March 14, 2017

An installment in Chris Offutt’s Omnivore column, Cooking with Chris. 

Conventional thought says that if you want to learn about a foreign culture, you should eat their food, but that’s like saying you could learn about police work by watching Blue Bloods. If you come to my house and dine on an Appalachian delicacy such as squirrel brains, possum stew, or dandelions, you will never know what it’s like to grow up isolated in the woods. To pretend otherwise is a fantasy.

September 14, 2016

Every fair is a cardboard town, though a place projects something of itself onto that collapsible template, and we go to experience that reflection, distorted as it may be.

September 04, 2018

An installment of Chris Offutt’s Omnivore column, Cooking with Chris. 

Big Bad Breakfast’s official slogan is “Lard have Mercy,” and I own one of their souvenir t-shirts. Recently I began to consider the words more carefully. Could it be sacrilegious? How does the Lord feel about lard? Would God be annoyed that his power of mercy is used to peddle apparel? No, I concluded. The phrase is intended as funny, and one thing is certain: God has a sense of humor. Otherwise, where did ours come from?

 

September 05, 2017

An installment in Chris Offutt’s Omnivore column, Cooking with Chris. 

Nothing is as powerful as the extraordinary jolt of a teenager’s first love. It’s like seeing the world after a double-cataract surgery. Life is suddenly exquisite. Each leaf becomes the bearer of unbearable beauty. Romeo and Juliet were so deliriously happy that they embraced murder and suicide as an ideal solution. I didn’t go that far, but I fell deeply and totally in love with Kim.

March 13, 2018

An installment in John T. Edge's Points South column, Local Fare.

“I do this to investigate complicity and interrogate white supremacy,” Tunde Wey said on a Monday night in October, standing on a chair before a dinner crowd of fifty-plus at Second Line, a midtown Memphis po-boy shop decorated with pictures of New Orleans brass bands. He emigrated from Nigeria to the U.S. on a visitor visa, which he later adjusted to student status. Now thirty-four, Tunde talks openly of his current undocumented status and broadcasts a keen command of structural racism theory.

October 19, 2016

Since I removed myself from San Francisco, where I spent my university-teaching career, and relocated to the South, I am again reveling in the food that my little silver spoon first dipped into down in South Georgia, where everyone in my family knew, and I soon would, too, that dinner, the midday meal, was the event of the day . . .

April 05, 2016

An installment in Chris Offutt's Omnivore column, Cooking with Chris. 

Every family has legends of lost fortune and glory, particularly in the South where we keep our history close, and our enemies in sight. 

June 01, 2013

“At first, I couldn’t come in a place like this,” Helen Summerville told me one recent afternoon as she forked into a mound of cornbread dressing and giblet gravy at Kairos Kafe on the south side of Birmingham, Alabama. “And then, for a while, I wouldn’t come in,” she said. “None of that matters now.” Prior to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Summerville, who is black, would not have been served in most white-owned dining rooms in Birmingham. Back then, Ollie’s Bar-B-Q—which was open from 1926 through 2001 and claimed three locations in this neighborhood, including the one now occupied by Kairos—was among the staunchest defenders of the Jim Crow laws and practices that dictated separate eating facilities for whites and blacks.

March 13, 2018

An installment in Chris Offutt’s Omnivore column, Cooking with Chris. 

According to the exuberant advertising, my Echo was in full possession of sixty thousand recipes, which is why it’s worth writing about in a “food essay.” I have a very large collection of community cookbooks—three shelves’ worth, totaling seventy-five inches. My wife has another forty cookbooks, all much taller and thicker than mine. Still, we didn’t have sixty thousand recipes between us. Then again, who the Sam Hill needs that many?

August 30, 2016

My mother was an instinctive cook. Words and directions did not hold much for her. She was a keen observer. She learned to cook from watching her aunts; her grandmother, Maw; her own mother. She loved recipes. Clipped them from the newspaper, kept them crammed in cookbooks and stuffed in bowls around the kitchen. She read them like fiction, intrigued by the possibilities they suggested, but hardly foolish enough to take them as literal instructions for real life.