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Collage of images of fresh vegetables including strawberries, cabbage -- and flowers -- all from the Carrboro Farmers Market.
A collage of images featured in the book, all from the Carrboro Farmers Market and local farmers. (photos by Baxter Miller)

Bookmark This logo in blue with a little blue book in the lower left corner.Bookmark This is a feature that highlights new books by College of Arts & Sciences faculty and alumni, published the first week of each month. This month’s featured book: Edible North Carolina: A Journey across a State of Flavor (UNC Press), edited by Marcie Cohen Ferris, with associate editor KC Hysmith and photographs by Baxter Miller.

Enjoy a recipe from the book at the end of the Q&A.

Q: Can you give us a brief synopsis of your book?

A: Edible North Carolina explores national issues, challenges and successes of the contemporary food movement through an accessible and powerful lens on one state and its excellent writers. In its photography, 20 essays and recipes, Edible North Carolina inspires readers to be informed, healthy, joyful and activist eaters who celebrate and sustain local and regional food economies for all. 

Book cover for Edible North Carolina, Marcie Cohen Ferris' new book -- cover features fresh vegetables.Q: How does this fit in with your research interests and passions? 

A: I’ve researched, taught and written about Southern food cultures for over 20 years, the majority of that time at Carolina. This book spun out of food studies classes I team-taught with American studies faculty Sharon Holland and Elizabeth Engelhardt, supported by a Southern studies fund overseen by former department chair Bernie Herman. The classes explored North Carolina’s unique food landscapes, its diverse “family” of makers and creators, and the daily issues they confront including food access, food sovereignty, racial inequity and climate change. Photographer Baxter Miller and her partner Ryan Stancil visited my food studies classes to discuss their documentation of North Carolina seafood and climate change. Two writers for Edible North Carolina, the state folklorist for Virginia Katie Clune, and journalist and filmmaker Victoria Bouloubasis, are graduates of the folklore M.A. degree in American studies at UNC-Chapel Hill. KC Hysmith, associate editor for Edible North Carolina, is completing her doctorate in food studies in American studies at UNC. Associate professor Michelle T. King of UNC’s history department and Malinda Maynor Lowery, formerly of UNC and now the Cahoon Family Professor of American History at Emory University, also wrote essays for Edible North Carolina.

Q: What was the original idea that made you think: “There’s a book here?”  

A: It was challenging to find a current text for my food studies class that examined the intersection of food and history, social justice, the environment, race and the power of women’s voices in North Carolina. That was the proposal-writing moment to Elaine Maisner, my recently retired brilliant editor at UNC Press.

Marcie Cohen Ferris
Marcie Cohen Ferris (photo by Baxter Miller)

Q: What surprised you when researching/writing this book?

A: I was so moved by the extensive and interconnected — yet deeply personal — networks that comprise the local food movement across North Carolina. Everybody knows everybody, and one person after the next generously offered introductions. Brewers, distillers, chefs, farmers, pit masters, bakers, fisher folk, extension agents, aggregators of local meat, fish and organic produce, sustainable agriculture scholars and food system managers told me about their food-related work and how their food worlds have both expanded and diminished.

Q: Where’s your go-to writing spot, and how do you deal with writer’s block?  

A: I write and edit largely in my home office and take breaks and meetings at the Root Cellar in Chapel Hill. (The breakfast grits bowl is delicious). Our dog, Albe, is in charge of walks for brain reboots.

Marcie Cohen Ferris is professor emerita of American studies at UNC and is co-editor of the journal Southern Cultures. She is past president of the board of directors of the Southern Foodways Alliance and a recipient of its Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award. KC Hysmith is a UNC Ph.D. candidate in American studies. Baxter Miller is a 2011 graduate of UNC’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

Read an excerpt from the book via Southern Cultures.

 Enjoy a recipe for Pecan Polvorones (Pecan Shortbread) with Coffee Granita by Sandra A. Gutierrez.

Nominate a book we should feature by emailing Find previous “Bookmark This” features by searching those terms on our website, and add some books to your reading list by checking out our College magazine books page.

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