When I signed up to attend the Southern Foodways Alliance Potlikker dinner in Napa Valley, I didn’t know what to expect. Northern California has certainly become one of America’s premier dining regions – but barbecue?
The event was held August 18 on the lush grounds surrounding the 19th-century French-style chateau of Whetstone Winery. Before dinner, thirsty guests imbibed on outstanding wines provided by Whetstone. But, to my surprise, the handcrafted beer chilled in washtubs was “imported” from Tennessee.
And when it was time to eat, all doubts about unfamiliar barbecue were dispelled, as pitmasters from South Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama dished up some of the best pulled pork and ribs I’d ever eaten.
These guys had actually pulled their gigantic pits all the way to California, just for the event. And as it turns out, most of them also compete in the New Orleans annual “Hogs for a Cause” charity cookoff. Proceeds from this event go to families with children who have cancer. Hogs for a Cause is near and dear to my family, since my stepson Trey competes every year and especially since his two-year-old daughter Margaux is recovering from the disease.
It was also fun in Napa connecting with Potlikker’s organizers from the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA). SFA documents, studies, and celebrates the diverse food cultures of the changing American South. The group sets a common table where black and white, rich and poor — all who gather — may consider our history and our future in a spirit of reconciliation.
A member-supported non-profit, based at the University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture, SFA stages symposia, produces documentary films, collects oral histories, sponsors scholarship, mentors students, and publishes great writing. Donations from generous individuals, foundations, and companies fund their good work.
I’ve been a member of SFA for many years and consider their work and research important to the understanding of Southern food. And I now also know they know how to throw a good party.