CORNBREAD NATION 2016 The Best of Southern Food Writing

Each year, SFA staff reflect on Southern food writing that has resonated with us throughout the year. The array of voices here have challenged and refreshed us, both for the wit and style they employ and for the weight of the topics they explore.


This year’s culinary discourse saw nuanced explorations of cultural appreciation versus cultural appropriation and erasure. Hillary Dixler’s piece, in particular, catalyzed intense debate and ongoing reflection that weaves its way through much of our list.


We are thankful for voices who bring earnestness and passion to the page. We hope you enjoy this offering of thoughtful writing, too.


HotSauceMikki Kendall for Eater

“In a society where people vocally take offense to the statement that Black Lives Matter, Beyoncé telling us she has hot sauce in her bag isn’t just a line about how she likes her food. It’s a relic, and a reference, and a reminder.”

HowGullahHillary Dixler for Eater

“To responsibly borrow and quote from another culture, you have to respect the culture and its people.”

HowAmericansRoberto A. Ferdman for
The Washington Post

We want “ethnic food” to be authentic, but we are almost never willing to pay for it.”

WhoOwnsJohn T. Edge & Tunde Wey
for The Oxford American

“Even [the] best intentions have been scrubbed with a dirty washcloth.”

HowShouldWyatt Williams for the Los Angeles Review of Books

“Salatin’s ideas about the farm have been embraced by a largely secular environmentalist culture and rejected by the dominant Christian culture he otherwise identifies with.”

WhoHasLaura Shunk for Food52

“Eating clubs fetishize dining on odd animal parts or racy chilies or fermented vegetables; restaurateurs and chefs scour the globe for inspiration that hasn’t yet hit mainstream eating consciousness; and writers rush to collect street cred by “discovering” “new” cuisines and ethnic enclaves.”

Central Market, Nashville, TN. Part of SFA's Nolensville Road oral history project. Photo by Emily B. Hall.

The-Orange-JuiceJohn Birdsall for Extra Crispy

“Orange juice was, in a way, the Sun Belt’s symbol: healthy, wholesome, and optimistic, like… well, sunshine. Anita was its avatar. Then she became its avenging angel.”

Gustavo Arellano for
OC Weekly

“The real sin here for yaktivists is the very act of Mexican-American chefs daring to reimagine Mexican food—nay, daring to reimagine Mexicans as deserving more than one-buck tacos.”

RecipeMemoryRonni Lundy for The Oxford American

“We tell ourselves that great recipes are the secret to great cooking because we want a lasting object to impossibly hold the ineffable and sensory.”

Maurice Carlos Ruffin for VQR

“It occurred to me that people who looked like me had one safe role in my divided city: We were made to serve.”