Meet John Shelton Reed of Southern Foodways Alliance

Meet one of the founders of SFA and preserver of Southern food culture.


I got involved with the Southern Food Ways Alliance when they had a meeting in, Greensboro and they wanted somebody to talk about the North Carolina Piedmont, and invited me to come do it and. Bill and I had such a good time and ate so much great food that we said this is an organization that we could, get with. What recipes are most important to the south really depends on what you mean by importance. Food stuffs that have historically set the south apart have been corn. And pork, and I think any, discussion of Southern food sort of has to start with those. They come in, both of them come in, a high-toned versions down home versions as well. I mean if you're talking about cornbread, you think you're talking about very elegant spoon bread that goes on some other side board. Tidewater, Virginia or you can be talking about corn pone that's fried on a hoe blade in front of the fire in a mountain cabin and everything in between. Same with pork. I mean you can eat high on the hog or low on the hog and, I've done both. I think the most important thing with this SFA. Does, is least the most important things it's done so far, is the documentation, that it's been doing. It's been, looking at, Southern food ways, and recording some that I think are, endangered or, at least underappreciated. I think you can, could illustrate an awful lot about the South by talking about barbecue sauce. I mean, not just because I've written a book about barbecue. But, you know, you start with the basic, vinegar and red pepper sauce that, was an adaptation of a Caribbean sauce. And that, 150 years ago was found everywhere. And then you can talk about ethnic influences and technological influences. Somebody invents ketchup, for better or for worse, Germans and the Piedmont start putting it into barbecue sauce. Germans further south in South Carolina started putting mustard in barbecue sauce. You go west and things get stranger and stranger. Wind up in Kansas City [LAUGH] you know, where it's sweet and red and thick. It's not, vinegar based sauce with ketchup in it, it's ketchup with some vinegar in it, basically. And, lotta sugar, lotta molasses. And then you're getting, you know, Baroque variations these days. There's a place in Asheville, a rib place, that has a blueberry chipotle sauce. Sort of post modern BBQ sauce. You could draw a nice picture of the region by looking at BBQ sauce and how it's changed, and how it varies from one place to another. I think the person involved with southern food that I admire the most. Would have to be John Edgerton. When I cook for people who are food professionals, I get very bashful, you know, [LAUGH] send out for Chinese or something. But I, I've bought a fancy new cooker and the other day I used it smoke some baloney, and I think. A good unpretentious barbequed bologna sandwich with some mustard, some mayonnaise-based coleslaw and a good thick red barbeque sauce on it. Memphis-style barbecue baloney sandwich is not something that I would be ashamed to serve to John. [BLANK_AUDIO]
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