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Why we talk about food in the South

By Wayne Andrews

If there is one part of Mississippi culture that everyone understands it is food. 

Southern food reaches across borders, opens conversations, and is rooted to our culture. It is the perfect vehicle to share our story because everyone’s ears are open when their mouth is busy.

It is why the arts council creates events centered on food and drink. Are they art events? They are a vehicle to introduce people to all the offering that the arts council presents.

The largest challenge for the arts council is connecting with visitors and residents. When your organization works with a variety of groups, organizes events, and hosts educational programs it is hard to tell a cohesive story about your service to the community. Because your community is various segments of a larger community. All the fans of dance, actors searching for a theatre, and painters needing creative space. A food event brings us all together. We can all understand food.

Which is why the arts council offers events like Miss-i-sippin’. It is both a fundraiser and a friend-raiser. It allows us to share how those items that make up our culinary palette are connected to the music, stories and visual art that tells our stories. The eighth annual Miss-i-sippin’ is scheduled for April 1-2 with new partners that reinforce this idea of food, story and place. 

This year we have partnered with the Mississippi Brewers Guild, local chef Meredith Pittman of Second Line, and many of the food products made in Mississippi from Grit Girl to Delta Pride Catfish and many of the new taco trucks.

The two-day event mixes how each person’s passion has manifested from creating craft beer using locally sourced grains to music rooted in our farm traditions. The event introduces you to the music, food (a category which I include beer), and culture. A broad sweeping event of this nature helps you to cross the threshold into all the different ways we express and share our Mississippi.

Your introduction to the arts starts Friday, April 1 at the Powerhouse with a Brewer’s Dinner, featuring Pittman. First course: smoked catfish dip, homemade pickles, mustard, crostini, sponsored by Delta Pride catfish. Second course: 1/2 braised chicken thigh poboy, sponsored by Sanderson Farms. Third course: shrimp Bahn Mi & Grits, sponsored by Grit Girl & Gulf Pride Select Shrimp. Fourth course: beer float — ice creams paired with beers from brewers. Musician Jimmy Phillips will provide entertainment for the Brewer’s Dinner. Tickets for Friday, April 1 are limited.

Saturday, April 2 from noon to 6 p.m. Miss-I-Sippin’ festival continues at the Old Armory Pavilion on University Avenue with craft beers from around the South with live music and Oxford’s newest cultural sensation — food trucks.

Tickets are on sale and support the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council.  Learn more or order tickets at www.oxfordarts.com

Wayne Andrews is executive director of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council and can be reached at yacdirector@gmail.com.