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Food Writers to 'Eat. Drink. Write. Memphis!'

Memphis Barbecue Ribs

By Laurie Triplette


The Association of Food Journalists (AFJ) invites all food writers to register and attend its annual conference September 10 through 12 at the Peabody Memphis. AFJ membership is not a requirement for food writers, food bloggers and qualified students to attend.

This year’s conference — Eat. Drink. Write. Memphis! — presents an overview of the changing landscape of food journalism, interspersed with discussions of civil rights history as evidenced in the multicultural food history of Memphis. The diversity of our region’s food culture and food history will be explored further in presentations about the barbecue trail, vegan soul food, cutting-edge strategies for fighting hunger and obesity, and use of oral history to enrich a food writer’s storytelling through print, film and audio. 

Several conference sessions will offer food writers, photographers, and filmmakers the latest user-friendly techniques for creating successful food photography and videography. 

Of course, a food writers’ conference cannot be held without including real food. Food tastings, lunches, and dinners will feature some of the Memphis area’s finest flavors at such venues as the historic A. Schwab Trading Company overlooking Beale Street, Felicia Suzanne Restaurant, the Peabody hotel, and the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. 

One conference highlight is the Wednesday evening “Taste of Memphis” at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, featuring dishes by Ole Miss alumni Kelly English (Restaurant Iris and The Second Line) and Wally Joe (Acre Restaurant), Michael Hudman/Andy Ticer (Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen and Hog and Hominy), Miles McMath (St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital), Patrick and Deni Reilly (Majestic Grille), Phillip Ashley Rix (Phillip Ashley Chocolates), and Felicia Willett (Felicia Suzanne Restaurant). 

The conference itself is sandwiched between two tasty before-and-after events — a September 10 morning workshop titled Write Your Book Proposal Right Now!, led by Dianne Jacob, a noted book proposal coach, author and editor; and an overnight post-conference segment, Delta Detour, to Clarksdale, Mississippi to explore some of the unique music and foodways of the Delta.

Amy Evans of the Southern Foodways Alliance.
Amy Evans of the Southern Foodways Alliance.

The 2014 conference faculty lineup of 29 nationally acclaimed experts includes Oxford’s own Alysia Burton-Steele, multimedia instructor in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi; John T. Edge, Joe York and Amy Evans of the Southern Foodways Alliance; Kat Kinsman of Eatocracy/CNN; Sid Evans, Editor of Southern Living; Julia Reed, one of Mississippi’s favorite Southern humor writers and journalists; and James Beard award-winner Kim Severson of The New York Times

Sponsors include The Memphis Commercial Appeal, TinyLetter (a division of MailChimp), the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Downtown Memphis Commission. Mississippi Tourism, a division of the Mississippi Development Authority, is a sponsor for Delta Detour.

“I wanted all food writers to know what every Mississippian and every Memphian knows — that our region is Ground Zero for great storytelling,” said AFJ conference and post-conference chairperson Susan Puckett. “Food writers by nature are storytellers, and our region is known for great food writing. There’s a correlation.”

Puckett is an Ole Miss alumnus, Jackson native and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She and the AFJ team drew inspiration for the 2014 AFJ conference from Puckett’s book Eat Drink Delta: A Hungry Traveler’s Journey Through the Soul of the South, published in 2013 by University of Georgia Press; and from a one-time magazine produced by students in a magazine course taught last year by Puckett and Bill Rose at the Ole Miss Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Titled Land of Plenty, the magazine contained incisive documentation on the Delta’s unique food customs. The Society of Professional Journalists gave Land of Plenty its national 2013 Best Student Magazine award.

“The Delta is perhaps the most storied place from a most storied state in America,” Puckett noted. “That’s why we added the overnight Delta Detour to Clarksdale at the end of the AFJ conference.”

AFJ was founded in 1974 for food writers and editors, to promote stringent journalistic professionalism and high ethical standards. The organization currently has more than 200 members comprising food journalists, food writers and editors, broadcasters and bloggers. 

For more information about the conference sessions and to register for Eat. Drink. Write. Memphis!, the pre-conference workshop Write Your Book Proposal Right Now!, and the post-conference Delta Detour, visit www.afjonline.com/events.cfm  

For a one- or two-day pass, click here.

For qualifying students’ registration and rates, click here

For Delta Detour only, click here

Laurie Triplette is a writer, historian, and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Association of Food Journalists (AFJ),Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA)  and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SOFAB). Check out the GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’ web site: www.tripleheartpress.com and follow Laurie’s food adventures on Facebook and Twitter (@LaurieTriplette).

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