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The Story of Southern Food is the Story of People

The Story of Southern Food is the Story of People

John T. Edge's new book spans a 60-year period, telling the story of the South, decade by decade, through food — from the kitchen of Georgia Gilmore, who organized cooks and bakers to sell food to raise funds to support the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott, to the modern Southern artisanal food movement.

John T. Edge is a man who knows how spin a good yarn. Listening to him talk can feel like falling under the spell of your favorite college professor. He's wickedly smart, funny, warm and welcoming.

And for years, the tale he's been telling is all about Southern food: about its central role in Southern identity, and about what it owes to the African-American and immigrant cooks who have historically been left out of the standard narratives the South tells about itself.

In his new book, The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South, Edge attempts to pay down what he calls "a debt of pleasure to those farmers and cooks who came before me, many of whom have been lost to history."

"These were women, these were often times people of color who didn't get the respect they definitely earned," Edge says. "And in paying down that debt of pleasure, I hope to bring their lives into relief and make explicit the ways in which, if you want to dig into Southern food, you're explicitly digging into issues of race, class, gender, ethnicity."

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