By Michael J. Solender
Amy Rogers plumbs the nuances of foodways she writes about like a forager uncovering delectable hidden forest bounty, sharing savory morsels of story with readers, engaging their attention and respect.
Storyteller, journalist, editor, food culturist and researcher are hats Rogers often wears interchangeably as she takes readers on journeys across town, across cultures, and across the globe, sharing how food connects people in curious and beautiful ways.
“Many indigenous cultures rely strongly on their Storyteller as an historian, holder of wisdom, and other sacred duties,” says Rogers. “I am emphatically not that person in any mystical and reverent sense. [I am] just a writer who uses journalism, research, practice, inquiry, curiosity, creativity, humor and anything at my disposal to tell stories about people who matter to people who need to know about them.”
Charlotte readers are most familiar with Rogers’ regular work for WFAE, the region’s non-commercial flagship public radio station. Her commentary and writings about food and culture are a role Rogers considers among the most treasured in her prolific career. Rogers’ works are also found at the Food Network, Charlotte Magazine and Ballantyne Magazine, where she’s a regular contributor. She co-founded Novello Festival Press, where she served as publisher and editorial director for this publishing arm of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.
Rogers prides herself in writing that celebrates the humanity of her subjects. Her work often showcases unheralded heroes in our community working to make others’ lives better. Rogers-penned articles such as “Meet the Women of Food Justice” for Charlotte Magazine and “Why are People Hungry in Charlotte?” for WFAE, asking readers to co-navigate challenges their neighbors are facing and see community issues with more empathetic eyes.
“It’s important to communicate values in what I write,” says Rogers. “And be honest about the things that make me uncomfortable.”
Industry colleagues have taken notice. Rogers’ work has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Irene Blair Honeycutt Legacy Award from CPCC’s Literary Advisory Committee, the Southeast Library Association’s President’s Award and many others. She’s twice served as a Food Writing Awards Committee Judge for the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), and as a long-time mentor and volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters, was twice nominated as Big Sister of the Year.
In 2020, Rogers received an ASC Creative Renewal Fellowship. While her initial fellowship plans saw her to traveling to Israel to explore and research social justice issues and use food and fellowship to connect with Jews, Muslims and Christians, the pandemic had other plans.
“All media has changed through the pandemic,” says Rogers, who was philosophical about her inability to travel during the past year. “It’s been a very tough time in the journalism space, though I’ve used newfound time to continue to make important connections.”
Rogers attended – virtually – a conference of the international women’s organization, the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom.
“We are women and girls who are Muslim and Jewish,” says Rogers, “Our goals are to stand up for each other, educate each other about our faith and cultural practices, engage in social justice and work to end acts of hate. This is done through face-to-face meetings conducted over shared meals. This resonates with me as women are traditionally home cooks in the family unit and these are cultures with a history of misunderstanding each other.”
Learning, teaching, and gathering with others – all with food – are part of Rogers’ plans moving forward. She developed and presented online a workshop for the Israel Writers’ Studio titled, “Something to Savor: Telling Your Story with Food.” Rogers is building on her own cooking prowess by using food products produced in Israel/West Bank/Palestinian territories, especially those food products grown collaboratively across the cultures, to develop recipes.
She’s excited to share the recipes and host community discussion meals with people from diverse cultures here in Charlotte – and when we are all able, to travel and gather once again.
“Food is something to communicate and bond over,” says Rogers. “Food is a lens of difference and commonality, it’s a way to connect. I’m all in for that.”