2018 Southern Foodways Symposium: Food and Literature
October 11–13, 2018
University of Mississippi
Join us for the 21st Southern Foodways Symposium, staged October 11-13 in and around the town of Oxford, Mississippi. Through lectures, meals, tastings, and experiences, SFA argues that food and literature are twinned expressions of people and place, cultural means to explore issues like racism and gender inequity that roil the South, and the pleasures of social engagement that reflect our best instincts.
Our year of programming began in February in Birmingham, Alabama, when SFA staged a Winter Symposium on the power of transformative narratives. In June, we traveled to Lexington, Kentucky, for our Summer Symposium, and explored the linkages between the land and literature.
SFA’s definition of literature is broad. It spans modern soap operas and menu narratives and narrative song cycles. Novels, nonfiction, and poetry, too. Appropriately, SFA has booked a diverse roster of speakers from many disciplines.
Stepping to the podium will be longtime collaborators like novelist Monique Truong, author of Bitter in the Mouth, who will speak of Lafcadio Hearn, the chronicler of Japan and New Orleans. Novelist Randall Kenan, who has lovingly chronicled his North Carolina postage stamp, will speak from the porch at Faulkner’s Rowan Oak about Ralph Ellison’s use of the yam as a symbol in the novel Invisible Man. Zandria Robinson, who teaches at Rhodes College and describes herself as a “Dirty South black feminist” and a “Zora-type ethnographer” will serve as your Symposium coach.
Well-curated food and drink augment lectures. Chef Nina Compton of Compere Lapin in New Orleans taps Caribbean folktales for Friday lunch inspiration. Saturday lunch, a grand SFA tradition, comes courtesy of Mashama Bailey, the pride of Savannah. Joe Stinchcomb, barman at St. Leo right here in Oxford, is our Cathead Bartender in Residence. Lindsay Autry, a first-time collaborator, travels from her Florida restaurant, The Regional Kitchen and Public House, to cook catfish on the front porch at Taylor Grocery.
To prepare for this weekend, SFA documentarians have traveled the region. Annemarie Anderson, our new lead oral historian, began a new project this year on female food journalists of the last two generations. Among the subjects are Marcelle Bienvenu of Louisiana, Susan Puckett of Georgia, and Kathleen Purvis of North Carolina. This weekend, you meet some of those oral history subjects. And you come face-to-face, through a range of SFA films by Ava Lowrey and collaborators, with some of our region’s unsung heroes and heroines.
For our art commission, underwritten by 21c Museum Hotels, SFA is collaborating with Lauren Was and Adam Eckstrom of Ghost of a Dream, who are building a site-specific reading room where attendees may apprehend the building blocks of our food system.
Our 2018 performance commission, underwritten by the Cockayne Fund, was conceived and produced by Paul Burch. Trovatore: The Lives of Eugene Walter is a song-cycle narrative about the Mobile-born writer and bon vivant. Along with his WPA Ball Club, Paul performs the commision, with a few extra fillips, and attendees go home with a beautiful sleeved album.
SFA Twentieth Anniversary Celebration Continues
In July of 1999, John Egerton invited 49 others to join him to found the Southern Foodways Alliance. To commemorate our 20th anniversary, which we will mark at events over the next year, SFA has commissioned a series of founder documentaries. For this 21st symposium, we also welcome all past presidents of the organization to the stage to reflect on how far we have come and how far we have yet to go.
In 2018, SFA invites members and non-members to attend the fall symposium. SFA members may purchase tickets at the discounted price of $700; non-members may for SFA members and $800 for nonmembers.
Because we pay all speakers and chefs, the SFA symposium is never cheap. We stage our events on a true break-even basis. Symposium fees do not underwrite oral histories, films, art commissions, or performance commissions. What you pay reflects the actual event costs SFA incurs.
SFA is committed to making our event accessible for all. Our Smith Symposium Fellows program continues to bring new and bold voices to the SFA table.
Piggy Bank Dinner Series