Gravy

Southern Foodways Alliance

Gravy shares stories of the changing American South through the foods we eat. Gravy showcases a South that is constantly evolving, accommodating new immigrants, adopting new traditions, and lovingly maintaining old ones. It uses food as a means to explore all of that, to dig into lesser-known corners of the region, complicate stereotypes, document new dynamics, and give voice to the unsung folk who grow, cook, and serve our daily meals. read less
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Episodes

California Dreams and Flossie’s Mississippi Tamales
4d ago
California Dreams and Flossie’s Mississippi Tamales
In “California Dreams and Flossie’s Mississippi Tamales,” journalist and Gravy producer Eve Troeh joins businesswoman Sandra Miller Foster to tell the story of the restaurant Flossie’s, and the mother-daughter dream that fueled it. This story grew from a simple question: “Does anyone serve Mississippi-style hot tamales in Los Angeles?” The answer was clear, but complicated. There was just one documented place that sold the specialty, and it brought Troeh to Foster.  The narrative of Sandra, her mother Flossie Miller, and their celebrated Southern cooking spans from a Cleveland, Mississippi fine dining restaurant in the 1950s to an empty strip mall storefront in 1980s Los Angeles. Flossie’s grew famous for beloved “meat and three” plate lunches and dinners at its southern California location—with, yes, the simmered and spicy hot tamales on offer as well. They struggled to get their business off the ground, closing their first place after just three years. But eventually they built a celebrated restaurant that lasted decades, and defined success on their terms.  Owning a restaurant, for so many people, is more than just a business venture. It represents pride, the joy of service, and the ability to work for yourself. Restaurants are more likely to be owned by women or people of color than other businesses. And nearly half of restaurant businesses are owned by women.  For this episode, Troeh interviews Sandra Foster and her best friend of forty-plus years, Susan Anderson, to learn how hard work and self-reliance made a Southern soul food institution thrive in Los Angeles. The story of Flossie’s twenty-plus years in business is one of family triumphs and losses, critical acclaim that led to lines of customers out the door, and many more twists and turns. It prompts bigger questions of who gets opportunities in the restaurant business, what it takes to make it as an independent owner, and what success really means at the end of the day. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
From Stuckey's to Buc-ee's
Jan 31 2024
From Stuckey's to Buc-ee's
Few companies have inspired more fanatical devotion among Texans than the convenience chain Buc-ee’s. Described by the New York Times as both a “Disneyland of roadside capitalism,” and the “through line of America’s second most sprawling state,” its iconic, buck-toothed beaver mascot has been spotted not just on billboards, but on wedding cakes and tattooed arms of its most loyal customers. Founded as a small-town gas station, today it boasts 47 locations across the South known for massive floor spaces brimming with souvenirs, fudge, BBQ stations, cases of jerky, and walls of branded snacks like “beaver nuggets.”  Yet unlike other treasured Lone Star enterprises like Whataburger, Blue Bell, or the grocery chain H-E-B, Buc-ee’s ascendance has been a fast, recent phenomenon. They are also far from the first convenience chain to endear themselves to travelers through reliably clean restrooms, kitschy gifts and road food. In fact, one could argue they stand on the shoulders of the Georgia-born Stuckey’s, whose nutty treats sparked a mid-century rest stop empire.  Today, both brands find themselves at a crossroads. Buc-ee’s is rapidly expanding, while following years of corporate mismanagement and decline, Stuckey’s is rebuilding itself one pecan log roll at a time.  In this episode we’ll ride shotgun with Gravy producer Evan Stern as he explores how food has shaped these companies' brand identities, how they’re grappling with change, and what their stories reveal about the past, present,t and future of snacking on the American road. Along the way, we’ll step inside a Buc-ee’s that sprawls over 65,000 square feet, get to know some devoted customers and hear from journalist Eric Benson, who argues this chain has come to symbolize 21st century Texas. We’ll also meet Stephanie Stuckey who, following a career in politics and environmental law, now serves as the chair of Stuckey’s. She shares her grandfather’s journey from pecan broker to gas station magnate, how she envisions Stuckey’s evolving, and why the road trip remains ingrained in the company’s DNA. The resulting piece is a profile of two brands who have shaped and continue to make American highways a “corridor of consumption.” Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
It's Hip To Be a Cube: Maggi Bouillon Unwrapped
Jan 3 2024
It's Hip To Be a Cube: Maggi Bouillon Unwrapped
