Friday, October 26, 2007

Building the Ultimate Southern Food Wiki

This is the goal - building the ultimate wiki about Southern food and drink. The infrastructure is set, so now we are asking you for your in-put. We don't want to hang this thing out there totally unpopulated, so we are asking you to help us. Please begin sending us your entries and let us add them for a few weeks, until we have a critical mass. That will also allow the internal organization to become more apparent.

Send us your information, your pictures, your ideas. Please. If you want to be part of monitoring and editing the wiki, let us know. If you are from a company that makes an iconic Southern food, i.e., Moon Pies, send us an entry that describes the history of your company. We would rather be overwhelmed with response than struggle to find entries. If you fancy yourself the expert on something - say funeral food in south Alabama - write about it.

Recipes have a place in this wiki. They will illustrate the text. Biographies of chefs, noted home cooks, writers and critics, product developers and restaurateurs all have a place. Don't hold back. This needs to be the most comprehensive and broadly defined place to find information about Southern food. In just a few weeks, with your help, we will be ready to say, "Ya'll come!"

Monday, October 22, 2007

texas and some other stuff

first things first. we are on the National Geographic Traveler website blog thingy. here:
cool. huh?

ok, I just got back from a trip to Texas to attend my friend Scott's wedding just outside San Antonio. Lovely. He married Eva, a woman I instantly liked when I met her under difficult circumstances, (I evacuated to her apartment in Houston after Katrina en route to London for a wedding. "Hello girlfriend of Scott I have just met. Now I am going to go sob in your bathroom.") which she responded to beautifully ("Here's a kleenex, Elizabeth. Now let's get to Target and buy you some clothes.") So anyway, I was happy to see them. But of course as I have mentioned in other blogs, the museum rules my life, so I couldn't just go to a wedding in Texas, a SOUTHERN STATE, without visiting some food people and seeing what connections I could make. So I did.

I met with Shelley Grieshaber at the new branch of the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio, the Center for Food of the Americas . (If you have the August issue of Gourmet lying around, check out the great article about them) We discussed ways the food museum could partner with the school and it was through Shelley that I found out about the Museo Alameda, , a museum dedicated to the Latino experience in the Americas. It is the only branch of the Smithsonian located outside Washington D.C. I promised her I'd check it out.

After my visit with Shelley on Friday, I took her advice and ate at Rosario's for lunch: delicious fish tacos. Oh, there are many wonderful things here in NOLA, but fish tacos aren't one of them. Checked into the hotel, tooled around the Riverwalk for a spell, embraced my role as tourist and ended up at Acenar (also Shelley's reccomendation.) Chef James Sanchez not only fed me beautifully, but joined me at the end of the night and we talked Tex-Mex (well, he talked, I listened) and told me his story. James was excited about the new CIA in San Antonio because he had to leave San Antonio to go to NY for his training. He was a local boy with a strong background in food, since his grandfather was the Market Manager for the San Antonio famer's market. He remembered walking through the market with his grandfather and all the vendors would just give him fruit to eat and never take payment, since his grandfather was so respected.

He spent several years, working in the corporate food world and choose to leave it all to run a restaurant where he gets to cook like he wants to cook. He said "This is the first restaurant I've cooked in where my father comes to eat." He tried to explain to me the differences between the TexMex in San Antonio, Houston, Laredo, El Paso, etc... I realized I knew nothing. And it made me aware of how big this task is, putting together a museum about ALL southern food. I took another sip of my margarita and ignored the terror of the task and concentrated on my duck crepe which, frankly was so delicious it could take your mind off anything, even professional anxiety.

The wedding in Seguin Texas was lovely, held on the banks of the Guadalupe River. I had two pieces of the yummy cake with real frosting, none of that fondant mess, and too much wine.

I made my way back to San Antonio Sunday and met up with Jim Peyton, a cookbook author, menu consultant and all around great guy for breakfast at Mirador. I told Jim about the Menu Project and he told me he has just worked with a restaurant in Bejing, creating a TexMex menu and teaching the staff how to cook it. He promised me a menu from that place and others from the San Antonio area, then he and I and my friend Mark headed to the Museo Alameda. Fantastic exhibit on Celia Cruz and Huipiles. Check it out if you are in town. I didn't expect to find any head staff there, but the director was and she and I talked about putting an exhibit together in the future and then told me she had discussed working with the Center for Food of the Americas and I got to say I had already talked with Shelley and it felt just like being in New Orleans where everybody knows everybody and so I am optimistic about that contact and we'll see what happens. Hung out at the Riverwalk some more, but stuck to iced tea. Good times, good contacts, good food.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

It Grows and Grows

The plans for the next steps for SoFAB are unfolding and we are closer and closer to taking the museum to opening. It is exciting beyond belief to have watched and shepherded the idea of a museum to where we are today. But it is also terrifying. There is so much to do, so much to think about, so much to look forward to...

As we get closer to opening, it is also possible to look back and see how far we have come. We have a serious menu collection, we have the beginnings of a library (despite having setbacks caused by Hurricane Katrina), and we have a budding collection of artifacts. This is due to the interest and generosity of many people. I thank all of them. Everyone who has sent us a menu or a book or an artifact has created yet another bit of foundation under our feet and given us a little moral and emotional boost.

We have also benefited from the time and talent of so many people who have given us their energy as gifts. I continue to be so humbled by their generosity and good will. And I am working for all of you. Thank you for working for SoFAB.

