S.C. invites traditional food artists to apply for Folk Heritage Award

Thanks to Post and Courier food writer Hanna Raskin for this blog post about the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award. Nominations are due Dec. 16.

It’s been more than a decade since the South Carolina Arts Commission recognized a culinary artist with its Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award, the state’s highest honor for practitioners and advocates of traditional art forms. But the program’s administrator thinks it’s time for another South Carolinian involved in foodways to claim the prize.

“So much of our culture revolves around food,” points out Doug Peach, the South Carolina Folklife and Traditional Arts Program Coordinator. “The cultivation of rice historically anchors the Lowcountry of South Carolina; no one goes to Indiana to get shrimp, and barbecue sauce preference is still a hotly-debated issue among South Carolinians.”

According to Peach, the commission views “preserving, promoting and celebrating” South Carolina food traditions as a way of connecting citizens to each other and the land.

“Thus, it helps us better understand what it means to reside in the Palmetto State,” Peach concludes.

When Peach talks about “foodways,” he means all of the practices associated with growing, harvesting, preparing and preserving food. “Tangentially, it could also include professions such as knife-making, which are connected to food’s consumption and preparation,” Peach adds. (Are you listening, Quintin Middleton?)

The last Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award winner from the foodways realm was Varnville’s Willie Lee Williams, who in 2001 won the award for his hash-making. Three cast-net makers have also received the prestigious award, which in recent years has gone to a fiddler; storyteller; harmonica player; documentary filmmaker; hammock maker and a pair of potters.

Peach says, “While I prefer to leave “culinary arts” open to interpretation, we would be interested in individuals working in the cultures surrounding rice, barbecue and seed, just to name a few.” (Ahem, Glenn Roberts.)

Nominees for the award must be alive; practicing their art in South Carolina and engaged in an art that’s relevant to contemporary life, which presumably means a stagecoach wheelsmith doesn’t stand much of a chance.

And perhaps because this is a government initiative, there’s a fair amount of paperwork involved: Nominees must submit a five-page form; two-page narrative essay making a case for the nominee’s selection; as many as 10 letters of support and support materials such as newspaper clippings. Food samples are optional, Peach says.

All materials must be submitted by Dec. 16 for consideration. More information and the application are here.