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Uncomfortable conversations through Southern food with Gravy's Tina Antolini

Matt Galloway interviews Gravy host Tina Antolini on the complications of food history.
(State of the Re:Union)

The podcast Gravy has a very specific focus: To explore the history and culture of the southern United States through its food. "Food can lead us in these places that are really offering us a window into history and into the dynamics of our culture that could be just beneath the surface," Tina Antolini, producer and host of Gravy, told Podcast Playlist co-host Matt Galloway.

I'm not from here, which I think has lent itself well to my exploration of this region.- Tina Antolini

Antolini, who actually grew up in Maine says, "The South is a place of many contrasts. It's got a really complicated history, some really dark history there, but also a real tradition of people keeping their foodways intact and passing them on from generation to generation...so food is a perfect vehicle to understanding the place."

The episode of Gravy that we like to think of as the "gateway" episode offers a good example of what Antolini is saying. It's all about fried chicken -- delicious, greasy, and totally contentious. "It tells a complicated story about racial history and empowerment and discrimination," she says. "Usually there's always a couple of sides to that coin, and in the south those contrasts are particularly stark."

Those stark contrasts often lead to tension and discomfort...which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

"You can't have an honest conversation about racial history in the south without there being some discomfort, and I think that's good -- we have to move toward that discomfort instead of away from it sometimes," she says. "[Because] there's a lot of pleasure in food, it can be a good starting point to ease us into a conversation about some of these more uncomfortable aspects of history."

Listen to the audio to hear the full interview with Tina Antolini.

Tune in to Podcast Playlist on Feb.18  to hear the condensed version of this interview as well as an excerpt from Gravy.

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