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Seeking Great Southern Cookbook

Recently returned to Toronto after a two week tour of Tennessee and Kentucky. Hoping to try my hand at a few humble recreations of some of my new southern favourites: corn pudding, coleslaw, lemon ice box pie, etc. I'd love any recommendations for great southern cookbooks. I'm definitely willing to hunt, so out of print titles are welcome, too.

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  1. I have no idea if it's still available, but the Junior League of Memphis put out a cookbook YEARS ago that I still have and is still fabulous. Someone once made a comment about it that made me think it's a true collector's item and may still be available.

    Junior League House; 2711 Union Avenue, Extended; Memphis TN (NO ZIP CODE!)

    The Memphis Cookbook

    Of course, there is always the lady, Paula Deen.

    1. Try The Lee Brothers Cookbook. I believe it won a Beard award or some such.

      3 Replies
      1. re: roxlet

        Forget the Lee Bros. book. I can't say enough bad things about it.

        Jean Anderson's new book, is a great Southern Cookbook and a great read too. Any of the Jr. League books but remember the ladies were trotting out their best recipes, not necessarily their home-everyday recipes. If you can lay a hand on a copy of Marion Brown's Southern Cookbook, it is a classic and belongs in every Southern collection, A Gracious Plenty by John T. Edge, anythinh by Damon Lee Fowler, or Edna Lewis. I personally love Frank StittsSouthreern Table, some may find it too restauranty by I've never had anything bad from it or his restaurant. Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes and Honest Fried Chicken would not be a bad addition either.

        I threw Paula Deen's book away, a can of this and that is not my idea of cooking. Sorry, cream of mushroom soup soes not belong in stroganoff.

        1. re: Candy

          Excellent picks! I can't say enough good things about Marion Brown's Southern Cookbook. It really captures everyday, traditional Southern Chow to it's highest point. Many recipes look deceptively simple. It is one of the few cook books I own that I actually have used to cook from. Most are more for inspiration.

          1. re: meatn3

            I cut my cooking teeth on that book. It was our family bible. I have 3 copies and also her book on pickles and preserves.

      2. A Love Affair with Southern Cooking by Jean Anderson. Other than a couple of odd missteps in the glossary(one entry says baby back ribs are spare ribs from a young pig and another entry says poke[no poke recipe in the book which is fine by me because I was always disgusted by the stuff] is cooked like turnip greens--surprising errors for someone with as much cooking experience as Jean Anderson which makes me wonder if someone else wrote the glossary) and the lack of a fried okra recipe(which I think reflects Anderson's dislike of okra), the book is first-rate. I think it's better than the other recent acclaimed southern cookbooks--Villas', Lee Brothers' and certainly better than Paula Deen's.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Chimayo Joe

          I wasn't quite accurate about there not being a fried okra recipe in A Love Affair with Southern Cooking. There's a recipe for okra cakes(okra sliced extremely thin[1/8" cut], mixed with flour and a little water until it clumps together, and fried), and there's a recipe for okra & green tomato fritters.

          No recipe for the way I grew up eating it though--sliced about 3/8" thick, dredged in cornmeal or flour then fried--could be that Anderson just considered that method simple enough that no recipe was needed for the book.

        2. I, too, was going to recommend a Junior League cookbooks or Southern Living magazine's annual cookbook (probably the easiest for you to find, I would suspect, and you will have 30 years to choose from! http://www.oxmoorhouse.com/category/b...


          Junior League of Charlotte, NC is "Dining by Fireflies"
          Junior League of Charleston, SC is "Charleston Receipts"
          Junior League of Savannah, GA is "Savannah Style"

          (I have all three, and the Charleston one is my very favorite... there is a lot of history in it, as well as some recipes I have made numerous times over the years. However, I love the other two as well!)

          1 Reply
          1. re: Tehama

            Charleston Receipts is wonderful. I use it quite often.

