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Traditional Southern cooking - cookbooks?

Got Fred Thompson's "Southern Sides" for Christmas. I asked for it, based on a positive New York Times review. But the title turns out to be misleading, except that Thompson is a southerner. Leeks vinaigrette? Parmesan-crusted edamame? Quinoa and scallion southern pancake? That's not what I'd call southern cooking, it's Thompson's personal take on fusion cookery with a barely perceptible southern accent. And he keeps asking for ingredients that I can't get.

I'm looking for a cookbook with which I can make some of the dishes that my grandma's black cook served us when I was a kid, especially side dishes. Not soul food, and not regional like cajun or creole, unless there's a cuisine from southwest Virginia; I like both of the above but have cookbooks for them already. And definitely not Paula Deen. :-)

I see that Southern Living has published several cookbooks, most recently "1,001 Ways to Cook Southern." They aren't in my local bookstore and I wouldn't know how to choose among them. Or are there better choices? Help, please!

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  1. The southern focused cookbooks I'd recommend are:

    > Bon Appetit, Y'All: Recipes and Stories from Three Generations of Southern Cooking by Virginia Willis
    Co-COTM September 2009:

    > The Heritage of Southern Cooking: An Inspired Tour of Southern Cuisine Including Regional Specialties, Heirloom Favorites, and Original Dishes by Camille Glenn

    > Screen Doors and Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales from a Southern Cook by Martha Hall Foose
    Co-COTM September 2009:

    "Bon Appetit, Y'All" contains true southern recipes that Virginia Willis grew up eating in Georgia and Louisiana. Food her grandmothers and mother cooked from old family recipes. Ms Willis gives us her own recipes as well, usually with a bow toward French cuisine since that's what she studied in France and elsewhere.

    "The Heritage of Southern Cooking" is a classic southern cookbook with family heirloom favorites from her native Kentucky but includes other southern regions as well.

    "Screen Doors and Sweet Tea" is written by a much loved chef and storyteller. Ms Foose gives us her Mississippi perspective with a contemporary flair.

    ETA: All three books are available from Amazon re-sellers.

    12 Replies
    1. re: Gio

      "The Heritage of Southern Cooking" is an absolute go-to for me. Great recipes.

      1. re: sunshine842

        I'll third Camille Glenn's book. My copy is falling apart.

        I'd also volunteer the magisterial "Southern Food" by John Egerton. http://www.amazon.com/Southern-Food-H... It's a wonderful history and has some fine recipes.

        Recently, my family gave me the Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook http://www.amazon.com/Southern-Foodwa..., which is (as you might suspect) compiled from tons of community cookbooks. It's sensational.

        I'd also recommend an earlier Alliance book, A Gracious Plenty. It's wonderful reading, spiced throughout with literary tidbits relating to our favorite cuisine. http://www.amazon.com/Gracious-Plenty...

      2. re: Gio

        I LOVE Bon Appetit Y'all as well. As a born and bred Southerner, it's now my go-to and I owe thanks to CH and COTM for turning me on to it.

        1. re: c oliver

          I'm surprised others here haven't commented on BA Y'all. It's traditional Southern cooking with updated techniques. If you like your vegetables cooked to death, as the ones I grew up on were, then, no, you won't find those there. But it's wonderful, wonderful book. I have loads of Jr. League, church, women's clubs, etc. books. NEVER look at them anymore. Guess I need to donate.

          1. re: c oliver

            When I want true Southern cooking, I don't want "updated techniques". I want the taste I grew up with. And if you "NEVER" look at your community cookbooks it's your loss.

            1. re: jmckee

              And if you NEVER eat some collards that are bright green then that's your loss also. And why a better way to get the same taste is a problem, I don't know. I can communicate via snail mail but mostly I use the internet. I'm 65 y.o. but always open to change. YMMV.

