Georgia Magazine - August 2017 - 25
Trimly built and in his mid-50s, Edge finds fancy
food "boring," he says.
Dining with friends in one of America's current temples of modern haute cuisine, he and his party decided it
needed to be livened up a bit and started tossing rolls in
an effort, as he puts it, "to subvert the narrative."
Needless to say, one doesn't find him wearing ties. At
least not very often.
Known to friends as "John T.," Edge started off his
academic career at the University of Georgia in Athens.
Ask him what he majored in, and he wastes not a minute
answering honestly: "Drinking." A member of the Sigma
Nu fraternity, he acknowledges having been "unfocused,"
so his academics suffered.
After leaving the University of Georgia and Athens in
1985, Edge worked for a variety of firms in Atlanta, then
in 1995 left for the University of Mississippi in Oxford,
Miss., and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and a master's degree, both in Southern studies. He also earned a
Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction from Gaucher
College in Baltimore, Md. And today he's focused like a
laser on his subject: how Southern food and the evolving
Edge has renewed his relationship with the University of Georgia, where he serves as a mentor on the
faculty of the narrative nonfiction graduate program in
the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. His books and articles have garnered several James
Beard Foundation nominations and awards, including in
2012 the prestigious M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing
Award, named for one of America's most prolific and
artistic food writers.
Where did he like to eat in Athens when he was an
undergraduate student there? He enjoyed Wilson's, where
he favored the black-eyed peas and the chow chow,
Weaver D's and The Mayflower, all of which endure. At
The Mayflower, he especially enjoyed the sausage and
biscuits, he says. He also remembers dining at the Chase
Street Café (today Heirloom Café and Fresh Market).
"That was a working-class kind of place," he says of
THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA PRESS
THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA PRESS
Edge's books and articles have
garnered several James Beard
Foundation awards, including in
2012 the prestigious M.F.K. Fisher
Distinguished Writing Award, named
for one of America's most prolific
and artistic food writers.
Top left: At the Atlanta History Center in 2014, John T. Edge discusses the partnership between the University of Georgia (UGA)
Press and the Southern Foodways Alliance to preserve Southern
food through stories about the culture that surrounds and inspires
it. Above: Shown at the event are, from left, Edge, director of the
Southern Foodways Alliance and editor of the Southern Foodways
Alliance Studies in Culture, People, and Place series; UGA Press
Director Lisa Bayer; Sheffield Hale, president and CEO of the Atlanta
History Center; and UGA Press Acquisitions Editor Patrick Allen.
Chase Street Café. "Those sorts of places were crossroads for people of all [walks of life]."
And the dishes were working-class fare, too. He
recalls chicken mull, a rich chicken stew that's thickened
with crumbled saltine crackers, and talks about "the confluence of store-bought and home-cooked food. Mull is
a great example of that," he adds, noting that Heirloom
Café today serves up chicken mull. While its version is
true to tradition, the restaurant makes its own saltines,
eschewing store-bought types.
Edge lives in Oxford, Miss., where he is the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, which he helped
found in 1999. The alliance, which is part of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University
of Mississippi, produces books, magazines and short
documentary films and collects oral histories, all geared
toward enhancing understanding and preserving the
culinary culture of the evolving American South.
An early project of the center under Edge's direction
is "A Gracious Plenty: Recipes and Recollections from
the American South" (Berkeley/Penguin, 1999), which
pulls its content from cookbooks published by Southern
organizations and charities. For anyone who treasures
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