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Culinary culture enthusiast, food writer and editor Francis Lam is teaming up with the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA) and NYC pop-up enabler City Grit next Wednesday, Jan. 16th, for an evening of food and stories. Lam moved down to East Biloxi, Mississippi to help rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. Through the clean-up effort and subsequent trips down South, he discovered that this self-professed “Seafood Capital of the World” was teeming with the rich cultures of Cajun, Croatian and Vietnamese fishermen. Their stories were definitely worth telling. Combine a beloved downtown pop-up venue with these tales and Southern seafood dishes inspired by them and you’ve got yourself an evening. 

“I realized early on that there was something about this place that really struck me,” says Lam. “Part of it was the diversity: white, black, Vietnamese and, because they were brought in as laborers after the storm, Latino, all living and working side-by-side. But for me, coming from New York, where I lived in a building with 130 other families and could only name 2, I was so moved by the way people greeted each other. When I’d walk down the street with Miss Lucille, everyone said hi to her, and they all knew her because their grandparents all grew up there together. There was this real sense of community and history.”

Along with Sarah Simmons, City Grit chef and curator, Lam seeks to show and tell — the show of course being Simmons’ spectacular Biloxi-inspired fare — the lessons he learned in researching the culture of the once-most important shrimp and oyster port in the country. 

“Sarah and I wanted to feature the stories of these people and of their people as a way to highlight the tradition of Gulf seafood, and to support the Southern Foodways Alliance for doing so much work to keep those kinds of stories alive,” he says. Support the effort by hitting the Nolita pop-up next Wednesday, buy your tickets here — 50% of the proceeds benefit SFA.

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