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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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Ron Kottemann

Roman Chewing Candy Co.

Ron Kottemann acknowledges that New Orleanians are captivated by the very sight of the nearly century-old, wooden, mule-drawn cart that his grandfather designed and that Ron now directs down Uptown’s backstreets and through New Orleans traffic. “People look at this thing and, you know, get all gaga,” he said. And if the vision doesn’t tug at their heartstrings, Ron’s taffy-like Roman Chewing Candy hooks them at the sweet tooth. Rolled in wax paper and sold in roughly foot-long sticks, the candy comes in three flavors—vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry—all developed by Ron’s grandfather, Sam Cortese. Sam toyed with more flavors but limited the variety so that customers couldn’t be too wishy-washy in their selections. A street vendor needs to keep moving.

Date of interview:

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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