          2. The old classic is Mrs. S.R. Dull's "Southern Cooking," long out of print but very easy to find, and shouldn't be at all expensive. "Southern Food" by John Egerton is not a cookbook per se, but an excellent historical and regional overview with lots of classic recipes. "New Southern Cooking" by Nathalie Dupree (or ANYTHING by Nathalie Dupree!) is just wonderful, as is "The New Southern Basics" by Nashville chef/restaurateur Martha Stamps. I do like James Villas's book a whole lot, too.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Will Owen

              Update: I've recently gotten two books by Nathalie Dupree that were profoundly disappointing - quick'n'easy I-hate-to-cook stuff that she obviously wrote to pay the rent. Sorry to see that. Get "New Southern Cooking" and let it go at that...

              1. I've always lived -- and cooked -- in the South, and when The Gift of Southern Cooking by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock came out a few years ago, I was completely re-energized about cooking Southern food. Grandmaw Peacock's Chicken and Rice from that book is one of the most delicious dishes I've ever eaten. Other books I've liked a lot are Southern Sideboards from the Junior League of Jackson, Mississippi (it's at least 25 years old) and My Mother's Southern Kitchen by James Villas (lots of good vegetables in there). I second the recommendation of the Memphis Junior League book as well. As far as Southern Living books go, if you want traditional Southern you might do better with the older books, as in recent years SL's recipes, though good, haven't seemed all that Southern to me. Bacon is Southern; feta cheese, not so much.

                1. A couple of great Ky cookbooks I use are Flavors of Kentucky by Sharon Thompson , A Slice of Kentucky, by The Cookbook Ladies , Splendor in the Bluegrass from the Junior League of Louisville,
                  Stack Cakes, and Honest Fried Chicken: The Heart and Soul of Southern Country Kitchens and Butter Beans to Blackberries: Recipes from a Southern Garden by Ronni Lundy.
                  Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes and Honest Fried Chicken was recognized by Gourmet magazine as one of six essential books on Southern cooking.

                  and my all time fave Mark Sohn's Appalachian Home Cooking: History Culture & Recipes

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: LaLa

                    Shuck Beans . . . is one of my favorites. The stories with each recipe are wonderful. I have two Shakertown books: We Make You Kindly Welcome; Pleasant Hill Press 1970 and Welcome Back to Pleasant Hill; Pleasant Hill Press 1977.

                    Kentucky Keepsakes by Elizabeth Ross. This one has several recipes for the same dish. The recipes are from recipe books or well known people. Really great

                    Cabbage Patch Famous Kentucky Recipes , Cabbbage Patch Circle 1956, Gateway Press.

                    1. re: Janet

                      On the Ky theme. I have a treasured copy of Out of Kentucky Kitchens by Marion Flexner pub. 1949 and an obscure little booklet "what I Like Best About Dining with the Gills...a booklet of their recipes fro the Science Hill Inn in Shelbyville, KY. Then to keep on the southern vein Egerton's Side Helpings is prety darn good too.

                  2. I'd second the suggestion to look at Edna Lewis books. Her "Taste of Country Cooking" might not be the best practical choice for recipes, but recounts in fascinating detail the home cooking of the black people of her town of Freetown, Virginia. The history and the food traditions, combined with her writing style, make for one of the best reads you'll find.

                    The book with Scott Peacock brings the recipes and the techniques up to date for modern kitchens.

                    No one has mentioned Helen Corbitt. She was director of restaurants for Neiman Marcus back in the 50s and 60s, introduced two generations of Texans to the then-exotic ingredient of sour cream in that part of the country, and minted peas, not to mention her fantastic 'sticky buns', then served in miniature with her signature popovers, also much smaller then than the giant, bloated ones served today. 'Miss Helen" knew a thing or two about cooking. Check Amazon for re-issues; I think her classics have been combined into a single book now.

