Today marks the release date of Southern Living's food issue, and the magazine's new food editor wants you to know this isn't your mama's Southern Living. It's maybe closer to your grandmama's.

“Forty years ago, there would have been an essay about why shrimp matters; a profile of a shrimper and great recipes,” Hunter Lewis says when asked how the magazine would have handled, say, the arrival of shrimp season in previous years. “In certain eras, we went away from that and just gave recipes. I think we're getting back to that.”


The heart of the food issue is an alphabetical guide to Southern food, described as a compendium of “the recipes, tastemakers and trends that define our culture right now.” The list ranges from Agricultural Renaissance to Zucchini – with fried chicken and Champagne; a Birmingham teaching farm and pitmaster Aaron Franklin populating the in-between pages. Charleston's High Wire Distilling Co. shows up under "X" — as in "XXX" for moonshine.


Although Lewis says “everything we do is geared toward the home cook,” he believes there are ideas originating from beyond the home kitchen which influence what and how Southerners eat. For example, the “G” entry is “gulf and Atlantic seafood.” Here, the caption for the white, brown and pink shrimp concludes, “whether you buy large or mediums, make sure they're shrimp from North Carolina to Texas.”


The seafood write-up also quotes sustainability advocate Paul Greenberg, who will participate in an issue launch "Twitter chat" with cookbook writers and food journalists today at 1 p.m. (Follow along @Southern_Living.)


“We don't often tell people what to eat,” says Lewis, who doesn't foresee the magazine taking a stand on organic practices or humanely-raised meat. “But we're making a statement here that seafood of the Atlantic is really good, and we think you should be seeking out local stuff.”