What I learned at the SFA Symposium

There is not another writer like Roy Blount, Jr. That’s because his handwriting is so damn small that you can’t read it to steal his ideas. Even if you’re sitting right next to him. At least I got to make my friends jealous by sitting next to him.

Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta is named for chef-owner Linton Hopkins’s grandfather who was a farmer in the Memphis area. His farmland is now better known as Memphis International Airport.

Much like that famous tree, a tomato also grows in Brooklyn. Much like the South, there is a squirrel waiting to taste that tomato before the gardener has a chance to get to it. Much to the dismay of New York Times food writer Kim Severson, the Squirrel Squad was unable to offer much advice about the situation. Well, we did offer advice, but Severson did not think a pellet gun and a recipe for squirrel dumplings was appropriate for Brooklyn. Come to think of it, that’s probably not very appropriate advice coming from Squirrels.

It’s difficult to manage a cocktail on crutches. And the corollary to that, Martha Foose (of Mockingbird Cafe fame) can really get around in a wheelchair. Martha broke her foot saving a family from a burning house. Any story about her tripping over her dog is patently untrue.

Foose’s new book, Screen Doors and Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales from a Southern Cook, will be out in April. It’s available for preorder at amazon.com. Better yet, reserve a room at The Alluvian, eat at Mockingbird and buy the book at Turnrow Books.

Francis Lam is not the world’s most talented silhouette. He is, in fact, a living, breathing, three-dimensional human being. He is a remarkably talented young writer. Don’t take my word for it. Go read his work on the Gourmet food editors blog. I personally think his piece on East Biloxi nearly two years after Hurricane Katrina is the single best piece of food writing this year.

Lam’s friend, author and New Orleans Times Picayune writer Lolis Elie, is also tremendously talented. One of his lesser-known talents is the ability to maintain a straight face. It spite of his obvious amusement, he contained his laughter as I barely contained a girly scream when I first met Lam.

Elie wrote and narrated the forthcoming documentary, Fauborg Treme. Directed by Dawn Logsdon and produced by Elie, Logsdon, and our Symposium lunch tablemate Lucie Faulknor, the film tells the story of the remarkable Treme neighborhood of New Orleans. Like so many things, the film was profoundly affected by Katrina. However, now the film has been reshaped and is headed for the film festival circuit before finally appearing on PBS.

Thomas Jefferson died. And that was just the beginning of the story. Jefferson’s life is the source of much controversy and even more scholarship. One of the newest pieces of Jefferson scholarship is Thomas Jefferson on Wine by John Hailman. We have been too busy this weekend to open the book yet, but Hailman is so full of charm and fascinating stories that the book has to be great.

When you see Shirley Corriher sassing Alton Brown on Good Eats, she’s not acting. She is sweet and delightfully sassy. When I stopped by her table at lunch to say hello, I arrived just in time for a story.

“Julia (her friend Julia Child) called for advice all the time. But she would call back right away and let you know how the advice worked out. These editors nowadays, they call then you don’t hear back from them. Or they call six months later and say, ‘you really saved our lives with that chocolate cake.'”

We were lucky enough to spend some time with Shirley and her husband Arch, who is a World War II veteran. I can only hope that Mama Squirrel and I are always that sassy, feisty, and loving.

Share this: