We all know that this is the finest regional food in America, yesterday and today and forever. Here is our chance to keep it vibrant and to share it with one another and the rest of the world. – John Egerton, from his 1999 SFA recruitment letter

In the fall of 2004, the SFA launched its Founders Oral History Project. This important undertaking will forever preserve the history of the SFA through interviews with the organization’s fifty founding members. By recruiting SFA members and friends in locations across the country to conduct the interviews, SFA supporters have had the opportunity to be more actively involved in the SFA’s mission–and its history.

Below is an excerpt from John Egerton’s original letter to folks far and wide, inviting them to gather around the table of Southern Foodways. A handful of years later, we feel that these words still serve as the cornerstone of this organization, along with the fifty fine folks who heeded the call. We thank you.


June 16, 1999

Dear Friend,

As you know, a new effort is emerging to establish an organization that would bring together people from all over the region and beyond who grow, process, prepare, write about, study, or organize around the distinctive foods of the South. The principal base for this comprehensive and inclusive group will be in the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. They are offering us an opportunity to use their tax-exempt, non-profit status and their support staff like a greenhouse to grow this new organization, which will have its own officers and board, a self-generated budget, and an independent mission: to preserve and enhance the great food heritage of the South.

To get the pot boiling, I’ve been asked to send this letter of invitation to 50 people whose interest in such an organization is widely known. We request the honor of your participation in a “founders’ meeting” at Southern Living magazine on Thursday, July 22. We will meet all day and then adjourn to Highlands Bar & Grill, where Chef Frank Stitt and his wife Pardis will be our hosts for drinks and dinner. From 9 until noon the next morning, we’ll gather again at Southern Living to complete our work.

You will appreciate, I’m sure, the spirit of inclusiveness that is driving this effort. The time has come for all of us–traditional and nouvelle cooks and diners, up-scale and down-home devotees, meat-eaters and vegetarians, drinkers and abstainers, growers and processors, scholars and foodlorists, gourmands and the health-conscious, women and men, blacks and whites and other identity groups, one and all–to sit down and break bread together around one great Southern table. We all know that this is the finest regional food in America, yesterday and today and forever. Here is our chance to keep it vibrant and to share it with one another and the rest of the world. We sincerely hope you’ll agree to come to Birmingham and help us.

Most cordially yours,

John Egerton
for the “add-hock” organizers

Ann Abadie | Kaye Adams | Jim Auchmutey | Marilou Awiakta | Ben Barker | Ella Brennan | Ann Brewer Karen Cathey | Leah Chase | Al Clayton Mary Ann Clayton | Shirley Corriher | Norma Jean Darden |Crescent Dragonwagon | Nathalie Dupree | John T. Edge | John Egerton | Lolis Eric Elie | John Folse | Terry Ford | Psyche Williams-Forson | Damon Lee Fowler | Vertamae Grosvenor | Jessica B. Harris    Cynthia Hizer | Portia James | Martha Johnston | Sally Belk King | Sarah Labensky | Edna Lewis | Rudy Lombard | Ronni Lundy | Louis Osteen | Marlene Osteen | Timothy W. Patridge | Paul Prudhomme | Joe Randall | Marie Rudisill | Dori Sanders | Richard Schweid | Ned Shank  | Kathy Starr | Frank Stitt   Pardis Stitt  Marion Sullivan | Van Sykes | John Martin Taylor | Toni Tipton-Martin | Jeanne Voltz | Charles Reagan Wilson

TAGS: Ann Abadie, Ben Barker, Charles Regan Wilson, cookbook, Damon Lee Fowler, Dori Sanders, Edna Lewis, Ella Brennan, foodways, foodways scholarship, Frank and Pardis Stitt, gender, Jessica B. Harris, Jim Auchmutey, Joe Randall, John Egerton, John T. Edge, Karen Barker, Karen Cathey, Kathy Starr, Leah Chase, Lolis Eric Elie, Louis and Marlene Osteen, Marie Rudisill, Marilou Awiakta, Martha Johnston, Nathalie Dupree, Norma Jean Darden, Paul Prudhomme, Psyche Williams-Forson, race, Ronni Lundy, SFA Founders Oral History Project, Shirley Corriher, Terry Ford, Toni Tipton-Martin, writers