History, Place, and Power: Studying Southern Food

Courtesy of the William R. Ferris Collection, Wilson Library, UNC Libraries.

Return to issue

History, Place, and Power: Studying Southern Food

by Marcie Cohen Ferris
Southern Cultures, Vol. 21, No. 1: Food

"A multi-layered past and present underlies these foods and explains why southerners eat the way they do, and why we think of these foods as deeply southern. Food is history. Food is place. Food is power and disempowerment."

Two “moments” help explain my interest in bringing food to the pages of Southern Cultures. The first is a conversation I’ve had more frequently than I can recall as I worked on my recent book, The Edible South, which explores the intersection of southern food and social history. Them: “Wow, southern food! How come they fry everything?” Me: “Excuse me?” Them: “You know, southern food is SO BAD for you. BAD. BAD. BAD. They fry everything. Why do they do that?” Me: “Oy.” The second experience was a request to speak to a lively group of UNC undergraduates who study local sustainable food systems. Them: “Could you briefly speak about the role of southern culture in local food?” Me: “Oy.”