Southern Foodways Symposim in Oxford, Mississippi

Photograph courtesy of Southern Foodways Alliance

October 23–26
330 miles from Atlanta

What it is: The Southern Foodways Alliance is a national authority on our region’s cuisine, and nowhere is this more apparent than at the nonprofit’s annual symposium. Talks can be humorous (last year there was a public debate about which is better, cake or pie) or moving, as well as informative. It’s like camp for food geeks.

Why I go: “It’s about stories and knowledge, not like the average food festival, which is about drinking and eating too much. No other organization brings such a wonderfully disparate group of brilliant people together to converse on Southern food, something everyone should love.” —James Beard–Honored chef Hugh Acheson, partner in Atlanta’s Empire State South and three Athens restaurants

Favorite memory: “Helping Frank Stitt fry whole pig ears, which was dangerous as the fryer kept flaming out huge bursts of fire,” Acheson says.

Insider tip: Book as soon as tickets are available, as the event tends to sell out. It’s easier to register if you’re a member (individual annual memberships are $75) and therefore receive emails about the registration dates.

Where to stay: Oxford is not fancy with its accommodations. The Inn at Ole Miss is on the campus of the University of Mississippi, which is where many of the programs are held. The Downtown Oxford Inn is on the town’s square, also very accessible. For something a bit more formal, try the 5 Twelve bed and breakfast.

Where to eat: If you must venture beyond the conference—where there is plenty for attendees to eat—Acheson suggests trying City Grocery and Taylor Grocery.

What to listen to on the drive: “Super­chunk. Allman Brothers. Southern music that means something,” Acheson says.

What to take home: Signed cookbooks authored by the big-name chef presenters. Acheson adds, “Bacon from Big Bad Breakfast and a hangover.”

This article originally appeared in our March 2014 issue.