Cornbread Nation 2018 Key Reads, Listens, and Views

“We are kin people,” says a character in “While I Yet Live,” a Maris Cran op-doc about the people of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, published by the New York Times. The idea of connectedness has long defined the South. Reality has been thornier. The questions of who is connected, and why we are connected, and what to make of those connections, surfaced often in the writing and documentary work chosen by SFA staff for Cornbread Nation 2018.

In the essay, “From Collards to Maple Syrup, How Your Identity Impacts the Foods You Like,” published on NPR’s The Salt, Anna Kusmer reported that the “stronger your sense of social identity, the more you are likely to enjoy the food associated with that identity.” Lisa Donovan crops a complementary row. “The power of our oral histories and the words that are said from one person to the next bind us and make connections between us,” she wrote in her Washington Post story about chess pie and what we say and don’t say to one another. “What will be lost if we stop making those connections? How do we find the tools to keep sharing these stories and sustain a progressive cultural evolution?

Six smart pieces follow. From writers and documentarians we admire. Reporting from rural isolates and exurban strip malls. Most are for reading. Two are best experienced with headphones on. All are explorations of and meditations on identity and belonging. Onward Cornbread Nation….

Houston Is the New Capital Of Southern Cool

Brett Martin, GQ

“Houston had decisively shrugged off its reputation as a city of steak houses and chains to become increasingly mentioned as one of the nation’s great restaurant cities.”

From Collards To Maple Syrup, How Your Identity Impacts The Food You Like

Anna Kusmer, NPR’s The Salt

“A better awareness of the cultural dimensions of food choices can improve strategies to get people to eat healthier.”

Fried Chicken Is Common Ground

Osayi Endolyn, Eater

“Almost seventy years after the Colonel opened his first franchise, and a century and a half after Emancipation, Morgan McGlone decided that fried chicken and natural wine was a pairing that needed to happen.”

Resurrection Hardware; Or, Lard & Promises

Randall Kenan, Oxford American

The story of an editor who bought a 200-year-old house and was visited by ghosts from the antebellum era.

I wanted the real story behind chess pie’s name. But no one wanted to talk about it.

Lisa Donovan, The Washington Post

It’s never just pie.

While I Yet Live

Maris Curran, New York Times Op-Doc

This short documentary explores the captivating work of five acclaimed African American quilters from Gee’s Bend, Alabama, a rural community that played a pivotal role during the Civil Rights Movement.

From the SFA

An Industry’s Heartbeat

Simi Kang, Gravy Quarterly

Today, fishermen struggle as shrimp grow smaller and fewer, foreign imports increase, and their community ages.

Comfort Food

Robert Gipe, Gravy Podcast

A story of macaroni and cheese and maternal love, set in the fictional Canard County, Kentucky.