Sugar and the Sweet Life
October 27-30, 2005

The eighth annual Southern Foodways Symposium traced sugar cane, from the islands of the Caribbean through the plantations of Louisiana. We fondly recalled syrup making with Jeff Allen. We parsed Moon Pies with Bill Ferris, and learned the history of sweet tea with Fred Thompson. With historian Fred Opie, we viewed the world through molasses-colored glasses.

Sorghum and sweet potato pie. Iced tea and moonshine. Honey and the Bible. Cyclamates and the Devil. That’s what we talked about. And when we weren’t talking, we were eating: cane syrup- and cider-brined hamhocks with black-eyed peas, Cheerwine barbecued chicken, and sugar-cured country ham. Not to mention chocolate chess pie, pecan pralines, triple crown brownies spiked with bourbon, and aged cheddar swabbed with green tomato and blueberry jam.

There were baking workshops by award-winning pastry chef Karen Barker, and NPR’s Kitchen Sisters, Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson, offered a practicum. We screened Marsaw, an SFA-produced film celebrating New Orleans bartender, Martin Sawyer, and we dined with his family over catfish at Taylor Grocery.

Jerri Banks served as Drink Muse for the weekend, stirring potions of tea and adult elixirs. Martha Foose made magic with a cotton machine, and symposiasts shared their favorite treats with a Halloween candy swap.