In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Chance Meetings and Back RoadsMaking Connections through Food
  • Amy C. Evans (bio)

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Edna Stewart’s “Edna’s” in Chicago.

As the oral historian for the Southern Foodways Alliance, I collect the stories behind the food. I travel the region to document everything from barbecue to boudin, catfish to caramel cake. Food gets me in the door, but the people make me want to stay.

Collecting oral history interviews takes a unique combination of propriety, persistence, curiosity, and adventure. And while I’m usually prepared with a schedule of interviews before I hit the road, it’s the excitement of seeking out the new and the unknown that can prove most satisfying. The chance meeting at the dock. The hand-painted sign that sends me down a maze of back roads. The gut feeling that a good story is just around the corner.

More than that, though, the field of oral history is about making connections. I have a small window to gain trust and inspire conversation, and the stories that people share with me are always a gift—an important contribution to the history of southern foodways, to be sure, but they also are connections that remain with me long after the interview is over. The photographs and stories collected here only begin to show some of these connections made through food. You can read and listen to these and other oral histories by visiting www.southernfoodways.com . [End Page 67]


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I met A. L. “Unk” Quick (here, in 2006) one evening as he was docking his skiff after a day of oystering on the Apalachicola Bay, where he has worked since he was sixteen years old. His wife Gloria shucks his catch at a processing house on land, where she often finds tiny pearls hiding inside an oyster’s shell. In the off-season and when the bay is closed due to red tide, they do odd jobs together to make ends meet. Unk took me all over Franklin County, telling me tales and showing me sites, and his story became part of my efforts to document the seafood industry along Florida’s Forgotten Coast. [End Page 68]


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Martin Sawyer (here, in 2005, showing off one of his Mint Juleps) has fifty years of bartending under his belt. Thirty-four of those years were spent mixing drinks at the Rib Room in the French Quarter, where he was known for his brandy-and-rye Sazeracs and fanciful Mint Juleps. He was forced into retirement after Hurricane Katrina, but “The Professor,” as he’s known, is still a walking encyclopedia of New Orleans cocktail history. [End Page 69]


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Florence Signa makes the salads (and more) at Doe’s Eat Place in Greenville, Mississippi, in 2005. Her brother-in-law, Doe Signa, started the restaurant in 1941. Florence married Frank “Jughead” Signa in 1947 and has worked at Doe’s Eat Place ever since. Known for their thick steaks, hand-cut fries, and housemade tamales, Doe’s has become an icon of Delta dining. [End Page 70]


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Elizabeth Scott (right, in her kitchen with daughter, Marie, in 2005) started making tamales with her husband Aaron and selling them from carts on the streets of downtown Greenville, Mississippi, in 1950. Aaron passed away in 1987, but Elizabeth kept Scott’s Hot Tamales afloat. Today, Elizabeth’s children and grandchildren make the tamales and sell them from a stand on MLK Boulevard. [End Page 71]


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A hand-painted sign along a roadside in Cajun Country led me to John Saucier’s driveway in Mamou, Louisiana. I was in the area to document boudin, but Saucier’s Sausage Kitchen appeared closed. John Saucier (here, in front of his garden in 2006) eventually emerged from the house next door, and he let me interview him on his front porch, where he told stories about boudin, the Cajun Mardi Gras, and how he had grown up in the Cajun boucherie tradition of slaughtering...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 67-77
Launched on MUSE
2009-11-12
Open Access
No
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