Serious Eats contributing editor Adam "The Amateur Gourmet" Roberts interviews one of our favorite writers and food mavens, John T. Edge, over on Salon.com, in which he did a nice job picking up on the subtleties in Edge's new book, Southern Belly, the Ultimate Food Lover's Companion to the South.
Many of the figures you write about are cultured and sophisticated or go against the popular stereotype of what it is to be Southern. How do you define a Southerner?
First, thank you for recognizing that in the book. I believe that the South has been a benighted and tortured place for a long time -- it still is benighted and tortured, but I love it -- and one of the few things that blacks, whites, Jews, Christians, whomever can hold high and say we created this together is our music and food. It's not stratified by way of class and not divided by way of race or religion: It's something in which Southerners can take pride. I want to write about a South that's evolving. Because I recognize that South myself; I recognize a multifaceted, multihued South that isn't stuck in 1865, codified when the Civil War ended. The evolution of the South didn't cease in 1965 during the Civil Rights movement: The culture evolved.
The South I see is a place on a map but it's also a system of beliefs, and when it comes to cooking it's a place that respects and honors simple cooking that's not simplistic. There's an honesty and a forthrightness to Southern food in this day of molecular cuisine, a lot of which I like, by the way. I had bacon cotton candy in South Carolina a few weeks ago.
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