College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Kate Medley: Good Food Documentarian

Emilie Dayan, Kate Medley, and Sara Camp Arnold on a shoot at Brown Elementary School in Jackson, MS.

Emilie Dayan, Kate Medley, and Sara Camp Arnold on a shoot at Brown Elementary School in Jackson, MS.

Kate Medley, M.A. Southern Studies, and her work as documentarian for the Whole Foods Market receive raves from the editors of Good Food Jobs on their GastroGnomes blog:

“We have the urge to sum up Kate’s good food job in one word: dreamy. She’s got the fairytale spin of having stuck her foot in the door of a large, influential company on the cusp of Michael Pollan‘s fame. She’s got the creative job title and the inspiring day-to-day work of translating that company’s mission statement into real people and products.”

Medley explains her career choice. “After working in the newspaper industry as a photojournalist, I returned to my home state of Mississippi to get a master’s in Southern Studies at Ole Miss. It was then that I became involved with the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA) and was exposed for the first time to a creative pack of people who have dedicated their life’s work to studying, documenting, and telling the stories of foodstuff.  They inspired me to bridge my craft with my interests and focus my documentary pursuits on food and the culture surrounding food.”

One of those pursuits is producing a new video storytelling project for the SFA, Whole Foods Market, and Georgia Organics. Dedicated to celebrating and documenting food memories and rituals from people across the South, A Spoken Dish asks a simple question: What food tradition in your life reflects time or place or evokes a specific memory?

The 50 short video interviews with farmers, home cooks, professional chefs, writers, artists, and children capture their stories about a range of subjects including the Civil Rights Movement, Hurricane Katrina, the Great Migration, traditional hog killings, magic pickling rocks, Southern spaetzle, paw paws, and gumbo.

“The goal of A Spoken Dish is to document the palate of a changing South; one that demonstrates the diversity of our communities by way of what lands on the supper table,” Medley said. “We want to know more about how people are cooking and how they got there—from the North Carolinian who holds the generations-old recipe for Appalachian fermented beans, to the Atlantan who riffs on her Caribbean roots by way of grits and okra.”

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