Food & Drink

Southerner’s Cookbook is ‘guide to traditions and innovations’

The Southerner’s Cookbook has become the third consecutive book released by Garden & Gun magazine to reach The New York Times Best Sellers list. This book is more than a cookbook. It’s a guide to the traditions and innovations in Southern food culture, with more than 125 recipes.

The definition of “south” is a broad one. For this book, the “south” covers the territory from Maryland to Oklahoma and Texas! States that have any sort of predilection for southern culture are included — and this means states that are geographically in the Middle-Atlantic and even the west. The uniting factor for this book is food and how it is uniquely treated in the culture that is the south, a unique perspective on food, family and more that pervades this swath of the USA.

“Food has always been a cornerstone of G&G’s (Garden &Guns) coverage and Southern culture. Our cookbook reflects the past, present, and future with both traditional recipes and those that speak to the region’s expanding foodways,” says David DiBenedetto, senior vice president and editor in chief of Garden & Gun. “We wanted this to be a book that’s truly representative of the South’s vibrant food culture.”

The authors of these essays from one of G&G”s all-star roster of contributors, such as Julia Reed, Roy Blount, Jr., and Matt Lee and Ted Lee. Peter Frank Edwards, who collaborated on Sean Brock’s James Beard Award-winning cookbook, Heritage, photographed the book.

Although I was born above the Mason Dixon Line (historical boundary of North and South), I have spent 35 years living in Virginia and the last 11 living in Calabash, N.C. So southern cooking is a part of my regular kitchen experience. I found the book a fun and tasty expansion of that knowledge. For instance, I have known for some time, that Lily flour is the preferred baking flour of Southern cooks. This book explains why this product “rocks” in southern recipes. It’s not simply a matter of taste (like Duke’s sweeter mayonnaise). These authors explain that White Lily and Martha White flour are made from winter wheat and are high-protein low gluten flours, perfect for giving biscuits that “light-on-the-inside, crisp-on-the-outside texture” that characterizes that supremely Southern “bread.”

This is a book to read and savor. Those introductory essays about the traditions of “party bites, pork, game, and more are as interesting as the recipes that follow in each segment of the book. Because the book covers such a wide territory, you may open it and find that one of your fave “southern” dishes is not included. They had to be selective. Hard choices had to be made. Those of us in the Lowcountry might miss some faves, but the essay on oysters opening up the seafood section more than makes up for it. Admittedly, one of my favorite recipes in that section is the ramp-stuffed trout, more of a Southern Appalachian treat than a low country specialty. Ramps are the spring onions of the mountains—an amazing taste not to be missed when you can get them. Since it came from Garden and Gun, I looked particularly to the greens and game sections and found each inspiring.

The veggie recipes pay homage (appropriately) to hopin john, collards, okra and the sweet potato as well as offering things like summer squash casserole and of course, fried green tomatoes.

Of course, there is a section on game—and it is a treasure trove of duck, venison and rabbit options, among others. Dessert pies and items like banana pudding and a section on drinks, round out the volume. This is certainly a worthy gift for anyone who loves Southern cooking, especially someone who is new to the traditions or who now lives elsewhere but wants to remember southern eating traditions both at the table and in conversation (via the essays) by the fireside after supper.

Title | The Southerner’s Cookbook: Recipes, Wisdom, and Stories

Publisher | Harper Wave

Price | $37.50