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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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Poppy Tooker

Poppy Tooker has lived in New Orleans for most of her life. At a young age, she catered her mother’s dinner parties. An aspiring stage actor in college, Tooker cooked the foods she grew up eating—red beans and rice and stewed turnip greens—for her fellow students in Los Angeles. After moving back to New Orleans, she worked as a restaurant cook, cooking instructor, and product demonstrator.

In 1999, she initiated the local Slow Food chapter, launching a new career helping rescue and revive culinary traditions like Creole cream cheese (a hardy breakfast dairy product) and calas (fried rice fritters). She helped restaurants, farmers, and fishermen reopen for business in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Her first book, Crescent City Farmers Market Cookbook (2009), documented the post-storm revival of the city’s premier food outlet.

She later wrote books capturing the stories and recipes behind classic New Orleans restaurants, including Begué’s, Tujague’s, and Pascal’s Manale, and she produced and hosted the Louisiana Eats! radio and podcast program. Her career as a culinary preservationist is inspired by one her great-grandmother’s favorite maxims: “Eat it to save it.”

Date of interview:

Rien Fertel

Rien Fertel

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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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