The Ultimate Foodie Gathering

Brandall Atkinson

The 15th annual SFA Symposium was held this past weekend in Oxford, Mississippi

If you’re into Southern food (and really, who isn’t?), the hottest ticket of the year is the annual Southern Foodways Symposium, in Oxford, Mississippi. Held this past weekend, the three-day affair was organized by the Southern Foodways Alliance, and this year it sold out in about the time it takes to eat a hot tamale. It’s easy to see why. It’s hard to imagine anywhere else where you could find such a gathering of chefs, scholars, writers, and just regular folks who care deeply not just about food but about its connection to Southern life, past and present.

This year’s symposium was dedicated to none other than barbecue. We heard from a wide array of speakers—from Mark Essig’s fascinating look at the history of the pig to writer Monique Truong’s love letter to Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge in Shelby, North Carolina. And then there was the food: whole hog from Rodney Scott and Sam Jones, catfish at the great Taylor Grocery, even a twelve-course veggie lunch from chef Ashley Christensen that was so good it took about six courses before anybody realized there wasn’t any meat at the table. (Check out our daily blogs from the symposium here).

Thankfully, the folks at the SFA were kind enough to put free podcasts of the talks online. Apart from hosting the symposium, the group collects oral histories, makes films, publishes food writing, and holds events all over the South—basically anything and everything to keep Southern food traditions alive and well. Word is next year’s symposium will center on the role of women in food. Should be another great one. Hope to see you there.

>Click here for photos from the 2012 SFA Symposium