This time one year ago, Foodways Texas was an extremely young collective of chefs, food historians and other epicureans seeking to preserve the food history and traditional Gulf Coast/Creole/Cajun cuisine of Texas.
The organization, founded by former Houston Press food critic Robb Walsh, was partially inspired by the Southern Foodways Alliance, a Mississippi-based organization dedicated to the food culture of the Deep South. In January, the Foodways Texas's executive director Martin Bendele told the Press that the group had a few objectives for 2011: to build up an archive of oral history and film pertaining to Texas food traditions; to build membership in some of the state's smaller cities; and to get more members involved in the organization's efforts.
And 2011 has been a rough year for Texas agriculture, mostly due to Mother Nature, but Bendele said the group is well on its way to accomplishing at least one of those goals.
"We did (our first) symposium in Galveston at the end of February," Bendele said. "A few things came out of that. There's been an interest in bycatch thanks to Bryan Caswell's presentation."
"The other thing was the oyster appellations," Bendele said. "It's something we're really proud of. We were hoping to do an oyster field trip, but that got postponed because of the red tide. We'll probably do that next year."
Foodways Texas's second event was also a success.
"In June we did the Barbecue Summer Camp with Texas A&M. That thing was insanely popular. It sold out in like two weeks."
2011's events are being revived in the coming year. The 2012 Barbecue Summer Camp is already sold out, and in March the group's second annual symposium will feature the theme "Preserved." Speakers like Morgan Weber of Revival Market will talk about heritage breeds, canning and heirloom vegetables.
And by next month, the group hopes to be able to check another goal off its list.
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"Our oral history archives will be online by the middle of January," Bendele said. "We have an oral history of craft brewing, and we're working on a film about The Taylor Cafe in Taylor, Texas, a barbecue restaurant that's been open since the 1940s. We're also working with UH on a project called Lousienne y Tejas, about the influence of Cajun and Creole on Texas. We're just going to keep adding to those archives."
Of the $2,000 no-strings-attached gift that comes with being named a MasterMind, Bendele said most of it went towards the Galveston symposium, which helped heighten the organization's profile in the community.
"I would say we gained several new members, for sure. We're still just one employee -- me -- but we've increased our board members," he said. "It really helped us early on. We weren't even a year old then."
Winners of this year's three MasterMind Awards will be announced in the January 26 publication of the Houston Press. Winners will each receive a check for $2,000 along with a plaque at a special ceremony that is part of the Press's annual Artopia Party, celebrated at the Winter Street Studios on Saturday, January 28, 2012.