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Publisher's Summary

A people's history of Southern food that reveals how the region came to be at the forefront of American culinary culture and how issues of race have shaped Southern cuisine over the last six decades.

The Potlikker Papers tells the story of food and politics in the South over the last half century. Beginning with the pivotal role of cooks in the Civil Rights movement, noted authority John T. Edge narrates the South's journey from racist backwater to a hotbed of American immigration. In so doing, he traces how the food of the poorest Southerners has become the signature trend of modern American haute cuisine. This is a people's history of the modern South told through the lens of food.

Food was a battleground in the civil rights movement. Access to food and ownership of culinary tradition was a central part of the long march to racial equality. The Potlikker Papers begins in 1955 as black cooks and maids fed and supported the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and it concludes in 2015 as a Newer South came to be, enriched by the arrival of immigrants from Lebanon to Vietnam to all points in between.

Along the way The Potlikker Papers tracks many different evolutions of Southern identity - first in the 1970s, from the back-to-the-land movement that began in the Tennessee hills to the rise of fast and convenience foods modeled on Southern staples. Edge narrates the gentrification that gained traction in North Carolina and Louisiana restaurants of the 1980s and the artisanal renaissance that reconnected farmers and cooks in the 1990s and in the 2000s. He profiles some of the most extraordinary and fascinating figures in Southern food, including Fannie Lou Hamer, Colonel Sanders, Edna Lewis, Paul Prudhomme, Craig Claiborne, Sean Brock, and many others.

Like many great provincial dishes around the world, potlikker is a salvage food. During the antebellum era, masters ate the greens from the pot and set aside the leftover potlikker broth for their slaves, unaware that the broth, not the greens, was nutrient-rich. After slavery, potlikker sustained the working poor, black and white. In the rapidly gentrifying South of today, potlikker has taken on new meanings as chefs have reclaimed the dish.

Over the last two generations, wrenching changes have transformed the South. The Potlikker Papers tells the story of that change - and reveals how Southern food has become a shared culinary language for the nation.

©2017 John T. Edge (P)2017 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"John T. Edge, an accomplished food writer focusing on the South, narrates his audiobook in a discernible drawl.... His voice, literal and figurative, informs every page of this work. The discerning listener will embrace Edge's folksy style as he moves through 60 years of contemporary history." ( AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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tremendous

This is such a great and important book. Thank you so much for writing it and publishing it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating

The idea of this book, to look at history through the lens of food culture, while telling the story of that food culture, is new to me. John T. Edge carries it out masterfully. He connects a million dots in highly engaging, lyric prose. To hear him read is a treat and a bonus.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Best book of the year!

What did you love best about The Potlikker Papers?

All of it! A clear explanation of the history, thorough description of the characters involved and the wisdom to show how the current scene has blossomed

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Potlikker Papers?

I have been compulsively telling my friends all about Georgia Gilmore-- very grateful to learn about such an amazing woman.

Have you listened to any of John T. Edge’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

This is my first if there are more I will track them down.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Quino
  • Chesapeake, VA
  • 08-07-18

Provoking, Analytical and Interesting

It's a thoughtful and provoking history of Southern foodways. The book highlights the beginnings of the South's culinary traditions, its evolution and its role in history and politics.

While most authors aren't performers, John T. Edge's reading is exactly how the book should be heard.

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Deliciously good

Love the exploration of Southern history/culture through food. I'm a huge fan of the work John T. Edge is doing. If you enjoy this, subscribe to the Gravy podcast.

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Brilliant

This book should be included in every US history class—not only informative, but also incredibly interesting. You will want to listen to it twice if not three times. Brilliant.

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WOW Its one of those books I could not turn off .

Would you consider the audio edition of The Potlikker Papers to be better than the print version?

I did not read the print editions however, John Edge's softened southern vernacular compliments this robust southern food history and gives the story the flavor he is speaking to.

What did you like best about this story?

What an enjoyable and memorable way to learn of our country's history. He introduces such interesting people and places I've never heard like Georgia Gilmore and her great contribution to the civil rights movement or Steven Gaskin who started "The Farm" a commune in Tennessee introducing something called "soy milk" among many other things. The stories make you reflect on the foods we eat , as to their origin in our own personal culinary history.

What does John T. Edge bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

His voice and his gentle accent are for the listener like the comfort foods he speaks of in each time period, introducing each new culinary discovery with a smooth southern vernacular. its easy to hear his own passion for the research he did, as each timeline rises from origin after origin and speaks to some of the greatest culinary masters and how their contributions shaped what America is and the cuisine we consume. I was pleasantly surprised at how much history he has packed into this book.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Well there were many many stories about so many interesting people places and foods . the story of Georgia Gilmore and her amazing life. Her deep passion to civil rights and the strength and devotion she showed through her tiny kitchen, or Popcorn Sutton, the bootlegger made famous for his white corn liquor and colorfully chosen words on his tomb stone.

Any additional comments?

yes , I am glad I bought the audio edition. It is captivating, a deliciously appealing way to get a big picture of just how we have come to have foods we have now not just in the south but across America. I started it on a Saturday morning and could not stop listening. If you love food history or just American history in general this is certainly a book you will very much enjoy. John introduces the listener to people we know in history and some we may never had heard of. I can't wait to listen again. seriously it was that good.

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Excellent

Great historical coverage. Enjoyed John T. narrating. He provided excellent indepth research covering those years. Thank you for uncovering those hidden chefs.

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Great topic with to much white guilt

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

it was interesting, but would have been more interesting without the SJW trope.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

so what..

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

N/A

Do you think The Potlikker Papers needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

No...I wouldn't read it.....I am tired of its SJW narrative.

Any additional comments?

Great content but the presentation has something to be desired.

0 of 5 people found this review helpful