When a Melting Pot Serves as More Than a Metaphor: With Georgia taking a beating [a deserved one] on race matters lately — what with the kids throwing a whites-only prom in Albany and the governor attempting to bring the battle flag out of retirement in Atlanta — it's worth celebrating when you learn a little-known example of how most folks down here quietly get it right.
It was in 1990 that Scott Peacock, the 27-year-old chef at the governor's mansion in Georgia, went to meet Edna Lewis, the 74-year-old doyenne of Southern cuisine, at an Atlanta train station. She was to cook at a fund-raising dinner for the American Institute of Food and Wine, and he was assigned to help her. There she was, on the platform, dragging a huge cardboard box by a rope. She knew she wouldn't have time to do things properly, so she had brought what she needed: 100 pounds of pie dough, packed in ice.
As they began their work together, neither realized that they were embarking on one of the most unusual, yet enduring relationships ever forged in a kitchen. On the professional side is their new cookbook, "The Gift of Southern Cooking: Recipes and Revelations From Two Great American Cooks" (Alfred A. Knopf, $29.95). But it is the personal side that is most compelling. During the seven years in which they wrote the book, their friendship deepened and they moved in together here four years ago, to a quiet garden apartment.
During the last year, however, Miss Lewis, now 87, has become increasingly forgetful and confused. After living a bohemian life — married briefly, she had no children, traveled extensively, never lived in one place for too long — she had no home base. Mr. Peacock, now 40, single, and the acclaimed chef at Watershed, a restaurant in Decatur, an Atlanta suburb, has assumed responsibility for her care. This gay white man and this elderly African-American woman have forged a genuine family, with a devotion too rarely seen among blood relations.