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A lively, informal history of over three centuries of southern hospitality and cuisine, Eating, Drinking, and Visiting in the South traces regional gastronomy from the sparse diet of Jamestown settlers, who learned from necessity to eat what the Indians ate, to the lavish corporate cocktail parties of the New South. Brimming with memorable detail, this book by Joe Gray Taylor ranges from the groaning plates of the great plantations, witnessed by Frederick Law Olmsted and a great many others, to the less-than-appetizing extreme guests often confronted in the South's nineteenth-century inns and taverns: "execrable coffee, rancid butter, and very dubious meat."
Taylor describes the diet of the early pioneers, with its corn bread, beaver-tail soup, and black bear meat, and the creation of the South's regional cuisines, including Kentucky's burgoo and south Louisiana's gumbo. He tells of the rounds of visitation that were the social lifeblood of the Old South, of the fatback and hoecake that fed plantation slaves, and of the starvation diet of the Confederate soldier and civilian. Taylor then looks at how technological advances and urbanization have in some cases enhanced, but more often diluted, the southern eating experience, and he finds that despite the introduction of fast-food "abominations" and factory-made horrors such as quick grits and canned biscuits, the region's sturdy eating, drinking, and social traditions still flourish in many byways and on some main avenues of the modern South. In a new introduction, noted food writer John Egerton looks at what motivated Joe Gray Taylor to undertake this fine study and discusses how southern food studies have progressed since the book was first released.