First the facts: Rachel Louise Martin, Ph.D., is a writer & public intellectual. She earned a doctorate in women's & gender history from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Her work has appeared in O Magazine, Oxford American, The Atlantic online, & CityLab, & she was a guest columnist for Catapult. She has been featured on the BBC's Food Chain, KCRW's Good Food, & the Michelle Meow Show. Her essay "How Hot Chicken Really Happened" was included in Cornbread Nation 2015: The Best of Southern Food Writing. Her first book, Hot, Hot Chicken: A Nashville Story, will be out in Spring 2021. She is also the founder & principal consultant at Quill, Fork, & Cork, a historical food & beverage agency.
But that doesn't explain why she does the work she does. Read more here.
These days, hot chicken is a "must-try" Southern food. Restaurants in New York, Detroit, Cambridge, and even Australia advertise that they fry their chicken "Nashville-style." Thousands of people attend the Music City Hot Chicken Festival each year. The James Beard Foundation has given Prince's Chicken Shack an American Classic Award for inventing the dish.
But for almost seventy years, hot chicken was made and sold primarily in Nashville's Black neighborhoods--and the story of hot chicken says something powerful about race relations in Nashville, especially as the city tries to figure out what it will be in the future.
Hot, Hot Chicken recounts the history of Nashville's Black communities through the story of its hot chicken scene from the Civil War, when Nashville became a segregated city, through the tornado that ripped through North Nashville in March 2020.
"Focusing on a single dish and the branches of the Prince family who created it, Rachel Louise Martin uses Nashville's signature, world-famous hot chicken to guide us through the history of a quintessential southern American town. This book serves as a comprehensive guide to a great city and to the people who were positively influenced by the very African American culture it sought, so often, to undermine. The delicacy of hot chicken is a thread between two cultures and gives historical perspective to this culinary craze."
--Carla Hall, chef and author of Carla Hall's Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration
“‘It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,’ says the White Queen to Alice” ― Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass