Go Ahead, Surprise Me

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Editor’s Note

Words brought me to food, not the other way around. I’m a reader before I’m an eater. (And I’m definitely a reader before I’m a cook. Ask my husband.) So I take extra pleasure in this year’s SFA programming theme, Food and Literature. 

I care how food tastes. But when I’m reading, that’s not usually what I’m reading for. Delicious means something different to everyone, and so it effectively means nothing. Your savory, your delectable, even your crispy—they might be different from mine. So I’d rather a writer take me to a place I haven’t been, or help me see a familiar place in a new light. Or introduce me to a person whose story will surprise, or delight, or inspire me. When I get the chance to offer advice to writers of food or drink, I always urge them to put people and places ahead of flavors.

Of course, there are readers and editors whose tastes run counter to mine. And there are writers, from critics to poets to novelists, who deliver those gustatory descriptions with precision and beauty. They’re not the primary focus of these pages. And that’s intentional. 

The features in this issue conjure South Louisiana, past, present, and future. They remind us that the region is constantly evolving and adapting—demographically and even topographically. The ground shifts beneath the feet of those who make it their home. This shifting is sometimes tragic, sometimes triumphant, and it all but ensures that rich and complex stories will never stop tumbling to the surface. —Sara Camp Milam