Southern food is worshipped and wolfed down

By Sarah Fritschner
The Courier-Journal Fri, Oct 15, 2004

Stuffed. Like so many deviled eggs, the participants of the Southern Foodways Alliance symposium last week in Oxford, Miss., partook of lectures and song, but mostly partook of Southern cuisine.

More than 250 Southern food enthusiasts met and ate the food of their dreams. Particularly when we sat down to pork shoulder, collards, spoonbread and caramel cake served by Ann Cashion of Cashion’s Eat Place in Washington, D.C. Or to biscuits, bacon, garlic grits and grillades served by Oxford’s own City Grocery. Or the catfish and pimento cheese hushpuppies at Taylor Grocery outside Oxford.

But there are those "wish you were here" moments, and tastes can’t be delivered by the post office.

Luckily, there are icons of the Southern table that I can share. Recipes make it possible.

The alliance solicited recipes for and stories about deviled eggs. " … All Southern women should be given a deviled egg plate at birth," wrote one of contestants. Deviled eggs tend to disappear fast, and the plate sits empty most of the meal. The plate should be attractive and have little indentations to hold each egg half steady.

Out of all the recipes, five made it to the finals (those and many others are at — Rick Ellis was the winner). This much we can tell you ahead: anchovies and olives do not belong in deviled eggs. The winning egg was basic — a little mustardy and buttery, but basic.

Later, there was the fried chicken extravaganza. Under a large tent, near which five stellar chicken fryers plied their trade, scores of sides were offered, including macaroni and cheese, green beans, corn muffins and lemon pie. Many worthy chefs put forth their particular take on fried chicken — one soaked her chicken pieces in Louisiana hot sauce and buttermilk; another in pickle juice.

Scott Peacock, executive chef of Watershed in Decatur, Ga., has received accolades for his fried chicken in Food & Wine magazine, USA Today and Atlanta magazine, among others. He was there with his chicken, cooked from the recipe in "The Gift of Southern Cooking" (Knopf, 2003), which he wrote with Edna Lewis.

It isn’t a simple recipe. Bits of country ham are slow-fried in a mixture of lard and butter until the foam is off the butter and the ham imparts its flavor to the fat. Then the chicken — raised organically and steeped in brine, then in buttermilk — is coated with a mixture of flour, cornstarch, salt and pepper.

The book is a treasure and will allow you to bring more Southern specialties to your table. But if you just want the chicken recipe, go to or call (502) 582-4617 and leave your name and address (spell both please).

For more information on Southern Foodways Alliance, go to

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