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Best Southern Cookbooks to buy? [moved from General Chowhounding Topics]

I love all southern cooking so please give me a variety of types of southern cookbooks to buy. Any suggestions where to get them online at a bargain price?

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  1. I'm a big fan of community cookbooks--those spiral-bound collections assembled by churches and schools and charitable groups. They're huge in the south. These are the real deal--not some CIA-trained chef's idea of down-home cooking, but the way people in a particular community really cook. Once you get past the handful of Bisquik Impossible Pie recipes and Campbell's mushroom soup casseroles, there are some wonderful family classics and real old-time gems. Let me tell you, those gals in the Willie Vincent Circle Women's Missionary Union of the Blue Eye Baptist Church, Lincoln, Alabama, know how to cook Southern!

    It helps to have southern relatives to send you these books--but if you don't, Fundcraft, one of the companies that publishes them, lets their customers offer the books for sale on their website. You can search by state, read a short description of each book, and order directly from the group that assembled the book (and the profit is usually going to some charity). Many of them are under $10.


    If you really get hooked, another place to look for community cookbooks is eBay. You can search phrases like "church cookbook" or "school cookbook" under Nonfiction Books and find tons of them, new and used.

    5 Replies
    1. re: MsMaryMc

      The only trouble with some of those books is that the ladies that contributed to them trotted out their best "company" type recipes not the heverday home cooking.

      I have many of them but I would check Amazon and several other used book resources for the following:

      Marion Brown's Southern Cookbook
      Damon Lee Fowlers Classic Southern Cookbook
      Roni Lundy's Shuckbean, Stack Cakes and Rreal Fried Chicken
      anything by John T Edge or John Edgerton
      Marion Flexner's Out of Kentucky Kitchens
      The Edna Lewis books, Frank Stitts Southern Table (new and evolved Southern but with really good roots)
      Kentucky Hospitality
      Maryland's Way
      Hopping John's Low Country Cooking
      Sarah Belk's Around the Kitchen Table
      Marjorie Kinnan Rawling's ross Creek Cooking
      Some of the James Villas books ( I just bought his newest and it is a bit evolved to me)
      Some of the Craig Claiborne books
      Jeanne Voltz Flavors of the South
      Linda Gassenheimer's Keys Cuisine
      Plantation Cooking, another compilation of company recipes but an interesting read.
      Lundy's Butterbeans to Blackbrries

      That should give you a good start in compiling a library. I own all of them and would not part with a single one.I have more of course but this is a good list to start with.

      1. re: Candy

        One of my favorites is Kentucky Keepsakes. I love it because they have several recipes, sometimes pages, of the same item. And they give the origin of the recipe, person, newspaper, resto, other cookooks.

        Agreed the Roni Lundy Shuckbeans. . . is wonderful.

        1. re: Candy

          Candy--I've been considering getting James Villas "The Glory of Southern Cooking." At a glance, it looks like a modern reference on basic southern staple recipes--which is good. Have you cooked from it?

          1. re: Ora

            I got it because it was by him. I am a bit underwhelmed. It may become a gift.

            1. re: Ora

              I looked thru this book the other day and was quite offended that he described the appearance of okra in the US to Ethiopian slaves. I don't know where he got his history, but no slaves in the Ameican south (or in the Americas at all) were from Ethiopia. To make such a statement is ignorant at best.

        2. Any book by Nathalie Dupree. John Edgerton's wonderful "Southern Food", which is a book ABOUT Southern food with excellent and totally authentic recipes, mostly in the margins. Jane and Michael Stern's regional restaurants series has a recent addition with recipes from the storied (and justly so) Loveless Cafe, and there's an out-of-print classic collection of recipes from Miss Mary Bobo's wonderful boarding house in Lynchburg, TN - can't remember the title, and I'm too lazy to go downstairs and look, but it's by Diane Dalsass, so look it up on Alibris or Powell's Books. An acquaintance of ours and a brilliant cook, Martha Stamps, also has a couple of very good books out - she's a fine and practiced chef, and has a knack for updating the core classics and actually improving them. And then of course there's THE classic "Southern Cooking", by Mrs. S.R.Dull, written the week after they invented dirt...

          1. Add: Charleston Receipts--a great low country collection of recipes.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Ora

              Ora, I'm so glad you mentioned Charleston Receipts! the Old-fashioned Pound Cake recipe is like no other! I've been making that one for over 20 years. I occaisonally try a new one and always go back to that.

              1. re: kingstreet

                What a wonderful book! I grew up in the south and that was the cooking tradition I first learned, so I don't have many southern cookbooks (that's food I "just do"). "Charleston Receipts" is one. Great just to read. I love how they source the recipes. "Mrs. John Doe." Followed by the woman's first and maiden names in parentheses ("Mary Smith."). Really underscores how much importance is attached to the family provenance. "Recipes from Pawleys Island," another offering from the SC Low Country is also a good one. Both skew to what we think of as "genteel" southern cooking. All those shrimp pies! My SC aunts thought shrimp pie was just so elegant. I thought it was gross. North of the border, up in my little NC town, we took our shrimp straight, with maybe a bit of cocktail sauce.

