There is perhaps no region in America as valorized and contested, romanticized and politically polarizing as the South. In contemporary American food culture, the South has come to represent a number of aesthetic ideals including authenticity, craftsmanship and the particularities of place. Many even go so far as to argue that the foods of the South make up the only “true” American cuisine. Why the South? What elements of the region’s unique history inform this contemporary mindset, and what can we learn from today’s “New Southern” table about identity, politics, history and progress? How can studying the food of the South help us understand the popular mythology of our country as a whole? In this course, we will read both scholarly and popular literature as well as watch and listen to various materials that dig into Southern food culture. We will tease apart what is so unique about the region and its pockets of vernacular cuisine, both in reality and in imagination. By putting Southern food under the magnifying glass, we will tease apart how various forms of media engage with historical and contemporary issues of race, class and gender by continually asking: Who is credited with “inventing” the cuisines of the American South? From whence do signature Southern ingredients really hail, and who has prepared them? How have branding, advertising, cookbooks and television massaged the Southern narrative in order to serve and perpetuate the romantic ideals of the Old South? And in today’s “New South,” who is invited to, and who is still excluded from, the Southern table, both in reality and in popular narratives? In this unique moment of Southern food’s surge in popularity, we will pen our own stories about how the South is translated and represented gastronomically in our own locale, New York City.
Advanced Writing Courses (WRTNG-UG)