RL Reeves Jr covers the US soul food scene

The divide between white folks southern food and African American soul food is not as vast as one may have been led to believe. Go to a white run meat and three in Huntsville, Alabama then take the 90 minute drive south to Birmingham and visit a soul food operation.

The similarities will be abundant. But not when it comes time for awards to be handed out. Northern writer Deanna Fox outlines a series of concerns she has in a well-written piece for Albany New York’s Times-Union newspaper. Let’s pass the mic to Amanda “Ya Ya” Thompson, owner of Ya Ya’s House of Southern Cuisine in Schenectady:

“Accessibility (to awards) is for the people who are already in the industry. They are just adding a Southern component. If they can add a component of the South, they can call it Southern food.”

The best fried chicken in New Orleans comes from a walk-up in the 9th Ward. You’re not going to see any of the award-givers, either local or national, spill any ink on the joint. You order your food through a bulletproof window and eating inside is forbidden. Could you imagine anybody holding the reigns of power with Saveur or James Beard placing their food orders through polycarbonate reinforced glass?

It’s not happening. Check out Fox’s piece here.

Memphis’ The Four Way has anchored a small corner of the soul food universe since 1946. Originally opened by the Cleaves family, Jo Ellen Bates and husband Willie Early bought it in 2002 and set about getting the recently shuttered business back up and running. They plotted an original course by serving fried chicken, pickled tomatoes and beets, yams, turnip greens, fried catfish, turkey and dressing, neck bones, fried green tomatoes, and a house specialty smothered cabbage.

Miss Jo Ellen passed way recently but her daughter has vowed to keep the restaurant open link

We’ve never spent any real time in Baton Rouge in spite of having driven through it a few hundred times. Had we known about Owens Grocery and Market we may have been inspired to drift off the freeway to see what an 80 year old soul food joint in our state’s capitol looks like. link

We’re itching to get over to Houston to try chef Jonny Rhodes 13 seat neo-soul food restaurant, Indigo. The little restaurant is only open four nights a week and is reservation only. We love a good gimmick and Indigo presses plenty buttons.

“…you might encounter sweet and sticky preserved figs, smoked fowl, or vegetables submerged in spice-spiked vinegars years before the restaurant ever opened its doors.”

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