Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Idealistic Southern farmers and chefs find synergy in reviving, retaining old and tasty foodways

South Carolina heritage hog farmer Emile DeFelice, right, is "part of a thriving movement of idealistic Southern food producers who have a grander plan than just farm-to-table cuisine," Julia Moskin reports for The New York Times. "They want to reclaim the agrarian roots of Southern cooking, restore its lost traditions and dignity, and if all goes according to plan, completely redefine American cuisine for a global audience. Their work is being encouraged, and sponsored, by a new generation of chefs who have pushed Southern cooking into the vanguard of world cuisine — and who depend on these small producers to literally flesh out their ambitions." (Times photo by Kathryn Wagner)

Moskin says the synergy has high potential: "Like California in the 1970s — when Alice Waters collaborated with farmers, foragers and cheesemakers on the food at Chez Panisse — the South today has just the right combination of climate, culinary skill, regional chic and receptive audience." She says many Southern chefs are working along the same line as chef Sean Brock, from Wise County, Virginia, whose Charleston restaurant Husk " serves only food produced south of the Mason-Dixon line, from Georgia olive oil to Tennessee chocolate to capers made from locally foraged elderberries. . . . Perhaps most important, they are paying (and charging) big-city prices for down-home ingredients: money that is keeping food traditions, and small producers, alive."

Moskin notes, "The quest for 'real' Southern food isn’t new," citing the Southern Foodways Alliance and Slow Food USA. "Today, purists believe, Southern cooking is too often represented by its worst elements: feedlot hams, cheap fried chicken and chains like Cracker Barrel." DeFelice told her, "My mother didn’t cook like that, and my grandmother didn’t cook like that. And if you want to come down here and talk about shrimp and grits, well, we’re tired of that, too. Southern cooking is a lot more interesting than people think.” (Read more)

1 comment:

Ed Marksberry said...

This is an interesting article on the southern flair of ingredients becoming internationally recognized by great chefs. Maybe Kentucky could fuse locally grown ginseng with Bourbon. Think about it, a shot of this before a great meal will not only enhance your sexual life, but make you feel 6 feet tall as well.