Held in Oxford, Mississippi from October 11 to 13, the annual symposium will feature Nina Compton, Mashama Bailey, Kelly Fields, and more stars of the food world.
Nina Compton
Credit: Denny Culbert

One of the biggest events in the food world is now open to everyone. The Southern Foodways Alliance Fall Symposium is selling tickets to the general public for the first time in its 21-year history, opening the event to people who aren't SFA members, but are hungry and curious. The theme this year is "Reading Food: From Menus to Soap Operas to Novels,” and the lineup is packed.

The event will take place in Oxford, Mississippi from October 11 to 13, featuring lectures, tastings, meals, and performances that explore the connection between food and literature. Participants include Mashama Bailey (The Grey, Savannah), Andy Chabot (Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN), Nina Compton (Compére Lapin, New Orleans), Paul Fehribach (Big Jones, Chicago), and Kelly Fields (Willa Jean, New Orleans), and more prominent figures in both the food and literary worlds, with novelists, poets, critics, and food historians all scheduled to speak, as well.

A finalized schedule will be sent to ticket-buyers on October 1. Tickets for the weekend, which include all food, beverage, and programming, cost $800 for non-members and $700 for members.

"Our definition of literature is broad," reads the SFA event description. "It spans modern soap operas and menu narratives and narrative song cycles. Novels, nonfiction, and poetry, too. Appropriately, SFA has booked a diverse roster of speakers from many disciplines, including Monique Truong, Randall Kenan, Zandria Robinson, Naben Ruthnum, and others."

Among the event highlights is Compton's lunch on Friday, which "taps Caribbean folktales" for inspiration, and Bailey's lunch on Saturday. Lindsay Autry, of Florida's The Regional Kitchen and Public House, has been tapped to fry catfish on the porch of Taylor Grocery, which should be pretty excellent as well.

Founded in 1999, the Southern Foodways Alliance is an organization committed to sharing the "stories of the changing American South through the foods we eat."