I have the distinct privilege to teach a graduate seminar on Southern Foodways and Culture at the University of Mississippi. The class met for the first time this week, and flooded me with optimism for the coming semester.
Earlier this week, we shared the reading list for the semester. I was astounded by the response. The interest and enthusiasm many of you expressed for the course and the books we’ll be exploring deepened the appreciation I felt during our first class meeting on Monday.
For those of you interested in the class, we’ll be sharing a weekly series here on the SFA blog. Every Friday, we’ll post a student’s written reflection on the week’s reading and the class’s discussion of it. If you are especially ambitious and plan to read along, we invite you to share your own reactions to the weekly reading by posting comments on Facebook or using the #SFABookClub hashtag on Twitter.
Up first: John Egerton’s classic Southern Food: At home, on the road, in history. I’ll go ahead and warn you that I will be writing the first reaction; our cozy seminar has only ten students, and eleven books to cover. And I may chime in once in a while to share some of my own reflections about the course. But, mostly, we want you to hear from the students, in their own words.
One last note on the course. Since you are a fan and a follower of the SFA, I can safely (and gratefully) assume that you don’t need an explanation of why a course on Southern foodways. But what of the what? The primary objective of the course is to use Southern foodways as lens to explore deeper questions about ownership and access; inclusion and exclusion; and what it means to grow, cook, and eat in the 21st century South.
In that sense, we will examine southern foodways from a critical perspective. We will begin by studying the region’s culinary and agricultural history, considering the crucial importance of climate and both voluntary and involuntary migration for shaping southern food. We will consider the trenchant but evolving relationship between food and regional identity, and the ways in which food can be understood as indicative of a changing South.
Students will craft individual research papers or projects, and many will work with the SFA’s lead oral historian, Sara Wood, to conduct oral histories of their own. Many will use the course to build a foundation for their master’s theses. My hope and expectation is that all will develop complex and nuanced understandings of the region and its foodways, and that we will respectfully challenge and encourage each other along the way. And, yes, of course, we will eat. We hope you’ll follow along.
Fix yourself a snack, and get reading!