Like the South itself, John T. Edge is complicated. He is part scholar and part kingmaker, a conscientious white man in a Billy Reid sport coat who makes his living wrestling with the food legacy of a region built on slavery.
Mr. Edge has a new book, "The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South" (Penguin). It spans 60 years, starting with the cooks whose food fueled the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott in 1955 and ending with a South of new immigrants, where the fried okra might be sprinkled with fish sauce or the barbecue ribs doused in gochujang.