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.

Photo by Jacob W. Dillow

If you feel as though you’ve learned a lot from the posts please consider supporting my work through PayPal. My readers were successful in raising $$ on Twitter last month and that enabled me to get a new pot, new redware and other essential cooking equipment to use in the field. If you learned something today and are moved to #gimmeahigh5$ please do so, I am on PayPal (you can use that pretty golden button here on the blog to get there)   In advance, I thank you. This essay represents what indendent scholars can do they have want your support.  5 bucks..give up that expensive coffee one morning and you have done your part.

Thank you!

4 comments on “Ole Missus vs. Mammy?: Who Owns Southern Food?

  1. Hi Michael,

    First off, I’m in the DC area too and would love to say hi if you are making an appearance.

    On to my question – My father’s family is from Southern Alabama and soul food/Southern food is the food that we eat. It’s the food that everyone eats down there Black or White. I didn’t really know the name “soul food” until I was an adult because it was just our food. When we moved up here from Texas, we would make trips into DC to the Florida Avenue Grill to get ” down home cooking” (though they had sweet cornbread and my family does non-sweet cornbread and thanks to your blog, I now understand why.)

    I want to acknowledge soul food’s history and place in the African American community, but I also feel like I should be able to say, “Yes, I grew up on this food too. My family cooks it as well,” without feeling like I’m appropriating it. Is there a way to do this?

    (Sorry if this sounds really rude. I hope I am making sense.)


  2. Hi Michael,
    I just want to say how much I enjoy reading your posts – I am a Jew who immigrated to US from, at the time, USSR and so being an outsider to the tension of race in America, pieces like yours never fail to provide a very nuanced and fair exploration of just how deep the African roots go in American culture. I think that you did a really thoughtful reply to what is a very polarizing and, to my eyes, after reading both essays, fairly superficial piece.


  3. This is absolutely #Brilliant, Thank You for your work.


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