In the episode “It’s Hip to Be a Cube: Maggie Bouillon Unwrapped,” Gravy producers Katie Jane Fernelius and Ishan Thakore take a deeper look at a humble but ubiquitous pantry staple—the bouillon cube. As many home cooks know, these dehydrated cubes of salty, umami flavor dissolve in water to create a makeshift broth. But the result is much more than soup. For immigrants to the American South, for example, bouillon cubes carry powerful sentiments of nostalgia and home. Approximately 120 million Maggi bouillon cubes are sold each day. It’s a testament to the reach and ubiquity of the Nestle brand, arguably the most notable brand of bouillon cubes—just as many people call a tissue a Kleenex, so do many people call bouillon cubes Maggi. In fact, if you were to go to an international supermarket, you’d find dozens and dozens of varieties of Maggi. Some would be sold in packages labeled in Arabic, others in French or English… each with its own flavor profile specific to regional cuisines: Djon Djon. Golden Beef. Poulet. Tomato. Ginger and Garlic. Naija Pot. Maggi’s diversity of flavor profiles speak to just how readily the little cube has been adopted into so many kitchens around the world. And it’s not uncommon for cooks to say it’s the secret ingredient to their favorite local dish.  So, how did Maggi manage to become both a global juggernaut and hometown hero? In this episode, Fernelius and Thakore trace Maggi’s path from Swiss laboratories in the late nineteenth century, to Cubism, to postcolonial countries across the Global South, to a beloved Nigerian restaurant just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. They speak to Toyin Adesayo, chef and owner of Toyin Takeout in Marietta, Georgia; Nadia Berenstein, an award-winning food writer and scholar of flavor; and Nigerian chef, writer, and activist Tunde Wey. Through these conversations, they learn why the little bouillon cube has become so special to so many. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Gravy Recommendation: Southern Songs and Stories
Dec 29 2023
Gravy Recommendation: Southern Songs and Stories
If you appreciate Gravy, you'll likely enjoy Southern Songs and Stories. The episode we're sharing with you today features Jake Xerxes Fussell, a musician whose music is well-known in Oxford, Mississippi, the town the Southern Foodways Alliance calls home. From Southern Songs and Stories: In this series, we often spend time with artists and styles of music that are not celebrated in the mainstream, and our guest here is no exception. With a focus on music that is from artists living in the South and on music that has roots in the region, we are constantly talking with bluegrass, blues, country, rock, and Americana artists. These forms of music are immensely important to the history and legacy of original music in this country, but they seldom are associated with today’s biggest stars. One reason why we love those genres is simply because they became so popular, fueling one of America’s greatest exports to the world. But it is easy to get wrapped up in that history and culture and lose sight of other traditions that are not celebrated in the mainstream, nor are they a part of the narrative where roots music born in the South becomes foundational to a preponderance of popular music in the twentieth century. In this conversation with Jake Xerxes Fussell, I was reminded of that. That episode is just one part of our conversation that took place in mid-May 2023 at the Albino Skunk Music Festival in Greer, SC. Jake played a solo set on guitar, and afterward we spoke about his deep roots in folklore, his fourth album Good and Green Again, being a DJ on WHUP in Hillsborough, NC, and more. This episode also features excerpts of music from his live set. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Filipino Balikbayan is Homecoming in a Box
Dec 20 2023
Filipino Balikbayan is Homecoming in a Box
Christmas is the time of year when many people line up at the Post Office to ship gifts to far-flung loved ones across the country, maybe even the world. In the Philippines, this practice is not just customary, but a state policy called the Balikbayan Program. Balikbayan, which is the Tagalog word for “homecoming,” was first coined by President Ferdinand Marcos in 1973 when he launched a series of policies to encourage the large number of overseas Filipino workers to return home for Christmas in the Catholic country. He hoped they would spend their hard-earned foreign currencies in their home country, helping to bolster the Filipino economy. But, if they were not able to make it home, then he encouraged them to send tax-free “balikbayan boxes” in their place.  Balikbayan boxes are typically 3-foot-by-3-foot-by-3-foot boxes stuffed full of canned goods, candy bars, packaged cookies, toothpastes, deodorants, sweatshirts, shoes, and many other items.  