Gravy

Shirley Sherrod’s introduction to the intermingling of agriculture and racism came when she was 17 years old, with an incident that changed the course of her life. And, after that moment, her life has been one defined by the fight for black-owned farmland. It’s a fight that has included devastating racism, the biggest class action lawsuit in the history of the United States, and a high-profile firing from the USDA. 

But Shirley’s story taps into a much bigger one; she and her family are just some of the tens of thousands of black farmers who have been victims of institutional racism. This is a story about how those farmers lost ownership of millions of acres of land in the U.S., in part because of USDA discrimination. It’s also a story of how Shirley Sherrod and others have kept fighting back—and, in some surprising ways, winning.

 

Direct download: Fighting_for_the_Promised_Land_Gravy_Ep._29.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am EST

What do the restaurants of your childhood say about the place you grew up? In Jack Hitt’s case, the Oysters Mornay and Escargots Bourguignonne of his Charleston, South Carolina home revealed a South attempting to be less… Southern.

This was the 1970s, an era in which serving shrimp & grits in a fine dining restaurant was about as chic as wearing your bathrobe out on the town. Fine for home, not for going out. Bu the fancy fake French food of that period tells us plenty about Southern identity—then and now. In this episode of Gravy, Jack Hitt digs through his youthful dining exploits to see what Baked Alaska uncovers about what the South longed to be and what it was.

Direct download: Southern_Fried_Baked_Alaska_Gravy_Ep._28.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:32am EST

Delta Jewels (Gravy Ep. 27)

When Alysia Burton Steele moved to Mississippi, she found herself drawn to the Delta. Something about it reminded her of her grandmother, who’d grown up in rural South Carolina. That observation would lead Alysia on a journey of discovery, seeking out the stories of elderly women of her grandmother’s generation. Their memories often focused on food. And they painted a portrait of the Mississippi Delta that is usually missed by an outside world that focuses on the poverty, the racism, the hardship. In this episode of Gravy, the stories church mothers across the Mississippi Delta reveal a region of extraordinary generosity.

Direct download: Delta_Jewels_Gravy_Ep._27.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST

Black-eyed peas and collards. Fried chicken and peach cobbler. Customers at Delicious Southern Cuisine in Los Angeles come for these soul food staples, a taste that reminds some of their Southern roots. But: there’s a different narrative going on in the kitchen… one with a Latino flavor.

When Southerners leave the South, their food comes too. Hence, the density of soul food restaurants in cities that were destinations for African Americans during the Great Migration, cities like Los Angeles. But there have been many other migrants to Southern California… And that makes for mash-ups of Southern food and other cuisines. In this episode of Gravy, Lena Nozizwe takes us to two restaurants that serve up an edible version of the demographic shifts of in their Los Angeles neighborhoods.

Direct download: South_by_South_of_the_Border_Soul_Food_Gravy_Ep._26.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:29am EST

How is a region of the far north—Canada—intimately connected to a region 2,000 miles away in the Deep South? It’s a story that begins 250 years ago, and involves both loss and reunification, the reconnection of a people with shared ancestry.

In this episode of Gravy, Simon Thibault looks at how a bunch of Acadians, the cousins of the Cajuns of Louisiana, came to understand their extended family through copious meals of gumbo, boudin, jambalaya and everything étouffé’d that they can eat. 

This group of Acadians, some of whom have made a life in Lafayette, not only found a second home, but a second family in Louisiane. They’ve learned what it truly meant to be un bon cadien, and subsequently looked at their own Acadian identity, and how and where culture is transmitted through generations. 

Direct download: The_Cajun_Reconnection_Gravy_Ep._25.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:34am EST

They’re everywhere: in your fancy cocktail bar and your down home country restaurant. In the hands of farmer’s market shoppers and 7-Eleven Slurpee slurpers. How did mason jars get to be so ubiquitous? How did they come to be embraced by the DIY canner and the hipster chicken & waffles restaurant? And what does their omnipresence tell us about the cultural cache of the South?

In this episode of Gravy, Gabe Bullard takes on the cultural politics of the Mason Jar: how it became hip, and what that hipness means.

Direct download: The_Mason_Jar_Pickle_Gravy_Ep._24.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:49am EST

One of the more important places for the modern Southern (and American) diet may be... an obscure army base in Natick, Massachusetts. The Combat Feeding Directorate looks just like any other suburban office park, but it’s an origin point for many of the processed foods that find their way onto our grocery store shelves. In this episode of Gravy, Anastacia Marx de Salcedo, author of "Combat Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat," takes host Tina Antolini along on an investigation of how the military’s food engineering research for combat rations has filtered down to the food we civilians eat.

