Brenau offers up a taste of the lowcountry with reception for cookbook author Joseph Dabney

Aug 26, 2011
Rudi Kiefer

Brenau University will host a tasting reception and signing from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16, for Joseph E. Dabney, author of “The Food, Folklore and Art of Lowcountry Cooking.”

The reception will be in the Wilkes Board Room and veranda on the campus at One Centennial Circle in Gainesville. It is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. Call 770-718-5307 or e-mail to confirm attendance. Copies of the book will be available for purchase.

In addition to a brief reading by the author, the reception will feature samples of some of the recipes from the book, including one served up from a Palmetto-Style Hush Puppy station. Another, Sonny Seiler’s Savannah Marinated Shrimp, brings with it a special connection to Brenau. It is named for the famous lawyer who is also known for having raised the “Uga” dynasty of English Bulldogs that serve as mascot for the University of Georgia. The Brenau connection? Seiler’s daughter, Bess Thompson of St. Simons Island, Ga., is a 1984 Brenau graduate and her sister, Sara Story, of Athens, Ga., graduated from Brenau in 1986.

Dabney, former managing editor of The Times newspaper in Gainesville, now lives in Atlanta. He is the author of several previous books, including the 1999 James Beard Cookbook of the Year Award-winner “Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, and Scuppernong Wine.” The award is considered the “Oscar” of food world literature, and Beard Awards Chairman Nach Waxman called Dabney’s book “the best of the best, a book that makes an important, lasting contribution to food literature and culture.”

Like the “Smokehouse” book, which went through 18 printings before a special edition was issued in 2008, the current book is a lot more than merely a collection of recipes. Dabney adds forcefully to the myriad literature about the over-the-top food culture of the South’s Atlantic coastal region with fun yarns, engaging personality profiles, contextual history and encounters with new and established restaurants in the food scene of Charleston, Beaufort and Savannah.

The South Carolina native and Korean War veteran graduated from Berry College in Rome, Ga. In his early career he served on staff of several southern newspapers, including The Times and The Atlanta Journal. Later, he spent 24 years in corporate public relations with Lockheed-Georgia Company serving as a spokesperson for the company’s C-130, C-141 and C-5 transport aircraft project. That would lead to one of his earlier books, “Herk,” now in its third edition, the definitive biography of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft.

Dabney has received national attention for his books, including for “Mountain Spirits,” which Time Magazine described as “a splendid and sometimes hilarious history” tale of the Southern hill country moonshine culture. He appeared on NBC’s “Today Show” and was subsequently elected a “Knight of Mark Twain” by the Mark Twain Journal. On the basis of his folklore books, he was awarded the 2005 Jack Daniel’s Lifetime Achievement Award by the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi. The Friends of the Dunwoody Library also honored him with its Brooke Baker Lifetime Achievement Award.

Originally published on 9/09/10