of slaves and their descendants, which included chefs at top restaurants in the South.Other influences contributed Cooking shows on small public television stations showed people how to make authentic new Southern dishes actually old ones that found social acceptability They were featured in cookbooks that imparted the wisdom of great chefs to lay audiences Established local restaurants found new audiences Writers like Calvin Trillin celebrated their diversity and authenticity, attracting diners from around the nation and the world Red beans and rice from New Orleans, Carolina shrimp and grits, regional barbecue from the Carolinas to Memphis to Texas, and local hamburger variations like Oklahoma onion burgers and Mississippi slug burgers started to get their due.At the same time, Craig Claiborne, the food editor of the New York Times, a native of the Mississippi Delta, became the nation s culinary kingmaker He traveled the world, dining at and writing about the best of European and Asian restaurants Having left the South as a young gay man, he lost touch with his home region But as he began traveling through the South again in the 1970s, he realized the food he shunned from the region he was escaping was as sophisticated as what he experienced around the world, it just didn t have the reputation He summoned chefs to his New York home, cooked with them, learned their secrets and became the champion of chefs like Paul Prudhomme from Louisiana and Sema Wilkes, who had toiled in Savannah, Georgia kitchens since the 1940s.Beginning in the mid 1980s, chef driven restaurants began to proliferate in Southern cities, a trend that started in California Its growth in the South had a different character Unlike the traditional cuisines of France, Japan, or the American South, rooted in home cooking and community events, California cuisine began in restaurants Southern chefs polished off old recipes, reinvented them, and created new ones with familiar ingredients Interestingly, in the two cities most identified with this trend, the catalysts that transformed their culinary renaissances were epic disasters Hurricane Hugo in Charleston, South Carolina in 1989 and the man made catastrophe that almost destroyed New Orleans, Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 Their star chefs became media darlings.Two features that defined the Charleston and New Orleans worlds could also be found in other Southern cities as they experienced corresponding trends First, virtually all of them relied almost excelsively on locally sourced ingredients Sean Brock, the chef owner of Charleston s Husk, became the leader of reviving grains like Carolina red rice, other raw ingredients, and techniques that had been lost due to the cultural neglect and food industrialization He searched old cookbooks and histories to identify African origins that had crossed the Atlantic with the slave trade Brock revived and updated recipes, learning techniques of cooking, fermentation, and food preservation that had been lost His collaboration provided palettes for Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills, who rediscovered varieties of seeds and revived lost milling processes, for example, of authentic methods of producing grits from corn.This food scene had economic consequences as well The disasters that renewed Charleston s and New Orleans culinary landscapes brought gentrification middle and upper class tastes and economics to formerly downtrodden or poorer areas of cities It raised real estate prices, renovated factory buildings into white collar businesses and residences, and put them out of reach of the working classes Many of the restaurants that catered to the new residents tailed to aelite clientele But although Gentrification is often dismissed as a negative cultural force, Edge writes, In a region that had long undervalued its people and its products, these developments had some positive effects Southerners began to recognize that food, like music, was a cultural process, worthy of new appraisal There were up and downsides The jury is still out in determining the final verdict on gentrification s impact.It was also a question of style As Edge asks, Does honest food rely on great produce and livestock, born of heirloom seeds and breeds nurtured by farmers with a sense of agricultural possibilities and responsibilities to history Or are the artisans who transform raw ingredients into kitchen and table goods the true heroes of the story The answer, Americans began to discover, was a little of both While many chefs served vernacular cuisine others took shortcuts in trying to emulate them, creating, instead, a veneer cuisine, rendered Southern by what chefs topped it with or placed it atop It was the culinary equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig Like all good things, cuisine could produce fake knock offs.With all these changes, however, there is a dark underside to the legacy of Southern food that eerily brings back hints of plantation culture that was thought to be part of history As Christopher Leonard documented, the pressure to feed a growing population and satisfy its demand for chicken, pork and beef, factory farms have grown exponentially In the process they have driven countless small family farms, the original backbone of American agriculture, out of business and created environmental and economic disasters The want for cheap field labor drove the eighteenth and nineteenth century spread of slavery from the rice fields of the Lowcountry to the cane fields of Louisiana and beyond If small scale agriculture was an American ideal, large scale agriculture, which is to say plantation agriculture, was the original sin of the American South Edge calls factory farms virtual gulags where The workers were brown, the foremen white, the sun unrelenting History is inescapable and repeats in the South.But the new South, mostly concentrated in urban areas, has incorporated new cultures Vietnamese refugees have become citizens In Houston and New Orleans, their culinary traditions have melded perfectly with indigenous cuisines Latin American immigrants, urban and rural, have created Spanish speaking corridors in places like Atlanta, Charlotte, Baton Rouge and Gainesville You can get Cajun infused pho and redneck tacos without looking too hard You can go to Fort Smith, Arkansas and shop in an exceptional Asian supermarket Or you try the Mexican market in Memphis Slowly the South is changing, but not as quickly as its evolving food heritage.I ll admit to having a love hate relationship with the American South I am a former Southerner who, as I semi jokingly tell friends, escaped Yet no matter where I go, it seems Southern political baggage always follows close behind It has now elected the most reactionary president, Congress and numerous state legislatures since the beginning of the Civil War That strain of Southern conservatism consists of slowly shrinking majorities who, as singer songwriter Patterson Hood writes, bash their heads against the future, ever South The rest of the country held fast to stereotypes of the South as the American other, a cultural and economic backwater But when no one was looking, the South colonized the North And the North adopted Southern political and cultural s as if they were its own Changes in Southern culture are most obviously expressed in changes in cuisine, they portend a future tense South still in the making a place that will be as Mexican as West African, as Korean as Irish, and will lose none of its essential identity in the process I just hope that kind of identity will overtake the regressive political malignancy that has spread far beyond the Mason Dixon line sooner rather than later The history of the Southern food gives me a little hope


