The latest book from USC Press highlights Carolina Distinguished Professor David Shields’ research into the state’s culinary history
Published on: September 23, 2021; Updated on: September 23, 2021
By Abe Danaher, [email protected], 803-576-7780
David Shields is many things: a distinguished faculty member of the University of South Carolina, a renowned author, and owner of one of the largest collections of vintage performing arts photographs. However, in the palmetto state, he is possibly best known for his contributions to the kitchen table.
“I’m basically known as a taste saver,” says Shields. “The person who searches for ingredients and gets people to grow them and cooks to use them.”
For 20 years, Shields has worked to bring southern cuisine back to its roots. He has devoted several books to the identification of plants and ingredients that were once used by chefs across the south but are now not even grown. Then, through his leadership of the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation, he worked to bring these ingredients back by encouraging farmers across the state to grow them and cooks to resume them.
With his new book Taste the stateCo-authored with Kevin Mitchell and available in stores October 12th, Shields is promoting his efforts by promoting the richness of South Carolina’s culinary history. In doing so, he and Mitchell hope to reconnect the South Carolinians with the recipes and ingredients of their past.
The book is one of 20 published by the University of South Carolina Press this fall. Director Richard Brown says it fits perfectly with the publisher’s mission to serve the university and the state.
âWe tell stories,â says Brown. âAnd this book is just an amazing story about how we eat and how we think about food. And this is just one fine example of our press’ commitment to telling stories about South Carolina and the people, food and culture of the state. ”
In Taste the state, Shields, and Mitchell share 82 signature ingredients from Lowcountry, Midlands, and Upstate, telling stories of old kitchen staples like the tania plant and the importance of Dukes mayonnaise to the state. For some dishes, Mitchell – the first African-American cooking teacher at the Culinary Institute of Charleston – even recreated the meal and provided an updated recipe for it.
Mitchell believes that even South Carolina’s greatest culinary experts will learn a thing or two from reading the book.
“I think there will be several ingredients and things that people will write about, ‘Wait a minute, how does this relate to South Carolina?’ “he says.” And then hopefully that arouses a curiosity for knowledge in them and they pick up the book and say, ‘Well, what are these people talking about oranges for? Why are they talking about asparagus?’ â
The University of South Carolina Press worked with Mitchell and Shields to help the writers achieve their vision. Aurora Bell took care of proofreading and editing, while Pat Callahan oversaw the layout and design of the book. The high production value that the USC Press team brings to each book is a “distinctive feature” of the press, Brown says, and one that he believes is exemplified Taste the state.
âIt’s an absolutely beautiful book,â he says. “It’s just so pretty, fun to read and you just want to immerse yourself in it.”
Mitchell and Shields believe the new knowledge imparted in the book will attract curious foodies from across South Carolina. But they believe that its appeal will be even greater for one very simple reason: who has never been a little hungry?
âAs a chef, I hope people will try some of the recipes and maybe contact me and say, ‘I tried your grandmother’s recipe for your grandmother’s peas and vegetables and I think it’s great. I want to try your recipe with Hoppin ‘John or the donut or whatever, âsays Mitchell. “I hope so.”
You can learn more about the book and purchase it online at USCPress.com. There will also be a ticket dinner in Columbia on October 29th and 30th featuring Chef Kevin Mitchell.
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Topics: faculty, science, university