Meet Marcie Cohen Ferris of Southern Foodways Alliance

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


My name is Marcie Cohen Ferris, and I am an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I teach in the American Studies department there. For me personally, the recipes that are most important are those recipes that matter to family, and to individuals. So, for me, it's my mother's jam cake that she makes at holiday time. And for us growing up, Jewish and southern in Blytheville, Arkansas, holiday time was actually in September with the Jewish high holidays, and that's when we would have jam cake. So I have a recipe from one of her dear friends, not Jewish, but for a blackberry Wonderful jam cake, that's perfect at holiday time, when you want, when it's traditional to have something sweet for a sweet year. And I think those kinds of recipes that mean something to families, to individuals in the South. Those are the really important ones to me. When I think about a Southern food personality that I admire, there are many. And I have arranged, because I'm interested in Southern food history. I kind of look back at historic figures. So Mary Randolph was a well to do, white, probably slaveholding Virginian. And part of the plantocracy, part of the plantation world. But she wrote one of the first American regional cookbooks in 1824 called the Virginia Housewife. And it really talks about the three traditions of Native American, African, enslaved African food traditions, and European food traditions that make Southern food so interesting. And she really pulled those traditions into that cookbook. And it's a cookbook that feels very familiar when we look at it today, because it's, there's such a renaissance to the ingredients that are, that represent kind of the core culinary, Southern culinary cultures. She talked about those and chefs and young farmers are rediscovering those worlds today in the South. And so I would love to meet her. And I think what I would, if I had to cook a meal for her, one of her recipes is, like, for a curried catfish in her cookbook. So I would probably do fried catfish or baked catfish like I like to do at my house cuz it's easier to do. Some... Good field grains, turnip greens, and field peas, and cornbread.
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