  2. Frances Dowell Frances Dowell says:

    3.75 stars The Potlikker Papers is largely about the politics of food who eats high on the hog, who eats low on the hog, who owns the hog and how that hog was raised The first 180 pages alone are worth the price of admission, and I hope they spark a renewed interest in Civil Rights figures such as Fannie Lou Hamer who I thought I knew something about, but I learned a whole lothere and Georgia Gil, a previously unsung hero of the movement.Edge does a marvelous job of documenting the 3.75 stars The Potlikker Papers is largely about the politics of food who eats high on the hog, who eats low on the hog, who owns the hog and how that hog was raised The first 180 pages alone are worth the price of admission, and I hope they spark a renewed interest in Civil Rights figures such as Fannie Lou Hamer who I thought I knew something about, but I learned a whole lothere and Georgia Gil, a previously unsung hero of the movement.Edge does a marvelous job of documenting the changes in Southern food culture from the 1950s into the 1980s and 90s The chapter on fast food in particular really gets at how foodways evolved during this period Fast food, frozen food and canned biscuits did a lot to change the way Southern women like my mother in law cooked In fact, I know a whole lot of working women from that generation who hold no nostalgia for the hard labor of cultivating and preserving food They spent their childhoods doing it, and as adults they werethan happy to feed their families beans from a can and cookies from a box They d grow a few tomatoes in the summer, but that s as far as it went.Edge also documents how economic growth transformed the South during the late 20th century and on into the 21st century Once considered one big backwater, the South turned into an economic powerhouse in the 1980s and 90s Atlanta, Charlotte, and North Carolina s Research Triangle Park became some of the fastest growing areas in the country Even Birmingham, Alabama, became nice place to settle down and raise a family Birmingham I ve lived in the South most of my adult life and some during my childhood as well , and it s been interesting to see the overall effects of this revitalized economy One thing is for sure the resulting hybrid vigor has served to flatten out a lot of regional idiosyncrasies, which makes it tough if you re a writer interested in local and regional foodways What Edge chooses to focus on as he moves into the 21st century is artisanal food And this, for me, is where the book stumbles where it s no longer a people s history of food, but a foodie s history of food His focus in chapters such as Artisanal Pantry and Restaurant Renaissance is on growers and chefs who are breathing new life into traditional foods, folks who occupy theesoteric corners of Southern foodways So, for instance, the star of Artisanal Pantry is Glenn Roberts, who founded Anson Mills with the aim of making grits from heirloom corn Roberts sounds like a fascinating man, and I d like to give those grits a try sometime Sam Edwards slow cured country ham also sounds delicious But while these men and the others profiled in these chapter all men, by the way, which is irritating may be doing the Lord s work, they re preaching to a fairly small choir, and it concerns me that Edge doesn t own that fact Quite the opposite at the end of Artisanal Pantry, Edge tries to convince us that in the 21st century Southerners ditched brine injected city ham for long cured country ham They rejected grocery store pap for stone ground grits In the 2000s, as the region awakened to the economic and cultural promise of craft production, Southerners embraced artisan possibilities across a spectrum that connected agriculture and industry and pop culture and included moonshine, antebellum grits, three year old heirloom ham, cane sugar Coca Cola, and twenty year old Pappy moonshine.Well, like I said, I ve lived in the south for a long time, and it s true that in the last ten years these things have been made available to me, especially if my husband and I trek to downtown Durham and eat in one of its finer restaurants But of my husband s thirty odd Southern Baptist cousins, the grandchildren of millworkers, the children of truck drivers and teachers, a number of them the first in their families to graduate college and move into the middle class, I can guarantee you that not one has an interest in artisanal whiskey, and if they eat ham at all they re mostly a health conscious bunch it s from a spiral ham bought at Harris Teeter or Honeybaked Ham at Christmas and or Easter I can t claim to know their grit preferences, but they re sensible people and unlikely to spend 6 to 10 on a pound of deracinated corn.I m not saying that that artisanal grits have no place in the discussion of Southern foodways I personally love what Glenn Roberts is doing, I just reject the claim that what he s doing is having a huge impact on how most Southerners eat There s something about this chapter and the next two that strike me as off the mark If you really want to talk about growers, thinkers and cooks that have had a large regional and national impact, then why not discuss heavy hitters such as Barbara Kingsolver, a Kentucky native, novelist and Wendell Berry acolyte, whose book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, published in 2007, joined Michael Pollan s The Omnivore s Dilemma in changing how many Americans, particularly middle class suburbanites, thought about food Or what about Chef Vivian Howard, star of the PBS show A Chef s Life Howard s trajectory strikes me as very similar to a lot of my smalltown Southern friends she grew up wanting nothingthan to get the hell out of Dodge as soon as she could, and she did Eventually she moved to New York City with the intention of becoming a writer and ended up a cook When her parents offered to help her open a restaurant in Kinston, NC, she couldn t refuse, and so home she came A Chef s Life documents her experience opening a restaurant, but also it also documents how Howard came to re embrace her food heritage The show has struck a chord with a lot of people I know who grew up in the South, grew beyond the South, and then ultimately returned to reclaim their Southern roots The last two chapters of The Potlikker Papers return to a people s history of food and are well worth reading In particular, the final chapter, Nuevo Sud, gets at what s exciting about Southern food right now all these brand new southerners, recent immigrants from Mexico, India, Africa, and Asia, bringing their cultures foodways into the mix Unlike Glenn Roberts and Sean Brock, these cooks really are changing the way working class and middle class Southerners eat, as well as changing our ideas of what it means to be Southern in the 21st century


  3. Retired Reader Retired Reader says:

    An excellent read if you want to knowabout food, the South, or both Edge explores food in the South from the 1950 s through the 2010 s, and discusses various influences on cuisine I ve lived in Tennessee my entire life 55 years , and this book explores the background of foods, chefs, and restaurants in ways I ve never known about For example, how did Hurricane Katrina affect the food and restaurants in New Orleans I was very interested to learn how the ancestors of slaves had an impac An excellent read if you want to knowabout food, the South, or both Edge explores food in the South from the 1950 s through the 2010 s, and discusses various influences on cuisine I ve lived in Tennessee my entire life 55 years , and this book explores the background of foods, chefs, and restaurants in ways I ve never known about For example, how did Hurricane Katrina affect the food and restaurants in New Orleans I was very interested to learn how the ancestors of slaves had an impact on Southern food and cooking Now I want to read a similar history of food in the not so modern South


