Southern food is tasting better again.
For over half a century, the grains, vegetables and fruit that have formed the foundation of classic Southern dishes have been replaced by tasteless varietals bred by industrial agriculture. Beginning in 2000, a systemic effort to restore these vital ingredients of our Southern foodways to their natural state has been underway.
Fundamental to this restoration were the grains: Carolina Gold rice, the key to harmonizing the flavors of jambalaya, hoppin’ john, shrimp creole and more; perloo, the soft, winter purple straw wheat inherent in biscuits, cakes and wheated whiskey; Cocke’s Prolific corn, the basis of Virginia’s signature hominy grits and cornbread; and Jimmy Red whiskey corn, which is at the center of today’s artisan bourbon movement.
Dr. David Shields’ presentation will share how these lost ingredients were tracked down — some from as far away as Trinidad — and lovingly restored to Southern fields and tables. This important presentation includes samples and images illustrating the difference in color, shape and texture between our signature grains and their manufactured substitutes.
Distinguished Professor, University of South Carolina
Dr. David S. Shields is the Carolina Distinguished Professor at the University of South Carolina and the chairman of the Carolina Gold Rice (CGR) Foundation. He has published 13 books in three fields: early American literary culture, American performing arts photography and food studies. In October 2017, the University of Chicago Press published his historical collection of American chef biographies, The Culinarians; Lives and Careers from the First Age of American Fine Dining. In 2015, the press published Southern Provisions: The Creation and Revival of a Cuisine, chronicling the emergence in the 1800s of a distinctive set of foodways along the southeastern coast of the United States.
As chair of the CGR Foundation, Shields provided the research that enabled Glenn Roberts and Dr. Brian Ward to recover and put into commercial production classic southern ingredients such as benne, sea island white flint corn, purple straw wheat, purple ribbon sugar cane, the Carolina African runner peanut and Carolina Gold Rice. He is the Southern Foodways Alliance “Keeper of the Flame” and heads Slow Food’s Ark of Taste for the South.