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Southern Culture

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p> This Labor Day weekend, the Center for Southern Folklore will host its annual signature event, the Memphis Music & Heritage Festival. Five stages will be set up along Main Street, from Gayoso to Peabody Place Avenue. Musical performances will be held in the center's main hall in Peabody Place, while the stage at the Peabody Place trolley stop will be the site of storytelling and spoken-word performances. Artisans will also be on hand to demonstrate traditional Southern crafts, such as quilt-making.

The focus of the Center for Southern Folklore is to preserve and present the history of Southern culture, but center director Judy Peiser recognizes the impact of global influences on the South, especially when it comes to cuisine.

"Food is that part of the culture that's retained when everything else is lost. It evolves as new influences are presented," Peiser says. "We don't want to hit people over the head that Memphis is changing, but by presenting different foods or dance and music at the festival, we're able to describe the expanding culture of Memphis by showing people parts of the community that they may not see every day."

The center will team up with Viking, an event sponsor, to offer two days of free cooking demonstrations in the culinary school's kitchen. Ella Kizzie, a chef at the center's café, will prepare traditional Southern dishes, such as greens, hot-water cornbread, and peach cobbler. Another center employee, graphic designer Chang Zhi Yu, will give a tofu-cooking demonstration. Members of the Choctaw tribe will make fried bread, employees from Café Samovar will present Russian cuisine, and there will be traditional Puerto Rican dishes as well as Jewish challah bread. Each of the programs will last about two hours and samples of the foods will be available.

Viking will also host two classes on the art of grilling with "The Great American Cookout." A portion of the $79 course fee will be donated to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), which helps support families that have been affected by the death of family members serving in the armed forces. For more information on this or other courses, call 578-5822.

The Center for Southern Folklore is located at 119 S. Main St. The festival will run from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, September 3rd and 4th. While the event is free, festival-goers are encouraged to donate to the center. For more information on the festival and cooking demonstrations, call 525-3655 or visit their Web site, SouthernFolklore.com.

While you're downtown, you can also check out the new Healthy Lifestyle Bistro, located at 45 S. Main.

Janet "J.P." Austin opened the market and restaurant last month because she wanted to share the value of holistic living through food, herbs, and oils, something she's practiced for more than 15 years.

"We fill a niche that was missing from downtown," Austin says. "Most of our healthy places to eat and shop are in Midtown, but we have a growing health-conscience community downtown."

Customers can browse Healthy Living's selection of herbal remedies and organic products or sit at one of the colorful tables and enjoy organic coffee or eat breakfast or lunch.

Austin is also a singer and her husband, James, tours with Sonny Turner's Platters -- currently one of several versions of the 1950s band that sang "The Great Pretender." When James is not on tour, he's in the kitchen at Healthy Lifestyle, along with his son Patrick and daughter Kym, preparing sandwiches, wraps, and salads.

"They have their own secret recipes, and they don't even share them with me," says Austin.

Austin is planning to offer live music and hopes to remodel the upstairs space to create a balcony. In addition to more seating, Healthy Lifestyle could also become a venue for yoga or Pilates classes on Saturday mornings.

Healthy Lifestyle Bistro is open Monday through Friday 8 to 10 a.m. for breakfast and 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. for lunch. On Saturdays, the hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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