Cornbread Nation 1: The Best of Southern Food Writing


The first volume in what will be an annual collection, Cornbread Nation gathers the best of recent Southern food writing. In fifty entries—original features and selections previously published in magazines and journals—contributors celebrate the people, places, traditions, and tastes of the American South.

In these pages, Nikki Giovanni expresses her admiration for the legendary Edna Lewis, James Villas remembers his friend Craig Claiborne, Rick Bragg thinks back on ...

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The first volume in what will be an annual collection, Cornbread Nation gathers the best of recent Southern food writing. In fifty entries—original features and selections previously published in magazines and journals—contributors celebrate the people, places, traditions, and tastes of the American South.

In these pages, Nikki Giovanni expresses her admiration for the legendary Edna Lewis, James Villas remembers his friend Craig Claiborne, Rick Bragg thinks back on Thanksgivings at home, Robert Morgan describes the rituals of canning time, and Fred Chappell offers a contrarian's view of iced tea. "Collectively," writes John Egerton, these pieces "buttress our conviction that nothing else the South has to offer to the nation and the world—with the possible exception of its music—is more eternally satisfying, heartwarming, reconciling, and memorable than its food." With the publication of Cornbread Nation, we acknowledge with gratitude the abiding centrality of food in the ongoing life of the South.

Contributors include:
Colman Andrews
Jim Auchmutey
Roy Blount Jr.
Gene Bourg
Rick Bragg
Fred Chappell
Lolis Eric Elie
Damon Lee Fowler
Nikki Giovanni
Jessica Harris
Karen Hess
Jack Hitt
Ted & Matthew Lee
Ronni Lundy
Robert Morgan
James Villas
Robb Walsh

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Almost as good as months of roaming back roads and long talks over kitchen tables all over the South. Maybe it's better.(Lynne Rossetto Kasper, host of public radio's The Splendid Table)

A delicious feast, as well as a thoughtful celebration of regional culture. (Kirkus Reviews)

Truly, there's just something about the South, its breezy characters, its off-the-edge eateries, and yes, its barbecue and batter bread. Cornbread Nation puts them all between two covers. (Jean Anderson, author of The American Century Cookbook)

Southern food is legendary stuff, but Southern food writing may be even better, at least as exampled in these pages.
(John Thorne, author of Serious Pig and Pot on the Fire)

Beautifully describes how food has shaped Southern, as well as American, culture. (Southern Living)

From The Critics
This enjoyable collection of essays, short stories, articles, and poems combines some of the best recent writing on Southern food. . . . The book beautifully describes how food has shaped Southern, as well as American, culture. . . . CORNBREAD NATION 1 will appeal to everyone who has ever experienced a love affair with Southern food.
Library Journal
After literature (William Faulkner) and music (Elvis Presley), the South's greatest contribution to American culture has been its food: Smithfield ham, grits, gumbo, pecan pie, bourbon, and other delectables. "Our dishes and beverages express our faith, our good humor, our binding ties, our eternal joys and sorrows, our readiness for whatever awaits us," writes editor Egerton (Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, in History). In conjunction with the Southern Foodways Alliance, this first volume in a planned annual anthology gathers 50 previously published articles, essays, scholarly papers, and poems that celebrate the diverse foods and culinary traditions of the South. Food writer James Villas fondly remembers Craig Claiborne. Humorist Roy Blount shares his collection of Southern food songs ("Fried Chicken and Gasoline" is a fave), while Fred Chappell offers a contrarian's view on iced tea. One of the best pieces is journalist Jack Hitt's "A Confederacy of Sauces" about a fraternal feud involving barbecue, the Civil War, and race. Not all the selections are of the same high quality a few read like a Southern Living puff piece but this is still a tasty collection. Don't read it on an empty stomach. For regional cookery and Southern studies collections. Wilda Williams, "Library Journal" Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Egerton assembles more than four dozen previously published pieces by writers such as Nikki Giovanni and Roy Blount Jr., offering the same serendipitous delights as time spent on a front porch of a summer evening enjoying good food and good talk. This is the first volume in what is to be an annual series, and, divided into sections of People, Times, Things, Places, and Southern Foodways, it's a beguiling mix of food lore, encounters with memorable characters, and, of course, the place itself, from swampy bayous to the rolling hills of Appalachia. The selections stem from Town and Country, Food & Wine, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and elsewhere, but they all reflect an abiding affection for things southern, especially the food-from boiled peanuts to Scuppernogs (a native muscadine grape) and, of course, barbecue. It is a subject that evokes passionate debate about, say, the virtues of a mustard-based versus a tomato-based sauce, or even bitter family feuds. In "A Confederacy of Sauces," Jack Hitt relates how in South Carolina, a politically liberal brother has taken advantage of a boycott of his reactionary brother's mustard-based barbecue sauce to put his own version in stores. The writers introduce characters like nonagenarian Moonshiner Coe Dupuis; Leah Chase, the cook at the famous New Orleans restaurant, Dooky Chase; and Dori Sanders, a peach farmer and writer. They visit farms where watermelons are grown, they stalk wild hogs, and they eat dinner in a Texas prison, where the incarcerated chef has a reputation as a great cook. There are tributes to southern food writers like Craig Claiborne and Eugene Walter, as well as memories of canning, family reunions, and Thanksgivings atwhich, alongside the turkey, there's macaroni and cheese-"a vegetable in the South." Others debate the merits of iced tea, which in this region is always sweetened; and explore the origin of vegetables like okra and sweet potatoes, as well as the influence of African-American traditions on white cooking, particularly in the way greens are cooked. A delicious feast, as well as a thoughtful celebration of regional culture.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807854198
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 10/14/2002
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 931,133
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

