A new symposium exploring Southern California foodways

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On October 11-12, 2019, the Southern California Foodways Project will host its first symposium at the Autry Museum of the American West. Board member and CSU-Long Beach sociology professor Oliver Wang spoke with KCRW’s Good Food to preview the events.

How did the project come about? 

Oliver Wang: The Southern California Foodways Project is devoted to studying, documenting and discussing the rich, diverse history of food cultures in the region. The idea for the Project took seed at a Boyle Heights restaurant in 2017, when a small group of people asked what we could collectively do to promote this mission. At the time, we were marveling at the exemplary work of the Southern Foodways Alliance which, for the past two decades, has been using symposiums, magazines, podcasts and more to explore how food is a powerful lens through which to view and explore the history, politics, economics of communities of the American South. “Couldn’t we do the same thing with food in Southern California?” we asked and two years later, here we are. 

Tell us about the October symposium. 

Our inaugural symposium, coming up October 11th and 12th at the Autry Museum, is oriented around the theme of “a people’s history of Southern California foodways,” highlighting, in particular, the role that underrepresented indigenous, immigrant and other communities of color shape the past, present and future of food cultures in the region. 

Who will be participating? 

On Friday evening, we invited Toni Tipton-Martin, author of the award-winning The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks and the forthcoming Jubilee: Recipes From Two Centuries of African American Cooking, to be in conversation with local food writer Tien Nguyen about Southern California food and storytelling. For Saturday, we have a slate of seven speakers spanning from Taco Maria chef and recent Tortilla Tournament champion Carlos Salgado to USC historian Natalia Molina to Los Angeles Times columnist Frank Shyong to screenwriter and BBQ chronicler Lolis Eric Elie offering their thoughts on the diverse histories of our foodways. On both days, we’ll be serving food that’s been curated by none other than Good Food’s Evan Kleiman and former Good Girl Dinette restaurateur Diep Tran

What lies ahead for the project? 

The goal is for this to be the first of a series of symposiums and similar events hosted by the Southern California Foodways Project, one that can eventually link the complex web of people and communities involved in our local food cultures – scholars, farmers, writers, restauranteurs, food justice advocates, etc. The cookbook store, Now Serving, will have a pop-up table of specially curated Southern California-focused food books available as well. 

A People’s History of Southern California Foodways
Friday, October 11, 6:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Saturday, October 12, 2019, 10 am - 7:30 pm
The Autry in Griffith Park
Admission: Friday $30 / Saturday $100 / Full conference $125 / Autry Members $115
Tickets and information