I had an amazing adventure to Oxford, MS – attending the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium this weekend. There are so many things to say and so many people to thank for me being able to go. I have to start somewhere. A bit about the Symposium…
It happens every year on a weekend when Ole Miss is not playing a home football game in Oxford. Roughly 400 people purchase tickets to attend the event, which includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner and presenters for three full days. This year the tickets sold out in less than 30 minutes, leading one of my friends to say – when I told him I had a ticket – “getting a ticket to SFA is harder than getting one to the Masters. My friend Peter Roy set his clock and was poised at his computer ready to buy tickets. A beauty Peter! Thanks for getting me a ticket. Annie arranged all of the travel. Shelly was my traveling companion, getting me to and from.
This year’s theme was particularly interesting and challenging. It was “Who is Welcome at the Table.” It included short films and excellent presenters talking about civil rights, issues of class and sexuality when it comes to being welcome at the table.
I would like to tell a story: I was a terrible student and therefore didn’t have a lot of confidence about my intellect. When I got my first job as a teaching golf professional in Westchester County New York at the historic Winged Foot Golf Club, one of my first tasks after I reported for duty in April was to speak at a members’ lunch and introduce myself. With my Southern accent, which had been an issue for me in the past – not only could the members not understand me, but there was a lot of snickering and laughter. It hurt me deeply. I did not feel welcome at the table.
In the next 25 or 30 years, the wound was re-opened many times when I learned that the media used a Southern accent to depict stupidity. One of the reasons that I love the SFA Symposium so much is it makes me proud of my Southern accent. Clearly there are smart and very competent people, most of which are speaking like I do.
I would like to finish by saying, here is the SFA website: southernfoodways.org -they will be putting many of the presentations that I saw over the weekend online. Already up is my friend Kate Medley’s films about Lunch Counter Sit-ins in the South. Here is the link to her documentary film about the lunch counter sit-in’s in Jackson, Mississippi : Counter Histories: Jackson, Mississippi
In closing, I was proud of the Triangle SFA peeps of North Carolina, from Bill Smith of Crooks Corner, Ashely Christenson of Poole’s Dinner, Marcy Ferris, Randall Keenan, and Malinda Lowery of UNC, Kate Medley, and many more for their contributions to the weekend symposium and to the organization.