Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Foreword

Kim Severson

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pp. ix-xii

Death is the only sure measure of a person’s worth. If you’ve lost somebody, you understand this. There you are at your grandmother’s funeral, and someone you’ve never met before walks over and tells you about the day she stood up to a bully on an elementary school playground. Months after your husband passes, a note arrives in the mail expressing gratitude for the time he covered a friend’s rent without ever asking that the loan be repaid.

Only in hindsight do the bits and pieces of a life get uncovered, the parts coalescing into a new and more powerful whole. The good, strong...

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Introduction

Sara B. Franklin

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pp. 1-14

For me, it all began with a page of a magazine. It was January 2008. I was frozen deep in a Boston winter, paging through the issue of Gourmet that had just arrived in my mailbox and dreaming of new things pushing up through sun-warmed earth and the bite of something—anything—green on my tongue, to shock me out of the dull gray of short, dark northeastern days. Instead of a taste, though, it was a question that awoke me—“How did Southern food come into being?”—and a simple refrain—“Southern...

PART ONE: Encountering Miss Lewis

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What Is Southern? The Annotated Edna Lewis

Jane Lear

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pp. 17-26

More than a quarter century ago, Edna Lewis spooled out a lyrical essay she titled “What Is Southern?” on lined yellow legal paper and sent it along to friend and fellow food writer Eugene Walter. “How did southern food come into being? The early cooking of southern food was primarily done by blacks, men and women. In the home, in hotels, in boardinghouses, on boats, on trains, and at the White House....What began as hard work became creative work,” she wrote, economically ignoring the vertical margin...

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Polished

Joe Yonan

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pp. 27-37

I’m ashamed to admit that I first encountered the work of Edna Lewis almost three decades after she published her masterpiece, The Taste of Country Cooking. I say ashamed because I was in my mid-thirties by then, a budding food writer, and in hindsight, I should have known her much better, much sooner.

It must have had something to do with living in Boston at a time long before southern food was hip; with wanting to carve out a reputation as a modern, globally minded writer and cook; and with assuming that I had no...

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A Message from My Muse

Toni Tipton-Martin

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pp. 38-44

It’s 2:30 a.m. on Friday, January 14, 1995, and Edna Lewis can’t sleep. Although she is exhausted and weak from radiation, she is troubled by a conversation we’ve been having. She climbs out of bed, rips yellow paper from a legal pad, and then composes a three-page rant about African American food history.

A decade later, after the woman some have called the Julia Child of southern cuisine lost her battle with cancer at the age of eighty-nine, that note became a personal treasure to me. It also made me sad. Students of...

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Lunch with Miss Lewis

Deborah Madison

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pp. 45-48

I had the pleasure of meeting Edna Lewis. Just once.

It was in 1997. I was on book tour for Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and the tour took me to Atlanta. While there I was invited to have lunch with Miss Lewis, as everyone called her, at the home of Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison. Anne and Clifford own the restaurant Bacchanalia, where I have had the pleasure of dining. Twice. It’s my favorite restaurant in Atlanta. Also present was Scott Peacock, the longtime assistant and...

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Paying Down Debts of Pleasure

John T. Edge

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pp. 49-54

When I lived and worked in Atlanta in the early 1990s, I took cooking classes from Edna Lewis and her protégé Scott Peacock. Like many of the gambits I undertook then, I thought those classes might be good opportunities to meet girls.

Instead, gathered in a demonstration kitchen in a cookware store in the Peachtree Battle shopping center, I learned to compose an idealized country captain, pocked with golden raisins and dusted with curry...

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On Edna Lewis

Alice Waters

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pp. 55-57

My restaurant, Chez Panisse, was in its earliest years when I first read The Taste of Country Cooking, not long after it was published in 1976. At the time, my partners and I were trying to emulate a way of eating and a kind of hospitality that was at odds with the fast-food culture that was encroaching on us from all sides. So we aimed high and wide; our influences ranged from the haute cuisine of Escoffier and Ritz to the hospitality of goatherds in Turkey and innkeepers in the Alps, and we pursued freshness...

