A Sacred Feast
Reflections on Sacred Harp Singing and Dinner on the Ground
By Kathryn Eastburn
(University of Nebraska Press, Hardcover, 9780803218314, 212pp.)
Publication Date: April 2008
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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Some have called Sacred Harp singing America’s earliest music. This powerful nondenominational religious singing, part of a deeply held Southern culture, has spread throughout the nation over the past two centuries. In A Sacred Feast, Kathryn Eastburn journeys into the community of Sacred Harp singers across the country and introduces readers to the curious glories of a tradition that is practiced today just as it was two hundred years ago. Each of the book’s chapters visits a different region and features recipes from the accompanying culinary tradition—dinner on the ground, a hearty noontime feast. From oven-cooked pulled pork barbeque to Dollar Store cornbread dressing to red velvet cake, these recipes tell a story of nourishing the body, the soul, and the voice. The Sacred Harp’s deeply moving sound and spirit resonate through these pages, captured at conventions in Alabama, Kentucky, Texas, Colorado, and Washington, conveyed in portraits of singers, and celebrated in the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of all-day singing and dinner on the ground echoing through generations and centuries.
Kathryn Eastburn, a journalist and freelance writer, is the founding editor of the Colorado Springs Independent. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including the Denver Post, Texas Highways, and the Santa Fe Reporter.
"A Sacred Feast is the product of Eastburn''s simultaneous desires for documentation and self-understanding. As she witnesses the transformative power of sacred harp singing and community, we share in her growth vicariously. Although participants might share a slice of cake or a songbook with each other, they also share life."—Jessica Orr, Gastronomica
“Dishes with charming names like ‘Ivalene Donaldson’s Lazy Man Fruit Pie’ beg to be tested. A Sacred Feast appears equal parts historical documentary and cookbook, with the pensive, yet lively and descriptive writing for which the author is regarded.”—Matthew Schniper, The Colorado Independent
"Here is what you will feel after reading this book: hungry! Each chapter comes loaded with recipes that Eastburn has collected from Sacred Harp gatherings, and foodies will love the heavy does of culinary Americana in her short and enjoyable book."—Paul Harvey, Books & Culture
"Kathryn Eastburn writes beautifully. Into her narrative about attending singings and becoming an experienced singer she weaves information about the history of The Sacred Harp, describes how the music is sung, tells what happens at a singing and refers to other writings and videos and websites. The reader can come away from A Sacred Feast with a solid understanding of Sacred Harp singing."—Joyce Cauthen, Journal of the Alabama Folklife Association
“Filled with harmony, heartache, and home cooking, A Sacred Feast is at once the best-ever culinary travelogue about singing and a soul-searching look at the heart of America.”—Tim Eriksen, singer, songwriter, ethnomusicologist, and Sacred Harp teacher and enthusiast
“A wonderful, well-written description of twenty-first-century Sacred Harp singing from coast to coast through the eyes of a first-generation Sacred Harp singer. Marvelous recipes!”—Amanda Denson Brady, recording secretary, Sacred Harp Publishing Company
-Amanda Denson Brady