Food & Drink

Symposium on soup beans? Get your spoons ready, Lexington.

The Southern Foodways Alliance summer symposium will be in Lexington on June 21-23, focusing on Appalachian food such as soup beans and cornbread. This humble meal is on the lunch menu every day at Wallace Station and chef Ouita Michel says people come for soup beans several times a week.
The Southern Foodways Alliance summer symposium will be in Lexington on June 21-23, focusing on Appalachian food such as soup beans and cornbread. This humble meal is on the lunch menu every day at Wallace Station and chef Ouita Michel says people come for soup beans several times a week.

Bravo's "Top Chef" isn't the only food royalty coming to Lexington: The Southern Foodways Alliance is bringing its summer symposium here June 21-23.

SFA managing director Melissa Hall said Lexington was chosen because of how well the city fit the year's theme of food and literature.

"We were looking for a place with a vibrant living community of writers. And Lexington is ideal for exploring this theme," Hall said. "We think of food and literature as twinned cultural expressions of the region. ... It’s unique among cities in the south, a place where the writing and literature life of the city is just as vibrant, if not more so, than it's ever been. We’ll look specifically at Kentucky foodways.

"Agriculture is in a renaissance as folks figure out what to do with land previously given over to growing tobacco and finding new ways to use that land, and those turn out to be fairly traditional ways in a lot of cases," Hall said.

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James Beard Award-winning cookbook author Ronni Lundy will be among the speakers at the Southern Foodways Alliance summer symposium in Lexington. Southern Foodways Alliance

For three days, writers and chefs will discuss, explore and taste the Appalachian regional food landscape. Highlights will include poetry by Frank X Walker and Rebecca Gayle Howell, presentations by Elizabeth Catte on "What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia;" Janice Fernheimer on Jewish contributions to bourbon; James Beard Award winning cookbook author Ronni Lundy; Harlan-based author Robert Gipe; Louisville chef and author Edward Lee; and Berea-based author and poet Crystal Wilkinson and more.

Chefs Samantha Fore of Tuk Tuk Lexington and Jonathan Searle of Lockbox will fry chicken and okra; Sam Gleaves, Silas House and friends will perform their folk play "In These Fields."

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Chef Ouita Michel credits Freda Raglan, a Central Kentucky cook for decades, with teaching her the importance of Appalachian and Kentucky foodways. Photo provided

On Thursday, chef Ouita Michel will cook a dinner at the Lyric Theatre in honor of chef Freda Raglin, 77, who has been cooking in Central Kentucky for 65 years.

"I met her when she was the chef for Harriet Dupree and Dupree Catering," Michel said. "Her yeast rolls are legendary and she has been formative for me in what she taught me hand to hand, but also in how she thinks and feels about cooking and the generosity of her spirit."

The event is for members of the Southern Foodways Alliance; anyone can become a member by messaging info@southernfoodways.org. Tickets are $495 each for all three days of events and meals.

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