It is a good time to be eating Southern food in Southern California. Los Angeles, of course, has long had Southern fare, but there’s been a particular interest in the region’s food of late, from the “redneck” platter at Manuela to the temples of hot fried chicken at Hotville Chicken and Howlin’ Ray’s to the Vietnamese-Cajun seafood boils that dot Little Saigon strip malls. If this current popularity of Southern food in L.A. has piqued your interest in the complex history underlying this region’s cuisine, then you’d do very well to pick up John T. Edge’s “The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South,” which was published in May.
Edge is the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance and has written or edited more than a dozen books. In “The Potlikker Papers,” he focuses his lens on telling a history of Southern food (the title itself references the seasoned liquid left in a pot after greens have been boiled). He starts in 1955 with Georgia Gilmore, whose home kitchen was a stop for organizers during the civil rights movement, and ends in 2015 with a chapter about the region’s changing demographics. Recently, we spoke with Edge about his new book, the stories told and sold about the South and ways to think about the Southern influence in L.A.