Feasting: On Southern Food And Music In Shelby
Like a garden basket brimming with ripe vegetables and fruits, the town of Shelby, NC, will all but overflow with culinary and cultural celebrations this weekend.
The festivities begin on Friday evening, May 15, with a four-course dinner hosted by Virginia Willis (assisted by local chefs), Ronni Lundy, and Marcie Cohen Ferris. The accomplished trio represent the finest in food writing and scholarship. (As of press time, the dinner is sold out.)
On the morning of Saturday, May 16, the Foothills Farmers Market will open at Shelby’s Courthouse Square at 8:00 to unveil its new “shade pavilion.” At 1:00, Willis will present a cooking class. Her new book is Lighten Up Y’all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome, so we’re doubly eager to hear her secrets. Beginning at 3:00, local chefs will lead culinary walking tours.
Food, music, community, and memory have long been woven tightly throughout the region, a topic on which the presenters are eloquent.
Marcie Cohen Ferris is the author of The Edible South: The Power of Food and the Making of an American Region. She says, “The vibrant foodways of the Piedmont entwined with the region’s rich musical traditions have created an expressive language of place that speaks powerfully to all North Carolinians and the nation. As a food studies scholar at UNC-Chapel Hill, I am fascinated by the food voices of the Piedmont and delighted to participate in the opening events for the Earl Scruggs Center’s new exhibit, ‘Feast Here Tonight.’”
Author Ronni Lundy, whose newest book is Sorghum’s Savor, sums it up tastefully: "My earliest musical memory is of hanging on to the edge of an old stand-up Victrola, patting my foot while a 78 rpm spun ’round, delivering the sharp, tasty sound of ‘Boil 'Em Cabbage Down.’ I like to note that means that from the very first, music and food were intertwined for me. I chose each as fields for exploration and writing in my professional life because they offer ways to discover the stories of those who'd not been allowed to tell their own stories in the usual venues. In recipes and memories of same, I heard the voices of women, of the poor, of black and brown people who were otherwise silenced.
“It's rich territory to mine, intellectually and emotionally. And if you do it right, you also get to eat and dance."