A South You Never Ate

Savoring Flavors and Stories from the Eastern Shore of Virginia

By Bernard L. Herman

400 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 75 color plates, 1 map, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6935-9
    Published: February 2022
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-5348-8
    Published: August 2019

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Awards & distinctions

Nominee, 2020 James Beard Foundation Book Award (Reference, History and Scholarship)

Honorable Mention, 2020 Mooney Award, Southern Anthropological Society

Nestled between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, and stretching from Hampton Roads to Assateague Island, Virginia's Eastern Shore is a distinctly southern place with an exceptionally southern taste. In this inviting narrative, Bernard L. Herman welcomes readers into the communities, stories, and flavors that season a land where the distance from tide to tide is often less than five miles. Blending personal observation, history, memories of harvests and feasts, and recipes, Herman tells of life along the Eastern Shore through the eyes of its growers, watermen, oyster and clam farmers, foragers, church cooks, restaurant owners, and everyday residents.

Four centuries of encounter, imagination, and invention continue to shape the foodways of the Eastern Shore of Virginia, melding influences from Indigenous peoples, European migrants, enslaved and free West Africans, and more recent newcomers. Herman reveals how local ingredients and the cooks who have prepared them for the table have developed a distinctly American terroir--the flavors of a place experienced through its culinary and storytelling traditions. This terroir flourishes even as it confronts challenges from climate change, declining fish populations, and farming monoculture. Herman reveals this resilience through the recipes and celebrations that hold meaning, not just for those who live there but for all those folks who sit at their tables--and other tables near and far.

About the Author

Bernard L. Herman is George B. Tindall Distinguished Professor of Southern Studies and Folklore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
For more information about Bernard L. Herman, visit the Author Page.


"A fascinating, mouth-watering biography of foods and recipes unique to Virginia's eastern shore."--Foreword Reviews

"Shines a spotlight on the [Eastern Shore of Virginia] rural community and makes the case for its place."--Local Palate

β€œA magnificent book. . . . [Herman’s] easily flowing, descriptive prose takes center stage. This publication is fun, enlightening and significant and overall it’s an Eastern Shore encyclopedia β€” emphasizing people, places and foods. . . . Take time to read, cook and enjoy this tasty morsel.”--Virginia Gazette

"I have studied and written about the foods and foodways of the South for more than thirty years, but this book still surprised me by introducing me to dishes, plants, creatures, techniques, and a way of life I'd not encountered before. Herman captures the flavor and fabric of a daily life worth savoring and protecting."--Ronni Lundy, author of Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes

"While reading this book, I could literally feel, hear, smell, and even taste the foods, conversations, and overall conviviality of Virginia's Eastern Shore. Herman knows the places and the people of this unique region intimately and serves as a gracious host."--Psyche A. Williams-Forson, author of Building Houses Out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power