Lo­cal chef to par­tic­i­pate in mu­seum panel

Smith to lend tal­ent to Ge­or­gia Mu­seum of Art this Sun­day

The Covington News - - LOCAL NEWS - By Rachel Oswald

For Irene Smith, host of “Taste of New­ton” and guest pan­elist at the Ge­or­gia Mu­seum of Art this Sun­day, talk­ing about her love of South­ern cook­ing comes as nat­u­rally as breath­ing.

When she was ap­proached by the di­rec­tor of the Ge­or­gia Mu­seum of Art to join a panel called “South­ern Chefs” to dis­cuss the tra­di­tion and cul­ture be­hind South­ern cook­ing as part of the mu­seum’s sum­mer se­ries honor­ing the South, Smith says her first thought was “This is fluff n’ stuff and I’m go­ing to be the fluff.”

How­ever it didn’t take long for Smith to be talked into talk­ing about one of her fa­vorite sub­jects.

“I was very hon­ored that they would ask me to do this,” Smith said. “It’s go­ing to be just a fun af­ter­noon as part of our sum­mer cul­ture se­ries. The mu­seum is a beau­ti­ful place. It’s such a jewel for the whole state.”

Be­fore sign­ing on to speak at the panel Smith says or­ga­niz­ers threw a cou­ple of trial ques­tions her way to see how she would han­dle them be­fore an au­di­ence. One of the ques­tions: “Why do you think that South­ern food did not reach the heights of ap­pre­ci­a­tion of say French and Ital­ian cook­ing?” Smith says got a rise out of her.

Smiths says she was quick to fire back that French and Ital­ian cui­sine have their routes in the com­mon fare that peas­ants would pre­pare for their din­ner ta­ble just the same as such South­ern sta­ples as col­lard greens, fried chicken and Brunswick stew.

“I was fix­ing to walk out onto the stage in blue jeans and bare-footed,” Smith said of her ire at the ques­tion.

How­ever when she learned that the ques­tion was asked only to get a rise out of her, Smith says she took it in good hu­mor.

“They know that I can hold my ground,” Smith said.

A rel­a­tive late-comer to the culi­nary realm, Smith says she didn’t re­ally learn how to cook un­til she be­gan cook­ing for her hus­band Billy when they were a young mar­ried cou­ple liv­ing at Dixie Manor.

“ Mama al­ways did the cook­ing and had help and lit­er­ally ran me out of the kitchen,” Smith said.

Smith says her fa­vorite things to cook are foods with sauces be­cause she loves to ex­per­i­ment with fla­vors.

“I just en­joy food, I en­joy ev­ery­thing about it,” Smith said. “I even en­joy gro­cery shop­ping, not many peo­ple can say that.”

Smith’s fel­low pan­elists in­clude Charles Ram­sey from Five & Ten, Lin­ton Hop­kins from Restau­rant Eu­gene and Lee Ept­ing with Lee Ept­ing Cater­ing. The panel will be mod­er­ated by Athens his­to­rian Mil­ton Leathers. The panel will be­gin at 2 p.m. Sun­day at the Ge­or­gia Mu­seum of Art in Athens.

Smith has writ­ten four South­ern culi­nary cook­books which can be pur­chased at the South­ern Heart­land Art Gallery and at Cov­ing­ton Cooks.

The Ge­or­gia Mu­seum of Art’s South­ern Sum­mer se­ries also in­cludes an ex­hi­bi­tion of South­ern-themed works of art col­lected from the 1920s — 1940s and in­cludes prints, etch­ings, re­lief prints, lith­o­graphs and seri­graphs. The ma­jor­ity of the works fea­ture scenes of land­scape, ar­chi­tec­ture, wor­ship and en­ter­tain­ment. Mu­seum or­ga­niz­ers de­scribe the ex­hibit as re­flect­ing both the pos­i­tive and the neg­a­tive views of the South dur­ing that time pe­riod. The ex­hibit will run through Sept. 16.

There will be a round­table dis­cus­sion fo­cus­ing on South­ern lit­er­a­ture at 3 p.m. Sun­day, Aug. 19 at the mu­seum. Speak­ers in­clude Hu­bert McAlexan­der, a pro­fes­sor of English at the Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia, Mary Ward Brown, a no­table au­thor from Alabama, Randy Hen­dricks, a pro­fes­sor of English at West Ge­or­gia Univer­sity and William U. Ei­land, the di­rec­tor of the Ge­or­gia Mu­seum of Art.

The fi­nal event of the sum­mer will be a fo­rum ex­am­in­ing the so­cial con­text of art in the South in the 1920s through the 1940s. The fo­rum will be­gin at 3 p.m., Sun­day Aug. 26 and will fea­ture James C. Cobb, the Spald­ing Dis­tin­guished Pro­fes­sor of His­tory at the Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia.


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