Lannae's Food and Travel

I hope you like my food and travel blog.

October 17, 2012

Stir the Pot Part 1

A benefit for the Southern Foodways Alliance
a non-profit to celebrate and document the rich diversity and history of 
food in and from the American South

The Menu for Nashville Stir The Pot part 1
Southern Foodways Alliance is an organization with a mission to document, study and celebrate the diverse food culture of the American South.  Southern food is so much more diverse than BBQ, over cooked and over salted greens or green beans, or over lardy everything.  The American South is more than some stupid slack jawed Hee Haw caricature.   Southern Foodways Alliance is trying to document the American Southern food history to present time in many ways including oral histories, film, music, and written word.  The deep rich history of Southern food should be told and remembered. 

Course 1 - Smoked Trout Roe
Often, people don't think about other immigrants to the South besides Europeans, and Africans who were horrifically captured and brought to the USA to be slaves, but there is a history of West and East Asians, Central and South Americans.  There is also a history of Native Americans living along the fertile river valleys in the South.   There is one project Southern Foodways Alliance conducted was a limited oral history of Chinese and grocery stores owned by Chinese in the Arkansas and Mississippi Deltas.  I hope one day SFA continues further into the history of Chinese in Delta.

Course 2 - Tandy's pork belly
Had I not moved to the South 15 years ago, I would have never given Southern Food nor Chinese in the South a second thought.  I feel so lucky that I did move to the South because my father's side of the family (and that would include me) immigrated to the Mississippi Delta, and I am giving attention to that part of my family history.  My Chinese relative, my grandfather, came to the USA in the late 1800s, as an indentured servant, a serf, a replacement to slave labor.  It was illegal at the time for Chinese to become citizens of the USA, by the Chinese Exclusion Act (1868 - 1943), so there were no legal protections for Chinese or my family.  As with many Chinese serfs and my grandfather, they thought working in the harsh conditions in the fields of the South was oppressive, so they opened grocery stores in the Black part of town.  Southern whites at the time would never allow a non-white business in their part of town.  So as the story goes, my grandfather died when my father and uncles and aunts were quite young, and my grandmother was left a widow and to run a grocery in Greenville, MS.  She was the only Chinese woman owned grocery for as far as my family knew.  I am really proud of my family, coming to the USA with nothing, and giving me every opportunity to live the USA dream, and keep their story alive.

Not only is there an important history of Chinese in the South, there are other important histories as well.  To name a few, Native Americans, Kurdish, Laotians, Oaxacans,  and Sudanese in the South have contributed and reshaped the richness of the food landscape.  I hope that SFA conducts oral histories for these groups as well.  

Course 3 - Octopus and yogurt
I have supported the Southern Foodways Alliance over the past few years.  This year, I supported SFA through the new Nashville Stir The Pot fundraisers. For an organization withe the word FOOD in its name, the fundraisers are going to involve food.  I went to the spiffy Stir the Pot sit-down dinner fund raiser and the more casual potluck fundraiser the next days.  The spiffy Stir the Pot dinner included happy hour, and 5 course meal prepared by Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Animal (Los Angeles) with preparation help from Tyler Brown of Capitol Grille and Tandy Wilson of City House, all James Beard nominees.  Wine pairs were compliments of Horizon Wines.  The Historic Hermitage Hotel and Capitol Grille hosted this dinner, and it was a great success.

Course 4 - Double H beef filet
The highlights for me was being able to chat with Tyler Brown's parents.  His dad is retired now, but he taught engineering in Eastern MA, near where I went to school for engineering. We chatted about MA, we chatted about engineering, and we chatted about how wonderful his son is for honoring the history of the Capitol Grille and the Southern tradition of food.  We love the garden fresh veggies as well.  I also got to enjoy Stephanie and Juliet's company, which was such a joy because they usually are working when I see them, and it is not the same.  I also got to meet other City House regulars too, which is fun because they are a lot like us when it comes to food.  I also got to tell some of the folks attending the dinner why Southern Foodways Alliance is so important to me and my family, it is because they are documenting the history of families like mine and my family in the South.

Course 5 - Scuppernog and Peanut Milk
The courses at the dinner inventive and like no other dishes I have had before.  The two dishes I liked the most were the 1st and last course.  The 1st course was smoked sunburst trout roe with maple cream.  It was a small couple of bites only.  The salty smokiness went well with the slight sweetness of the cream. And the last dish was dessert.  The scuppernog is a local thick skinned grape which can be made into a sweet wine, or just eaten as a snack.  The dessert was a play on peanut butter and grape jelly.  The peanut milk and grape flesh was so familiar yet not, the dessert was like a "welcome to my home" feeling.

So on the agenda, I believe Nashville will host a Stir The Pot event twice per year.  This event was mid-September, and the next one I suspect will be April sometime.  I can't wait for the next one! I can't wait to deliciously support the Southern Foodways Alliance Again!


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