                "How To Cook A Pig," by Betty Talmadge is also fun. Despite her reputation as a Washington hostess (her husband was a US senator from GA), she's got a lot of country southern fare in this book. When she wasn't entertaining First Ladies and other Senate wives, she was running a country ham business, so she knew "how to cook a pig." Great photos and stories from DC ladies' luncheons. Rosalyn Carter even contributed some recipes.

            2. "Any suggestions where to get them online at a bargain price?"

              When looking for a cook book, I always check Jessica's Biscuit (ecookbooks.com) first.

              1. Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook -- just won the James Beard Fdtn award
                Frank Stitt's Southern Table
                Edna Lewis -- Taste of Country Cooking -- this month's cookbook of the month!

                You might want to give cookbooks a road test by checking out of your local library before you buy. I generally do that and when I find I'm reluctant to return a book, I order it!

                I like Jessica's Biscuit -- usually better price than Amazon, a real brick and mortar store, plus they always have the books I want in stock, and ship very promptly.

                1 Reply
                1. re: NYchowcook

                  There are many better books out there than thet Lee Bros. Again it is a derivative and not a classis. Saigon Hopin Johin anyone?

                2. Both the Austin Junior League and the Dallas Junior League publish cookbooks. I enjoy both, but the Dallas book is particularly useful. You can purchase them on the League's websites.

                  1. Talk About Good!, by the Junior League of Lafayette, Louisiana.

                    1. Southern Living Cookbook- all the basic stuff, good and easy preparation, great taste....

                      1. I second NYchowcook --
                        Lee Bros., Frank Stitt's Southern Table and Edna Lewis.
                        Also.. A big fan of Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis' book together (I can't remember the name).

                        1 Reply
                        1. I'm a big fan of James Villas's latest: "Glory of Southern Cooking".

                          1. As mentioned above, Southern Living has some great cook books.

                            Stay away from the CI line of stuff. They tend to over complicate things and often add in stuff that is decisively not southern.

                            As always, the Internet can be your best resource. Just type in the dish you want to make or simply "Southern food recipes" and see what comes up. Have a look at a few recipes and get a general idea of what's going on in there. Some sites will even give you some back ground on the dish so you can actually come up with your own recipe.

                            And if you ever come across grandma's recipe box/book in a garage/estate sale/auction, jump on it. You may have a treasure trove there.


                            1. I second (third?) the Junior League cookbook suggestions. I would also recommend Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine by Carol and Norma Jean Darden.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: amethiste

                                Ronni Lundy's Butter Beans to Blackberries and also Shuck Bean, Stack Cakes, and Honest Fried Chicken
                                Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread & Scuppernong Wine: The Folklore and Art of Southern Appalachian Cooking by Dabny
                                My favorite for things to bring to parties and for entertaining is Party Receipts from the Charleston Junior League: Hors D'Oeuvres, Savories, Sweets
                                Flavors of Kentucky by Sharon Thompson

                                Creating a Stir from the Lexington Medical Society Auxiliary which was a fundraising project to help children's charities and is the number on cookbook in KY.

                              2. I have 4 cookbooks that are my basic standbys for Southern Cooking. Each provides a decidedly different twist so that I often combine ideas.

                                Craig Claiborne's Southern Cooking
                                Camille Glenn's The Heritage of Southern Cooking
                                The Jackson Miss. Junior League Southern Sideboards
                                and, beleive it or not,
                                Ernest Matthew Mickler's White Trash Cooking.

                                Of course there are many regional cuisines for New Orleans, Texas, Miami etc but I think those cookbooks are in classes by themselves

                                1. You might try overstock.com for cook books. They have great prices, though a bad return policy.


                                  1. One of the latest cookbooks to hit the scene:

                                    Foods of the Southland by Dave Franks.
                                    It can be purchased at http://www.foodsofthesouthland.com/or....

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. If you're a fan of southern food and cooking, you should check out the Southern Foodways Alliance website - you can get a lot of info and cookbook reviews about southern food traditions there. http://www.southernfoodways.com I like to read their Gravy newsletter, which oftentimes has cookbook reviews.

                                      Then, when I find a book I want to own, I look for used books or reseller offerings at www.half.com, or used books on Amazon.com. Most of these books are in great shape (I usually buy the cheapest copy offered, and have never been dissapointed).

                                      1. There is a wonderful new book out by Jean Anderson "A Love Affair with Southern Cooking". I picked it up from the library on Pikawicca's suggestion, started reading and had to order it. Since I got burned with the Lee Bros. book and th4e new James Vilas last winter I was being cautious. It is a great cookbook and a good read.