Today, approximately half-a-million balikbayan boxes are shipped to the Philippines each month by Filipinos working overseas––and this number only increases further around Christmastime. Whole industries exist around the logistics of shipping balikbayan boxes: for example, in Houston, where 2.5 million Filipino immigrants live, companies like Forex Texas have been operating since the mid-1990s to safely ship balikbayan boxes to the Philippines. (These box companies are not uncommon in various Filipino enclaves across America.)  Balikbayan boxes are not just impressive economic operation, they also are a certified cultural practice and pop culture meme. Filipino comedian Mikey Bustos sang about balikbayan boxes in a video parodying Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball”: “I got my balikbayan box, I waited for it for 2 months. I bet it's full of awesome stuff. Some Colgate and new briefs, imported corn beef, I got my balikbayan box, so full of imported products, I know I will feel so sosyal parang foreigner lang, thanks to my Mommy. I'll have Nikes on my feet!” In this episode of Gravy, producer Katie Jane Fernelius examines the histories underlying the balikbayan box. She speaks with Royal Sumikat, a Filipino artist in Houston, who designed a whole exhibit based on the box. Royal draws upon her experience as a child in the Philippines receiving these boxes from her dad and reflects upon the economic and political realities that forced her dad to work overseas. Jade Alburo, a librarian at UCLA who focuses on the study of Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. discusses the impact of American colonialism in the Philippines and how it inspired what items are most coveted for balikbayan boxes. Gravy also explores how to frame the importance of balikbayan boxes to Filipino families living across borders. SFA is proud to be a part of APT Podcast Studios. We thank the following individuals for help with this episode: Royal Sumikat Jade Albur Christy Panis Poisot Featured music in this episode includes: Talang Patnubay (Silen), Christmas in the Philippines, Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company - Smithsonian Folkways Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit, Christmas in the Philippines, Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company - Smithsonian Folkways "Calisson," by Blue Dot Studios "We Collect Shiny Things," by Blue Dot Studios "Waltz and Fury," by Blue Dot Studios The image is from Royal Sumikat’s exhibit in Houston, Texas.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
What's Next for the Women of Mama Dip's Kitchen?
Dec 6 2023
What's Next for the Women of Mama Dip's Kitchen?
In "What's Next for the Women of Mama Dip's Kitchen?" Gravy producer Leoneda Inge takes listeners to Mama Dip’s Kitchen, known for its chicken and dumplings and scrumptious homemade desserts. The restaurant has fed tourists, celebrities, and steady customers for nearly fifty years in Chapel Hill, North Carolina—so the community was shocked when the Council family voted earlier this year to sell the restaurant and the land around it.  Mildred “Mama Dip” Council was a celebrated entrepreneur. When she died in 2018, the restaurant continued, welcoming patrons at its longtime spot on Rosemary Street. Now, the Council family has a big decision to make. They have to figure out a way to continue growing the business and preserve Mama Dip’s legacy.  Mama Dip is a brand. She is a household name around town. She was not a popular alumna of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill or a star athlete—though this African American woman stood tall at 6’2”. But many students, staff, and residents have eaten her country cooking or tried to perfect a dish from one of her cookbooks.  Mama Dip had eight children, and several of them were cross-trained to operate every facet of the business. Her youngest child, Spring Council, is north of sixty-five years old, retirement age for many folks. The asking price for Mama Dip’s Kitchen—the building, not the brand—is $3.6 million. Early conversations included talk of building a more fast-casual restaurant, with a smaller staff, specializing in the restaurant’s top sellers, like the chicken and dumplings. While the future of Mama Dip’s Kitchen is still up in the air, the family legacy lives on. Granddaughter Tonya Council recently opened her own cookie shop in Chapel Hill. Granddaughter Erika Council in Atlanta owns Bomb Biscuit Company. And daughter Annette Council continues to sell her Sweet Neecy cake mixes. For this episode, Inge talks to Spring Council and Erika Council, as well as some of Mama Dip’s loyal followers, to explore the legacy and future of this iconic Chapel Hill institution. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Tasting the South in the San Fernando Valley
Nov 22 2023
Tasting the South in the San Fernando Valley