  4. Phoebe Phoebe says:

    2.5 stars I feel guilty for settling on a rough, ungenerous rating for this book, because I did like it for many of its qualities Solid, thorough history documented research interspersed with personal interviews a discussion of race, socioeconomics, immigration, etc and overall a complex undertaking of the relationship between history and Southern food Super interesting stuff and a topic I didn t know too much about.Unfortunately, this started out really well but developed into a slog for 2.5 stars I feel guilty for settling on a rough, ungenerous rating for this book, because I did like it for many of its qualities Solid, thorough history documented research interspersed with personal interviews a discussion of race, socioeconomics, immigration, etc and overall a complex undertaking of the relationship between history and Southern food Super interesting stuff and a topic I didn t know too much about.Unfortunately, this started out really well but developed into a slog for me to read about halfway through I think I lost interest when I realized that the dry writing style of John T Edge would continue on for another 150 pages This read exactly like I expected a historical nonfiction book to read, which isn t exactly a good thing pretty dry, a few good observations here and there, a smattering of really good chapters, but so much descriptive reporting of events, delivered without an ostensible thematic roadmap aside from rough chronology and in a cold, somewhat distant tone Especially in some of the middle sections, I had a hard time following where the author was taking me as a reader and even how certain chapters were grouped together, because they seemed pretty random topic wise.One final note I wasn t sure how to feel whenever the author is white, male, from GA, a prominent professor, author, and editor at Garden Gun magazine spoke at length on the racial issues of the South There were a few points when he meandered pretty far from the connection to food to do a lot of recounting of racial events and tensions that have colored much of the South s history I have mixed feelings about this on one hand, I think that writing a food history of the South without devoting many chapters to slavery, race relations, and the role of the African American community would be a crime of the gravest nature That would be pointblank wrong and John T Edge avoids this for the most part In fact, he dedicates a large number of pages to acknowledge the black chefs, pitmasters, farmers, activists, and pretty much every profession of the South and goes even further in acknowledging that they have gone unacknowledged So props for that, especially since those are the chapters I found the most engaging.What gives me pause, though, is my questions about whether Mr Edge is taking liberties with these stories As an affluent white male, are they really his to tell Every now and then he mentions his own childhood in Georgia, his current life in Mississippi, and I can t help but wonder about his own place in all this His book smacks a little too uncomfortably of white man still having the loudest voice in the room I would have been less skeptical if he had taken apersonal tone throughout the book less declaring history,telling stories from a hyper aware position as a white Southerner I don t blame the author or accuse him of anythingserious than questionable topic choice Nothing in his very respectful words could be construed as racism, but he s exposed himself in a way such that he has to walk an incredibly fine line of white guilt and white ignorance By choosing to write this book, he put himself in a really difficult position, which he must have known from the beginning I admire that he has put himself out there and attempted to write about sensitive and difficult subjects from as objective a place as possible, but in the end, it s still the white man who is doing the talking and I just wish that that wasn t the case Take that as you will.Don t let me deter you, though if you have an inkling of interest in food and the South and the people who cooked it, then definitely give this book a go I didn t care for the writing, hence my kinda low rating, but there was enough fascinating history here to like that made me glad I picked it up


  5. Kayle Kayle says:

    Maybe it s because in 2017 it feels like understanding the South is key to understanding America, or because I grapple with the meaning of being black and woman and Southern and choosing to mostly identify as the latter , or the fact that like jazz, I think Southern food is America s gift to the world, for all those reasons andI thoroughly enjoyed this history surprisingly fast paced or maybe it just felt that way because it was highly engaging of Southern food as it is known and bette Maybe it s because in 2017 it feels like understanding the South is key to understanding America, or because I grapple with the meaning of being black and woman and Southern and choosing to mostly identify as the latter , or the fact that like jazz, I think Southern food is America s gift to the world, for all those reasons andI thoroughly enjoyed this history surprisingly fast paced or maybe it just felt that way because it was highly engaging of Southern food as it is known and better how should know it I could have read a whole book on each of the chapters, but loved the wn chores and individuals he introduces Highly recommended


  6. Gina Gina says:

    It isn t that The Potlikker Papers is a bad book, but it also isn t a Food History of the Modern South It is a social, cultural, and political commentary onto which a few food trends and fads are loosely tied That isn t a bad thing, necessarily In truth, I found it well written with some interesting vignettes However, I think the author could have greatly benefited from a class discussing differences in correlation and causation Just because two trends occupy the same general time frame d It isn t that The Potlikker Papers is a bad book, but it also isn t a Food History of the Modern South It is a social, cultural, and political commentary onto which a few food trends and fads are loosely tied That isn t a bad thing, necessarily In truth, I found it well written with some interesting vignettes However, I think the author could have greatly benefited from a class discussing differences in correlation and causation Just because two trends occupy the same general time frame doesn t mean each is causally related For example, was the increase in farms, growing your own food, and a resurgence of cheaper homemade products like sorghum truly a result of the cultural hippie trends of the 1960 s 1970 s or was itcaused by the dire economic recession and inflation of the same time period leading people to look for cheaper food sources The answer to that is complicated and debatable, but this book seeks to put the two, and other food social political trends together in a direct causal relationship leading to several square peg, round hole scenarios This is the kind of book that would make for great debate in a good book club or a college seminar, but I can t say that I enjoyed it


  7. Alison Hardtmann Alison Hardtmann says:

    Potlikker is the liquid left in the pot after boiling greens like collards or mustard During slavery, the owners would dine on the greens, while the liquid in the pot was left for the slaves to consume This potlikker is farnutritious than the boiled greens and modern Southern chefs have reclaimed it The Potlikker Papers is a social history of food in the American South and how the food the South is known for, from fried chicken to hopping John to gumbo to po boys is a result of the Afr Potlikker is the liquid left in the pot after boiling greens like collards or mustard During slavery, the owners would dine on the greens, while the liquid in the pot was left for the slaves to consume This potlikker is farnutritious than the boiled greens and modern Southern chefs have reclaimed it The Potlikker Papers is a social history of food in the American South and how the food the South is known for, from fried chicken to hopping John to gumbo to po boys is a result of the African, Native American and European cultures that influenced what we eat now John T Edge is the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, and his passion for every aspect of Southern cuisine is evident in every page of this excellent book I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in food or who lives or has lived in the American South For those who appreciate good food and live in one of the Southern states, it s required reading


  8. Dale Cousins Dale Cousins says:

    More of a social history spiced with food than a book on food illustrated by social history, I enjoyed the commentary of how Southern food had evolved in multiple directions over time Be it New Orleans or Charleston or BBQ or Creole or Low Country, the cooks of the South have adapted or made do as my grandma would say It was interesting that everyone Colonel Sanders to Craig Claiborne to Paula Deen to Bill Neal gets equal time Interesting read with a fair amount of time devoted to history More of a social history spiced with food than a book on food illustrated by social history, I enjoyed the commentary of how Southern food had evolved in multiple directions over time Be it New Orleans or Charleston or BBQ or Creole or Low Country, the cooks of the South have adapted or made do as my grandma would say It was interesting that everyone Colonel Sanders to Craig Claiborne to Paula Deen to Bill Neal gets equal time Interesting read with a fair amount of time devoted to history from the 1950 s through 2000 s that I remember


