If Southerners Want Monuments, Let’s Build Ones to Cornbread and Collards
We need monuments that unite us. Our food heritage is worth commemorating.
The felling of Confederate monuments all across the South is celebrated by many, but decried by others. Those of us who are glad to see them go know that they were erected with the express purpose of driving a skewed narrative about the Confederacy, celebrating a shameful chapter in the South’s history.
Then there are the Southerners who are angry and sad, and feel they are losing a part of their heritage. If you are in this camp, I do sympathize. While I may never convince you that these statues aren’t your true heritage, I am going to float something out there for you to consider.
Those of you who have lived in the South all your life, what is the first thing you think of when I say “the South”? Is it Confederate monuments? No! It’s cornbread and collard greens. It’s barbecue and sweet tea. It’s fried chicken and mashed potatoes. It’s pecan pie and peach cobbler.
This, my Southern brothers and sisters, is our heritage. It’s what makes us glad we were born in the South. Nowhere on the planet can you find better food on the table than in the South. Now I know I’m a bit biased, but ask any Southerner and they will tell you it’s true. It’s the one thing that we can all agree on. Even if we can’t agree whether slaw should be made with mayonnaise or barbecue sauce.
So I propose we start a campaign to erect monuments to our true heritage — our food. Charleston could have a monument to shrimp and grits. I would be proud for Atlanta to have a monument to the Varsity hot dog. Nashville’s monuments could be biscuits and banana pudding. Memphis would have a monument to the chopped pork sandwich. You get the idea.
Then, we could visit these great Southern cities and stand before the monuments to the food we grew up on, the food that feels like comfort and home. When we look up at these icons to great Southern cooks everywhere, we would be celebrating food that unites blacks and whites. We owe a debt of gratitude to the slaves who brought many of their foods and food traditions to the South with them, greatly influencing the dishes that show up on our tables today. Theses monuments would bring us together around a shared passion — our food. No one would be left out.
Food is a symbol of love. When our mothers and grandmothers put this food on the table, we knew we were loved. When we go home, what do we want to do? Eat at Mama’s table. Maybe we need a monument to Mama’s table. It could be a larger than life-sized sculpture of a family gathered around a table laden with the food of the South, food that is an amalgamation of cultures, races and regions. The people around the table should be black and white and brown. Everyone would be laughing, all talking at once, eating and loving.
Call me crazy, but this Southerner would travel all over the South to see monuments that brought us together around the table, instead of ones that divide us and feel like anything but love. We could eat our way around the South, breaking bread together in a spirit of unity and respect.
There is so much about the South to love and be proud of. Magnolia blossoms. Spanish moss. Beaches. Mountains. Friendly people. A more leisurely pace of life. Great weather. Coming together around the table sharing the food of our ancestors. Did I mention barbecue? These things are our true heritage.
Let’s build monuments to love. We’ve had monuments to hate long enough.