There is something special about Southern cuisine and its foodways, so much so that there is even an organization, The Southern Foodway Alliance, wholly dedicated to the study, documentation, and celebration of the food of the American South. Pound cake is a distinctively Southern dessert that is a favorite amongst many Southerners, and apparently Flannery O’Connor’s own mother, Regina, was quite fond of pound cake. In an interview with Sarah Gordon, Professor Emerita of English at Georgia College & State University, writer Louise Abbot discusses her friendship with Flannery, and the first time she met Regina:
[Regina] said, “Well, tell me about your husband.” And then she said, “By the way, I’m going to send you home with some slices of pound cake that I made the other day.” I said, “Oh, my husband will be so excited. He loves toasted pound cake for breakfast.” That was what impressed Regina. So I was the friend of Flannery’s whose husband liked toasted pound cake for breakfast. And we talked pound cake. We talked it into the ground.
With as many variations of pound cake as there are, with different types of crusts, etc., it is no wonder that Louise Abbot and Regina had so much to talk about. As I have gone through some of the objects in the laundry room at Andalusia over the course of the past few weeks, I happened upon the label of an entirely different type of pound cake - a ready-made frozen one from Sara Lee. While I can’t tell you whether Flannery ate any of this particular cake, I do find that this premade packaged food does reflect a broader shift in Southern foodways. With the introduction of refrigeration, and the rise of industry in post-World War II America, the nation began to shift toward mass consumption of factory to table food.
Do you recall how the shift toward mass produced food altered your own family’s foodways? For those of you who are Southern, do you have memories of homemade pound cake? Or did your family serve the frozen sort one had to thaw before eating?
April Moon, Operations & Visitor Services ManagerThe Flannery O’Connor – Andalusia Foundation
**Louise Abbot's interview is one of several featured in At Home with Flannery O'Connor: An Oral History, edited by Bruce Gentry and Craig Amason.