  9. Geoff Geoff says:

    I am hungry The Potlikker Papers made me hungry Also made me want to buy a bunch of cookbooks Edge s anecdotal history of the south and food is fabulous Some very interesting points and great connections I discovered Southern Cooking when I was eighteen and living with my great uncle and aunt in East Texas My maternal grandparents were from North central Texas with heavy southern roots When they moved north, they left the food behind them I rediscovered southern food when my wife was pre I am hungry The Potlikker Papers made me hungry Also made me want to buy a bunch of cookbooks Edge s anecdotal history of the south and food is fabulous Some very interesting points and great connections I discovered Southern Cooking when I was eighteen and living with my great uncle and aunt in East Texas My maternal grandparents were from North central Texas with heavy southern roots When they moved north, they left the food behind them I rediscovered southern food when my wife was pregnant with our first daughter Collard greens are great for morning sickness We lived in West Philly and could get collards and other southern foods cuts of meat Began with Craig Claibonre s Southern Cooking and haven t stopped The Potlikker Papers does a great job of linking the changes in the south through food


  10. MargaretDH MargaretDH says:

    Using the lens of food, this book examines the south from the Civil Rights Movement until today Edge takes cooks and chefs usually from an era, and using their story as a grounding, explores their era, environment and traditions It s an interesting book if you re interested in food, especially if you like tracing the evolution of dishes and cuisines Having a grounding in the history of the times and places he was discussing was helpful but certainly not necessary to enjoying this book.Also, Using the lens of food, this book examines the south from the Civil Rights Movement until today Edge takes cooks and chefs usually from an era, and using their story as a grounding, explores their era, environment and traditions It s an interesting book if you re interested in food, especially if you like tracing the evolution of dishes and cuisines Having a grounding in the history of the times and places he was discussing was helpful but certainly not necessary to enjoying this book.Also, this is straight history There are no recipes or anything of that sort


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The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South ❮Epub❯ ➟ The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South ➞ Author John T. Edge – Capitalsoftworks.co.uk The one food book you must read this yearSouthern Living One of Christopher Kimball s Six Favorite Books About FoodA people s history that reveals how Southerners shaped American culinary identity and The one food Papers: A eBook ´ book you must read this yearSouthern Living One of Christopher Kimball s Six Favorite books About FoodA people s history that reveals how Southerners shaped American culinary identity and how race relations impacted Southern food culture over six revolutionary decadesLike great provincial dishes The Potlikker Epub / around the world, potlikker is a salvage food During the antebellum era, slave owners ate the greens from the pot and set aside the leftover potlikker broth for the enslaved, unaware that the broth, not the greens, was nutrient rich After slavery, potlikker sustained the working poor, Potlikker Papers: A PDF ☆ both black and white In the South of today, potlikker has taken on new meanings as chefs have reclaimed it Potlikker is a quintessential Southern dish, and The Potlikker Papers is a people s history of the modern South, told through its food Beginning with the pivotal role cooks and waiters played in the civil rights movement, noted authority John T Edge narrates the South s fitful journey from a hive of racism to a hotbed of American immigration He shows why working class Southern food has become a vital driver of contemporary American cuisineFood access was a battleground issue during the s and s Ownership of culinary traditions has remained a central contention on the long march toward equality The Potlikker Papers tracks pivotal moments in Southern history, from the back to the land movement of the s to the rise of fast and convenience foods modeled on rural staples Edge narrates the gentrification that gained traction in the restaurants of the s and the artisanal renaissance that began to reconnect farmers and cooks in the s He reports as a newer South came into focus in the s and s, enriched by the arrival of immigrants from Mexico to Vietnam and many points in between Along the way, Edge profiles extraordinary figures in Southern food, including Fannie Lou Hamer, Colonel Sanders, Mahalia Jackson, Edna Lewis, Paul Prudhomme, Craig Claiborne, and Sean BrockOver the last three generations, wrenching changes have transformed the South The Potlikker Papers tells the story of that dynamism and reveals how Southern food has become a shared culinary language for the nation.