In “Tasting the South in the San Fernando Valley,” producer Rebecca Katz tells the story of how three black women created a soul food institution in one of the whitest parts of the San Fernando Valley that still thrives today. During the Second Great Migration in the 1940s, large numbers of Black Americans traveled west to Los Angeles, California. The Black population in Los Angeles increased nearly twelvefold from 1940 to 1970.  In this episode, we learn about the racial history of the San Fernando Valley specifically a suburb just north of the city of Los Angeles. While Los Angeles as a city was diversifying after the second great migration, certain parts of the Valley remained largely white due to its iron-clad race restrictions—some of the harshest in the nation. In the episode, we hone in on one small town at the Western tip of the valley called Chatsworth, which was 98% white in the 1980s.  Three Black women, Clara Huling, Roda Hadi, and Willie Stanford, were each already working in the restaurant industry in the Valley in the 1980s, not far from Chatsworth. They each had different ties to the South and they all missed Southern cooking and classic soul food. One night, they decided to open a restaurant—bringing classic soul food to the largely white valley. And they did just that. They came together and opened a tiny soul food spot in the unlikeliest of all places—Chatsworth.  Nearly 40 years after that grand opening, Clara’s granddaughter, Jessica Huling, still owns and operates the restaurant, which has been deemed some of the best soul food in Los Angeles by many reputable food outlets.  In this episode, we hear from Jessica about how the restaurant thrived in such a white area through the years. We explore how the restaurant has overcome the odds, evolved its customer base, and greatly influenced the Black community in the Valley today. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Adaptation, Survival, Gratitude: A Lumbee Thanksgiving Story
Nov 8 2023
Adaptation, Survival, Gratitude: A Lumbee Thanksgiving Story
At this point, most of us know the Thanksgiving story about the Pilgrims and the Indians happily indulging in a joint feast is a vast oversimplification of what actually happened. But how many of us still have an idea of Native people that's stuck in the past? "People didn't believe that I was Native because I was from North Carolina," Lumbee Indian Malinda Maynor Lowery says. "The only thing they learned about Indians in school, maybe, was that we were removed from the Southeast." In this first episode of Gravy, first shared almost 10 years ago today, meet a tribe of Indians who are very much still in the Southeast—and whose food reflects a distinct hybrid of Southern and Native history. The Lumbee's story is one that spans centuries, and includes new windows into periods you may think you know—like the Jim Crow era. Plus something you'll be eager to eat: the collard sandwich. If you want more after that, check out these oral histories of the Lumbee community, done by the SFA's Sara Wood. You might also want to read Malinda Maynor Lowery's book "Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South." And, if you're dying to make your own collard sandwich, you can find a recipe for that and much more in Gloria Barton Gates' "The Scuffletown Cookbook." Tina Antolini, Gravy's first producer, reported and produced this episode. Tina has worked in public radio for nearly 20 years. She was a senior producer for NPR's State of the Reunion, for which she won a Peabody and a national Edward R Murrow Award for her work.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Czech Out Texas Kolaches
Oct 11 2023
Czech Out Texas Kolaches
In “Czech Out Texas Kolaches,” Gravy producer Evan Stern invites listeners to join him on a return trip to his native Texas to explore the history, origins, and evolutions of kolaches through the voices of bakers of varying backgrounds and perspectives. This episode complements the oral history project Stern created for SFA, The Keepers of Kolaches: The Evolutions of Texas-Czech Baking. Few pastries are more intertwined with the fabric of Central Texas than kolaches. With roots in the Czech Nation and owed to 19th Century Moravian immigrants, these soft, pillowy confections of yeasty dough with open centers of fruit, poppyseed or sweet cheese fillings have long provided humble links to the old country in small Texas towns like Halletsville, La Grange, West, and Schulenburg. Yet kolaches have also weathered many transformations under the Lone Star flag and have developed an identity that continues to change—and is, at times, challenging to define. Historian and blogger Dawn Orsak explains how meat filled “klobasnikys” emerged and eventually came to become interchangeable with kolaches in the eyes of the broader public. She argues that Texas-Czech baking should be afforded the same respect as its European ancestors. “Fifty or sixty years after people started immigrating to Texas, what does traditional mean?” she asks. Acclaimed ninety-year-old baker Lydia Mae Faust also speaks to these traditions. She grew up preparing kolaches on her family farm with hand churned cottage cheese, and continues to share and teach her recipes to ensure their preservation. Meanwhile, there’s Laos-born, Houston-based Vatsana Souvannavong. The owner of the bakery Koala Kolache, she’s on a mission to make kolaches nationally known, and has found in them a vessel for flavors as bulgogi and kimchi, chicken marsala, and Thai chicken and basil. While these bakers’ cultural backgrounds vary, their stories ultimately reveal kolaches as emblematic of a changing, increasingly diverse Texas, South, and nation. The group is united in their enthusiasm and hopes for this doughy indulgence’s continuity. Acknowledgments Thanks to Vatsana Souvannavong, Dawn Orsak, Lydia Mae Faust, Denise Mazal, and Jerry Haisler For Lydia Faust’s kolache recipe, click here. Gravy is proud to be a part of APT Podcast Studios Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
