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.”
An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.
My family has always believed that American cooking is basically about following scientific steps in order to recreate a taste, but that Chinese cooking is about creating flavor using only what we have on hand and in our imaginations. I was putting that theory to the test.
A video supplement to “My Mother’s Catfish Stew” by John T. Edge, published in the fall 2019 issue.
“She was a genius, I’ve come to recognize, at recasting defeats as glorious spectacles. Faced with small-town ignorance, fearful of what small-town boredom might wrest from her, she did her best to divert and subvert. Looking back, I see my best self in her flagrancy. And I glimpse what my worst self might have nurtured, had the darker times in Clinton defined my life.”
—John T. Edge, “My Mother’s Catfish Stew”
A video supplement to “The Harris Hegemony” by John T. Edge, published in the Fall 2016 issue.
“I wish I could tell you that I saw a burning bush or God spoke to me. But the truth is I became increasingly aware of the negative unintended consequences that came from the industrialization, commoditization, and centralization of agriculture.”
A story by Stephanie Soileau from our Fall 2016 issue.
Yesterday your old daddy was nearly a goner.
Let me tell you.
There’s an old song on one of these long-plays you sent last year for Christmas. “Poke Salad Annie, gators got your granny,” something like that. Well, old Poke Salad Annie and her no ’count daddy don’t have a thing to eat, so Annie goes out and picks her daddy a mess of greens in what they call a poke sack, which is I believe how the plant got its name—
Immigrants are active Southerners. They choose to live here, to raise families, to grow businesses. Despite unfavorable odds that may, in this new age of American isolation, temporarily thwart innovation, active Southerners are reinventing the region. In the process, as an already complicated region embraces new people, and cultural nuances accrete, much is gained. Especially for eaters.
An installment in John T. Edge's Points South column, Local Fare.
When I began reading and thinking about Dixie Vodka, I didn’t want to gallop toward a conclusion. I aimed to plod, to listen, to map the paper trail of the brand since its 2013 inception. That proved tough, for the affronts came quickly.
The fiftieth anniversary ceremony began with the singing of a corrido. As the guests of honor found their seats on the stage of the octagonal-roofed Kiosk on the first day of June, Daria Vera shuffled to the mic, gripping an official program with the lyrics on the back cover. The guitarist and accordionist struck up the first chord. Her deep, gravel-lined, distinctive contralto struggled to carry over the rumble of the cross-border freight trucks hemming us in on parallel one-way arteries of Highway 83 through downtown Rio Grande City, Texas.
I never thought I’d experience the likes of Rancho Grande in Monticello, a Deep South hamlet named for Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia manor (gleefully pronounced with a soft “c”) and about as cosmopolitan as a Baptist men’s prayer circle.
Thirty years ago, after traveling all night across the desert, I reached the West Coast and promptly jumped into the Pacific Ocean. My plan was to meet a slew of fabled California girls, who’d be deeply impressed with my country-boy resourcefulness and reward me with sexual favors. Instead, the cold undertow pulled me out to sea, and began pushing me far from my pile of clothes.