The Edible South

The Power of Food and the Making of an American Region

By Marcie Cohen Ferris

496 pp., 7 x 10, 50 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2995-7
    Published: August 2016
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-1769-5
    Published: September 2014
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4030-1
    Published: September 2014

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Awards & distinctions

2016 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

A choice for The Best Books About Food of 2016

A 2014 Okra Summer Pick: Great Southern Books Fresh Off the Vine, Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance

In The Edible South, Marcie Cohen Ferris presents food as a new way to chronicle the American South’s larger history. Ferris tells a richly illustrated story of southern food and the struggles of whites, blacks, Native Americans, and other people of the region to control the nourishment of their bodies and minds, livelihoods, lands, and citizenship. The experience of food serves as an evocative lens onto colonial settlements and antebellum plantations, New South cities and civil rights-era lunch counters, chronic hunger and agricultural reform, counterculture communes and iconic restaurants as Ferris reveals how food--as cuisine and as commodity--has expressed and shaped southern identity to the present day.

The region in which European settlers were greeted with unimaginable natural abundance was simultaneously the place where enslaved Africans vigilantly preserved cultural memory in cuisine and Native Americans held tight to kinship and food traditions despite mass expulsions. Southern food, Ferris argues, is intimately connected to the politics of power. The contradiction between the realities of fulsomeness and deprivation, privilege and poverty, in southern history resonates in the region’s food traditions, both beloved and maligned.

About the Author

Marcie Cohen Ferris, professor of American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is author of Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South.
For more information about Marcie Cohen Ferris, visit the Author Page.


"Extensively researched, The Edible South takes a new perspective on the American region and its rich, tumultuous history."--A Saveur September 2014 Best Food and Drink Release

“Not only does Ferris pinpoint and chronicle evocative moments throughout the South’s larger history, but she manages to eloquently express how this history shaped southern cuisine and, to a greater extent, southern identity.” --Oxford American

“For anyone wishing to pursue a study of the South through comestibles, [The Edible South] is probably the best place to start. . . . I implore you: Dig in!” --Southern Register

"This is a landmark study, thoroughly researched, clearly conveyed, and packed with illustrations. Ferris provides scholars and general readers much to savor."--American Historical Review

“In this colorful and well-researched history, [Ferris] shows persuasively how food has shaped and nourished Southern identity.”--Kirkus

"Ferris has exhaustively traced the origins of southern cooking. . . . [She] delves into the South’s most significant foods. . . [and] performs a particularly important job by painstakingly explaining just how slave culture and subsequent Jim Crow laws and segregation made southern cooking unique."--Booklist

Multimedia & Links

Follow the author on Twitter @ferrismcf.

Watch: Ferris's lecture, "The Hungry South," given at the Southern Foodways Alliance 2014 annual symposium.

Read: In an interview with Guernica magazine, Ferris discusses matzoh ball gumbo, the politics of the southern table, and more. (3/17/2014)