8: Radio segment excerpt, “Southern Jews Put Their Spin On Soul Food” on “Faith Matters,” NPR, 2010.
Marcie Cohen Ferris, a professor of American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is the author of Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South (2005), an examination of Jewish food history and culinary practices in the American South based on archival research and interviews. In Matzoh Ball Gumbo, Ferris examines how Jews who did and did not keep kosher reinvented European Jewish culinary traditions to merge with Southern cuisine.
Suggested Activity: Ask your students if they consider this matzo ball gumbo to be a variation on a “traditional” matzo ball soup, or to be something else altogether. How far can a variation go before it is no longer recognizable as matzo ball soup? Ask your students to think about the way Ferris and Michel Martin, the interviewer, talk about matzo ball gumbo. Why does the dish seem unusual to Martin? And why does it sound more familiar or worthy of celebration to Ferris, who grew up Jewish in Blytheville, Arkansas? What does the host’s reaction to this dish tell us about what some people think “Jewish food” is or where it comes from? What might this synthesis of iconic Ashkenazic and Louisianan dishes represent for the people who prepare or eat it, or for Ferris, who chose it as the title of her book on Southern-Jewish foodways?
Source: Michel Martin and Marcie Cohen Ferris, “Southern Jews Put Their Spin On Soul Food” on “Faith Matters,” NPR, December 3, 2010, digitized at < https://www.npr.org/2010/12/03/131784968/Southern-Jews-Put-Their-Spin-On-Soul-Food>, accessed March 1, 2018.