Southern food and education will collide at the charity event “Investigating the Southern Plate,” 7:00 p.m. May 1 at The Fellowship Place.
The event will be centered around a four-course meal catered by The Little Dooey and hosted by The Starkville Round Table of Culinary Justice. Each member of SRTCJ will discuss the historical and cultural context of an element of the meal.
The organization is comprised of eight Mississippi State University English graduate students, who are organizing this event as the final project for their class.
While food and literature typically belong in two separate spheres, MSU’s associate professor Jervette Ward combined the topics in the English graduate course EN 8583: Food and Identity in Literature.
Throughout the semester, the eight English graduate students in the course have learned how different ethnic groups identify with food. A lot of the class has focused on identifying the origin of certain daily foods and investigating how those foods were sculpted into what they are today.
The course began by analyzing the bigger picture of European colonialism and how certain foods came to be in certain areas. Finally, the course ended in the southern United States, primarily focusing on food relations within the African American community. The reading for the course did consist of fiction, but it primarily focused on historically based texts.
Unlike many English courses, Ward gave her students the option to craft their own final project. The class collectively decided the best project would be to create an event where they could educate the community on the historical and cultural food facts they had learned throughout the semester.
De’Aris Rhymes, English graduate student and member of the SRCTJ, is excited to discuss the communities black women made around agriculture and food.
“I am ecstatic about this event because I am interested in using the one thing that connects all of us—food—to explore all of the historical and cultural occurrences we can make from a Southern plate,” Rhymes said.
This ambitious project is not comprised of the typical work associated with an English project. The success of the event relies on all of the students implementing a range of skills, from budgeting to business communication.
Taylor Greer, English graduate student and member of the networking group, said this project has forced her and her fellow students to break out of their comfort zone and develop life long skills.
“I think this has been very useful for everyone because, as Dr. Ward said, ‘in real life you are going to work with others,’” Greer said. “On some level, event coordination is something people are going to have to participate in at some point in their lives so this project is very practical.”
Greer said the course was not the kind of class that only appeals to those with a passion for English. She believes the course content will draw people interested in Southern culture, food or history together for one meal.
“The content of this class is something that is interesting, conversational really,” Greer said. “It is something my non-English major friends want to hear about and something I think participants of this event will appreciate as well.”
All proceeds will go to the Mississippi Food Network, an affiliate of Feeding America focused on feeding Mississippians.
The event is open to the public who are 21 and older. Tickets are $50 while supplies last and can be purchased on Everbrite or Facebook.