10 thoughts on “The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South

  1. Greg Brozeit Greg Brozeit says:

    Yesterday, the individual who occupies the American presidency referred to the nations of Africa, Central America and Haiti as shitholes A few things related to The Potlikker Papers came to mind as I considered the stupidity of the racist who now is responsible for leading this nation He obviously has no idea of history Slaves from Africa built this country and American cuisine would be unthinkable without their essential contributions to its heritage.I lived in New Orleans during the most Yesterday, the individual who occupies the American presidency referred to the nations of Africa, Central America and Haiti as shitholes A few things related to The Potlikker Papers came to mind as I considered the stupidity of the racist who now is responsible for leading this nation He obviously has no idea of history Slaves from Africa built this country and American cuisine would be unthinkable without their essential contributions to its heritage.I lived in New Orleans during the most integral years of my life If you re from south Louisiana, then you know that gumbo is the culinary Holy Grail It s a dark stew that literally defines the region Everyone claims to know where to get the best My favorite is filled with shrimp, oysters and crab But there are also great chicken and sausage versions And I can still tase the version with chicken neck bones the chef at a restaurant I worked in used to make for the staff The common ingredient in all gumbos is okra, a vegetable that s hard to describe to anyone who doesn t know what it is It has small round seeds It is not native to North America it came from West Africa, where the word for okra was gumbo When captured Africans were rounded up on the coasts to be shipped to a place they could not have conceived, many of them grasped at the gumbo plants, took out the seeds, and put them in their hair When they reached their destinations, when they were the reason the South became the agricultural powerhouse of the U.S., they planted these seeds and gave birth to a new cuisine, a genuine American cuisine.Other slaves brought the small beans and rice kernels that were the foundation of Carolina cuisine and their signature dish, hoppin John The style of cooking large animals in the ground, covered with spices and simmered over the course of a day became what we now know as barbecue I love telling good ole white boys in the South that their favorite food would have never happened had it not been for the ancestors of the people they hate, deride and discriminate against.I am so embarrassed by the so called man in the White House He degrades not only our nation, but because of the power of his office, our world as well I find it fitting that he lives on fast food, that he takes pride in eating well done steak slathered in ketchup It helps explain his worldview The less diverse one s cuisine is, the narrower one s mind likely is John T Edge s book is a testament to explaining this thesis Our Dear Leader makes its conclusion inescapable.Original ReviewIt takes some doing to make sense out of the American South John T Edge s The Potlikker Papers A Food History of the Modern South gets pretty close to it Reading Edge is, for me, like viewing a Walker Evans photograph both create simple, profound narratives that are deeper than what s on the surface The cultural impact of Southern food is not as obvious as it is with music Mississippi Delta Blues gave birth to rock and roll Jazz, Folk, Bluegrass, Country, Soul and Western swing all children of the South added the other essential ingredients Ironically, although the South has long been identified with slavery and prejudice, fairly or not, its musical progeny was a vital expression of freedom and resistance in totalitarian and authoritarian societies of the 20th century I find it interesting that Southerners like Louis Jordan and Hank Williams sang about food Implicitly, I think they imply connections freedom of expression and a satisfied stomach.Like great provincial dishes around the world, potlikker is salvage food During the antebellum era, slaveholders ate the greens from the pot, setting aside the potlikker for enslaved cooks and their families, unaware that the broth, not the greens, was nutrient rich After slavery, potlikker sustained the working poor, black and white I lived on what I did not eat, Richard Wright wrote Perhaps the sunshine, the fresh air, and the pot liquor from greens kept me going The potlikker of Edge s narrative isthan a story about a nourishing broth It s a culinary heritage of a diverse, ever changing region that has mostly been underappreciated But Edge reveals a deeper, metaphorical, cultural potlikker It s about who we, as Americans, are.Edge begins on familiar ground, but not one normally associated with food the Civil Rights movement When Martin Luther King, Jr led the Montgomery bus boycotts and mass meetings at the Holt Street Baptist Church, how many thought about the vital roles women like Georgia Gil and many others played when they worked the kitchens of white families and, when they were off the clock, would cook and serve the meals nourishing the front lines of the movement Or that the freedom to eat where one pleased was integral to civil rights The symbolism of the long unbroken table was important to Southerners Many had been schooled from infancy in Last Supper imagery Sharing a meal signaled social equality And no eating space promiseddemocracy than a lunch counter, where diners stooped to take their seats and eat with people of other sexes and, eventually, other races The problem was, for much of the South s history, neither the people who owned lunch counters nor the people who patronized them were at their best.Indeed, when he was assassinated, King made the right to nourishing food central to the Poor People s Campaign Civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer believed that black Southerners would not achieve full citizenship until they claimed their sovereignty over their diet But Hamer s vision stalled and actually went in different direction with the proliferation of fast food, which had its roots in the South.McDonald s gets the credit for changing the diets and roadsides of suburban America, but it was the Pig Stand chain, founded in 1920s Dallas that popularized drive in service across the nation Its model may have served as an inspiration for McDonald s, which included barbecue pork and beef sandwiches on early menus Fast food offered a mirage of social mobility, Southerners with lower incomes were ideal fast food customers A burger, a sleeve of fries, and a shake promised a sugar rush, a full stomach, and temporary middle class status The first titan of fast food, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and its numerous imitators spread the gospel of deep fried, pressure cooked chicken around the country and the world, exporting a Southern experience in standardized packages But fast food came with a price obesity, cultural homogenization, and the proliferation of factory farms.But it came with a backlash Authenticity mattered to some Proliferation of processed fried chicken led to a yearning for its original form Skillet fried, not pressure fried, became the chicken grail In the 1970s, hippies and other counter culture types congregated in Tennessee and in the mountains of north Georgia created communities focused on a simpler existence of organic, sustainable diets and products Although they didn t have a broad cultural reach, their influence grew steadily and infiltrated affluent communities and big business in later years.The most critical event, however, in the changing perception of the South was political the election of former Georgia governor Jimmy Carter as president in 1976 His ascendancy changed how the nation viewed the South, it became cool It s largest metropolis, Atlanta, still shrouded in Gone With the Wind Hollywood nostalgia, experienced a rebirth, thanks in large part to its airport, built in the 1970s and now the busiest in the