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The Potlikker Papers is a people’s history of the modern South, told through its food. Beginning with the pivotal role of cooking and restaurants in the civil rights movement, John T. Edge narrates the South’s journey from a hive of racism to a hotbed of American immigration.

He looks at the Montgomery Bus Boycott and lunch counter sit-ins, the back-to-the-land movement of the 1970’s, the rise to prominence of Southern chefs and regional specialties in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and the resurgence of artisanal Southern food and contributions from immigrant cultures in the 2000’s.

Our hope in choosing this book as the Nashville Reads 2018 selection is to bring the community together through food and highlight the city’s history, cuisine, and people.

About John T. Edge

John T. Edge, photo by Jason Thrasher
John T. Edge writes about the food culture of the American South.

In May of 2017, the Penguin Press published his latest book, The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South.

Edge is a contributing editor at Garden & Gun and a columnist for the Oxford American. For three years he wrote the monthly “United Taste” column for the New York Times.

His magazine and newspaper work has been featured in eleven editions of the Best Food Writing compilation. He has won three James Beard Foundation awards. In 2012, he won Beard’s M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.

Edge holds an MA in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi. And an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College.

He is director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, where he documents, studies, and explores the diverse food cultures of the American South. The SFA has completed more than 900 oral histories and 100 films, focusing on people like fried chicken cooks, row crop farmers, oystermen, and bartenders.

Edge has written or edited more than a dozen books, including Southern Belly: The Ultimate Food Lover’s Companion to the South. Edge is editor of the foodways volume of the New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. And he is series editor of Southern Foodways Alliance Studies in Culture, People, and Place, published by the University of Georgia Press.

Edge is an editor in residence at the Rivendell Writers’ Colony. And he serves on the faculty of the MFA in Narrative Nonfiction program at the Grady College of the University of Georgia.

He has served as culinary curator for the weekend edition of NPR’s All Things Considered, and he has been featured on dozens of television shows, from CBS Sunday Morning to Iron Chef.

Edge lives in Oxford, Mississippi, with his son, Jess, and his wife, Blair Hobbs, a teacher, writer, and painter.