UNO Professor Wins International Acclaim for Paper on Red Beans and Rice
David Beriss, a University of New Orleans anthropology professor, earned acclaim for his paper on red beans and rice from the judges of the Sophie Coe Prize in Food History. The prize is awarded each year at the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery in Oxford, England, and is considered the world's top prize for writing on food history.
While Beriss did not win the prize, his paper, "Red Beans and Rebuilding: An Iconic Dish, Memory and Culture in New Orleans," was one of two papers to receive a subsidiary award. The judges' report describes Beriss' work as "a rich and wide-ranging ethnography, using food-as-symbol, drawn from an imaginative variety of sources, to explore the politics of regionality, nationality, locality, ethnicity and identity in the wake of a natural disaster, Hurricane Katrina."
Beriss is an associate professor and chair of anthropology at UNO. His paper explores how red beans and rice became a key symbol in post-Katrina struggles to recover and rebuild the city of New Orleans. As a regional dish, it allows New Orleans residents to lay claim to cultural distinctiveness in an apparently homogenizing America. Along with other foods, red beans and rice is often invoked as a sign of the city's historical ties to the Caribbean and Central America and of an ongoing resistance to assimilation into the United States.
The Sophie Coe Prize is the longest-running and most generous prize for writing in food history in the English language, given once a year for an essay or article of up to 10,000 words on any aspect of the history of food. First awarded in 1995, the fund that administers the prize was founded in memory of Sophie Coe, the eminent food historian who died in 1994.
The winner is chosen every year by an anonymous panel of distinguished judges and awarded to the author of an original, informative article or essay on some aspect of food history that embodies new research or provides new insights.