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Edna Lewis and the Black Roots of American Cooking

Francis Lam

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pp. 58-69

When I was assigned to write a piece on Edna Lewis’s history and legacy for the New York Times Magazine, I’d just joined the board of the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA). I once lived in Mississippi for a spell, but as a native of New Jersey—the northern part of it, no less—my connection to southern food and culture has always been from an outsider’s perspective. Still, I’d been involved with the SFA for some years, in part because it’s an organization that sees my story—an Asian American former transplant to...

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On Edna Lewis’s The Edna Lewis Cookbook

Susan Rebecca White

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pp. 70-75

It seems to me that there are two types of southerners: those who never leave, and those who attempt to flee the South as soon as they can. I belong to the latter category, though, like many of my kindred ex-pats, I found I could never really escape.

In the fall of 1994, I left Georgia for college in Boulder, Colorado, and then, dissatisfied with Greek life—the concept of eschewing Rush ran counter to everything I had learned at my WASP-y Atlanta prep school—...

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How to Talk about Miss Lewis? Home Cook. Writer. Icon. One Young Black Woman’s Act of Remembering

Caroline Randall Williams

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pp. 76-86

My mother and I have been talking about Edna Lewis for more than twenty-seven years. I am only twenty-eight years old. Mama began the conversation before I could talk.

And before I could walk I became part of a posse chasing after Miss Lewis through the Union Square farmers’ market. I like to imagine her the way my mama tells it; Lewis on foot, alone, a shopping bag gripped tightly in one hand, the other free to finger the late fall produce. I was being toted,...

PART TWO: Miss Lewis Standing in Culinary History

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Eu Tenho um Pé na Cozinha: Put(ting) Your Foot in It

Scott Alves Barton

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pp. 89-105

My essay is in three acts. It serves to honor the life’s work of Edna Lewis, contextualize her as a culinary icon of the African diaspora, recognize her as an important U.S. chef, and honor the hand of black women at the stove. Although today my métier is culinary scholarship, I previously spent decades as a working chef and consultant in New York City, Colorado, and San Francisco. My research focuses on northeastern Brazilian African diaspora foodways that are inscribed as both secular and sacred...

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Edna Lewis: African American Cultural Historian

Megan Elias

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pp. 106-120

In 1972, Ebony, a popular monthly magazine for an African American audience, published a travel guide titled “Do Yourself Proud: Discover Black History.” Alongside a map identifying important African American historical sites, the editors advised, “They punctuate the countryside as stubborn reminders of the richness and diversity of black American history.” These were the “scenes of long ago battles and explorations, sites of political and judicial debates; enduring reminders of black achievement in...

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The African Virginian Roots of Edna Lewis

Michael W. Twitty

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pp. 121-135

Miss Edna Lewis is venerated as a southern cook and cultural icon. Her classic cookbook The Taste of Country Cooking defined her approach to traditional southern food and amplified the importance of her gustatory memories in shaping her development as a self-taught chef. The work draws us into her childhood and spells out the seasons and labors on a small central Virginia farm in the early twentieth century. It sets the tone for her career as an advocate for going back to the resources of the southern...

Edna Lewis: Selected Portraits

John T. Hill

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pp. 136-140

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Edna Lewis and the Melancholia of Country Cooking

Lily Kelting

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pp. 141-155

I don’t remember how I first learned about Edna Lewis—only that once I heard her name, she was everywhere. Like a word you learn and then hear on the radio the next day. Like an echo. My curiosity to learn more about her grew into something like hunger. But traces of Edna Lewis in the public record were hard to come by. When the local public library didn’t have her books, I bought them secondhand. I read them many times before I started to cook from them. I started feeling that Edna Lewis was...

