We attended a "Piggy Bank" fundraising dinner for the Southern Foodways Alliance last Sunday. The six-course meal, paired with wines, was hosted by Taqueria del Sol, whose chef, Eddie Hernandez, was joined by two from Nashville: Roderick Bailey, chef/owner of the Silly Goose, and Josh Habiger, renowned mixologist and co-chef of the Catbird Seat.
I'd be hard pressed to pick a favorite course, but Eddie's "grass-fed young goat roasted birria-style" was a complete surprise. As he assured us, the goat's youth and diet meant it lacked the gaminess typically associated with the meat. I guess you could call it goat veal. The meat, barely clinging to bones, was served in birria's typical red chile sauce, along with cloud-like corn tortillas, toasted almond sauce, and green rice.
We also loved Josh Habiger's meaty snapper poached in mild chorizo oil, served with "elote-style" corn salad flecked with charred leeks (photo above). BUCE (Best Use of Corn Ever) and best fish preparation I've eaten in months.
The SFA's next annual symposium is planned Oct. 4-6 on the campus of the University of Mississippi in Oxford. The theme this year is "Women at Work":
This year we examine the role of women in Southern foodways. Much previous academic and popular attention has focused on women as stewards of home and hearth. Instead, the SFA will ask questions about how women farmers, artisans, and cooks have forged cultural identities, challenged gender conventions, built businesses, and driven economies.
For 2013, we explore female spaces like kitchen libraries and project kitchens. We tell stories of female entrepreneurs who earned their keep selling standards like yeast rolls and mayonnaise. We pay homage to the women who have long worked both the back-of the-house and the front-of the-house. And we celebrate the lives of women of letters like Vertamae Grosvenor, author of Vibration Cooking, and Edna Lewis, author of The Taste of Country Cooking.
As it happens, I recently had cause to look up feminist critic Rosalind Coward's book, "Female Desire" (1984), in which she (allegedly) coins the phrase "food porn":
Cooking food and presenting it beautifully is an act of servitude. It is a way of expressing affection through a gift... That we should aspire to produce perfectly finished and presented food is a symbol of a willing and enjoyable participation in servicing others. Food pornography exactly sustains these meanings relating to the preparation of food. The kinds of picture used always repress the process of production of a meal. They are always beautifully lit, often touched up.
I'm not so sure that remains altogether true, since we can't turn on the TV now without being bombarded by video images of cooking. But the matter of "servitude" remains relevant, I think, and it looks as though the SFA will be partly examining that in the context of gender, cultural identity, and entrepreneurship. It should be very interesting!
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