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Friday, April 11, 2014

VICE.com: No 'Ozark Cuisine'? Blame meth and racism

Posted By on Fri, Apr 11, 2014 at 5:13 PM

click to enlarge A billboard in Harrison, Ark.
  • A billboard in Harrison, Ark.
Food for thought: the website Vice.com has an article on their "Munchies" blog right now which suggests that the reason there's no nationally-recognized "Ozark Cuisine"  on par with other beloved regional cuisines is due to the three headed beast that has plagued the image and reality of the Ozark Mountains since Hector was a pup: racism, poverty and xenophobia. Writer Josh Bell singles out white-supremacist organizations in Harrison, Ark. to make his point.

Bell's idea is that the Ozarks' age-old reputation for racism and distrust of outsiders has kept at bay the foodie adventurers who might have helped an Ozark cuisine become more well known, like, say, Cajun Cuisine or Tex-Mex. Toss in a handful of meth addiction and drug-fueled violence, the idea goes, and you've got a region with interesting native culture and  foodways that's effectively excluded itself from the explosion of culinary-tourism in the past few years .

From the article:

The long-enduring presence of white supremacist groups throughout the Ozarks—especially in Branson and Harrison, Arkansas—has only intensified the region’s insularity; limestone bluffs, logging roads, and dense woodlands make the Ozarks an excellent hiding place for wild game and the Klu Klux Klan. In June 2013, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that the KKK had founded an Ozark “Soldiers of the Cross Training Institute” to educate anyone willing to pay $500 to learn about the “HOLY mission of the White Christian Revival.” Recently, a group of “racial patriots” protested a Black History Month event in Harrison attended by exactly zero African-Americans. This combination of extreme right politics and poverty discourages strangers from offering help, developing the area, or even beginning to explore its unique and wonderful culture, which has kept Ozark foodways hidden from the outside world. There are no Ozark kitchens in Williamsburg or Portland, no high-profile Ozark bloggers with coffee table cookbooks, and no Husk about to open in Branson. The combined effect of rural poverty, epidemic drug abuse, and bad politics has been preservation without gentrification, or worse, hipsterfication.

One place in Arkansas that does get a nod from Vice.com, however: Eureka Springs, which the author calls "bougie as it gets," with particular kudos dished out to Eureka's Bubba's Barbecue

So, is he right about racism and xenophobia killing off Ozark regional cuisine, or is it that you're just never going to get folks in Manhattan to eat Squirrel Head Surprise, no matter how friendly the mountainfolk are? 

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