Southern Provisions

The Creation and Revival of a Cuisine

David S. Shields

David S. Shields

416 pages | 23 halftones, 1 line drawing, 2 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2015
Cloth $30.00 ISBN: 9780226141114 Will Publish April 2015
Southern food is America’s quintessential cuisine. From creamy grits to simmering pots of beans and greens, we think we know how these classic foods should taste. Yet the southern food we eat today tastes almost nothing like the dishes our ancestors enjoyed because the varied crops and livestock that originally defined this cuisine have largely disappeared. Now, a growing movement of chefs and farmers is seeking to change that by recovering the rich flavor and diversity of southern food. At the center of that movement is historian David Shields, who has spent over a decade researching early American agricultural and cooking practices.  In Southern Provisions, he reveals how the true ingredients of southern cooking have been all but forgotten and how the lessons of its current restoration and recultivation can be applied to other regional foodways.
 
Shields’s turf is the southern Lowcountry, from the peanut patches of Wilmington, North Carolina to the sugar cane fields of the Georgia Sea Islands and the citrus groves of Amelia Island, Florida, and he takes us on an excursion to this region in order to offer a vivid history of southern foodways, drawing connections among plants, farms, growers, seed brokers, vendors, cooks, and consumers. Shields begins by looking at how professional chefs during the nineteenth century set standards of taste that elevated southern cooking to the level of cuisine. He then turns to the role of food markets in creating demand for ingredients and enabling conversation between producers and preparers. Next, his focus shifts to the field, showing how the key ingredients—rice, sugarcane, sorghum, benne, cottonseed, peanuts, and citrus—emerged and went on to play a significant role in commerce and consumption. Shields concludes with a look at the challenges of reclaiming both farming and cooking traditions.
 
From Carolina gold rice to white flint corn, the ingredients of authentic southern cooking are returning to fields and dinner plates, and with Shields as our guide, we can satisfy our hunger both for the most flavorful regional dishes and their history.
Sean Brock, executive chef, Husk
“People are always asking me what the most important book written  about southern food is. You are holding it in your hands.”
Dan Barber, co-owner and executive chef of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns
“Shields is an unsurpassed custodian of Southern culinary history. In Southern Provisions, he provides a richly detailed account of the evolution of Southern food culture, from field to marketplace to home kitchen. It’s at once enlightening and inspiring—a powerful call to remember and rehabilitate our nation’s most essential foodways.”
Ronni Lundy, author of Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes, and Honest Fried Chicken
“Shields makes it clear that he is not interested in the mythology of Southern food, but purely in the facts and what we can discern from them. This emphasis on the verifiable underscores the imperative to understand and acknowledge the real who and what of the region's complicated edible past. It likewise fuels the urgency to identify and preserve for the future that which is valuable and irreplaceable. Southern Provisions is an essential volume for anyone interested in the state of American food.”
John T Edge, coeditor of The Larder: Food Studies Methods from the American South
“In Southern Provisions, Shields skillfully draws connections between agricultural history and the history of food in the Lowcountry. In the process, he unearths truths about the south, its flora, fauna, and peoples. If you want to apprehend the tangled roots of American regional cuisine, this is a good place to start.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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