Remembering Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor

We are deeply saddened by the loss of Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, who died this Saturday, September 3, at the age of 79. Vertamae was a writer, actor, and radio commentator, as well as an SFA founder.

Artwork by Blair Hobbs
Artwork by Blair Hobbs

Had I started my position at SFA a week earlier, I would have met Vertamae in person at the 16th Southern Foodways Symposium, where SFA awarded her the Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award. Instead, John T Edge loaned me her book, Vibration Cooking, as an introduction to the world of Southern foodways.

It was an introduction Vertamae made many times in her career as she used food as a lens through which to see race and other social issues. NPR’s Sue Goodwin explained, “You know the saying, there’s a universe in a grain of sand? That’s what she did with food. You saw the entirety of America’s history with race through food.”

Ronni Lundy described Vertamae as “the most distinctive, evocative, provocative, mysterious, and powerful voice of our profession.” We are grateful that this voice will continue to reach new audiences through the writings, radio documentaries, and films she leaves behind.