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Preserving the taste of the South

July 25, 1996
From Correspondent Carolyn O'Neil

ROSWELL, Georgia (CNN) -- From fresh-baked biscuits to fragrant greens, Southern foods have a rich history. They date from a time when dinner was cooked in an open hearth and fresh baked rolls cooled by a window -- and experienced hands prepared it all.


As rapid change and growth continues to take place in Dixie, some of these traditions are slipping away. But thanks to the efforts of 80- year-old Edna Lewis, these old times are not forgotten.

Southern chef Edna has authored many cookbooks and inspired a new generation of Southern cooks.

"She's totally devoted to Southern cooking, always will be. [She] lives for flavor, and tastes, and all the things that go with it," says Edna's sister Ruth.

Edna's 80th birthday party is celebrated at historic Bullock Hall in Roswell, Georgia. There are mint juleps on the verandah, Georgia pecans with South Carolina blue cheese, plenty of soft shell crabs deep fried over an open fire and tastes of buttermilk biscuits and Virginia ham.

And all this is before dinner, which takes place in perhaps the most elegant dining room in a tent, ever!


Chef Scott Peacock of the Society for Preservation and Revival of Southern Food, praises Edna: "The idea is to salute a great lady and life. But it's also to raise consciousness about the whole cause -- that's what this is all about."

And the message about the fine Southern cuisine even reaches Northerner Jeffrey Steingarten of "Vogue" Magazine.

"You know, there are different types of Southern food. There are two kinds of Creole -- South Carolina, and New Orleans. And there's Cajun and Southern in this area. It's just wonderful."

So a "taste of the South" is still going strong -- thanks to the experience of great Southern cooks who are preserving the memories of meals from days gone by.

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