Yesterday morning, the Southern food community lost one of their own, when renowned Southern writer John Egerton passed away at his home in Nashville.
Egerton wrote and edited more than 20 books, including one of his best-known works, Southern Food: At Home, On the Road, In History, which was published in 1987 and takes an in-depth look at the food in the south. In 1999, he co-founded the Southern Foodways Alliance, an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi that has been described as one of the country’s most intellectually engaged food societies. He was, without a doubt, one of the most influential voices in the American South.
Our Farm Flavor colleague, Susan Chappell, knew Egerton personally, getting the chance to meet him while working together on another book he co-edited, Nashville: An American Self-Portrait.
“A friend of mine gave me Southern Food when I turned 30. I didn’t really know John then, but I was fascinated with the book and the lessons about Southern food found within its pages,” Chappell says. “About 10 years later, I had the pleasure of working with John on Nashville: An American Self-Portrait. I learned a lot from him during those months – that it’s OK to be a perfectionist, that good writing takes time (and lots of it!) and that there’s reward in sharing success with others. John was a true gentleman, a kind and gentle soul and a dear friend. He and his voice of conscience will be missed.”
Garden & Gun magazine posted an article remembering Egerton that featured thoughts from some of the other people he influenced:
“He was the most important and influential thinker of our generation in the American South,” says chef Sean Brock, of McCrady’s and Husk restaurants in Charleston and Nashville. John Currence, chef at City Grocery, Bouré, Big Bad Breakfast, and Snackbar, in Oxford, Mississippi, calls Egerton the Moses of today’s Southern-food revival. “I give Southern Food to all of the guys that come to work for me in upper management,” Currence says. “Not just, ‘Here’s a gift,’ but, ‘You go read this cover to cover, and understand what’s important about what we’re doing.’”