2013 Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium

SouthernFoodwaysLast summer I was fortunate to snag two tickets to the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium. This event sells out in record time, so you have to be at your computer and poised to pounce the minute registration opens. Chefs, journalists, pitmasters, academics, and people who just love food make the pilgrimage each October to Oxford, Mississippi for lively discourse, provocative seminars, and, of course, the food.

If you’re flying, the arrival city is Memphis and Hog and Hominy serves as the clubhouse for SFA members. Upon arrival and prior to departure, the restaurant is filled with Symposium attendees. Our posse ordered one of everything on the menu and passed it around – my favorite way to dine. The drink of the day was this delicious Old-Fashioned with a giant ice ball made from triple-distilled water. These ice balls cost $5 and I’m happy to report that they last through three cocktails.

SouthernFoodways-01Attendees could choose from several optional Thursday night dinners, cooked by guest chefs at local restaurants. We chose the City Grocery venue. A restaurant full of reveling SFA members, seated with new and old friends, makes for a perfect start to the weekend.

SouthernFoodways-02Each morning finds John Currence’s Big Bad Breakfast filled with {perhaps slightly hung over} SFAers. This is Levon Wallace of Proof on Main and Matt McClure of The Hive bellied up to the counter.


Big Bad Breakfast serves great diner breakfast food, sometimes with a little twist, and always elevated with the best, freshest  ingredients. I always get the Pel”egg”can Brief — a nod to John Grisham, best-selling author, Ole Miss law school alumnae, and Oxford homeowner. Perfectly poached eggs benedict with country ham. And a side of cheese grits.

SouthernFoodways-05This year’s theme was Women at Work and the stage was set with a vintage stove and linoleum kitchen table. From informative lectures on Eugenia Duke and Sister Schubert to a funny and poignant talk by Caroline Randall Williams who inherited her grandmother’s cookbook collection, an array of speakers discussed women’s roles in the world of food. We celebrated Alzina Toups of Galliano, Louisiana who received the Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame Award and Vertamae Grosvenor who received a Lifetime Achievement award. United States Poet Laureate Natasha Threthewey offered the benediction,. We heard from Charlotte Druckman, Audrey Petty, and Candacy Taylor.  The inspired programming of this event was educational, poignant, and thought-provoking.

SouthernFoodways-06Julie Stuart of Making Ideas Visible illustrated colorful and detailed notes during each presentation. These massive murals were auctioned on the last day. Perfect for the visual learner.

SouthernFoodways-07As you can imagine, the food at Symposium is carefully curated, gorgeously plated and displayed, and downright delicious. You can read about every menu detail here. These homemade preserves and jams {above and below} were part of a bountiful cheese and bread display.

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“Grab a flask and get on the bus!” is a welcome directive. Cocktails were packaged in beautifully designed glass flasks to enjoy on the bus ride to Taylor Grocery. All of the whimsical doodle graphics for the event were drawn by the multi-talented Emily Wallace of Durham, North Carolina. Emily also gave the lecture on Eugenia Duke of Duke’s mayonnaise.
SouthernFoodways-04The first lunch was cooked by Asha Gomez of Cardamom Hill in Atlanta. So many delicate flavors.

SouthernFoodways-11Friday evening at Taylor Grocery is a staple Symposium weekend event. Hearty helpings of fried catfish, slaw, and french fries layered with great conversation and mingling make this a night to remember.

SouthernFoodways-12There’s  plenty of booze passed about as bottles make their way around a table or up and down the rows of the bus.

SouthernFoodways-10We packed our own flasks, too, and trading swigs of various bourbons and whiskeys is a great way to make a new friend.

SouthernFoodways-13The darling Bottle Tree Bakery is across the street from the meeting site. It’s a great place for breakfast or to regroup and recharge with a  strawberry humble pie and a cup of coffee. Highly recommend everything in this lovely little bakeshop.


The Saturday night debate strikes just the right note of fun and frivolity. This year’s topic was Pie vs. Cake and New York Times reporter Kim Severson was paired with Kat Kinsman, managing editor of CNN’s Eatocracy food site. They did a masterful job of stating their cases. Upon each chair in the auditorium was placed a pink cakebox, with this clever label, containing a piece of coconut cake and an apple hand pie to enjoy during the debate.

Cake Vs Pie 2013 from Southern Foodways on Vimeo.

SouthernFoodways-15Of course, there was another commemorative cocktail.


These white paper buckets were distributed as we exited the auditorium with instructions to fill ’em up. Tables laden with hot fried chicken were awaiting the onslaught. All parts of the chicken were represented: Breasts from Hell by Andre Prince Jeffries, Prince’s Hot Chicken, Nashville, TN, thighs in Martha Lou Gadsden style by Sarah O’Kelley, Glass Onion, Charleston, SC, and drumsticks a la Treme, by Kerry Seaton-Stewart, Willie Mae’s Scotch House, New Orleans, LA. Drew Robinson of Jim ‘n’ Nick’s, Birmingham, AL, provided Grandmother’s Groaning Table of Vegetables to round out the meal.

SouthernFoodways-19The opportunity to meet and really get to know new people by spending time with them over the course of several days is just part of what makes Symposium weekend so special. There’s that feeling of “these are my people” and everywhere you turn is a friendly face.

SouthernFoodways-20Again with the clever. Biscuit sundaes with shrimp and tomato gravy, served with a side of Bayer aspirin cures all that ails you. Perfect last breakfast bite while watching Dinner with Edna Lewis, a play written by Shay Youngblood and performed by Detra Payne.


The final good-bye. Brunch at Bourré. Guinea hen, wild rice, and the freshest vegetables prepared by Todd Richards, The Shed at Glenwood, Atlanta, GA, Steven Satterfield, Miller Union, Atlanta, GA, and Dwayne Ingraham, pastry chef, City Grocery, Oxford, MS

Here’s a video that captures the spirit of Sympoisum

2013 Southern Foodways Symposium Recap from Southern Foodways on Vimeo.

Follow this link to explore all of the programming at the 2013 Symposium. Click HERE to become a member.

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