Students in the Oral History class are collecting recipes from the Samford Family, and they need your help! Students are interviewing Samford faculty, alumni, students, and friends about their favorite food stories and family recipes. The finished product will feature recipes, interviews, and photographs—like the following from Dr. Randy Todd, Professor and Chair of the Department of Classics at Samford University:
GREEK FETA SAGANAKI
1-lb Feta Cheese
½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Basil and Oregano to taste
Cover the bottom of an oven-proof dish with half-inch slices of feta cheese; add basil and oregano. Bake at 350̊ for approximately twenty minutes or until bubbling. Serve warm with fresh pita bread.
Randy Todd: A saganaki… is basically fried cheese, or cheese which is cooked in olive oil. They used to cook it in a skillet, which was called a sagaks or saganaox, so saganki means “with a frying pan.” I usually use feta, but if you go to Do Di Yos [Homewood Restaurant] or Greece, they will use a sweet cheese, a kefalograviera . . . We discovered it [Saganaki] in, of all places, Italy. I had taken my family in 2004 for a few days after . . . a semester in London. From Greece, we took the ferry to Italy. . . . We were in Rome and Florence, and we were staying in this wonderful old one-story hotel that was just down the street from the Duomo [Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore] in one of the buildings that Michelangelo probably lived in. . . . We got there late one night, and the closest place that was open was a Greek restaurant. We had just come from Greece. It was so funny. [My wife] came back with all this Greek food, which was pretty good, but one of the things she brought back was saganaki, and my kids loved it! So we had to go back and get some every night. I’ve made thousands and thousands of pounds of it. . . . I’ve had a lot of Greek classes where that was the turning point too. But you need feta, and the best olive oil you can buy. . . . Good olive oil is key.
As historian John Edgerton once wrote, “Within the South itself, no other form of cultural expression, not even music, is as distinctly characteristic of the region as the spreading of a feast . . . before a gathering of kin and friends.” No one in the world lives apart from culturally-specific means of preparing, serving, and consuming food. When we talk about food, we’re talking about culture. Students are seeking more interviews in which the contemplation of food illuminates a person, a place, and a process—the greatest cultural expression in the South. Here are a few more food stories:
BUTTER POUND CAKE
Sonya Stanley: “This is my mom’s butter pound cake recipe. We made it so many times in the kitchen in the house I grew up in… In 2000, [my parents] moved… but that kitchen, I can just see us there… It had dark wood on the walls. It was kind of small and the floor was old. It was no kitchen you would see on HGTV…but I always remember being together when we made it. We talked and cut up and talked about funny things that had happened. She was just a really fun person to be around.”
Dr. Sonya Stanley is an Associate Professor of Mathematics.
Carolyn Rester: “I got this recipe from my own mom. She always made great big pots of this because we lived on an Air Force base and people all over loved Momma’s Gumbo. It was not for the faint of heart dear. It’s hot! … You know, you can tell people, “This is spicy hot,” or “This is stove hot,” and they just don’t pay attention to us, so you might as well let them get it over with!”
Carolyn Rester is a wife, mother, and grandmother to Samford alumni and students.
Karen Howell: “I will never forget it . . . the oven got too hot and the glass baking pan that the casserole was in . . . exploded. We were scraping sausage off the sides of the oven for weeks. Even though it basically caught fire, the family was begging me to see if I could salvage any of it. I had to tell them that there was glass in the casserole and that we would just have to eat something else. Every year, my family reminds me of my casserole explosion. They always say, “Check it for glass first!” before we eat it.”
Karen Howell graduated from Samford University in 1988.
The students are looking for more Samford Faculty, Alumni, Students, Friends, and Family Members to share their recipes and stories. If you are interested in contributing to the project, please contact Jonathan Bass at email@example.com. The recipes, stories, and photographs will be available in the forthcoming Samford Food Book. . . .
Interviews conducted by Haley Rester and Holly Howell.