November 08, 2016

I love potatoes in all their forms—even raw—but especially hash browns, latkes, French fries, baked potatoes, soufflés, puffs, pastries, and homefries. And vodka. Don’t get me started on vodka. Please don’t! The last time I imbibed potato liquor I wound up hiring a bicycle taxi to pedal five people to my mother’s house for a nightcap. Mom was delighted; the taxi-cyclist quite a bit less so.

December 22, 2016

In a book entitled What Is Art? Leo Tolstoy writes, “The satisfaction of our taste cannot serve as a basis for our definition of the merits of food.” In other words, being accustomed to a particular dish does not mean it’s good for us. In his own convoluted way, Tolstoy was defining “comfort food.” He was a nineteenth-century aristocrat who sold portions of his vast estate to pay off gambling debts, so his concept of comfort would differ mightily from yours and mine. He also got depressed a lot. He lost four children to early death and killed a bear at point-blank range, making him dang near a Russian version of Daniel Boone. He certainly thought like a Southerner when he wrote the opening line to Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; and every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

October 13, 2016

In Fred Hobson’s Tell About the South, he writes of a well-to-do white writer named Lillian Smith, born in Jasper, Florida, a mere eighty miles from my home in the hills of Leon County. I had never heard of her. Unlike her contemporaries W.  J. Cash, author of The Mind of the South, and Clarence Cason, author of 90° in the Shade, Smith did not go the full Quentin Compson and commit suicide after publishing a poetic, guilt-laden jeremiad—but instead authored book after book laying bare the South’s transgressions. She was fearless, a rabble-rouser and rebel who integrated her life and art.

July 05, 2016

I was in Miami to think about Andy Sweet, a photographer who died far too young in 1982, and whose major subject was the weird, poor, old, and Jewish South Beach that everyone says has been gone for a long time now.

May 09, 2016

A vibrant literary magazine ought to not only fuel the culture, but should have something to say about it, too.

May 18, 2016

Ethnic insights do not always weather storms, particularly if one, black or not, is too committed to common cloudbursts: they can slowly evolve into an aesthetic version of sleeping sickness. Tarantino surprises us again because his Django Unchained is one of the worst versions of Blaxploitation ever seen.

April 19, 2016

I came to Replacements, Ltd. to see the huge collection of Fiestaware, the beloved American-made brand of colorful china, and to follow a hunch I had that a plate has special significance in the South. This was both an ethnographic mission for my work as a cultural anthropologist and a personal quest: I am one of countless Americans who collect Fiestaware.

May 19, 2016

Cooking with Chris.

Though not inclined to the supernatural, I am willing to recognize the effects of luck on my life, both good and bad. As a result I have many talismans of good fortune: a rabbit’s foot, a horseshoe, an oak leaf from a 150-year-old tree, and hundreds of lucky rocks. I don’t know if they work, and I don’t really care.

March 22, 2016

Reading Terry Southern’s letters, I wondered whether Southern would have really wanted to see it published, or whether that matters. I wondered whether I even liked Terry Southern anymore, having read it. More than once, as he apparently intended, I wondered, Well, is this true?

January 13, 2016

Cooking with Chris. Before we begin preparing the possum for baking, I’d like to relate two highly personal stories about possums. One is quite sentimental and the second has a squeamish element, so I will lead with the sweet and kind.

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