For centuries, cornbread has soothed the soul and nourished the body of southerners. Together these three classic cornbread recipes reflect changes in the food landscape across time.
In these photographs, Marion Post Wolcott captures not only the corn harvesting but the connections between communities in rural North Carolina.The six photos highlighted here illustrate an age-old and essential endeavor, crossing the boundaries of class and race. While caption cards provide the title and other information about each photograph, ultimately the photos tell the story.
by Kensie Gaspard
The cowpea is about to have its moment. Luckily we have a front row seat.
For collard connoisseurs, the small town of Ayden, North Carolina is ground zero. Not only is it home to Bum’s Restaurant, the Skylight Inn, and the Collard Shack – three firmly rooted establishments in the canon of BBQ and greens – but every September heralds a three-day long celebration of the humble brassica—the Ayden Collard Festival
The true stars of the Southern table are our vegetables. While fried chicken and barbecue may get more press, vegetables feed the Southern soul. To a child of the South nothing tastes like the sweet potatoes, okra, greens, peas or beans from their native soil.
In 1979 in Charlottesville,Virginia, I bought my first book on Southern food and culture, Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine: Recipes and Reminiscences of a Family by Norma Jean and Carole Darden. New to Virginia, I had just become intrigued with the idea of spoonbread, and who could resist strawberry wine?
Last Saturday we journeyed down to Lowesville, Virginia to pay a visit to Woodson’s Mill. It has the distinction of being the one of the last remaining historic mills in commercial operation and upholds tradition with great aplomb. The mill has been home to a number of families since its erection in 1794. One its most notable owners, Dr. Julian B. Woodson, was once State Senator to Virginia.
The season of fresh corn, watermelons and tomatoes also signals family reunions and community festivals across the South. From the mountains of Southwest Virginia to the plains of East Texas, tables are loaded with foods sure to soothe the heart of the homesick Southerner. Much of the summer and fall, we will be capturing these celebrations and reunions, for our latest documentary, At the Common Table.
Summer is when the South comes alive with more than just heat – it comes alive with flavor. Right about now is the time when our watermelons are rapping a bit hollower, the squash are getting a bit too productive, and we’ve eaten enough beans to last us for a few decades.
Welcome to Common Table: A History of Southern Food
Common Table, a feature length documentary film by Red Dirt Productions and the James Agee Film Project, traces the rich and complicated history of the American South through the foods of the Southern table. Common Table will follow the path of Southern foods from the shores of Africa and Europe to the New World where plants and culinary know-how meet the ingenuity of the South’s first farmers and inhabitants, the Southeastern Indians.
From the beginning in the American South, those who depended on the land also relied on one another.
Common Table will look beyond the written records of diaries and ledgers and cookbooks to Southern fields and kitchens and plates for the stories of the everyday people who shaped the core cuisine and culture of the South. The stories of the foods we treasure will deepen our understanding of who we are as a people.
We welcome you to join us on these pages as we explore Southern food and Southern folks.