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Saturday December 3rd

Carolina Table opens the door to North Carolina through food

Professor of English and Creative Writing, Randall Kenan, talks about the formation and purpose behind his new anthology, "The Carolina Table."
Buy Photos Professor of English and Creative Writing, Randall Kenan, talks about the formation and purpose behind his new anthology, "The Carolina Table."

English professor Randall Kenan was the editor of the anthology.

“It’s not an academic book — it’s very much about the way we live and eat now,” Kenan said.

The anthology consists of a series of essays, compiled and edited by Kenan, each telling a different story about food in North Carolina.

“I was more interested in a more diverse and fuller vision of what food in North Carolina represents,” Kenan said.

He said he reached out to prominent food writers and enthusiasts all around the state in order to collect stories about food and life in different regions of North Carolina.

Several of those voices were found on UNC’s campus. Paul Cuadros, an associate professor in the School of Media and Journalism, contributed an essay about a family attempting to bring South American-style barbeque to a state strict about its barbeque style.

“It seeks to talk about food from North Carolina and our culture here and how food brings us together,” Cuadros said.

Cuadros was invited to participate by Eno Publishers and said his subject represents a new North Carolina. He calls the book a showcase of the state’s connection to food and culture.

Both Kenan and Cuadros spoke to how that was a testament to the talent and diversity among the staff at UNC.

“We have attracted a signifigant pool of talent around here...so it behooves us to take advantage of that” Kenan said.

Stories include a man who found a halal butcher in Sanford, North Carolina, and a woman who worked with a family of Syrian refugees discussing how they bonded through food.

Kenan said he chose these kinds of stories to show readers more than the cliches.

“I was trying not to go for the stereotypes: fried chicken, barbeque, overcooked greens, fried anything really” he said.

American studies professor Marcie Cohen Ferris, who wrote the afterword, said she was inspired by the many different voices in the book.

“It’s great to hear North Carolina voices who open a door into the state through the lens of food,” she said.

Ferris said she hopes this book will encourage studies on this topic throughout UNC and she plans to use this book in future classes.

“It takes us to another level of understanding about what the state is and who North Carolinians are,” Ferris said.

Ferris said she loves the anthology because of its exploration of memory, childhood, farming and the table itself.

“There’s a lot of faculty that speak to and help us understand this kind of beautiful and contested and difficult and beloved state of North Carolina that we all love and hate.”

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