world Southern food also became ascendant, it had a vernacular cuisine, one that expressed its culture as distinctively as its spoken southern drawl, complete with regional variations One of the most important saints of the this movement was Edna Lewis, who elevated soul food and restored memories of the African origins of Southern cuisine, contributions of slaves and their descendants, which included chefs at top restaurants in the South.Other influences contributed Cooking shows on small public television stations showed people how to make authentic new Southern dishes actually old ones that found social acceptability They were featured in cookbooks that imparted the wisdom of great chefs to lay audiences Established local restaurants found new audiences Writers like Calvin Trillin celebrated their diversity and authenticity, attracting diners from around the nation and the world Red beans and rice from New Orleans, Carolina shrimp and grits, regional barbecue from the Carolinas to Memphis to Texas, and local hamburger variations like Oklahoma onion burgers and Mississippi slug burgers started to get their due.At the same time, Craig Claiborne, the food editor of the New York Times, a native of the Mississippi Delta, became the nation s culinary kingmaker He traveled the world, dining at and writing about the best of European and Asian restaurants Having left the South as a young gay man, he lost touch with his home region But as he began traveling through the South again in the 1970s, he realized the food he shunned from the region he was escaping was as sophisticated as what he experienced around the world, it just didn t have the reputation He summoned chefs to his New York home, cooked with them, learned their secrets and became the champion of chefs like Paul Prudhomme from Louisiana and Sema Wilkes, who had toiled in Savannah, Georgia kitchens since the 1940s.Beginning in the mid 1980s, chef driven restaurants began to proliferate in Southern cities, a trend that started in California Its growth in the South had a different character Unlike the traditional cuisines of France, Japan, or the American South, rooted in home cooking and community events, California cuisine began in restaurants Southern chefs polished off old recipes, reinvented them, and created new ones with familiar ingredients Interestingly, in the two cities most identified with this trend, the catalysts that transformed their culinary renaissances were epic disasters Hurricane Hugo in Charleston, South Carolina in 1989 and the man made catastrophe that almost destroyed New Orleans, Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 Their star chefs became media darlings.Two features that defined the Charleston and New Orleans worlds could also be found in other Southern cities as they experienced corresponding trends First, virtually all of them relied almost excelsively on locally sourced ingredients Sean Brock, the chef owner of Charleston s Husk, became the leader of reviving grains like Carolina red rice, other raw ingredients, and techniques that had been lost due to the cultural neglect and food industrialization He searched old cookbooks and histories to identify African origins that had crossed the Atlantic with the slave trade Brock revived and updated recipes, learning techniques of cooking, fermentation, and food preservation that had been lost His collaboration provided palettes for Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills, who rediscovered varieties of seeds and revived lost milling processes, for example, of authentic methods of producing grits from corn.This food scene had economic consequences as well The disasters that renewed Charleston s and New Orleans culinary landscapes brought gentrification middle and upper class tastes and economics to formerly downtrodden or poorer areas of cities It raised real estate prices, renovated factory buildings into white collar businesses and residences, and put them out of reach of the working classes Many of the restaurants that catered to the new residents tailed to aelite clientele But although Gentrification is often dismissed as a negative cultural force, Edge writes, In a region that had long undervalued its people and its products, these developments had some positive effects Southerners began to recognize that food, like music, was a cultural process, worthy of new appraisal There were up and downsides The jury is still out in determining the final verdict on gentrification s impact.It was also a question of style As Edge asks, Does honest food rely on great produce and livestock, born of heirloom seeds and breeds nurtured by farmers with a sense of agricultural possibilities and responsibilities to history Or are the artisans who transform raw ingredients into kitchen and table goods the true heroes of the story The answer, Americans began to discover, was a little of both While many chefs served vernacular cuisine others took shortcuts in trying to emulate them, creating, instead, a veneer cuisine, rendered Southern by what chefs topped it with or placed it atop It was the culinary equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig Like all good things, cuisine could produce fake knock offs.With all these changes, however, there is a dark underside to the legacy of Southern food that eerily brings back hints of plantation culture that was thought to be part of history As Christopher Leonard documented, the pressure to feed a growing population and satisfy its demand for chicken, pork and beef, factory farms have grown exponentially In the process they have driven countless small family farms, the original backbone of American agriculture, out of business and created environmental and economic disasters The want for cheap field labor drove the eighteenth and nineteenth century spread of slavery from the rice fields of the Lowcountry to the cane fields of Louisiana and beyond If small scale agriculture was an American ideal, large scale agriculture, which is to say plantation agriculture, was the original sin of the American South Edge calls factory farms virtual gulags where The workers were brown, the foremen white, the sun unrelenting History is inescapable and repeats in the South.But the new South, mostly concentrated in urban areas, has incorporated new cultures Vietnamese refugees have become citizens In Houston and New Orleans, their culinary traditions have melded perfectly with indigenous cuisines Latin American immigrants, urban and rural, have created Spanish speaking corridors in places like Atlanta, Charlotte, Baton Rouge and Gainesville You can get Cajun infused pho and redneck tacos without looking too hard You can go to Fort Smith, Arkansas and shop in an exceptional Asian supermarket Or you try the Mexican market in Memphis Slowly the South is changing, but not as quickly as its evolving food heritage.I ll admit to having a love hate relationship with the American South I am a former Southerner who, as I semi jokingly tell friends, escaped Yet no matter where I go, it seems Southern political baggage always follows close behind It has now elected the most reactionary president, Congress and numerous state legislatures since the beginning of the Civil War That strain of Southern conservatism consists of slowly shrinking majorities who, as singer songwriter Patterson Hood writes, bash their heads against the future, ever South The rest of the country held fast to stereotypes of the South as the American other, a cultural and economic backwater But when no one was looking, the South colonized the North And the North adopted Southern political and cultural s as if they were its own Changes in Southern culture are most obviously expressed in changes in cuisine, they portend a future tense South still in the making a place that will be as Mexican as West African, as Korean as Irish, and will lose none of its essential identity in the process I just hope that kind of identity will overtake the regressive political malignancy that has spread far beyond the Mason Dixon line sooner rather than later The history of the Southern food gives me a little hope

