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Southern Foodways Symposium Preview: Kat Kinsman and Kim Severson

Meet two of the symposium’s ‘Women at Work’ and where they stand on cake vs. pie.


Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on the Southern Foodways Alliance site and is published here with permission.
Kat Kinsman
Kat Kinsman

We’re hosting our 16th annual Southern Foodways Symposium on “Women at Work” October 4-6 in Oxford, Mississippi. This year’s symposium is sold out, but we promise to blog about the proceedings throughout the weekend and post videos and podcasts soon after. Between now and October 4, we’re introducing you to some of the women who will be presenting at the Southern Foodways Symposium.


Spotlight on: Kat Kinsman

Her Work: Manager of Eatocracy, CNN’s food blog

Home Base: Brooklyn, New York (raised in Kentucky)


Kim Severson
Kim Severson

Spotlight on: Kim Severson

Her Work: Atlanta Bureau Chief for the New York TImes; author of Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life (Riverhead, 2010)

Home Base: Atlanta, Georgia (a Midwest native, Kim has come to embrace the South and its food culture in recent years!)

Each year, the Southern Foodways Symposium aims to undertake a meaningful study of a specific topic in Southern foodways. But in the opinion of the SFA, “meaningful” doesn’t have to equal dry. Which is why, in this year of focusing on Women at Work, we’ve organized a Lincoln-Douglas style debate on the merits of cake vs. pie. Writers from Eudora Welty to Fannie Flagg have chronicled baking cakes and pies as a Southern woman’s art. Chances are, if you grew up in a small or mid-sized Southern town, you can remember the name of your community’s most revered baker. But cake and pie can also spark spirited rivalries: which dessert reigns supreme?

We asked journalists Kat Kinsman and Kim Severson to give us a preview of their debate, in which Kinsman will be arguing for the side of pie, while Severson defends cake.


What are you doing to prepare yourself for the cake vs. pie debate?

Kinsman: At this point, if there’s a pie pun I’ve not considered, I’d be berry, berry surprised. I’ve been pinning down a lot of crustworthy sources, and hopefully the fruits of my labor will keep me rolling toward victory.

Severson: Unlike my opponent, who is designing pie hats and testing various lipstick colors, I am digging deep into antique Southern cookbooks and thinking Very Big Thoughts.

If you emerge victorious, to whom will you dedicate your win?

Kinsman: My dearly departed grandmother Thelma Kinsman. I didn’t have nearly enough time by her side in the kitchen, but one of the things she did teach me was the art and science of an excellent pie crust, and what it looked and felt like to achieve such a thing. A win on her behalf would be a slice of heaven.

Severson:  I will dedicate my win to Martha Meadows of Slocomb, Ala.,who taught me how to make her 12-layer yellow cake with boiled frosting.


The gloves (or baking mitts) are off! A winner will be declared on the evening of October 5.

Illustration by Emily Wallace
Illustration by Emily Wallace

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