Direct download: Combat_Ready_Kitchen_Gravy_Ep._23.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:56am EST

While West Virginia may be known for resources like coal, the country once turned to this mountain state for a culinary staple: salt. Salt production started in this part of the Appalachian mountains in the late 1700s. It was an industry built on the backs of slaves, and one that proved destructive to the region’s environment. Now, a seventh generation salt-making family is reviving the business. In this week’s episode of Gravy, Caleb Johnson and Irina Zhorov bring us the story of one family's attempt to reconcile its salt-making past with a more environmentally and socially responsible future.  


What does *not* eating meat say about you? In one young biracial man’s family, his dietary change was construed as white, elite, even feminine. In the new episode of Gravy, radio producer Renee Gross tells us Choya Webb’s story, and how he has navigated the cultural politics of going vegetarian. For Choya, it has to do with more than food—it has to do with race and sexual orientation.

Direct download: Coming_Out_Meatless_Gravy_Ep._21.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:52am EST

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, how does the city’s food reveal how the place has changed? This hour-long special episode of Gravy takes on that question, from what was eaten just after the storm to the stories of two restaurants that tap into the post-Katrina gentrification and marketing of New Orleans to the outside world.

In part one, we hear the personal stories of three New Orleanians, taken from blogs they kept in the immediate aftermath of Katrina. Food figures largely in their writing, and that food reveals residents who were already wrestling with what had irrevocably changed and what was holding true about their city. In part two: what does a once-bohemian wine store and restaurant in one of the city’s fastest gentrifying neighborhoods show us about the cultural transformation that part of town is undergoing? Writer Sara Roahen brings us the story of Bacchanal and the Bywater. And in part three: was the post-storm resurrection of a beloved soul food restaurant in New Orleans uniformly a good thing? Reporter Keith O’Brien tells the story of the rebuilding of Willie Mae’s Scotch House, once purely a local’s favorite which now serves a growing clientele of tourists.  

Direct download: Red_Beans_Red_Wine__Rebuilds_Gravy_Ep._20.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am EST

The Shoals is a community in Northwest Alabama made up of four towns: Muscle Shoals, Florence, Sheffield, and Tuscumbia. Tucked in the foothills of the Tennessee River Valley, the Shoals is an hour from any interstate, and at least a two-hour drive from the nearest big cities—Nashville to the north and Birmingham to the south.

 

The Shoals is one of the most documented places in the world of music. The Rolling Stones, Wilson Pickett, the Allman Brothers, Bobbie Gentry, even the Osmond Brothers -- all made pilgrimages to record at legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, with locals like Percy Sledge and the Swampers, FAME’s in-house rhythm section.

But music is only part of the cultural story here. There’s a rich food culture, too. On this Gravy Road trip, we take a look at two sides of that story, one a local icon and the other, a newer kid in town.

 

 

Direct download: Gravy_Shoals_Final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:44am EST

How does a chef’s taste in things other than food wind up influencing what’s on the plate? For example, if they like rocking out to, say, the Butthole Surfers—is that relevant?

If you were to meet Bill Smith riding his bike around town, you might not realize you’d encountered an avid rock fan. Bill is 66, bespectacled, usually wearing a baseball cap over his white hair. He’s the chef at Crook’s Corner, the James Beard Award-winning Southern restaurant. The giveaway as to his musical predilections might be his t-shirt. Does it read Drive By Truckers? Or maybe Corrosion of Conformity?

Today: the story of Bill Smith’s t-shirt collection and what it tells us about the intertwined worlds of music and food in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Direct download: BillSmithTurnsUptheVolume_July2015Revision.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:12am EST

Five years ago this week, the BP oil spill ended. On July 15, 2010, the well that had been spilling millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico was capped, after 87 days. It was the largest spill in the nation’s history, and had a devastating impact on Gulf Coast fisheries. The long term effects of the spill continue to reveal themselves for the Louisiana Coast, which has supported communities of fishermen for centuries. But the oil spill isn’t the only thing they’re up against. The land is disappearing, and both man-made and natural disasters are speeding up the sinking process.

What would it be like if the place you’d lived your whole life started to disappear? For Tony Goutierrez of St. Bernard Parish, that’s not just a nightmare scenario. In this episode of Gravy, producer Laine Kaplan Levenson tells us Tony’s story, and what he’s trying to do to maintain his life on the water. 

