The Southern Foodways Alliance will host its 16th annual Southern Foodways Symposium called “Women at Work” on October 4-6 in Oxford, Mississippi. While much attention has focused on women as stewards of home and hearth, the SFA asks how these farmers, artisans, and cooks built businesses and forged identities outside the domestic sphere. This year’s symposium is sold out, but the SFA will blog about the proceedings throughout the weekend and post videos and podcasts soon after. Between now and October 4, we’re introducing you to some of the women who will be presenting at the Southern Foodways Symposium.
Spotlight on: Diane Roberts
Her Work: Professor of English at Florida State University; Author of Dream State: Eight Generations of Swamp Lawyers, Conquistadors, Confederate Daughters, Banana Republicans, and Other Florida Wildlife (Free Press, 2004)
Home Base: Tallahassee, Florida
At the Southern Foodways Symposium, Diane Roberts will speak about a culinary entrepreneur beloved by countless Southerners, especially those who like to outsource their yeast-roll needs: Patricia “Sister” Schubert of Troy, Alabama.
“She started small, with a Sunbeam mixer and a double oven, carting pans of rolls with hand-typed labels to local grocery stores,” says Roberts. “Now her bakeries in Alabama and Kentucky turn out 9 million rolls per day. Nine. Million. Rolls. Per. Day. The recipe for the rolls was her grandmother’s. ‘Gommie,’ as Patricia and her sister Charlotte called her, named them ‘Everlasting Rolls.’ I think that’s possibly because back in the day you had to preserve yeast wet to keep it alive.”
But “everlasting” also has a Biblical ring to it, Roberts points out. “Sister is very religious and gives all credit for her good fortune to God. When she started selling so many rolls that she had to ask her ‘ladies’ to work Sundays, they’d sing hymns, especially ‘The Old Rugged Cross.’ These are holy rolls if any ever were.”