Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.
Monk: John T. Edge’s book “Southern Belly: The Ultimate Food Lover’s Companion to the South” is the latest in a series of similar-but-unrelated books I’ve read recently that fall into a similar bucket. That is, short profiles on classic restaurants – be they southern, soul food, barbecue joint or otherwise. What ultimately sets “Southern Belly” apart is that it covers the entire south state-by-state from East Texas to Virginia as well as the writing of John T. Edge. Man, that guy knows how turn a phrase.
Any posts or stories about John T. Edge should acknowledge the recent accusations of him. A New York Times story from the summer called him the “white gatekeeper of southern food” and noted the numerous calls from current and former staff members and contributors for him to step down as director of the Southern Foodways Alliance after 20 years in favor of a person of color. What a 12-person audit conducted over the summer ultimately led to was Edge keeping his position for the time being but promising “to make immediate improvements and launch a long-term strategic review of the nonprofit group to diversify a predominantly White staff and leadership tasked with the study of a food culture created largely by enslaved people.” Critics of the audit outcome note the lack of specificity when it comes to a plan or even a timeline for Edge’s departure. Worth following for sure if and when more specifics are announced.
In a year when the James Beard Awards was cancelled allegedly due to no black winners, it seems as if 2020 is the year of chickens coming home to roost for the historically white food institutions.
Ultimately, I decided to still read “Southern Belly: The Ultimate Food Lover’s Companion to the South” in light of all of the recent accusations regarding John T. Edge. It’s still a worthy read and can point you to some great restaurants (at least those that are still around since the original 2007 publish date). Take that for what you will, but if you do check it out, be sure to read with eyes open.