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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 annemarie@southernfoodways.org.

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Fernay McPherson

Minnie Bell's Soul Movement

Fernay McPherson grew up in San Francisco’s Fillmore District, a neighborhood populated by immigrants and African Americans who left the Deep South during the Great Migration. Fernay’s family relocated to California from Texas. She grew up eating dinners of gumbo and hot water cornbread, and she always shared the kitchen with the women in her family. When she was five, Fernay grated the cheese for macaroni and cheese. At nine, she baked her first cake. By fifteen, she was helping with holiday dinners.

Cooking has always been a passion for Fernay, though she never thought of it as a career. But, in 2007, after being laid off from her job at AT&T, Fernay was inspired to put her energy into something she loves, so she decided to go to culinary school. Upon graduation, she started a catering business, but she wanted more. Fernay completed the program at La Cocina and, in 2013, she launched Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement, a soul food truck named after her great aunt and grandmother, whose recipes she features on her menu. Fernay has also added her own twist to some of the things she makes. She adds jalapeños to her Great Aunt Minnie’s hot water cornbread and makes the custard for her banana pudding cupcake with mascarpone. One recipe she’ll never change: her Grandmother Lillie Bell’s caramel cake.

Date of interview:

Amy C. Evans

Amy C. Evans

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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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