Friday, October 12, 2007


It seems like everyday, I do something for this job that I have never done before. Ok, maybe not everyday. But frequently, certainly. And I don't know about y'all but whenever I do something I've never done (or done rarely) I always wonder if I'm doing an even halfway decent job. So it was a pleasure to attend the New York Women's Culinary Alliance's Speed Networking held at Hill County BBQ restaurant last week. It began with a workshop on creating one's elevator speech, the 20 second explanation of who you are and what you do. This I had done many times, but I learned a different technique about it. Emphasis was placed on making your job one that offered something to the listener. That was new. It was hard to come up with something for the museum. I mean, inherent in its definition is construction for the common good. But then I realized that was inherent in my definition. So I ended up reminding people how we collect and preserve stories and artifacts about food traditions, especially those that might not be automatically valid. This could encourage people to want to donate their artifacts/menus/recipe collections and the like.

Next in the lecture was a discussion about networking in general. How you do it everywhere, but without expectation. You are always putting yourself out there, looking for contacts, because you never knw who can help you. Whether you are on the bus or at a wedding or wherever, you can network. Then we had the speed networking, talking to someone for only 4 minutes then moving on to someone else. And it was not only fun, but I made some good contacts. So all that was satisfying.

But then last night, I was at the table at my step-sister's wedding rehearsal dinner, sitting next to my step-father's sister, Lee, who lives in Florida. I started talking about the museum and then peppering her with questions about whom I should contact there to start a dineout. And then I wondered, will I ever not talk about this? Will I ever be able to just go to a wedding or function or play or concert or anywhere and not be lookng for connections for the museum. And right now, I cannot imagine that. I told Lee I feel like those parents who cannot quit talking about their kid. Because their lives are consumed and to a great degree defined by their children. And that's where I am right now. So to all my friends and people I have yet to meet, I apologize for when I cannot shutup about the museum and just talk about a movie or article I read or book I'm in the middle of or new CD I like or restaurant I ate at or dish I made. Because I don't really do these things anymore. But if you know a chef who you think might like to host a dineout in Louisville, lemme know.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

More and more books

I cannot believe that I am doing this again today, but I just can't help it. Not a day goes by that I don't encounter something very exciting and often unexpected that shows that SoFAB is on the map, it is in the minds of people and that it is filling a need. For example, we have received unsolicited donations of an old ice cream maker and an Elmer's candy box. There are other donations, but these are representative. People are spending money making sure that when they send us these artifacts, they arrive in good condition. We often do not even have a return address and cannot properly express our gratitude.

Besides a growing number of inquiries asking for traveling exhibits and our participation in festivals, the most exciting development is the number of books that are finding their way to us. It is part of our mission to build a research library that holds cookbooks and other books relevant to the cultural foodways of the South. This includes books from other parts of the United States, because foodways do not respect political boundaries. It also includes international books, because so many influences from immigrants can be documented through books about other countries. Thank you to all of you who have sent us books. It is exciting to think that you are supporting our efforts. Please, when you send us your books, please let us know who you are. We want to acknowledge you.

Many thanks.

Connecting the South

We are busily trying to create a network of ambassadors throughout the South to represent the voice of SoFAB in their region, as well as to be envoys back to us of what's happening in that region. We hope that you will consider volunteering to be one of our ambassadors. The advisors will sit on our Board of Advisors who will be acknowledged on our website and be the eyes, ears and voice of SoFAB around the South. We are looking forward to hearing from you.

By the way, as you troll for information about the South - both culinary and otherwise - be sure to visit Bluegatco. Always something new from the South.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

New York New York it's a helluva town...

Those were the original lyrics, censored for the movies to "wonderful town". but I think it's both. Stayed with Christine Carroll of the Culinary Corps on Roosevelt Island and Courtney Knapp of Martha Stewart in Brooklyn (Prospect Park) and here's what all I did.

Thursday night:Ate super salty fishy Japanese raman, can't find the menu so I cannot tell you where, and the fancy desserts at Chikalicious.

Friday:Put up the Restaurant Restorative exhibit at the James Beard House and got ready for a party to which we were graciously invited by Jamie Tiampo of Seefood Media. Check out his beautiful photos. Big party. Lots of good wine from Italian Wine Merchants. Late night slice at Two Boots, Louisana inspired pizza. get it? 2 boots?

Saturday:Hit Queens for Taste of Jackson Heights, a food and film festival and my cheapest meal of the trip. indian, burmese, bbq and tarts
Grand Central Station for an Oyster Festival, Beer Bottle opening contest and overpriced but delicious Sidecar at the Cipriani Bar. So pretty there.
An art opening at Chelsea market where the vodka was not free, as promised. sigh. late night burgers at POP burger. very very good. make sure you get the shake. and fries.

Sunday: Took the train to Stone Barnes/ Blue Hill. Had the tasting menu even though it was not on the menu because I was at a table of foodies. Concord grape cocktails. Move over Welch's. Everything so perfectly seasonal and beautiful. late tomatoes, pork that melted in your mouth, a picked that morning soft boiled egg over just shelled beans, plum souffle and lots of other things I don't even remember. big blur of food and conversation and wine. big tour of the farm. big nap on the train back.

MondayMoved my exhibit from James Beard to French Culinary Institute where it is installed on 2nd floor until December. Then off to meeting at Google about stuff that hasn't happened but OMG their cafeteria. Raw food bar. Vegan and Vegetarian options. Lots. Everything organic. All the farms they get their food from are listed on a big board. Daily changing ceviche. Sustainably harvested seafood. But they had something for everyone. Can we say Chicken fried steak and fries? I ate a lot. A LOT. then I had gelato.

Took some time for me. Met a friend for coffee. Guggenheim.
Then SPEED NETWORKING at New York Women's Culinary Alliance event hosted at Hill Country BBQ. tasty. useful. I sure have a lot of business cards now. then it was late and I had to get back to Brooklyn. which is far.
in fact, that is my only complaint about NY. everything was far. and it took a helluva long time to get around to all the places I had to get to. but i guess that's what makes it a helluva town.