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Partnership Yields a Hot Take

McIlhenny Co., maker of Tabasco brand sauces, has collaborated with the Southern Foodways Alliance on a first-of-its kind virtual tour of Cajun country, a destination the Tabasco folks know well and are proud to celebrate, as every bottle of Tabasco Pepper Sauce is made amidst the old oaks on Avery Island in south Louisiana.

“Popular perceptions of Cajun country are often outdated and grounded in folksy stereotypes that don’t always reflect the dynamic community we live in today,” McIlhenny CEO Harold Osborn said. “While the gumbos, seafood stews and fried everything remain important staples of the Cajun diet, the food culture landscape has greatly evolved, thanks to the people that call Acadiana home today.

“Over the years, we’ve welcomed communities from diverse cultural backgrounds who have married their African, Latin American, Middle Eastern and Asian traditions with our local methods and flavors. The result is a truly unique – and seriously delicious – food landscape that we want to share and celebrate with the rest of the world.”

The SFA is a member-supported organization based at the University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture, where it collects oral histories, produces films and podcasts, publishes great writing, sponsors scholarship, mentors students and stages events that serve as progressive and inclusive catalysts for the greater South.

Thanks to McIlhenny Co., SFA members and guests are getting a digital taste of Cajun Country this summer via a virtual field trip that includes five new episodes of the SFA podcast “Gravy” and 10 new oral histories.

On July 1, the new SFA Stories app for Android and iOS phones debuted. The app showcases SFA documentary work and is searchable by keyword, as a trip builder or as a browser for SFA films, podcasts and oral histories.

“While Tabasco is one of the most recognizable brands in the world, we are first and foremost a family company with deep Southern roots, including some University of Mississippi alumni in our family and employee ranks,” Osborn said. “So we greatly value the SFA’s mission to document, study and explore the diverse food cultures of the ever-changing American South.”

Support for that mission through long-standing relationships with corporate partners such as the McIlhenny Co. is crucial, said John T. Edge, SFA director.

“SFA is honored to call the McIlhenny Co. a supporter, and to call Harold Osborn a colleague and friend,” Edge said. “We take great pride in our long association, which gained traction in the years after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005 and has grown stronger and more impactful since.

“The McIlhenny Co.’s commitment to the study of the American South inspires us. This investment in SFA storytelling initiatives means that we will reach more people in smarter and more effective and more transformative ways. This is an emboldening gift, for which our staff, members and collaborators are thankful”

The association’s work complements that of McIhlenny, Osborn said.

“We are grateful to the SFA for doing the hard work of documenting the food culture – past and present – in our own backyard and beyond,” Osborn said. “We are inspired by the entire SFA team’s talents and eagerly devour all the stories they tell through their oral histories, podcasts, films and events.

“So, I guess the relationship between Tabasco and the SFA is an intuitive one and one that is destined to be long and happy.”

McIlhenny Co. products were first enjoyed by Southerners in the late 19th century and have been embraced by generations of home and professional cooks and bartenders the world over. The 152-year-old company makes a line of pepper sauces, including its world-famous Tabasco Pepper Sauce, that is sold in 195 countries and territories around the world and labeled in 25 languages and dialects.

“We are deeply grateful for the McIlhenny family and Tabasco’s longtime commitment to the SFA,” said Claire Moss, associate director of development. “Their generosity and shared vision has fueled the SFA’s work for many years.”

More information about the SFA, including its extensive oral history archive, project index and interactive map, can be found online at https://www.southernfoodways.org/.

To make a gift to the SFA, visit https://give.olemiss.eduor contact Claire Moss at claire@southernfoodways.orgor 662-915-3086.

By Bill Dabney

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