John Egerton is a journalist and author whose books include the award-winning Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, in History and Speak Now Against the Day: The Generation Before the Civil Rights Movement in the South. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee. General editor John T. Edge is executive director of the Southern Foodways Alliance in Oxford, Mississippi. Founded in 1999, the SFA works to celebrate, preserve, promote, and nurture the diverse food cultures of the American South. Its members include scholars, chefs, cookbook authors, journalists, and farmers.

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Read an Excerpt

At some point in the course of the Southern Foodways Symposium in Oxford, Mississippi, a couple of years ago—it could have been while we were scarfing up some of Leah Chase's bodacious gumbo, or when we were out in the little hamlet of Taylor wolfing down a ton of fried catfish and hushpuppies at an old grocery store, or even as we listened attentively to Dick Pillsbury's treatise on barbecue belts and grits lines and other landmarks of culinary geography—somewhere along in there, a rich and mellow idea seemed to hatch full-grown and muscular in several minds at once. This immaculate and spontaneous conception bounced up on the table in the shank of an after-dinner talkfest. It proceeded, as I recall, more or less like this:

"You know, what we oughta do is put together a book full of all this good stuff." (That must have been Ronni Lundy; she has a way of dreaming things up and then letting others think they discovered them.)

"Yeah, that's just what I've been thinking," someone else said. "Food is so central to the South we all like—the Good South of conviviality and generosity and sweet communion. What we've got here is a little band of food lovers who'll make any excuse to get together and cook, eat, talk . . . "

" . . . and write about it. At least half of us are writers of one stripe or another."

"That's probably because we don't know how to cook."

"The chefs are wannabe writers, and the writers are wannabe chefs—and when the twain meet to eat, the stories come rolling out like Cajun popcorn."

"So let's quit talking about it and do it."

"Do what?"

"A book. A collection of great food stories from the South."

And that, you might say, was the birth of a notion, more or less. We named it Cornbread Nation, a title the Southern Foodways Alliance previously used on its newsletter (which, henceforth, will be given another name to avoid confusion). Cornbread Nation is not a term freighted with any profound or universal meaning; it's just a catchy little phrase that calls to mind, for some of us, a timeless South where corn has been the staff of life forever, and cornbread in myriad forms has held a central place in the cookery of the region since the original people hunkered down to bake and break bread together.

Read the complete introduction.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2003

    Delicious collection of great southern food writing

    This book is a wonderful collection of some incredible food writing - made even better (IMHO) by the food being southern. Divided into sections (People, Times, Things, Places and Southern Foodways), some of the essays include: Iced Tea: A Contrarian's View Dirt Rich A Confederacy of Sauces My Love Affair with the Sweet Potato A Butter Lover Spreads the Word In Praise of Dinnertime

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