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Latinos And Southern Cooking, The Focus Of Weekend Symposium

Jason Thrasher
John T. Edge is the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, which hosts its annual summer symposium in Charlotte this weekend

The nationally-recognized Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA) is holding its annual summer symposium in Charlotte this weekend. Over the course of the three-day event, participants will dive into an exploration of Latino influences on Southern cuisine. The group is collaborating with a number of local and Latino-run restaurants, primarily in east Charlotte along Central Avenue.

Writer and historian John T. Edge, who also leads the SFA, joined WFAE to talk about the weekend's events and why his organization picked Charlotte out of dozens of other southern cities to host.

On why the SFA chose Charlotte

If you look at population statistics, you look at demographic projections, this city, this state, shows the highest rates of immigration. So if you want to grasp how the south is changing and you want to do that through food, there's no better place to show than Charlotte.

On the purpose of this weekend's symposium

It's about the history, but it's also documenting the progress and change within Southern food cultures, so my colleagues - Sarah Wood, our oral historian, and Ava Lowry, our filmmaker - have been in and out of Charlotte all year doing oral history work and making films to tell a story about Charlotte through food. And I think what we do - I hope what we do by way of this weekend - is hold up a mirror to Charlotte so that Charlotte might better see itself.

Why use food to explore a city's history and culture?

Food is a democratizing, cultural facet of the American South. If you want to understand the American South, you could look at the literature that is created here, or you could think about the music that is created here, or, you could - like we do - think about food, study about food. Food offers us an entree to understanding place.

On what foods he's looking forward to this weekend

There's a dinner on Saturday night that I'm very excited about, and it's a collaboration between Tacos El Nevado ... and Kindred Restaurant up in Davidson. And it was inspired by Katie and Joe Kindred traveling the Central Avenue corridor, building relationships with taqueria owners and grocery store owners and folks like Tacos El Nevado. So you'll see the give and take between the Latino South of today and the white tablecloth dining interpretations of the Kindred folk. You'll see whole North Carolina flounder, and you'll see dishes like lamb braised in a liquid infused with avocado leaves. You'll see a give and take between the South past and the South present and the South future.