From Pancakes to Paula Deen: The Culinaria of Pigeon Forge

Southern Foodways Alliance
2015 Graduate Student Conference
Exploring Pop Culture in Southern Foodways
September 10-11, 2015
The University of Mississippi
Presenter in the panel Culinaria as Entertainment

From Pancakes to Paula Deen: The Culinaria of Pigeon Forge
Paper Abstract

Outside the gates of The Smoky Mountain National Park are the tourist-driven communities of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. They are tied to the park by a confluence of highways known as The Parkway, a neon strip running through the natural beauty of the Smoky Mountains.

The National Park Service and Dolly Parton, the region’s favorite daughter, curate bucolic Appalachian fantasies. The Parkway presents a different image. Its ‘Hillbilly’ posturing and Confederate iconography can be jarring, by comparison. I’ll explore this tension, as well as the new dynamic introduced by the recent influx of national brands. For example, Paula Deen’s attempt to resurrect her career in Pigeon Forge speaks volumes about how and to whom the mountains are being sold.

The arrival of national franchises also marks a shift away from locally owned mountain businesses, most notably Southern Appalachia’s signature restaurant, the pancake house. From those pancake stands, to Dollywood and now Deen, this paper traces the culinary landscape around Pigeon Forge and how it reflects the selling of the mountain South.