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Home:  >News & Events   >News Archives   >2003

Food writer John T. Edge named ‘Top 20 Southerner’ by international news weekly

Nov. 26, 2003

By Jennifer Southall
University of Mississippi News Services

OXFORD, Miss. — John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi, is on Financial Times’ inaugural list of “Top 20 Southerners to Watch.”

The international news weekly published the list as part of a special issue focusing on the American South.

“The people who made the list are people we believe will make an impact on a national scale,” said Betty Liu, managing editor of the special issue. “These are the brightest lights we see coming out of the region.”

The more than 150 nominations for the list came from a panel of distinguished Southerners, including William Ferris, founder of UM’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture, which houses SFA. Formerly director of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Ferris is senior associate director at the University of North Carolina’s Center for the Study of the American South.

The final Top 20 list was compiled by Financial Times editors and CNN’s former CEO Tom Johnson. Others who made the cut include Sen. Elizabeth Dole; John Hughey, editorial director of Time Inc.; C. Ray Nagin, mayor of New Orleans; and actress Reese Witherspoon.

“John T. Edge richly deserves to be included,” said Ferris, who nominated Edge. “He’s pioneered the study of Southern foodways through the impressive programs of SFA, which feature the finest chefs and scholars and draw capacity crowds of enthusiastic audiences. His field is especially appealing because it combines stimulating scholarship with good food in a truly unique contribution to the study of the American South.”

Edge, who holds a master’s degree in Southern studies from Ole Miss, became particularly interested in the culture of food after moving to Oxford to study in the early 1990s.

“I came to Ole Miss with a general interest in all things Southern,” Edge said. “The Southern Studies program taught me to look with a more critical eye upon everyday aspects of Southern culture, and I realized that through examining foodways I could ponder all the big questions: race, class, gender.”

Edge has pondered those questions not only through his work with SFA, now in its fifth year, but also through his writing. He frequently contributes to Gourmet and other magazines, and his essays have been included in the 2001, 2002 and 2003 editions of the Best Food Writing compilations.

He is the author of several books, including Southern Belly (Hill Street, 2000) and A Gracious Plenty: Recipes and Recollections from the American South (Putnam, 1999). He is working on a series of four books that examine iconic American foods. The first, Fried Chicken: An American Story, is slated to be published by Putnam in fall 2004.

“I’m humbled by the honor and by the company in which I find myself,” Edge said when asked about being named to the Top 20 list. “That said, I’m pleased by what such recognition says about the work of SFA.”

“This is a very deserved recognition for a very deserving staff member,” said Gloria Kellum, UM vice chancellor for University Relations. “Through his creativity, enthusiasm and energy, John T. Edge is creating new interests in the traditions of the South. It brings honor to the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and the university to have one of our staff recognized in such a significant way.”

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