                    1. Sorry, I also just remembered a fun little book I found on a remainder table once. Called "Recipes from the Old South", it is indeed filled with quaint recipes, historic, but often useable and always interesting. By Martha L. Meade, it's available used from Amazon for as little as sixty cents -- hard to beat the price for value.

                      1. "The Heritage of Southern Cooking," by Camille Glenn.

                        1. I'm currently enjoying The Glory of Southern Cooking by James Villas. He's a solid cookbook author.
                          Edna Lewis is a "must have" -- either her Taste of Country Cooking or the newer collaboration w/ Scott Peacock. We did Lewis as COTM -- you can see what people who cooked from it thought of it.

                          I bought the Lee Bros Southern Cooking but have not been very inspired by it.

                          And then for nouveaux, there's Frank Stitt's Southern Table. I can't get enough of his buttermilk vinaigrette! It was COTM in February

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: NYchowcook

                            i also heartily rec the glory of southern cooking by james villas, it's great.

                            and love all of edna lewis' books.

                            also am enjoying this title: the african-american heritage cookbook

                          2. Hands down: The Gift of Southern Cooking by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock.

                            Miss Lewis has been called Julia Child of southern cooking- I don't know if higher praise exists!

                            For more info on Miss Lewis and a few recipes:

                            And more info on Café Nicholson in NYC where she was the chef:

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: sfumato

                              I would absolutely agree the The Gift of Southern Cooking is an astounding cookbook. I'd also heartily recommend Edna Lewis's The Taste of Country Cooking. In the first book, there are recipes for coleslaw and corn pudding, but the lemon pie is a lemon chess pie. In the second book, there is a recipe for corn pudding and lemon meringue pie. I don't know how these compare to a lemon ice box pie.

                            2. jerriblank, many fine recs here, but i wanted to add this:
                              "The Cotton Country Collection" from the Junior Charity League of Monroe, Louisiana. First printing 1972.

                              chock-a-block full of tasty home cookin' recipes -- many of which foods i grew up with in florida. i have so many sticky note tabs on this copy right here, it looks as if it is sprouting chunky orange hair! at random, here are a few recipes i have tagged to make: mustard pickle relish, baked deviled eggs for brunch, artichoke fritters, green rice, spinach souffle mold, stuffed squash, sweet potato surprise cake ( THE best cake in the world!), french coconut pie, cabbage casserole, pepper grits, pickled black eyed peas, orange rolls, hattie's corn bread, easy eggs sardou, coach house black bean soup, sausage biscuits, and on and on......

                              oh, just took some of its venison recipes to our hunter friends. they are now happy campers! (and cooks)

                              and you can't go wrong cooking from the southern living cookbooks. subscribe to southern living magazine, too! http://www.southernliving.com/souther...
                              that's the online portal, but the physical magazine is nice to leisurely page through...

                              and the recipes you mention: do you want a creamy coleslaw, or a sweet/sour (no mayo)? and did your lemon ice box pie have a cookie crumb crust? chocolate wafers?

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: alkapal

                                looky looky, here are some good prices for "cotton country collection": http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listin...

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  Hi there, I just got my used copy through Amazon for about $5.00 all told - and all I can say is, don't look through this book while hungry if you have no access to a kitchen. I want to make the Galatoire's luncheon for four right now!

                                  1. re: buttertart

                                    buttertart, GOOD GIRL!!!

                                    once you start bookmarking items with those post-it "page-marker" sticky notes http://www.3m.com/US/office/postit/pr... , you'll see the book sprouting a bright neon "wig"-full!

                                    1. re: alkapal

                                      Yep, it took a whole lot of arm-twisting on your part to get me to buy another cookbook! I usually turn page corners down on my own books, but these look like a better idea (could color-code by recipe type, even!).

                                      1. re: buttertart

                                        turn down page corners?!?!?! aaarrrrrggggghhhhh. i won't report you to book protective services, though.

