Marcie Cohen Ferris, professor emeritus of American studies, was awarded the 2018 Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern Foodways Alliance.
The award is named for the Sunflower, Mississippi, native Craig Claiborne, a transformative journalist who declared Southern food and foodways “the vastest and most varied of all traditional regional cooking in the country.”
Ferris, a native of Blytheville, Arkansas, has done transformative work at the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience in Utica, Mississippi, published genre-defining books, framed public dialogues about food and identity, and helped pioneer the food studies discipline. As a UNC-Chapel Hill American studies professor, she taught a generation of students, and her research interests have spanned the foodways and material culture of the American South, the history of the Jewish South, and American Jewish identity and culture.
Ferris’ Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South (UNC Press, 2005) was nominated for a 2006 James Beard Foundation Award. She is co-editor of Jewish Roots in Southern Soil: A New History (University Press of New England, 2006). In The Edible South: The Power of Food and the Making of an American Region, (UNC Press, 2014) she examines how food has expressed and shaped Southern identity.
The SFA noted that Ferris “has proved a key leader in the food studies and foodways field, speaking often and well at symposia, mentoring colleagues, and serving on countless committees. She has defined the possibilities of her work this way: ‘The study of foodways … addresses a central issue in the humanities: how do we connect the great dramas of history with the lives of ordinary people.'”
From 2006 to 2008, Ferris served as president of the Southern Foodways Alliance board of directors. Under her leadership, the SFA expanded and enhanced its academic work and grew into a national organization.
“Marcie is a tireless advocate and cheerleader for her students,” Sara Camp Milam, SFA managing editor, said when presenting the award. “She has encouraged scores of emerging scholars — most of them women, and myself included — to reach further than we thought we could. She has made us her peers.”