Home / Book Reviews / THE POTLIKKER PAPERS, A FOOD HISTORY OF THE MODERN SOUTH Reviewed by Debbie Green

THE POTLIKKER PAPERS, A FOOD HISTORY OF THE MODERN SOUTH Reviewed by Debbie Green

Food writer John T. Edge uncovers the history of Southern cuisine and its political flavor from the Civil Rights era to present day in “The Potlikker Papers, A Food History of the Modern South” (2017). What is potlikker? It is the leftover juice from cooked greens that should be sipped slowly and savored while steaming hot. The irony of potlikker is that it was originally considered a salvage food, shunned by the well-to-do slave owners, who “ate the greens from the pot and set aside the leftover potlikker broth for the enslaved, unaware that the broth, not the greens, was nutrient rich.” Like the food he explores, Edge’s writing is sumptuous and vividly describes everyday people who helped bring about real change in the South, to the palate as well as to race relations. He writes of Georgia Gilmore who cooked countless plates of mouth-watering food to support the boycott of the bus system in Montgomery, Alabama. Gilmore, a courageous and formidable woman, organized other black domestics to join her efforts of cooking and selling delicious food to support the cause. Reading about the tantalizing meals prepared in her home kitchen where Martin Luther King, Jr. was frequently seen with plate in hand, along with Robert F. Kennedy and even George Wallace, elicits respect for everyone represented at the “table.” Gilmore is just one example – there are many more stories of fascinating and awe-inspiring people brought to light.

The book is richly important as it leaves no stone unturned, featuring little-known but outstanding figures who made history. Edge introduces courageous and fascinating true-life characters including Fannie Lou Hamer, Colonel Sanders, Mahalia Jackson, Edna Lewis, Paul Prudhomme, Craig Claiborne, and Sean Brock and unveiling interesting back stories of Hardee’s, Popeye’s Chicken, and Chick-fil-A, to name a few.

 

Debbie Green worked as a bookkeeper for the Bay District School for 35 years and is now retired. She is thankful for the gratifying experience of seeing children learn, thrive, and grow. Equally fulfilling, she made many meaningful friendships with parents, co-workers, and volunteers. Describing herself as an outdoors aficionado, she enjoys kayaking, hiking, gardening, gathering fresh-laid chicken eggs, sweeping leaves, engaging in long walks, reading a good book on the porch, or watching a sunset. Her time is otherwise spent with daughter Suzanah, grandson Henry, and her beloved mother, Millie Rodgers, who is 92 years young.

PC Living

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