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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

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Ann Maylie Bruce

Ann Maylie Bruce was one of few children in the 1940s and ‘50s to grow up in an apartment in New Orleans’ business district—within walking distance of theaters, department stores, and restaurants. That’s because her parents owned and ran Maylie’s, the Creole-French restaurant downstairs. Maylie’s was a table d’hôte restaurant, a place where meals ran several courses, most of which were served family style. Chicory coffee rounded out the experience. Shrimp rémoulade, boiled beef (bouille), vegetable soup, chicken Bonne Femme, fish vinaigrette, and bread pudding—New Orleans classics still—were some of the restaurant’s favored dishes. Also, of course, a seafood gumbo that Ann remembers the cooks making with a dark brown roux but without sausage.

Today, Ann makes seafood gumbo at home during Lent and turkey bone gumbo the day after Thanksgiving (using a leftover turkey carcass). Her favorite gumbo to prepare, though, is green gumbo, or gumbo z’herbes, which she eats on Good Friday. Ann first learned about this relatively rare style of gumbo while volunteering at the historic Hermann Grima House in the French Quarter. Ann and her fellow volunteers resurrected an old gumbo z’herbes recipe and prepared it for demonstration over an open hearth. As of last count, her green gumbo contains fourteen different greens; as the old adage dictates, every year she gains a new friend for each one.

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Sara Roahen

Sara Roahen

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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