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Looking for Edna

Patricia E. Clark

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pp. 156-170

My introduction to Edna Lewis came by way of the cookbook she wrote with Scott Peacock, The Gift of Southern Cooking: Recipes and Revelations from Two Great Southern Cooks, one day while browsing in a bookstore in 2003, when their book was published. My time with the book was short and my assessment was, perhaps, too harsh. The photo of Peacock, with his arms wrapped around Lewis, stopped me before I could get into the book properly. There was something about the image that struck me as...

PART THREE: At Table with Miss Lewis Today

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I Had, of Course, Heard about Her: An Interview with Nathalie Dupree, April 14, 2016

Sara B. Franklin

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pp. 173-192

Sara: Can you start by telling me how and when in your trajectory you started focusing on southern food?

Nathalie: Oh my. Well, that’s pretty easy for me. I mean, I started focusing on it, really, when I was in England in ’69–’70 because I started missing the food. And I would eat an English scone and realize I missed a biscuit with butter. There’s such a similarity. I missed the greens and the southern peas. I really missed the peas that we had,...

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It’s Not All Fried Chicken and Greasy Greens

Mashama Bailey

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pp. 193-199

Around the age of ten, I started cooking breakfast for my parents. I enjoyed the feeling of control I got from being in the kitchen. Breakfast, at the time, was the only meal I knew I could prepare independently. I liked standing at the stove stirring eggs in the pan or whisking grits into boiling water. We lived in Queens, New York, our kitchen was small, and there was not a lot space for many appliances. I would spread butter on sliced bread then carefully place it in the broiler. Sometimes we would eat our eggs with bacon...

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Building an Appetite: Seasonal Reflections on the Farm

Annemarie Ahearn

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pp. 200-219

I wasn’t born in the countryside or raised on a farm. I was born in a hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and spent my childhood and teenage years in the suburbs. But one of my closest friends lived in a grand, old, sprawling farmhouse, farther out of the city. We spent afternoons barefoot in the creek, snatching up crawfish and then frying their tails or riding an old horse named Sugar, two at a time, bareback, through the woods. Out in the barn were two dozen mixed-breed chickens and a rooster, making so much noise,...

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The Wisdom in the Pages

Vivian Howard

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pp. 220-225

I wonder: Is it appropriate to call someone you’ve never met and know only through books your mentor?

I worked briefly in other chefs’ kitchens in New York. Scott Barton inspired me to start cooking at Voyage in the West Village. The kitchen culture and command of technique at Wylie Dufresne’s WD-50 impressed and humbled me. I gained confidence and speed in the early days of JeanGeorges Vongerichten’s Spice Market. But in my years of apprenticeship...

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Their Ideas Do Live on for Us: Edna Lewis, My Grandmother, and the Continuities of a Southern Preserving Tradition

Kevin West

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pp. 226-239

On June 8, 1861, the citizens of Blount County in east Tennessee—567 square miles of fertile valleys and wooded foothills that climb toward the Smoky Mountain crest—paused from their work in fields and towns to cast ballots in a referendum on the state’s Ordinance of Secession, which had been shepherded through the General Assembly by Governor Isham Harris. Blount County voted against, by a count of 1,766 to 414. Strong secessionist majorities in middle Tennessee swung the other way, and...

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Afterwords: A Family Remembers

Ruth Lewis Smith and Nina Williams-Mbengue

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pp. 240-246

My sister Edna—who was eight years older than me—was an example to me every step of the way, from our childhood in rural Virginia through her later years. Her calm demeanor was as striking as her neatly styled hair and side profile.

Edna began cooking early. Our mother assigned her to cook breakfast for all of us (there were six of us children who survived—Edna, me, Naomi, George, Lue Stanley, and Virginia) so everyone could eat before...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 247-248

To Judith Jones, for telling me about Edna Lewis with such candor and admiration. Thank you for recognizing the value in Lewis’s stories and recipes, and for guiding her work into print. I owe so much of what I know and think about to you. Thank you for inviting me into your home that freezing January day, for tea and conversation, for laughter and toughness, for Vermont and New York, and for all the fine work you’ve given to all of us. My admiration knows no bounds....

Contributors

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pp. 249-256

Index

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pp. 257-279