Direct download: Holding_Onto_the_Bayou_Gravy_Ep._18.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:42am EST

Charleston, South Carolina has become the center of discussions about race and violence in America these past few weeks. The massacre of nine African American parishioners at a historic black church there has prompted a national discussion and collective soul-searching: how did this happen in 2015? What work still needs to be done to prevent this sort of racial hatred and terrorism?

But Charleston is also home to a historical bright spot, a moment from 150 years ago that is still inspiring South Carolinians today. In 1865, at the end of the Civil War, an unusual dinner party was held in Charleston that brought white and black residents together. In this episode of Gravy, producer Philip Graitcer brings us the story that dinner, and how it’s still resonating today.

Direct download: A_Charleston_Feast_for_Reconciliation_Gravy_Ep._17.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:13am EST

It’s easy to love fried chicken. The light crunch of a crisped wing or leg, followed by the moist meat of the interior; it’s understandably beloved. But there is more going on with this comfort food than you might think. Fried chicken has both been the vehicle for the economic empowerment of a whole group of people—and the accessory to an ugly racial stereotype. How can something so delicious be both? In this episode of Gravy, Lauren Ober goes from a Virginia Fried Chicken Festival to a soul food restaurant in Harlem to find out.

 

Direct download: Fried_Chicken-_A_Complicated_Comfort_Food_Gravy_Ep._16_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:08am EST

Lexington, North Carolina calls itself the “Barbecue Capital of the World.” (In fact, the state legislature got a little more specific about it, dubbing the city “the Hickory Smoked Barbecue Capital of North Carolina.”) For more than one hundred years, pitmasters there have been cooking pork shoulders slowly over coals from a wood fire, and slicking them with a sweet, red barbecue sauce.

And so, when Lexington officials began to renovate a municipal building, they were thrilled by an unexpected barbecue-related discovery. In this episode of Gravy, Sarah Delia takes us to Lexington to learn what that was, and what it might mean for a barbecue landscape in which some are worried history is being forgotten.

Direct download: A_City_Built_on_Barbecue_Gravy_Ep._15.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:48am EST

People are often surprised when Robin Amer tells them her family is from the South. That’s because her family is Jewish, and a lot of people don’t realize there are Jews in the South, especially in tiny towns like Natchez, Mississippi. But Robin’s family has lived there for 160 years, and their traditions—and foodways—are a unique hybrid of their European Jewish heritage and their Southern home.

The Jewish community in Natchez has been dwindling for years, though. Now, it’s down to only a handful of people, including Robin’s 96-year-old grandmother and 98-year-old grandfather. In this episode of Gravy, Robin returns to Natchez to learn what might be lost when they’re gone.

Direct download: The_Last_Jews_of_Natchez_Gravy_Ep._14.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:39pm EST

Once you’ve left home in search of a better life, what might make you return? During the Great Migration, six million African Americans left the South for the North. Donnie “Pen” Travis was one of them. But that was just the start of his journey.

In this episode of Gravy, Eve Abrams brings us the story of one man’s migration, and how farming prompted both his depature… and his return.

Direct download: A_Migration_Reversed_Gravy_Ep._13_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:30am EST

Most of us know the Kentucky Derby from the front side of the track: the fancy Derby hats, the mint juleps, the thrill of the race. But there’s a whole other world to racetracks in the South—and one with food that tells a story about who’s working there.

In this episode of Gravy, we follow the horse racing seasons from track to track to learn about the workers behind the scenes, and what their food tells about who they are.

 

Direct download: Tamales_for_the_Derby_Gravy_Ep._12.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:14am EST

What kind of view of a city can you have through its restaurants? Or—more specifically—through its strip mall restaurants? Christiane Lauterbach’s multi-decade career proves: a whole lot.

Christiane is a woman full of contradictions. A loner who is unfailingly gregarious. A self-described hermit who loves to ramble around her adopted city of Atlanta, Georgia. A French transplant who refuses to claim a Southern identity, but has changed the way Atlantans think about their restaurants. In this episode of Gravy, we learn how a Parisian woman came to document the evolution of a Southern restaurant scene, and what her work reveals about Atlanta’s global population.

Direct download: Hip_Hop_to_Bibimbap-_the_Atlanta_of_Christiane_Lauterbach_Gravy_Ep._11.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:57am EST

You probably have a mental image of Bourbon Street: drunken revelers, neon signs, debauchery of many kinds. Well, it once was just a residential street in the heart of the French Quarter—totally normal. No Big Ass Beers or Huge Ass Beers. How did it go from that to the temple of over indulgence that it is today?