  2. Frances Dowell Frances Dowell says:

    3.75 stars The Potlikker Papers is largely about the politics of food who eats high on the hog, who eats low on the hog, who owns the hog and how that hog was raised The first 180 pages alone are worth the price of admission, and I hope they spark a renewed interest in Civil Rights figures such as Fannie Lou Hamer who I thought I knew something about, but I learned a whole lothere and Georgia Gil, a previously unsung hero of the movement.Edge does a marvelous job of documenting the 3.75 stars The Potlikker Papers is largely about the politics of food who eats high on the hog, who eats low on the hog, who owns the hog and how that hog was raised The first 180 pages alone are worth the price of admission, and I hope they spark a renewed interest in Civil Rights figures such as Fannie Lou Hamer who I thought I knew something about, but I learned a whole lothere and Georgia Gil, a previously unsung hero of the movement.Edge does a marvelous job of documenting the changes in Southern food culture from the 1950s into the 1980s and 90s The chapter on fast food in particular really gets at how foodways evolved during this period Fast food, frozen food and canned biscuits did a lot to change the way Southern women like my mother in law cooked In fact, I know a whole lot of working women from that generation who hold no nostalgia for the hard labor of cultivating and preserving food They spent their childhoods doing it, and as adults they werethan happy to feed their families beans from a can and cookies from a box They d grow a few tomatoes in the summer, but that s as far as it went.Edge also documents how economic growth transformed the South during the late 20th century and on into the 21st century Once considered one big backwater, the South turned into an economic powerhouse in the 1980s and 90s Atlanta, Charlotte, and North Carolina s Research Triangle Park became some of the fastest growing areas in the country Even Birmingham, Alabama, became nice place to settle down and raise a family Birmingham I ve lived in the South most of my adult life and some during my childhood as well , and it s been interesting to see the overall effects of this revitalized economy One thing is for sure the resulting hybrid vigor has served to flatten out a lot of regional idiosyncrasies, which makes it tough if you re a writer interested in local and regional foodways What Edge chooses to focus on as he moves into the 21st century is artisanal food And this, for me, is where the book stumbles where it s no longer a people s history of food, but a foodie s history of food His focus in chapters such as Artisanal Pantry and Restaurant Renaissance is on growers and chefs who are breathing new life into traditional foods, folks who occupy theesoteric corners of Southern foodways So, for instance, the star of Artisanal Pantry is Glenn Roberts, who founded Anson Mills with the aim of making grits from heirloom corn Roberts sounds like a fascinating man, and I d like to give those grits a try sometime Sam Edwards slow cured country ham also sounds delicious But while these men and the others profiled in these chapter all men, by the way, which is irritating may be doing the Lord s work, they re preaching to a fairly small choir, and it concerns me that Edge doesn t own that fact Quite the opposite at the end of Artisanal Pantry, Edge tries to convince us that in the 21st century Southerners ditched brine injected city ham for long cured country ham They rejected grocery store pap for stone ground grits In the 2000s, as the region awakened to the economic and cultural promise of craft production, Southerners embraced artisan possibilities across a spectrum that connected agriculture and industry and pop culture and included moonshine, antebellum grits, three year old heirloom ham, cane sugar Coca Cola, and twenty year old Pappy moonshine.Well, like I said, I ve lived in the south for a long time, and it s true that in the last ten years these things have been made available to me, especially if my husband and I trek to downtown Durham and eat in one of its finer restaurants But of my husband s thirty odd Southern Baptist cousins, the grandchildren of millworkers, the children of truck drivers and teachers, a number of them the first in their families to graduate college and move into the middle class, I can guarantee you that not one has an interest in artisanal whiskey, and if they eat ham at all they re mostly a health conscious bunch it s from a spiral ham bought at Harris Teeter or Honeybaked Ham at Christmas and or Easter I can t claim to know their grit preferences, but they re sensible people and unlikely to spend 6 to 10 on a pound of deracinated corn.I m not saying that that artisanal grits have no place in the discussion of Southern foodways I personally love what Glenn Roberts is doing, I just reject the claim that what he s doing is having a huge impact on how most Southerners eat There s something about this chapter and the next two that strike me as off the mark If you really want to talk about growers, thinkers and cooks that have had a large regional and national impact, then why not discuss heavy hitters such as Barbara Kingsolver, a Kentucky native, novelist and Wendell Berry acolyte, whose book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, published in 2007, joined Michael Pollan s The Omnivore s Dilemma in changing how many Americans, particularly middle class suburbanites, thought about food Or what about Chef Vivian Howard, star of the PBS show A Chef s Life Howard s trajectory strikes me as very similar to a lot of my smalltown Southern friends she grew up wanting nothingthan to get the hell out of Dodge as soon as she could, and she did Eventually she moved to New York City with the intention of becoming a writer and ended up a cook When her parents offered to help her open a restaurant in Kinston, NC, she couldn t refuse, and so home she came A Chef s Life documents her experience opening a restaurant, but also it also documents how Howard came to re embrace her food heritage The show has struck a chord with a lot of people I know who grew up in the South, grew beyond the South, and then ultimately returned to reclaim their Southern roots The last two chapters of The Potlikker Papers return to a people s history of food and are well worth reading In particular, the final chapter, Nuevo Sud, gets at what s exciting about Southern food right now all these brand new southerners, recent immigrants from Mexico, India, Africa, and Asia, bringing their cultures foodways into the mix Unlike Glenn Roberts and Sean Brock, these cooks really are changing the way working class and middle class Southerners eat, as well as changing our ideas of what it means to be Southern in the 21st century

  3. Retired Reader Retired Reader says:

    An excellent read if you want to knowabout food, the South, or both Edge explores food in the South from the 1950 s through the 2010 s, and discusses various influences on cuisine I ve lived in Tennessee my entire life 55 years , and this book explores the background of foods, chefs, and restaurants in ways I ve never known about For example, how did Hurricane Katrina affect the food and restaurants in New Orleans I was very interested to learn how the ancestors of slaves had an impac An excellent read if you want to knowabout food, the South, or both Edge explores food in the South from the 1950 s through the 2010 s, and discusses various influences on cuisine I ve lived in Tennessee my entire life 55 years , and this book explores the background of foods, chefs, and restaurants in ways I ve never known about For example, how did Hurricane Katrina affect the food and restaurants in New Orleans I was very interested to learn how the ancestors of slaves had an impact on Southern food and cooking Now I want to read a similar history of food in the not so modern South

  4. Phoebe Phoebe says:

    2.5 stars I feel guilty for settling on a rough, ungenerous rating for this book, because I did like it for many of its qualities Solid, thorough history documented research interspersed with personal interviews a discussion of race, socioeconomics, immigration, etc and overall a complex undertaking of the relationship between history and Southern food Super interesting stuff and a topic I didn t know too much about.Unfortunately, this started out really well but developed into a slog for 2.5 stars I feel guilty for settling on a rough, ungenerous rating for this book, because I did like it for many of its qualities Solid, thorough history documented research interspersed with personal interviews a discussion of race, socioeconomics, immigration, etc and overall a complex undertaking of the relationship between history and Southern food Super interesting stuff and a topic I didn t know too much about.Unfortunately, this started out really well but developed into a slog for me to read about halfway through I think I lost interest when I realized that the dry writing style of John T Edge would continue on for another 150 pages This read exactly like I expected a historical nonfiction book to read, which isn t exactly a good thing pretty dry, a few good observations here and there, a smattering of really good chapters, but so much descriptive reporting of events, delivered without an ostensible thematic roadmap aside from rough chronology and in a cold, somewhat distant tone Especially in some of the middle sections, I had a hard time following where the author was taking me as a reader and even how certain chapters were grouped together, because they seemed pretty random topic wise.One final note I wasn t sure how to feel whenever the author is white, male, from GA, a prominent professor, author, and editor at Garden Gun magazine spoke at length on the racial issues of the South There were a few points when he meandered pretty far from the connection to food to do a lot of recounting of racial events and tensions that have colored much of the South s history I have mixed feelings about this on one hand, I think that writing a food history of the South without devoting many chapters to slavery, race relations, and the role of the African American community would be a crime of the gravest nature That would be pointblank wrong and John T Edge avoids this for the most part In fact, he dedicates a large number of pages to acknowledge the black chefs, pitmasters, farmers, activists, and pretty much every profession of the South and goes even further in acknowledging that they have gone unacknowledged So props for that, especially since those are the chapters I found the most engaging.What gives me pause, though, is my questions about whether Mr Edge is taking liberties with these stories As an affluent white male, are they really his to tell Every now and then he mentions his own childhood in Georgia, his current life in Mississippi, and I can t help but wonder about his own place in all this His book smacks a little too uncomfortably of white man still having the loudest voice in the room I would have been less skeptical if he had taken apersonal tone throughout the book less declaring history,telling stories from a hyper aware position as a white Southerner I don t blame the author or accuse him of anythingserious than questionable topic choice Nothing in his very respectful words could be construed as racism, but he s exposed himself in a way such that he has to walk an incredibly fine line of white guilt and white ignorance By choosing to write this book, he put himself in a really difficult position, which he must have known from the beginning I admire that he has put himself out there and attempted to write about sensitive and difficult subjects from as objective a place as possible, but in the end, it s still the white man who is doing the talking and I just wish that that wasn t the case Take that as you will.Don t let me deter you, though if you have an inkling of interest in food and the South and the people who cooked it, then definitely give this book a go I didn t care for the writing, hence my kinda low rating, but there was enough fascinating history here to like that made me glad I picked it up

