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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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Ben and Ryan Ray

Millie Ray and Sons

Ben and Ryan Ray were born in 1978 and 1980, in Homewood, Alabama. Their mother, Millie, was always involved in food. In addition to a full-time job as a realtor, she and a neighbor owned a catering company called Delectable Edibles. In 1979, Millie Ray’s orange roll recipe was born. Looking for a recipe to take to a garden club event, she called her mother, Essie Mae and asked her for a recipe to make. Her mother suggested a recipe for orange rolls. Millie improved upon the recipe and it became a favorite recipe of family, friends, and neighbors.

In 2008, Ryan and Ben decided to start a partnership to open and manage a Zoë’s Kitchen franchise in Atlanta, Georgia. That same year, they convinced their mother to begin making and selling her orange rolls commercially. The Ray brothers marketed the rolls to markets, restaurants, and food distributors in Atlanta, Birmingham, and Destin, Florida. By 2009, the business became a full-time job for the Ray family. The Ray brothers left Zoë’s Kitchen and began helping their mother sell orange rolls full time. Millie Ray died in 2018, but her legacy lives on through her orange rolls.

Date of interview:

Annemarie Anderson

Celestia Morgan

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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.


Alex Raij Txikito

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