The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

September 5, 2013

Alabama professor scores barbecue research grant

— TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — For Southerners, barbecue — like college football — inspires pride, intense rivalries and seemingly endless debates.

Over the course of the fall and winter, University of Alabama history professor Joshua Rothman and two graduate students will explore Alabama's food culture of barbecue as well as a broader focus on foodways — how the state's regional cuisine developed — after receiving an $18,000 grant from the Southern Foodways Alliance, a nonprofit organization based at the University of Mississippi that documents and celebrates the food cultures of the South.

"I think the goal ultimately is to figure out how barbecue came to be in that place where it stands as emblematic of Southern culture," Rothman said.

The grant will fund research for two essays on the topics, according to Rothman, who said work had just begun. The essay on barbecue, to be written by doctoral candidate Mark Johnson, is expected to be completed by December and the paper of foodways, to be completed by graduate student Dana Alsen, is expected by May or June. Rothman said he is unsure where they will be published.

Rothman, director of the Frances S. Summersell Center for the Study of the South at UA, said there is also talk of having an event such as a food tasting or a film showing in conjunction with the essays but no definite plans have been made.

The goal for the essays is to be as wide ranging as possible in research, according to Rothman. The research will focus on the history of barbecue and local cuisine in Alabama, but it will also consider the topics in the context of the broader culture of the Southeast.

Likely research topics would include, but not be limited to, the emergence of modern barbecue restaurants and competitions, as well as the historical significance of pork as a food staple in the South and its methods for preservation, according to Rothman.

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