  5. Kayle Kayle says:

    Maybe it s because in 2017 it feels like understanding the South is key to understanding America, or because I grapple with the meaning of being black and woman and Southern and choosing to mostly identify as the latter , or the fact that like jazz, I think Southern food is America s gift to the world, for all those reasons andI thoroughly enjoyed this history surprisingly fast paced or maybe it just felt that way because it was highly engaging of Southern food as it is known and bette Maybe it s because in 2017 it feels like understanding the South is key to understanding America, or because I grapple with the meaning of being black and woman and Southern and choosing to mostly identify as the latter , or the fact that like jazz, I think Southern food is America s gift to the world, for all those reasons andI thoroughly enjoyed this history surprisingly fast paced or maybe it just felt that way because it was highly engaging of Southern food as it is known and better how should know it I could have read a whole book on each of the chapters, but loved the wn chores and individuals he introduces Highly recommended

  6. Gina Gina says:

    It isn t that The Potlikker Papers is a bad book, but it also isn t a Food History of the Modern South It is a social, cultural, and political commentary onto which a few food trends and fads are loosely tied That isn t a bad thing, necessarily In truth, I found it well written with some interesting vignettes However, I think the author could have greatly benefited from a class discussing differences in correlation and causation Just because two trends occupy the same general time frame d It isn t that The Potlikker Papers is a bad book, but it also isn t a Food History of the Modern South It is a social, cultural, and political commentary onto which a few food trends and fads are loosely tied That isn t a bad thing, necessarily In truth, I found it well written with some interesting vignettes However, I think the author could have greatly benefited from a class discussing differences in correlation and causation Just because two trends occupy the same general time frame doesn t mean each is causally related For example, was the increase in farms, growing your own food, and a resurgence of cheaper homemade products like sorghum truly a result of the cultural hippie trends of the 1960 s 1970 s or was itcaused by the dire economic recession and inflation of the same time period leading people to look for cheaper food sources The answer to that is complicated and debatable, but this book seeks to put the two, and other food social political trends together in a direct causal relationship leading to several square peg, round hole scenarios This is the kind of book that would make for great debate in a good book club or a college seminar, but I can t say that I enjoyed it

  7. Alison Hardtmann Alison Hardtmann says:

    Potlikker is the liquid left in the pot after boiling greens like collards or mustard During slavery, the owners would dine on the greens, while the liquid in the pot was left for the slaves to consume This potlikker is farnutritious than the boiled greens and modern Southern chefs have reclaimed it The Potlikker Papers is a social history of food in the American South and how the food the South is known for, from fried chicken to hopping John to gumbo to po boys is a result of the Afr Potlikker is the liquid left in the pot after boiling greens like collards or mustard During slavery, the owners would dine on the greens, while the liquid in the pot was left for the slaves to consume This potlikker is farnutritious than the boiled greens and modern Southern chefs have reclaimed it The Potlikker Papers is a social history of food in the American South and how the food the South is known for, from fried chicken to hopping John to gumbo to po boys is a result of the African, Native American and European cultures that influenced what we eat now John T Edge is the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, and his passion for every aspect of Southern cuisine is evident in every page of this excellent book I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in food or who lives or has lived in the American South For those who appreciate good food and live in one of the Southern states, it s required reading

  8. Dale Cousins Dale Cousins says:

    More of a social history spiced with food than a book on food illustrated by social history, I enjoyed the commentary of how Southern food had evolved in multiple directions over time Be it New Orleans or Charleston or BBQ or Creole or Low Country, the cooks of the South have adapted or made do as my grandma would say It was interesting that everyone Colonel Sanders to Craig Claiborne to Paula Deen to Bill Neal gets equal time Interesting read with a fair amount of time devoted to history More of a social history spiced with food than a book on food illustrated by social history, I enjoyed the commentary of how Southern food had evolved in multiple directions over time Be it New Orleans or Charleston or BBQ or Creole or Low Country, the cooks of the South have adapted or made do as my grandma would say It was interesting that everyone Colonel Sanders to Craig Claiborne to Paula Deen to Bill Neal gets equal time Interesting read with a fair amount of time devoted to history from the 1950 s through 2000 s that I remember

  9. Geoff Geoff says:

    I am hungry The Potlikker Papers made me hungry Also made me want to buy a bunch of cookbooks Edge s anecdotal history of the south and food is fabulous Some very interesting points and great connections I discovered Southern Cooking when I was eighteen and living with my great uncle and aunt in East Texas My maternal grandparents were from North central Texas with heavy southern roots When they moved north, they left the food behind them I rediscovered southern food when my wife was pre I am hungry The Potlikker Papers made me hungry Also made me want to buy a bunch of cookbooks Edge s anecdotal history of the south and food is fabulous Some very interesting points and great connections I discovered Southern Cooking when I was eighteen and living with my great uncle and aunt in East Texas My maternal grandparents were from North central Texas with heavy southern roots When they moved north, they left the food behind them I rediscovered southern food when my wife was pregnant with our first daughter Collard greens are great for morning sickness We lived in West Philly and could get collards and other southern foods cuts of meat Began with Craig Claibonre s Southern Cooking and haven t stopped The Potlikker Papers does a great job of linking the changes in the south through food

  10. MargaretDH MargaretDH says:

    Using the lens of food, this book examines the south from the Civil Rights Movement until today Edge takes cooks and chefs usually from an era, and using their story as a grounding, explores their era, environment and traditions It s an interesting book if you re interested in food, especially if you like tracing the evolution of dishes and cuisines Having a grounding in the history of the times and places he was discussing was helpful but certainly not necessary to enjoying this book.Also, Using the lens of food, this book examines the south from the Civil Rights Movement until today Edge takes cooks and chefs usually from an era, and using their story as a grounding, explores their era, environment and traditions It s an interesting book if you re interested in food, especially if you like tracing the evolution of dishes and cuisines Having a grounding in the history of the times and places he was discussing was helpful but certainly not necessary to enjoying this book.Also, this is straight history There are no recipes or anything of that sort

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