                                        1. re: alkapal

                                          Just a snick. They're my books, after all! Don't turn me in...pls...

                                          1. re: buttertart

                                            Ha! I just got a copy of this same Cotton Country cookbook for $.50 at goodwill
                                            the other day. No folded pages or sticky notes.
                                            What are some of the recipes you guys have marked?

                                            1. re: bbqboy

                                              see my post upthread from may 27, '08

                                2. I'll add another Junior League book, "Tidewater on the Half Shell" by the Norfolk-Virginia Beach JL. We got a copy for our wedding 20 years ago and I still use it regularly. Not everything in it is Southern, though it does include classics like corn pudding, cheese grits, lemon chess pie, pecan pie, etc. The Lewis/Peacock book is probably the best classic Southern one I've seen.


                                  1. I have used this cookbook for 25 years in fact I actually wore the book out and my husband found a new updated copy about a year ago so I know they still sell it. It is called Talk about Good and published by the Junior League of Lafayette Louisiana. To order a copy call 1 800 757-3651 there a many many classic recipes of the South as well as other regional Louisiana recipes. I have over 200 cookbooks and this is one of my top 10 that I treasure.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Analisas mom

                                      That's my very favorite, Junior League cookbook. I inherited mine from my MIL 23 years ago and, yes it is falling apart.

                                      1. Of chef cookbooks, the landmarks include everything by the immortal Edna Lewis (who I say ranks ahead of both Julia Child and Alice Waters in terms of deeply penetrating influence, albeit without much media notice until the last decade of her life) and the late Bill Neal's Southern Cooking.

                                        1. Terribly grateful to you all. Will be swimming in southern cookbooks soon. And ebay receipts. And debt.


                                          1. try abebooks to order used, like new, etc. books (cookery and other topics)--- a friend recommended them, and they have a great selection. http://www.abebooks.com/

                                            please, if anyone else has a good online source for great cookbook values, let us know!

                                            as example of abebook's nice layout, just look at something i bookmarked for florida cookbooks: http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/Searc...

                                            oh, need i mention alibris for good book values? http://www.alibris.com/booksearch?sub...

                                            1. we would love for you to post about some of your Southern Experiences!

                                              1. I'll second the Cotton Country Collection cookbook from the Junior League of Monroe. Growing up, it was one of our most used cookbooks. And the River Road cookbooks from Baton Rouge's Junior League are also part of my favorites for Southern cooking. I do like Edna Lewis' books, too. Keep in mind that you will find different takes on Southern cooking depending on which part of the South the author is writing about...for instance, in Louisiana I wouldn't dream of making red beans & rice without andouille sausage but in Texas, where I ultimately ended up, no one blinks an eye if it's made with regular smoked sausage. They're two totally different tastes and no one Louisiana-bred would believe that red beans made with smoked sausage are "authentic" but the Texas folks argue differently.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Kaya_n_Austin

                                                  Beans and rice without andouille, not me, and I'm from Houston. I have three favorite cookbooks: Oceans of Cooking (Rockport, Tx.), Pirates Pantry (Junior League of Lake Charles, La.),and Cooking Across the South from Southern Living. The former two are still in print, the latter, I'm not sure about.

                                                2. All of the Calling All Cooks are great! Every woman in my family has one. It has every Southern recipe possible!


                                                  1. Craig Claibourne's "Southern Cooking" is fabulous. He grew up in Mississippi and lived in his mother's boarding house. What a book!

                                                    1. Along the lines of the great Jr League books mentioned is "Louisiana Entertains: Official Cookbook 1984 Louisiana World Exposition". I found it at a thrift store, and just love it. It has menus for breakfast, dinner and supper, for 2 to 100, lots of fun. I think you can get it on Amazon.

                                                      I highly recommend the Edna Lewis books, and especially the Gift of Southern Cooking... I've made most of the recipes in it, and all have been wonderful. Especially Grandma Peacock's chicken & rice mentioned above....