Our Prized Southern Cookbooks
On this fine Sunday morning, we're talking cookbooks. We'll tell you about a few we love. We hope you'll tell us about your favorites.
By Kyle Tibbs Jones
Walk into most any good Southerner's kitchen and take a look at the cookbook collection. It's easy to spot the cookbooks that are well loved and often used. The spines are cracked. The covers are wavy from heat and steam. Grocery lists and notes are tucked between rippled pages stained with vanilla extract, tomato sauce and gravy.
Today, in your own kitchen, flip through your favorite cookbook. We’re willing to bet that dinner parties and date nights, weekends with friends, covered-dish suppers, marriages and the birth of children will probably float right up out of those pages. Life’s stories, it seems to us, come to live in our cookbooks.
For this Sunday's Rise And Shine story, the BS Crew thought we'd share the Southern cookbooks that are either on our shelves or on our wish lists. Some are hot off the presses. Others, we've used for years and years. Our mothers cooked out of them. Our grandmothers, even.
Like we do every Sunday, over on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter tell us about your favorite Southern cookbooks. Which one has the best coconut cake recipe? Which cookbook is your go-to for shrimp and grits? Show us photos of your tattered, torn and well worn cookbooks. If you're cooking, show us photos of what’s on the stove. Our hashtag for today is #BSWeLoveCookbooks.
Note: Some of these fine cookbooks are for sale in The Bitter Southerner General Store. We’ve included a where-to-buy link for all of them. Today is as good a day as any to shop for yourself or friends and family. The holidays are coming, y’all. There are squash casseroles and layer cakes to make!
Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey
Oxford, Mississippi, chef John Currence's "Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey" is hardly the average Southern cookbook. What we love about this one is that Currence doesn't offer fancy-schmancy modern takes on Southern classics. When he addresses a classic, you get a solid recipe that will yield great results. But Currence also offers up a few global takes on Southern ingredients, like a kimchi made from collard greens. And the bonus? Currence writes beautifully and has amazing musical taste. Certain recipes even get their own song pairings.
The Jemima Code
The first book in The Bitter Southerner Read Well Book Club for 2015-16 is "The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks." Not exactly a standard cookbook, per se, "The Jemima Code" brings the real truth about the profound impact African-Americans have had on how we cook and eat. For many years, Tipton-Martin collected every cookbook written by African-Americans she could find — winding up with 300 volumes dating back to 1827. "The Jemima Code" tells us many important stories, and includes recipes from an incredible collection of books that might never otherwise have seen wide recognition. This coming Thursday, The Bitter Southerner and A Cappella Books are proud to host Toni at a special dinner and book signing at H. Harper Station in Atlanta. Four courses of great Southern food with wine pairings for only $70 a person. Come join us.
The Broad Fork
We’re big Hugh Acheson fans at The Bitter Southerner. Hugh’s restaurants in Athens, Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia, are all Bitter Southerner Family Establishments, which means if you join The Bitter Southerner Family, you get discounts and deals at each of them. Acheson’s latest and highly anticipated cookbook, "The Broad Fork," is stunning. The design, the paper and the photographs (by another dear friend of ours, photographer Rinne Allen) are all exquisite. Organized by season and then by vegetable and fruit, this book tells us what to cook and when it’s in season. "The Broad Fork" is at the tippy-top of my Christmas list.
A Real Southern Cook in Her Savannah Kitchen
Dora Charles wrote this cookbook after leaving 22 years of employment under one Paula Deen and going public with her own stories of racism and ill treatment in the kitchen of Deen's Savannah restaurant, The Lady & Sons. If you were ever one of those people who stood in line to eat at Lady & Sons, you were likly eating Dora Charles' cooking. While Charles' own story mirrors the unrecognized African-American cooks chronicled in "The Jemima Code," her story has a happier ending, signified by this excellent cookbook from a big publisher.
Frank Stitt's Southern Table
There is no Southern table at which we'd rather eat than Frank Stitt's. His HIghlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham is a temple to the great things that can be achieved with the simplest Southern ingredients. What the man can do with quail is just godlike. No other description will do.
The Taste of Country Cooking
Few chefs did as much to preserve multicultural Southern cooking as the late Edna Lewis. This classic from the late 1970s celebrates the tastes of Lewis' childhood in Freetown, Virginia, her home — a community where former slaves built a strong farming economy. This recipes capture the seasonal rotations of her home in a beautiful way. We think this is a must for every Southern kitchen.
Seasoned in the South
There is no one nicer and no one we’d rather eat with or cook with than Chef Bill Smith at the iconic and beloved Crook's Corner in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. We recently bumped into him on a trip to Chapel Hill and shared a drink. It was a fine evening, and his is a fine cookbook.
The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook
Cheryl Day & Griffith Day
All our friends who love to bake have fallen madly for this cookbook. Cheryl and Griff Day own and run Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, Georgia, and I hear their book tour was like a rock and roll tour. People lined up to get in. They also seem like people we would want to hang out with.
Root to Leaf
I didn’t appreciate fresh produce when I was growing up with my father’s garden right in our own backyard, but now, of course, I race to the farmers' market on Saturday mornings for whatever greens and vegetables are in season. Steven Satterfield of the great Atlanta restaurant Miller Union has been called the “vegetable shaman” by The New York Times and for good reason. "Root to Leaf" is not a cookbook for just for vegetarians; it’s a book filled with beautiful vegetable-filled meals and side dishes in simple elegant recipes.
The Junior League of Atlanta
Everyone I know bought this cookbook back in the ’80s and ’90s. As a newly married 20-something, "Atlanta Cooknotes" was open on my kitchen counter almost nightly. It was the age of the casserole (which I predict is making a comeback), but there are so many other great and easy recipes in this book. If you make only one thing from "Cooknotes," let it be the Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup (not in the Soups section but hiding in the back Child’s Play section.) This recipe for Creamy Chicken Noodle will cure anything and everything that ails you. I promise.
The Heritage of Southern Cooking
Our editor's copy of "The Heritage of Southern Cooking" is broken apart into three sections from years of use. He keeps it in a gallon-sized plastic bag to hold it together. This book will get you through any holiday in style and in good stead with your family. This is particularly true for Thanksgiving. Camille Glenn's roast-turkey recipe is absolutely and completely foolproof.