Nashville’s supposed to be reading The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of The Modern South for its annual community-wide “Nashville Read.”
I started it and put it down. Started it again – and put it down. After the third time, I gave up. How can a history of food and cooking in the South read so much like a school textbook? One could fairly describe it as “a wonderful narrative of the region’s evolution on race, gender, and justice,” in the words of Pulitzer-Prize winning author Diane McWhorter. But I was hoping for something more like hot chicken.
I need something spicier and juicier in my leisure reading. You too?
Try Fire Sermon, by Tennessee author Jamie Quatro. Quatro imagines the story of Maggie and Thomas, married young, living in nearby Franklin. Twenty-three years into their marriage, their children grown, Maggie finds herself in the arms of a poet she’s been corresponding with. She still loves her husband, deeply, and agonizes over the spiritual consequences of her actions. This slim book – literary fiction that takes Christian faith seriously – is both beautiful and agonizing as it considers the yearnings of the heart. What is it that we so desperately want? What is it that we so desperately need? I’m rethinking desire.
The other book I’d commend to you this April is Goodbye, Mrs. Fletcher, Tom Perrotta’s new novel about an empty-nester’s sexual adventures and self-discovery (and, on the sidelines, her son’s). If Fire Sermon breaks your heart, Goodbye Mrs. Fletcher might horrify you, slightly, with its dark humor. Eve Fletcher, divorced, has just packed her only son off to college. She must confront ”[t]he fact that her life had turned into this: this lifeless hush, this faint but elusive whiff of decay. This absolutely-nothing-to-complain-about.” She finds herself spending a bit too much quality time with – take a deep breath – internet porn. And her classmates at a community college class on Gender and Sexuality, taught by a woman who used to be a man. Mrs. Fletcher and her son have different lessons to learn about what it means to be brave, to take the right chances, and to deal with huge mistakes. They grow in wisdom and courage. Knowledge. Sorrow. Kind-of like – you know – the woman who took the bite.
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Today’s post originally appeared in the April issue of Nfocus magazine.
Just looking at that Nfocus cover makes me yearn for something delicious. Which takes me back to food – and Potlikker Papers. It’s possible I gave up on it too early. I don’t know. One thing I can say with certainty is that some of the citywide events surrounding this year’s Nashville Read look VERY cool, including this one:
April 26, 2018 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Location: North Branch Library, 1001 Monroe Street
In celebration of The Potlikker Papers, Nashville’s city-wide read for 2018, Nashville Reads is partnering with Dirty Pages, a local recipe storytelling project, to share pictures and stories of “dirty pages”—those dirty, messy, smudged, much-loved recipes we all have. Some in cookbooks, some on recipe cards, some simply scribbled on an old envelope or other random scraps of paper… They might be passed down by family or connected to a favorite memory, or simply the record of a new tradition you’ve marked with friends or neighbors. They could be dusted with cocoa powder, smudged with butter, or ringed with wine stains. But each and every one of them comes with a story and a memory.
Bring your own “dirty page” recipe (in whatever form). A photographer will snap your photo with your recipe. We’ll also ask you to tell the story of your “dirty page” via a short, easy questionnaire. The photos will go on display at the library (and we’ll have a copy for you too).
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The Nashville Reads finale could be pretty great as well, especially if you’re a foodie enthusiast…
Nashville Reads Finale with John T. Edge
Location: Main Library, 615 Church St. John T. Edge discusses The Potlikker Papers, followed by a panel discussion with Sean Brock of Husk, Maneet Chauhan of Chauhan Ale & Masala House, Tansuo, and The Mockingbird, and Caroline Randall Williams, author of Soul Food Love.
Check out other Nashville Reads events here.