Meet Psyche Williams-Forson of Southern Foodways Alliance

Recording Southern food history, the versatile chicken, and Vertamae Grosvenor.


My name is Psyche Williams Forson, I'm an associate professor of American Studies at the University of Maryland College Park by way of Farmville Virginia. The SFA is absolutely important to southern food because not only is it an arbiter of those things that are important in the south but it too serves the purpose of keeping a record. The food that I would use to show and tell a story about the region is really hard to name, obviously, just one. But I think that my own research points to chicken as one of those foods. Because it serves such a myriad of, of purposes. Not only has it been used historically as a food for consumption, but also it has been used as a means into entrepreneurship. It has also been used by numerous people as a way of bartering, as a way of buying oneself out of particular dire straits. Whether it be slavery or other kinds of, of tight spaces and so forth. And so chicken is one of those objects I think, pantry items that has been versatile and continues to be versatile. Primarily in African-American communities where it still does hold some resonance of stereotyping. So I think that, that would be one of those foods that we can look at in any number of different ways. The southern food personality that I admire the most is actually living and it's Verda Mae Grosvenor. I think that Verda Mae in her, her writings and in her performances, has done an enormous job of helping us to see the ways in which food goes beyond simple consumption. Her presentations, her, her her performances with food, both in the kitchen and out of the kitchen really go far toward showing the ways in which food is a dynamic object to be considered and studied. If Verda Mae were to come to my home for dinner, I think she would be most excited by the fact that I mimic her telling us about vibration cooking. I don't cook by recipes. I cook simply by feel. And that would be really appropriate because my family is composed of both African-Americans and Ghanaians. And so she would have a meal that would be both African American and American, but also diet pork in nature. Because so much of the African continent would be brought to the table. [BLANK_AUDIO].
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