Authentic stories, recipes: What we're bringing to the table with a new Southern Kitchen
I've never liked the word "foodie." Don't we all like food? Don't we all need it?
That's why I'm here in the South, as your new food and culture storyteller and editor of Southern Kitchen. I believe a love of food is universal and the stories behind it — who grew it, how it got to the plate, its history — should belong to everyone.
That's what we're bringing to the table as we reshape Southern Kitchen, an already beautiful collection of recipes and stories that paint a picture of the South.
The newest version of Southern Kitchen will launch Sept. 28 at www.southernkitchen.com with a new look, new recipes and a spotlight on chefs changing the face of Southern food from the ground up.
You'll hear from three Georgia chefs rethinking corn, including Maricela Vega, a proud daughter of Mexican immigrants and descendent of maize farmers.
Vega, Indigenous historian Dave Smoke-McClusky and Peruvian chef Arnaldo Castillo see corn and all its variety as a life-giving gift with thousands of years of history.
They'll show you how to make authentic Mexican pozole, a Peruvian corn drink called Chicha Morada and Corn Pone, a Southern tradition adapted from Native American recipes.
That's all part of the Southern tapestry, and so are salt-of-the-earth Appalachian traditions like Leather Britches, a recipe that predates canning. Author and historian Ronni Lundy will tell you about those.
Nashville baker Sarah Gonzales will share the story of how her great grandmother carried a jar of sourdough starter in her lap as she fled the Dust Bowl for the promise of a better life in California.
And because cooking at home continues to play a huge part in how we eat these days, you can look forward to plenty of fresh recipes and tutorials on the Southern Kitchen site in the coming weeks.
PBS star and North Carolina chef Vivian Howard will share prep tips. Louisiana chef Kevin Belton, another PBS star, will show you how to make Cajun food at home. We've even got vegan takes on Southern fare coming your way as well.
Legendary oyster advocate Beth Walton and Henrietta Red's Julia Sullivan will help make selecting, preparing and eating oysters more accessible. They'll also tell you why oyster farming is great for our Southern waters.
Chai Meherwan Irani of Chai Pani will share how the food of the Deccan Plateau in India, where he grew up, is similar to what Southern Appalachians ate.
But don't worry; all of your favorite Southern favorites are still there. We'll bring you classic cookie recipes for the holidays, but we'll also show you some Indigenous traditions behind what's on our Thanksgiving table.
This is today's South, and I can't wait to share it with you.
But first, a little about me.
I come from a long line of Appalachian farmers. My parents were the first to never work on a farm but they always kept a garden.
I have an extensive background in the culinary industry. I went to culinary school, but I learned more as a dishwasher.
I love the hustle and organized chaos of the kitchen. I've cooked in Latin restaurants, Spanish tapas bars, diners and fine-dining bistros. I even once opened my own restaurant.
But I was most inspired at a young age by Anthony Bourdain, who parlayed his food knowledge and knack for behind-the-scenes storytelling into a writing career.
In 2005, I answered an ad for a food critic position at an alt-weekly and landed the job. Since then, I've written a barbecue cookbook and eaten more strange and wonderful things than I can recall.
I've long left the professional kitchen behind, but I'm still happiest telling the stories happening behind the scenes.
I'm also handy with cooking tips, and you can follow Southern Kitchen on Instagram and Facebook to learn how to peel ginger with a spoon and how to "squeeze" spinach for recipes. New content will be published daily starting Sept. 28, so be sure to follow along.
You can also sign-up for my newsletter at profile.tennessean.com/newsletters/manage. A fresh Southern Kitchen newsletter will come to your inbox every other Friday starting Oct.1.
In the meantime, I hope you won't be shy about reaching out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tell me about what you want to learn, what you want to cook and who you want to read about. Is there an unsung hero who belongs at the table? Someone whose story needs to be told? Please drop me a line. Everyone's invited.
I look forward to bringing you more stories about the South.
Thanks for having me at the table!
Mackensy Lunsford is a journalist covering food policy, restaurants, agriculture and other food-related topics for the USA TODAY Network's South Region. She's the editor of Southern Kitchen and a correspondent for The American South. She's also the co-author of a barbecue cookbook. Her work has won numerous Alt-Weekly and NC Press Association awards.