In this episode of Gravy, Rien Fertel brings us the people’s history of Bourbon Street—and the story of the wickedly strong cocktail that has become one of its staples.


How does a chef’s taste in things other than food wind up influencing what’s on the plate? For example, if they like rocking out to, say, the Butthole Surfers—is that relevant?

If you were to meet Bill Smith riding his bike around town, you might not realize you’d encountered an avid rock fan. Bill is 66, bespectacled, usually wearing a baseball cap over his white hair. He’s the chef at Crook’s Corner, the James Beard Award-winning Southern restaurant. The giveaway as to his musical predilections might be his t-shirt. Does it read Drive By Truckers? Or maybe Corrosion of Conformity?

Today: the story of Bill Smith’s t-shirt collection and what it tells us about the intertwined worlds of music and food in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Direct download: Bill_Smith_Turns_Up_the_Volume_Gravy_Ep._9.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:58am EST

In and around Louisville, lots of things are named after the Kentucky Derby. The famous horse race, held at Churchill Downs every first weekend in May, has leant its name to everything from apartment complexes to hats to… pie. It’s a part of many Kentuckians Derby Day celebrations. But as beloved as Derby Pie is, it’s also been the source of controversy. In this episode of Gravy, producer Nina Feldman brings us the story of how the name of a confection has tapped into something surprisingly emotional—and divisive—for one Southern community.

Direct download: The_Pie_Formerly_Known_as_Derby_Gravy_Ep._8.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:50am EST

There are more military veterans in the South than any other part of the United States. This region has also been losing farmers at an astonishing rate. Those two things sound disconnected? Not if two brothers in Kentucky have any say about it.

This is the story of two soldiers who found their way into farming after war. But it’s also the story of two brothers whose experience in uniform and in the fields has been very different from one another. Producer Alix Blair takes us to rural Kentucky to learn what agriculture holds for men who’ve been soldiers.

Direct download: Brothers_Soldiers_Farmers_Gravy_Ep._7.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:04am EST

Toni Tipton Martin was just starting out as a reporter back in the 1980’s, when she noticed something that struck her as odd about the cookbook section of the newspaper she was working for. There were no cookbooks by black people. “That just didn’t jive with my experience,” she says, having grown up in an African American household of skilled cooks. “It didn’t make sense that African Americans didn’t make any contribution at all.” Little did Toni know that that observation would set her on a multi-decade journey of research and discovery. In this episode of Gravy, we tell the story of the world of black cookbooks that Toni eventually uncovered, and what they tell us about culinary history in the United States.

Direct download: The_Jemima_Code_Gravy_Ep._6.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:20am EST

Many of the stories we hear and tell about food are positive—food’s power to nourish, to comfort, to bring people together. But it also has the potential to cause shame, fear, disgust and a whole host of other uncomfortable emotions. Today on Gravy: personal stories around food that aren’t so sweet.

These are the kinds of stories Francis Lam wanted to explore for a presentation he gave at the Southern Foodways Alliance’s annual Symposium a few months ago. Francis is an editor at large at Clarkson Potter Publishers and a New York Times Magazine columnist. He’s also someone who’s spent a lot of time eating in the South and writing about it. Francis was curious about the food stories that often go untold because they deal with topics we’d prefer not to talk about. So, he asked a handful of people: tell me about a time when you felt tension in your emotional life of eating.

Direct download: The_Emotional_Life_of_Eating_Gravy_Ep._5.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:14am EST

Fred’s Lounge in Mamou, Louisiana, is a dancing and drinking destination… on Saturday mornings only. That’s the only time it’s open. For years, Saturdays have featured live traditional Cajun music, a live radio show, a devoted community of Cajun dancers, and visitors from around the region—and the world. What started as a local dive has become internationally famous. By nine a.m., middle-aged couples waltz a wide arc around the band, as 83-year-old proprietor Tante Sue takes healthy swigs from a bottle of cinnamon-flavored schnapps while squeezing her chest in time to the music as if playing an accordion. How does Fred’s maintain this mix of locals and outsiders? We sent reporter Eve Troeh out on a Saturday morning to drink a few beers (or Bloody Mary’s) and find out. 

Direct download: Live_at_Freds_Lounge_Gravy_Ep._4.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:30pm EST

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