North Carolina Pottery from Clay to Kiln
Sep 27 2023
North Carolina Pottery from Clay to Kiln
In “North Carolina Pottery from Clay to Kiln” Gravy producer Wilson Sayre invites us to consider the vehicles that our food sits on—plates. In this episode, she takes us to central North Carolina, where the story of the hand-thrown pottery and its relationship with food is told with gusto.  If you eat with your eyes, then the “plating” of food is an essential component of a meal and the stories that surround it. In North Carolina, the history of baking clay into utilitarian—and beautiful—plates and bowls is an ancient one. That tradition has been handed down for generations and interpreted by each potter who chose to let the clay get under their fingernails. Today, Seagrove, in the central part of the state, is home to the largest concentration of studio potters in the United States. Each potter has their own journey, but as Mark Hewitt explains, it’s all a bit “mad.”  He, like many potters, spends weeks or months turning lumps of clay into beautiful vessels. One by one, pots, pitchers and plates take shape on the pottery wheel, receive decoration, and are set into a kiln to undergo their final transformation from brittle dried clay into gleaming vessels. But that transformation is also a gamble, especially for those who fire with wood. Pots can explode, destroying everything in a kiln, or the firing temperature gets too hot (or not hot enough), causing glazes to turn unappealing colors. And yet they take that gamble over and over again. It’s how they tell stories, of place and of their artistic journey. Plates are also our story as eaters, says Glenn Hinson, professor of folklore and anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Whether paper or porcelain, plates shape our relationship with the food they hold, as well as our memories of a meal. In this episode, Sayre speaks with Hewitt and Hinson, as well as Delores J. Farmer, founder of Durham’s first Black-owned pottery studio, to learn more about the synergies between dirt, food, and plate. With the spotlight shifted to what’s underneath our food, we hope listeners will see this whole other canvas for story. Because in the end, when our food is gone, when we’re gone, it’s from our plates that people will learn about our foodways. Thanks to guest Mark Hewitt, who opens his pottery twice a year for kiln openings. Thanks also to guest Delores Farmer, who offers classes at her studio to folks in Durham, NC, who are interested in getting a bit of clay under their fingernails. Glenn Hinson and his wife, Amy Bauman, were kind enough to welcome the reporter into their home, share a meal, and provide some of the most beautiful plates for the feast. Although they were not featured in this episode, special thanks to professor Bernie Herman for help in pointing us in the right direction and potter Matt Hallyburton, for providing background context and making beautiful work. Gravy is proud to be a part of APT Podcast Studios. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
A Shrimp Boat Blessing with no Shrimp Boats
Sep 13 2023
A Shrimp Boat Blessing with no Shrimp Boats
In “A Shrimp Boat Blessing with no Shrimp Boats,” Gravy producer Irina Zhorov takes listeners to Bayou La Batre, on Alabama's Gulf Coast. Long known as the seafood capital of Alabama, Bayou La Batre has hosted a Blessing of the Fleet – a festival to bless local commercial shrimp and fishing boats – since the 1940s.  Fishing has long been a dangerous and capricious industry, where luck – in harvests, weather, accidents – has almost as much to do with a captain's success as his skill. The annual blessing, an old European tradition established in Bayou La Batre by a Catholic family of transplants from Louisiana, was a bulwark to ever-present risks. Shrimp boat captains would decorate their boats with festive flags and parade along the bayou, receiving a blessing from the Archbishop of Mobile, a little courage to go back out to sea.  But as the industry changed and evolved, what the Blessing could do seemed less obvious. Boats were built bigger and with refrigeration, so people could stay at sea longer and bring in bigger harvests. At the same time, systemic threats emerged to the shrimping industry. Competition from imports and farm-raised shrimp is keeping shrimp prices unsustainably low while prices for gas, insurance and maintenance grow. The Blessing hasn't kept up with the changes. Many captains are too busy hustling for economic survival to show up. Not a single commercial shrimp boat attended the 2023 Blessing of the Fleet.     In this episode, Zhorov talks to Vincent Bosarge, Deacon at St. Margaret's Church, which hosts the Blessing, who grew up going to the festival; Rodney Lyons, a fisherman whose family once supported the Blessing by donating food but who no longer attends; Jeremy Zirlott, a younger shrimper who says he's struggled to make ends meet in the industry's current state and who's never put his boats in the Blessing; and Tommy Purvis and Kimberly Barrow, who shrimp on the side but for whom the Blessing is a vital tradition.  Acknowledgments Thanks for reporting help from Frye Gaillard, and thanks to our audio engineer, Clay Jones of Broadcast Studios. Gravy is proud to be a part of APT Podcast Studios. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Annie Fisher’s Beaten Biscuits Meant Business
Aug 30 2023
Annie Fisher’s Beaten Biscuits Meant Business
In “Annie Fisher’s Beaten Biscuits Meant Business,” Gravy producer Mackenzie Martin digs into beaten biscuits, the tender, flaky hardtack rolls that date back to the 1800s, when they were often served with ham and particularly popular in the South. Historically speaking, beaten biscuits were incredibly laborious to make—so they were viewed as a culinary delicacy. And at the turn of the 20th century, no beaten biscuits were as famous in Columbia, Missouri, as those made by Annie Fisher. Serving her beaten biscuits at a party or dinner was a major hostess flex. A prominent surgeon wrote that Annie Fisher was “the most efficient cateress in the town of Columbia and that no university or social function was really classy without her service.” These days, the kind of success that culinary entrepreneur Annie Fisher enjoyed a century ago might be partly attributed to an impressive marketing plan, investors, or at the very least, access to a bank loan. But here’s the thing about Annie Fisher: As a Black woman in Jim Crow Missouri, she didn’t have access to those advantages, and yet she amassed a fortune anyway. In addition to starting a bustling catering enterprise almost completely on her own, Fisher also ran a successful mail-order business shipping to both coasts and became quite the real estate mogul, renting out more than a dozen homes at a time. Her success was heralded nationally with newspaper headlines like “Road to fortune paved with beaten biscuits!” and she was even featured in Clement Richardson’s “The National Cyclopedia of the Colored Race” alongside other famed entrepreneurs of the era, like Madam C.J. Walker, the hair care pioneer who became the first Black female millionaire in America. To investigate Fisher’s legacy, Martin visits her hometown of Columbia, Missouri, and talks with Verna Laboy, who has been giving historical reenactments of Fisher’s story ever since the story first “captivated her soul” 30 years ago. She also meets community leader Sheila Ruffin, who tried unsuccessfully to preserve Fisher’s last standing home before it was torn down in 2011. Finally, she speaks with food columnist Donna Battle Pierce. When Pierce was integrating her Columbia elementary school, she says knowing the story of Annie Fisher would have been deeply empowering to her—but she laments that she didn’t learn about Fisher until she was well into adulthood. Eighty-five years after Fisher’s death, Martin asks, what could it have been like if Columbia had started to celebrate Fisher’s legacy sooner? Acknowledgments: This episode of Gravy was reported and produced by Mackenzie Martin, a James Beard-nominated podcast producer and reporter at KCUR Studios in Kansas City, Missouri. She is the senior producer for A People’s History of Kansas City and the editor of Seeking A Scientist. Her stories have aired on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here & Now and Marketplace. It was part of a collaboration with the KCUR Studios podcast, A People’s History of Kansas City. Hosted by Suzanne Hogan, A People’s History of Kansas City is a show about the underdogs, renegades and visionaries who shaped City and the region. Special thanks for this episode to KCUR Studios’ Suzanne Hogan, historian Mary Beth Brown, historian Bridget Haney, Vox magazine, and the “Renewing Inequality” project at the University of Richmond. For further reading on beaten biscuits, we recommend John Egerton’s Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, in History. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Tasting Kentucky in Tiananmen
Aug 16 2023
Tasting Kentucky in Tiananmen
