UNION — The keynote speaker of this year’s Upcountry Literary Festival spoke to a classroom of English literature students on Thursday.
The 4th Annual Upcountry Literary Festival will take place today, Friday, March 21, and Saturday, March 22, in the USC Union Auditorium. The event is free to everyone.
The festival’s keynote speaker will be Ronni Lundy, a famed expert on Southern cooking and culture.
As a music critic for the Louisville Times in the early 1990s, Lundy focused on Americana, covering artists like Emmylou Harris and Dwight Yoakam, and also found the food that supported the music around the South. In her first book, “Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes and Honest Fried Chicken: The Heart and Soul of Southern Country Kitchens,” Lundy displays her love of food, country and bluegrass music. It was named one of the six essential cookbooks about Southern food by Gourmet magazine, and is one of Lundy’s many award-winning cookbooks.
Lundy has been presented many honors for her passion and involvement in Southern food and culture. She was a founding member of the Southern Food Alliance, a group that documents and studies the diverse food cultures of the American South, and they awarded her an SFA Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2009, she was named as a recipient of the prestigious Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award, an award that honors a person who has made permanent marks upon cuisine and culture. Her work has appeared in Esquire, Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Cooking Light, and more publications.
Along with Ronni Lundy, the Literary Festival will feature an assortment of authors, poets, and musicians.
On Thursday, Lundy spoke to professor Randy Ivey’s English literature class about her own work as well as that of other authors and musicians. Lundy said she began by writing about progressive bluegrass music.
“Because there weren’t a lot of people writing about it, I started getting national attention,” she said.
Lundy explained that she later began writing about food.
“Recipes for me are fascinating and interesting, but not my skill,” she said, explaining that recipes can tell stories with ingredients having deep cultural meanings. “My skill is finding out, ‘Why do you put buttermilk in your cornbread?’”
Lundy encouraged students to participate in free writing on a regular basis.
“We all have really important stories to tell,” she said. “Writing, for me, has always been a way of expressing who I am and where I come from — at the core.”
The 2014 Upcountry Literary Festival kicks off at 9 a.m. today.