John Egerton: Champion of Southern Food

Craig McCord

Craig McCord › Craig possesses 23 guitars and cannot play any of them. He likes fresh grilled sardines with a ...


We lost John Egerton last week. Mr. Egerton was a great champion of real food, southern food.

If you’re not acquainted with John Egerton and his work, maybe you should be. Here is Mr. Egerton in his own words.

He had a hand in more than twenty books, but his book, Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, in History was his masterpiece.

He, along with John T. Edge and a group of others created the Southern Foodways Alliance, an academic institution associated with the University of Mississippi. SFA is dedicated to explaining, exploring, and exalting Southern food and culture.

In an excellent post, quoted chef Sean Brock of McGrady’s and Husk restaurants in Charleston and Nashville:

“He was the most important and influential thinker of our generation in the American South.”

It’s true. Egerton was precient in his thinking as he brought the rest of us along with his love of southern food.

If you’re not acquainted with John Egerton and his work, maybe you should be.

In that same article, John T. Edge, who learned at Mr. Egerton’s knee, offered this observation:

“He was the primary catalytic force in this renaissance of Southern food that we are now in the midst of. He instilled in Southerners a sense of pride, but he also said, ‘I’m going to ask tough questions about your place, about your beliefs. I’m going to challenge you.’

In his New York Times obituary, Kim Severson explains how Egerton was not just about the food:

A son of the South who grew up when the Ku Klux Klan was almost as mainstream there as the Rotary Club, Mr. Egerton (pronounced EDGE-er-ton) used the written word, humility and ultimately the power of the Southern table to champion racial reconciliation and lead a new generation of writers and cooks to look beyond clichés and divisions to understand the region.

The unbelievable rise in popularity of southern food and its culture can be attributed directly to Mr. Egerton’s writings, thinking and doing.

He will be missed, of course, but his strong legacy will continue far into the future.

Thank you, Mr. Egerton.

Do you have a favorite southern dish to prepare? Will it be on your Thanksgiving Day table?

Photo credit: Craig McCord