In “Tasting Kentucky in Tiananmen,” Gravy producers Ishan Thakore and Katie Jane Fernelius explore how KFC became one of the most popular restaurant chains in China, and what its dominance reveals about other huge Southern firms.  KFC is now part of the corporate conglomerate Yum! Brands, which includes chains like Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. But it has humble origins — Harland Sanders started the brand in Corbin, Kentucky, as a service station off the road. The chain grew through franchise agreements and by the 1980s was looking to expand abroad. As Zachary Karabell, author of Superfusion: How China and America Became One Economy and Why the World's Prosperity Depends on It, explains, China in the ‘80s was a blank canvas for businesses. That presented all sorts of risks, but also potentially unlimited upside.  Like a hungry youth soccer team diving into a bucket of fried chicken after a game (an oddly specific reference from Ishan’s childhood), KFC went all in. It brought in middle-managers from Taiwan, developed a logistics network, and treated store openings like grand affairs. But it could not avoid major geopolitical issues. Two years after KFC opened its flagship branch off of Tiananmen Square, Chinese troops there killed an estimated hundreds of people to quash political protests.  But within a week, KFC reopened on the Square, catering now to soldiers instead of students demanding change. KFC took off and, by 2011, according to a Harvard Business Review case study, KFC was on average opening one restaurant a day in China.  This growth came at a cost. Bart Elmore, an environmental historian and associate professor of history at the Ohio State University, charted the rise of several Southern multinationals, including FedEx, Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola in his book Country Capitalism: How Corporations from the American South Remade Our Economy and the Planet. Elmore explains how servicing goods to the countryside made corporations enormously wealthy, and how those firms relied on the Global South for materials and markets. But that quest for global ubiquity had severe environmental impacts, including by KFC, such as emissions and pollution.  For Elmore, and hopefully for listeners, acknowledging the economic history of the South is one step towards addressing the social and environmental issues wrought by unchecked economic growth.  Music featured in this episode includes "Borough" and "The Crisper" by Blue Dot Sessions. Acknowledgments Special thanks to guest Zachary Karabell and his book Superfusion, which lays out the history of KFC in China. Zachary also founded The Progress Network and hosts the podcast What Could Go Right? Thanks to Bart Elmore for his perspective on the impact of Southern companies around the world. You can read more about those firms in his newly released book Country Capitalism.  Although they were not featured in this episode, a big thank you to historian Adrian Miller for providing context about fried chicken’s origins, as well as to Christine Ha, who owns several restaurants in Houston.  Gravy is proud to be a part of APT Podcast Studios. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
A Tale of Two Laredos
Mar 15 2023
A Tale of Two Laredos
In “A Tale of Two Laredos,” Gravy producer Evan Stern visits Laredo, Texas, which shares history, culture, and memory with its sister city across the border, Nuevo Laredo. For decades, Mexican border towns were renowned for refined, white tablecloth restaurants where jacketed waiters served a café society that transcended international boundaries. Among the most celebrated was Nuevo Laredo’s Cadillac Bar, which opened in 1926 and grew famous for delicacies such as frog legs and Ramos Gin Fizzes until it was forced to close in 2010.  Chosen for its location on the river we now call the Rio Grande, Don Tomas Sanchez established Laredo as a ferry crossing in 1755. After the Mexican-American war of the mid-19th century, the land was ceded to the U.S. Some long-time residents moved across the river into Mexican territory and founded Nuevo Laredo, while others remained in what became Texas. Laredo has evolved into a bustling and fast growing center of trade that’s now the largest inland port in the United States. Yet the border has hardened in ways that have vastly altered these neighboring cities’ social dynamics. On the American side, 9/11 spurred a wave of counterterrorism and immigration policies that have slowed the process of entry. In Mexico, the 2003 arrest of cartel leader Osiel Cardenas Guillen spurred a protracted turf war amongst rival factions for control of Nuevo Laredo’s prized point of entry. March of 2022 saw gunmen fire shots at the American consulate, whose workers are forced to adhere to curfews and movement restrictions. The US State Department advises against travel there altogether. For Laredoans, movement across the border into Nuevo Laredo—once a part of daily life—has all but ceased. In Laredo, Stern searches for traces of the Cadillac Bar’s influence on the American side. He hears memories from native residents including Elsa Rodriguez, who shares firsthand how the border’s hardening has altered the region’s cultural fabric. He also visits with Margarita Araiza, chair of the Webb County Heritage Foundation, who discusses how Laredo and Nuevo Laredo were founded as one city in the 1700s and remain inextricably linked. Newspaper veteran and longtime journalism professor Wanda Garner Cash tells of her grandfather, Mayo Bessan, who, sensing business opportunity, fled Prohibition Era-New Orleans to open the Cadillac Bar with gambling winnings.  Stern also gets a taste of Laredo’s current dining scene through a visit to the Border Foundry, whose owner Pete Mims once hosted a dinner that featured a tasting menu entirely comprised of recipes from the Cadillac. Also on hand to mix an award-winning cocktail is Cesar “Cheese” Martinez, manager of the new Bar Nido, who was named Best Bartender by readers of the Laredo Morning Times.    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
