"I think there are a lot of different ways you can get at the history of the evolution of foods," he said.
Rothman, whose research is on slavery in the South, said foodways are part of a broader interest for him in Southern culture and community.
"One reason that barbecue stands out as worth doing, is that it is something that is very communal," Rothman said.
Many barbecue recipes make enough servings for multiple people, and traditional methods of preserving pork before refrigeration in the South often saw community gatherings to process pigs.
Rothman said the idea for the essays arose from a conversation started last spring during a visit to the University of Mississippi. Rothman met with Southern Foodways Alliance director John T. Edge and mentioned he would like to do more work on foodways. Edge subsequently suggested Alabama barbecue once the group was offered funding for the research project from the state of Alabama, according to Rothman.
In addition to funding scholarship, the nonprofit also stages symposia, produces documentary films, collects oral histories, mentors students and publishes, according to its website.
Rothman said the grant will cover research for this year but hopes the barbecue project will lead to more partnerships between the nonprofit and the university.