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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

< Back to Oral History project: Pie in Arkansas


Deana Willhite

Jenny Lind Country Café

At the Jenny Lind Country Café, just outside of Greenwood, Arkansas, Deana Willhite acts as de facto town historian and museum curator. Inside the renovated schoolhouse, town memorabilia and artifacts line the restaurant’s walls, and Deana has an impressive collection of old town photographs and stories to share with customers. She gamely makes pies requested by her customers, no matter how obscure the order. Many of these experiments find their way onto the regular menu.

Deana grew up cooking in her mother’s café in nearby Witcherville. After marrying her husband, a native of the Jenny Lind community, she began a career at the local Whirlpool factory. She longed to return to food and left her job after eighteen years to work in the food industry. In 2000, at age forty-two, shortly after accomplishing her dream of owning her own restaurant, doctors diagnosed her with stage-four breast cancer and gave her six months to live. Deana credits her recovery to her determination to see the new restaurant succeed.

Today, Deana runs the café with her husband and son, and hopes to put new focus on her first love, pie making.

Date of interview:

Sherri Sheu

Sherri Sheu

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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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