As a single woman, I’ve had to reinvent the meal I used to share with three generations of family members. I have sought out friends and colleagues to join my culinary communion, especially on Sundays.
A variety of factors contributed to the explosion of weight loss culture during and after the Great War, and one especially potent factor was the creep of metrics into daily life. The application of calories to food in the late nineteenth century and the emerging discipline of statistics resulted in well-publicized comparisons of food consumption and body weights between individuals and across populations. At the same time, life insurance statistics were revealing new correlations between excess weight and chronic disease. More and more Americans, meanwhile, were purchasing newly affordable home scales and buying their clothing ready-made, and thus increasingly thinking of their bodies in terms of numbers and sizes instead of, say, just making clothes to fit their individual bodies. Moreover, metrics grew more prevalent in daily life just as the motion picture industry was taking off and as a visually oriented print media continued to expand. Handed the tools to make physical comparisons, Americans eagerly made them. The growing ease of numerical and visual comparisons contributed directly to the valorization of thinness. But what accounts for the moral stigma that leeched onto the idea of being overweight? The answer lies at the heart of the Progressive ideology of self-control, a value that transcended the Progressive Era itself, both supporting and thriving within the enduring associations between thinness, willpower, and beauty.
I was thrilled to have been invited to write this book, Beans and Field Peas: a SAVOR THE SOUTH® cookbook collection published by the University of North Carolina Press. I seldom get the chance to immerse myself into the study of a single subject for a long period of time. In this case, legumes in the form of beans, field peas, and green beans offered me an opportunity to investigate and retrieve their historical origins, extoll on their cultural importance in the foodways of an entire region, and put them into a global perspective.
One thing World War I doesn’t bring to mind is food. But it should, because during World War I the rise of industrial food processing, nutrition science, and America’s first food aid program revolutionized American food on almost every level. World War I made food modern, and understanding how that happened is key to understanding food today.
Sweet potato pone is a southern favorite that can be served any time of the day. Enjoy April McGreger’s delicious recipe for a historical dish while celebrating National Sweet Potato Month this February and all year long!
In 1966, Charles “Charlie” Scott (b. 1948 in NYC) became the first African American student to attend the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill on an athletic scholarship. He decided to attend UNC rather than basketball powerhouse Davidson College after a wrenching moment at a small café in Davidson, North Carolina. Former Davidson College basketball star Terry Holland, who both played and later served as assistant coach under the college’s legendary coach Lefty Driesell, and UNC law professor and civil rights attorney Daniel H. Pollitt, who was a passionate advocate for social justice in Chapel Hill during the 1950s and 1960s, vividly recall Scott’s historic decision. Pollitt worked with Dean Smith, UNC’s beloved basketball coach (1961-1997) and Robert Seymour, progressive minister at the Olin T. Binkley Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, to recruit Charlie Scott and to help integrate the university community.
One of the earliest printed books on aqua vitae, in this case brandy, was published in Germany in 1476 and recommended a half-spoonful every morning to prevent conditions as varied as arthritis and bad breath. Other physicians wrote of the beneficial effects of brandy for physical ailments (it cured headaches, heart disease, gout, and deafness); as an aid to appearance (it improved the bust and stopped hair graying); and as therapy for emotional and other problems (it banished melancholy and forgetfulness). The inclusion of conditions commonly associated with aging (such as deafness, forgetfulness, and graying) reflects the claims that drinking brandy prolonged youth and thus life itself.
My attachment to the Thanksgiving relish tray began with my grandmother, whose tray contained her homemade pickled peaches, homemade bread-and-butter pickles, homemade watermelon rind pickles—and store-bought, bright red, spiced apple rings. The rings sort of came out of left field and I don’t know the story behind them, but as a kid I loved their sweet, Technicolor addition.
Brewsters were female brewers. They were important because during the Middle Ages (and later in the American colonies) women brewed the beer their families needed. Brewing was seen as a woman’s task, like baking. Beer was liquid bread, and very nutritious. But as brewing became more commercialized, women were pushed out. The world of big business was seen as no place for women, and women didn’t have access to the financing needed for a commercial brewery. So brewing became a male occupation, and it’s really only with the rise of craft breweries in the last decade or two that women have started to re-enter the industry.
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Southern cuisine was a key component in historic preservation efforts in the early twentieth century to promote and sell the South and its racial mores to both tourists and locals. Through constructed memories of southern food from the plantation to the mountain South, sophisticated campaigns were launched to promote the “taste” of the Old South in Williamsburg, Virginia, the Lowcountry flavors of Savannah and Charleston, the fashionable Creole cuisine of New Orleans, and the “authentic” “hillbilly” and “Highlands” foods of the mountain South.
We’ve become so disconnected from the source of our food! While I was traveling through Georgia, several farmers told me that kids who visited their farms had no idea that chickens laid eggs and carrots came out of the soil. Agritourism provides a great opportunity to learn where our food comes from and meet the farmers who grow and raise it. Farmers work incredibly hard to put food on our tables; visiting farms shows that we value their dedication to growing fresh, local foods and want to support their work. If we want small farms to survive, we need to support the farmers.
One of the things I enjoy most about canning is discovering new recipes. This one for Pear Syrup only happened because I called my mom on the morning before a marathon canning session. I mentioned in passing that I was making Pear Honey. My mother brightened, inquiring about the recipe. She was deflated to hear that Pear Honey was a preserve, like apple butter. She had hoped it was a recipe for a pear syrup that my Grandmother Anna Weigl used to make from the skins of pears. I listened to my mother’s story and decided at that moment to try to recreate my grandmother’s syrup.
When you think of salsa, is pico de gallo the first kind that comes to mind? This combination of tomatoes, onions, and peppers works as an appetizer with chips or as a condiment for tacos and burgers. If you’re looking for a salsa that’s a little different from what you’re used to, try this one. It’s more tart than what you’ll find at most tailgates because of the Granny Smith apples in it.
Recipe for a great side dish for the holidays or any time of year.
No one was more successful in encouraging women’s domestic dedication and home cooking than Doña Petrona C. de Gandulfo, Argentina’s leading culinary celebrity during most of the twentieth century. And, indeed, Pan Dulce de Navidad was her most famous recipe. As the holiday season drew close, she would show her fans how to make this sweet bread step by step on television, as we can see in these two videos from the mid 1960s (watch Part 1 and Part 2 on YouTube). Such footage may not at first glance appear to be a valuable historical source, but it provides us rare insight into how changing gender expectations, economic dynamics, and food-related practices were shaping Argentines’ daily lives.
A video of Rebecca Sharpless’s talk on the history of African American women cooks in white households in the South, given at the 16th annual Southern Foodways Symposium, October 2013. Video produced by the Southern Foodways Alliance.
Video: From his book “Soul Food,” author Adrian Miller reads a selection from the chapter on red drink.
One of the most famous sandwiches in South America is also one of the most fun (and messy!) to eat: the Chivito Uruguayo. In Spanish, chivito means baby goat, but there’s actually no goat to be found in this sandwich.
Cookbook author Kathleen Purvis documented the 2013 Southern Foodways Symposium with a fun video highlight reel.