What We’re Reading: To Live and Dine in Dixie

Jill Cooley was the SFA’s first postdoctoral fellow. She spent two years with us at the University of Mississippi, teaching classes in foodways and Southern Studies. During her time with the University and the SFA, Jill also worked on revising her dissertation (she earned her PhD in history from the University of Alabama) for publication.

livedinedixieThis month, that hard work became a real, live book! We are so pleased to announce the publication of To Live and Dine in Dixie: The Evolution of Urban Food Culture in the Jim Crow South. UGA published Cooley’s book in conjunction with us, as part of the series “Southern Foodways Alliance Studies in Culture, People, and Place.”

Having worked with Jill on manuscript edits, I (Sara Camp) can tell you that this book is smart, fascinating, and full of “I had no idea!” details and moments in Southern history. Jill is also a lawyer, and in To Live and Dine in Dixie she weaves legal history together with social history to explain the evolution of public Southern eating spaces from Reconstruction through the civil rights movement.

Have you ever wondered:

– When and where did it become acceptable for women to eat lunch alone in urban cafes?

– How did city directories and telephone books use racial coding in restaurant listings?

– What subtle but powerful clues did midcentury fast-food chains use to show preference to white customers?

To Live and Dine in Dixie answers these questions and many others — things that, if you’re like me, you didn’t know that you didn’t know.

Eating out wasn’t a part of everyday life until relatively recently, especially outside of major cities — and it’s important to remember that not all customers had access to public eating at once. Cooley’s book describes the legal and social campaigns that eventually won all Southerners a seat at the table.