CULINARY: A recent visit with John T. Edge
Compiled by Cheri Leavy Photograph by Yvonne Boyd
It was a treat for me to visit with the South’s most distinguished foodie and wordsmith, John T. Edge. We started our banter sharing our love for the two best college towns in America: Oxford, MS and Athens, GA. Athens is in his home state where he was born and he is the Director of the Southern Foodways Alliance at The University of Mississippi. I live in Athens as a University of Georgia graduate that started out my college career at the University of Mississippi where I too loved Southern Studies. So we had each other at hello.
Edge told me he liked the food in Athens running the gamut of Weaver D’s to Five and Ten which I love too. I should have told him I like the food in Oxford running the gamut of Taylor Grocery to City Grocery which you can bet he frequents too.
John T. Edge is the voice representing our southern food culture best through his award winning writing in magazines, newspapers and books.
Edge has a new cookbook that he is out on tour promoting titled, ‘The Truck Food Cookbook,’ where he delves into his belief that truck food is not fast food.
I am putting my order in for the book at Square Books in Oxford as you can get a signed copy there but they should be out in your local bookshop now. If you would like to keep up with the “recipes and ramblings from the author of The Truck Food Cookbook” on tour, then head to their tumblr site.
Here is a Frito Pie recipe shared via ‘Garden and Gun' from the cookbook. Enjoy his recent article in his N.Y. Times column United Tastes, ‘Tostilocos, Tijuana Street Food hits the Mainstream.’
Here is a little bit from our visit…
Fave food journey:
JTE: A recent barbeque road trip with my son, Jess, that I wrote about in the most recent issue of ‘Garden and Gun' mattered most to me because it was father and son. My son is eleven going on 25. The time on the road in the car was valuable to me as I tried to point out in the piece. It was not just BBQ and people along the way but also the bonding experience between us. A good road-trip does wonders especially if over food as the communion of a meal is special.
CL NOTE: Here is an excerpt from Edge’s piece that touched me profoundly: “Five miles from home, I asked Jess what he learned on our barbeque road trip. “”Respect what you have while you have it,”“he said. That insight applies to issues of hunger and poverty. And to the barbeque traditions of the South. Not to mention father-son relations.
Though our barbeque buzz had faded by the time we rolled back into Oxford, my road-trip-fueled appreciation for Jess had grown, as had my conviction that we needed to plot another expedition. Before his hunger fades. Before he grows up.”
That my friends is why you need to subscribe to Garden and Gun as every article in the magazine will resonate with you if you love the south and its culture. I am a member of their Secret Society and appreciate so much their efforts to portray the south.
Current project at Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA) at The University of Mississippi:
JTE: I am proud of all of our oral histories that you can find online. Checkout the Down the Bayou project about the foods coming out of the south wetlands and west Louisiana.
I am proud of The Barbeque Bus team of oral historian Rien Fertel and photographer Denny Culbert that this past winter documented the stories behind all of the North Carolina barbeque mainstays. They are currently covering South Carolina that leads into our June field trip to eastern North Carolina.
CL NOTE: The most recent project happened after my interview and was last weekend’s Big Apple Barbeque Block Party in New York where the SFA co-presented the Potlikker Film Festival with Union Square Hospitality Group to kick-off the weekend’s events. At the festival and throughout the weekend, they screened two new barbeque short films produced by Joe York, filmmaker for SFA. They screened Helen’s Bar-B-Q, an homage to Helen Turner, the Brownsville, Tennessee, pitmaster who is one of the few women in the business; and Madison Square Pork, a retrospective and celebration of the Big Apple Barbeque Block Party at 10.
We had some folks from The Southern Coterie at the Big Apple Block Party enjoying the fare and festivities with their Charleston crew of the BlackJack Barbeque Cooking Team. We cover their fun in a post here.
Five ingredients always in your pantry:
1. tobasco sauce
4. Marshall’s freezer biscuits originally out of Mobile, Alabama (Edge wrote a feature on southern frozen biscuits including Marshall’s and Sister Schubert’s in his N.Y. Times United Tastes column, 'But Surely They're Homemade?')
5. hunk of cheese (on weeknights we don’t do much dessert but we like to finish with cheese and wine for a note at the end of a meal)
Do you cook at home?
JTE: I love to cook but not as much as my wife. She is a great cook and I am not just showing due deference, it is the truth. We follow gender patterns and I cook the hunk of meat or fish on the grill. I cook breakfast on the weekend mornings. My wife is a good baker and makes great pasta dishes. When we are having a dinner party, we like to walk up to the bar at City Grocery (in Oxford) and talk through the meal and what to cook. We entertain a lot.
What would you want for your last meal?
JTE: Barbeque: chopped fresh pork barbeque sandwich with a vinegar pepper sauce with a little tomato and whole hog preferably and white bread