A Texas Cabrito Communion
Mar 8 2023
A Texas Cabrito Communion
In “A Texas Cabrito Communion,” Gravy producer Evan Stern invites us to ride along as he joins the Avila and Aguirre families for a celebratory reunion and cabrito cookout at their YY Ranch, which sits below the Nueces River in Texas. The river once served as the boundary between Texas and the Mexican states of Coahuila and Tamaulipas, and some advocate for viewing this region and Northern Mexico as a singular landscape, united by shared terroir and culture. As a beloved delicacy enjoyed on both sides of the Rio Grande, cabrito—a roasted baby goat nourished strictly on a diet of mother’s milk—brings this philosophy to life. As Mundo and Luz Aguirre, a couple who have driven in from Monterrey, prepare the feast, Stern explores how this dish that’s now a staple of Easter celebrations was brought to the New World by Spanish Sephardic Jewish shepherds. Faced with the Inquisition’s policies of forced Catholic conversion, they turned to goat as a staple to maintain kosher practice in secret. Eventually, in the sixteenth century, many of these secret adherents began making their way to Mexico. Stern considers issues surrounding cabrito’s ties to colonial history and ethics through a conversation with noted chef and historian Adan Medrano, who grew up traveling between San Antonio and his father’s birthplace of Nava, Coahuila.  Stern also meets Olmito-based educators and musicians Rosa Canales and Joe Perez, who share early memories of cabrito, which was viewed as “prize” in their Texas hometowns of Premont and Hebbronville. Rosa shares her love of machito, which some call Texas haggis, made from goat innards, while Houston-based chef Sylvia Casares discusses her choice to serve cabrito enchiladas at Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen in Houston. She also shares some of the barriers that restaurant owners face in featuring cabrito on menus.  Concluding with a round of beers by a crackling fire, the voices of Refugio “Cuquin” Aguirre and Peter and Joe Avila reveal how cross-border connections reveal themselves not only in the cooking and sharing of cabrito, but in their family gatherings. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Blessed Egg Rolls and the Evolution of Rockport, Texas
Mar 1 2023
Blessed Egg Rolls and the Evolution of Rockport, Texas
In “Blessed Egg Rolls and the Evolution of Rockport, Texas,” Gravy producer Evan Stern takes listeners to the small town of Rockport, Texas, which hugs the shores of Aransas Bay on the state’s Gulf Coast, about 35 miles northeast of Corpus Christi. There, he visits Saint Peter’s Catholic Church, founded by Vietnamese arrivals in the early 1980s, and whose congregants host a monthly fundraiser selling such dishes as bun, egg rolls, and shrimp.  Following the collapse of Saigon, in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians fled the Indochinese Peninsula to seek refuge in the United States. While a great many of these people famously resettled and established enclaves in cities like Houston and New Orleans, seeking work in fishing and shrimping, others moved to and impacted smaller, less diverse communities on the Gulf Coast. For Gravy, Stern explores the challenges of resettlement and this community’s evolution. We hear from congregants including Trang Kelsey, who found comfort in Rockport’s oysters and fish that reminded her of her home island, Phu Quoc. Lyly Nguyen shares how the popularity of her family’s cooking among Rockport High’s football team—pho, lo mein, egg rolls—inspired them to open the successful restaurant, Hu Dat, which now claims three locations in Texas.  Stern also examines the racial tensions following this mass migration. Noted environmentalist and fourth-generation fisherwoman Diane Wilson, who lives and works up the coast in the town of Seadrift, remembers how misunderstandings between residents and newcomers over misplaced crab lines and unspoken rules gave rise to conflict. Lyly Nguyen recalls harassment and violence following a 1979 territorial dispute that kept her home from school for a week.  Finally, Stern speaks to Julie La Pam, a shrimper in Aransas Bay; seafood market owner Flower Bui; Saint Peter’s choir director Tam Nguyen; and Father Tung Tran. All proudly call Rockport home and remind us that churches—and communities, and towns, and cities, and nations—are made of people before brick and mortar.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices