Southern Living magazine, the country’s largest regional lifestyle magazine, is celebrating 50 years this month with a special 258-page issue.
In a recent interview, Southern Living Editor Sid Evans described two years of planning for this retrospective issue, including a few late nights, greased with a couple of six-packs of beer, where staffers pored over many of those 600 issues. “It was really interesting to do a deep dive into the history of the brand,” he said.
The special anniversary issue, which costs $4.99, is on newsstands now. Several stories in the issue were inspired by that first issue in February 1966. They tracked down the women who were featured on the magazine’s cover as young girls riding a red tandem bike. They returned to Houston, which was billed then as a “city of money, oil, building, and exciting people.” They even had a sense of humor about not-so-great moments in the magazine’s history with a “Bless Our Hearts” column. (My favorites: a headline on a 1968 story about photo walls, “Your Ancestors Deserve Hanging” and a 1980 story urging readers to “Dress Your House in Plaids.”)
Many readers may not know that Southern Living is descended from The Progressive Farmer magazine, which has roots in Raleigh and dates back to 1886. Southern Living was spun out of that magazine’s lifestyle and home life section, which was popular among suburban housewives. The magazine has 2.8 million subscribers with about 14,000 who have been subscribers for five decades.
Several North Carolina people and places grace the pages of the anniversary issue, from Raleigh chef Ashley Christensen to Bum’s barbecue restaurant in Ayden. The stylish set may recognize the Raleigh-based High Cotton Battery Check Green bow tie on page 109. Those who run in political circles will spot former state courts official Dick Ellis reminiscing about cooking Southern Living’s recipes when he worked in Washington, D.C.
Looking back at those old issues, Evans, who became the magazine’s editor in 2014, said he was most impressed with the travel stories. “The travel coverage was wonderful,” he said. “They didn’t have the Internet. They were dispatching writers and photographers to a lot of small towns all across the South that weren’t getting coverage anywhere else.”
The style stories from the 1960s were so much fun to read that Evans said they commissioned three designers to create dresses based on original patterns that appeared in the magazine’s second issue.
Of course, the magazine’s recipes were worth revisiting. They explored the most popular food trends in each decade and reprinted some of the magazine’s most requested recipes, including Hummingbird cake, a creation of Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro, which was published in March 1978.
Evans hopes that readers will enjoy the issue as much as he and his staff enjoying pulling it together: “My hope is this will be our readers’ coffee table book for 2016.”
N.C. mentions in Southern Living’s 50th-anniversary issue
▪ Raleigh chef Ashley Christensen is among the women profiled in the story “Five Southern Kitchen Magicians.” They wrote: “Not yet 40, Christensen oversees 250 employees, from Poole’s Diner, where people pack into banquettes for the richest, gooiest mac and cheese in the land, to Death & Taxes – her first real foray into fine dining – with its flame-licked oysters, whole roasted fish and 93-day aged beef. And we get the sense she’s just hitting her stride.”
▪ In “50 Best Places in the South Now,” two Raleigh spots are mentioned: Standard Foods and Raleigh Beer Garden. About the former, they wrote: “Raleigh recently welcomed chef Scott Crawford’s new Standard Foods, a restaurant and grocery that celebrates both traditional farmers and artisanal producers with its farm-to-table menu and an assortment of retail products.” About the beer garden, they wrote: “The brand-new, 500-square-foot Raleigh Beer Garden has opened in the capital city with a whopping 366 options on tap, including 144 North Carolina brews.”
▪ Of course, North Carolina was not overlooked in the magazine’s story “The South’s Legendary Barbecue Joints.” Hill’s Lexington Barbecue in Winston-Salem and Bum’s Restaurant in Ayden were both mentioned. They raved about Hill’s banana pie: “Hill’s has been using the same banana pie recipe since before Southern Living was founded. Served warm with real meringue that’s toasted golden brown on top, it’s one of the best you’ll find in the Carolinas.” About Bum’s barbecue: “Chopped fine by hand and seasoned with a pepper-laced vinegar sauce, it’s how Eastern North Carolinians were eating their barbecue in 1966 and are still eating it today.”
▪ Although not credited, the dapper blue-white-and-green bow tie in the “Elements of Southern Style” is from Raleigh’s High Cotton. It is their Battery Check Green, which is part of their spring 2016 line. Info: highcottonties.com.
▪ Raleigh resident Dick Ellis wrote a short essay about how Southern Living made life easier when he and his former wife worked in Washington, D.C., for the Reagan administration. Ellis wrote: “We’d invite friends over from around the world to sample recipes from our beloved Southern Living, and it was so much fun introducing them to country ham, corn pudding and pecan pie.”
Enter to win Southern Living 50 Years
We’re giving away a copy of the new book from the editors of Southern Living magazine celebrating its 50 years of existence: “Southern Living 50 Years: A Celebration of People, Places and Culture.”
This could be the perfect gift for the Southern Living fan in your life. Good luck!