This week brings you the perfect expression of how Southern food isn’t stuck in the past—and two sweet side dishes of food for thought.
For the last ten years, I have written and spoken about Southern culture. As a result, people often ask me what’s important to know about the culture of the American South.
I have relied on this metaphor for a long time. Our culture, I tell folks, is like a gumbo. That dish—perhaps the most iconic in Southern cooking—is a marriage of flavors from Africa and Europe, flavors brought here by the enslaved and by those who enslaved them. All bound together by okra, an African plant, an underserved gift whose mucilaginous goo melds the ingredients into a perfect harmony. And as our region has evolved, people from all over the world have come here to make it their home. To the pot, they add their own flavors, which make it even tastier.
That’s why this week we am grateful to Florida food writer Carrie Honaker for her story, “Southern, Just Seasoned a Little Differently,” which lets you visit with five chefs whose work is the living embodiment of my favorite metaphor. These chefs—based in Mississippi, south Florida, the Gulf Coast, New Orleans, and Houston—all have culinary roots in Asia or the Middle East. Carrie gives us a fascinating look at how they have shaped Southern food, and how Southern food has shaped them. Carrie’s writing has graced the pages of Bon Appetit, Conde Nast Traveler, Wine Enthusiast, Fodor’s Travel, Travel + Leisure, and Food & Wine, and now, Salvation South. And at the bottom of her story, you’ll find a link to a delicious recipe for a hummus, kicked up with some Gulf Coast crustaceans.
Eating, I find, puts me in the mood to ponder life. I think better on a full stomach. And we have two pieces rounding out this weekend’s edition that’ll be good for pondering as your Sunday dinner settles. One of them, Betsy Robinson’s “Take Off Your Shoes and Be Quiet” looks at how to slow down and silence the rattletrap of thoughts that disquiet us as adults. The other, Cyndi Green’s “A Fortress in the Treetops,” takes us back to the wonder of life through eight-year-old eyes.
Be good to one another. Love your neighbor. And keep that thought in mind, because we’ve got a surprise coming to you next week about exactly that.
Chuck Reece is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Salvation South, the weekly web magazine you're reading right now. He was the founding editor of The Bitter Southerner. He grew up in the north Georgia mountains in a little town called Ellijay.