I want to thank my editor at VICE Media’s food focused Munchies site, Matt Zuras and editor-in-chief Helen Hollyman for their incredible faith in my ability to take on a response to the piece “Edna Lewis and the Mythology Behind Southern Food.” by Cynthia Bertelsen. Cynthia and I have known each other since I got my start many years ago, but the essay she most recently penned was difficult. It’s thesis was directly aimed at the heart of culinary justice. Ownership as I explain in the VICE piece is not about putting up racial barriers, it’s about assuming responsibility and being proactive about passing on our heritage as a heritage. The Bertelsen essay seems to sound a clarion call for a type of reverse culinary racism that is a myth in the minds of the aware.
This question of Southern food and its origins is powerful. It says a lot about who we are and how we view ourselves. It’s also a billion dollar industry, much of it out of reach for Southern black people. I poured my heart into this piece and hope you appreciate the nuances I had to dance around–academic vs. Popular food writing. The past keeps haunting us because we have not truly confronted it.
Consider me a ghost hunter.
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