              1. re: jmckee

                As I posted upthread,
                ""Bon Appetit, Y'All" contains true southern recipes that Virginia Willis grew up eating in Georgia and Louisiana. Food her grandmothers and mother cooked from old family recipes. Ms Willis gives us her own recipes as well, usually with a bow toward French cuisine since that's what she studied in France and elsewhere."

                The main portion of the book consists of true Southern family recipes.

                1. re: Gio

                  I apologize if I led jmckee or anyone else to think that this isn't REAL Southern cooking. I just got home and was browsing through the book. Not only "Mama" and "Meme," but her grandfather, cousins, neighbors, etc. And she always points out when it's not a traditional recipe but they still fit into a basic Southern menu.

                  1. re: Gio

                    First time or two I read through this book, my thoughts were, nice book, but way to much French bastardization. Just as a favor and respect to/for you Miss Gio I will revisit it again to see if my opinion has changed.

                    To the OP ~ I would point you to local/regional areas of interest. Church, Civic Groups, Jr. League, etc as good sources for the type of information you are looking for. Keeping in mind that no one book will be an all encompassing source. Start your search in your area of interest ~ (SW Virginia) and expand out.

                    Have Fun and Good luck!

                    1. re: Uncle Bob

                      That's what I've been doing, thanks to lots of helpful suggestions from chowhounds. Thanks for yours as well.

                      1. re: Uncle Bob

                        Thank you Uncle Bob! (I really Did have an UB)

                        You have to remember I'm a born & bred New Englander (Massachusetts) with an Italian heritage sensibility so I don't have real old Southern recipes in my history with which to compare BAY'A. However, from the positive response of many CHs who cooked along with me several years ago and when BAY'A was COTM Ms Willis's recipes struck an authentic note. Needless to say, I really like this book.

                    2. re: jmckee

                      I have to say...the best Southern cookbooks I have are the DIY church cookbooks from Blue Eye Baptist Church in Lincoln, Alabama. These aren't recipes from some celebrity chef or city-dwelling food writer--these are the way people really cook in the South every day. Okay, maybe I'm biased--I'm related to nearly everybody who contributed, and the first book was dedicated to my grandmother--but there are some amazing recipes in there. Yes, there are a few Bisquick Impossible Pies and casseroles made with Campbell's Cream of Mushroom...but in among them are a lot of old-fashioned gems handed down for generations.

                      The oldest and best of the Blue-Eye cookbooks are in the greedy hands of my family (and if you did find a copy, I have a few newly married-in cousins who might hurt you to get their hands on it), but there are thousands of country churches with Ladies' Missionary Circles and high school youth groups who've put together cookbooks of their own. Ebay has a whole category of church cookbooks http://www.ebay.com/bhp/church-cookbooks . Or, just start digging through your local thrift store or used bookstore. And yes, if you have these books and don't use them, by all means, donate them--there are plenty of people who'll treasure them and use them regularly!

              2. I love "River Road Recipes." These are more Louisiana vs. straight "Southern" as in Alabama, Mississippi, North Florida, Georgia style recipes. http://www.amazon.com/dp/0961302682/r...

                Another one that is crucial to have is "Cotton Country Collection." It is what you are looking for if you want the Southern home-cooked meals of your memories (since I can read your mind. LOL). http://www.amazon.com/Cotton-Country-...
                "Charleston Receipts" is another classic gem. http://www.amazon.com/Charleston-Rece...

                Each of these is an older style cookbook, and has only recipes and no photos. The recipes are ones you'll flag and end up leaving the books looking like sticky note porcupines, I promise! (Especially "Cotton Country Collection").

                Gio's recommendations are also good ones, from the modern cookbook style repertoire. I'd also mention Edna Lewis's books in this category. http://www.amazon.com/The-Gift-Southe...

                Southern Living's book is good, too. I'll get the title, as there are many. (edit: I could not find the old title I was looking for, but this one looks like it fits the bill perfectly --> http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/south... ). Southern Living recipes are always reliable, in my experience. Tried and true.

                There was a great thread on this topic a couple of years or so ago. Actually, this shows even more threads: http://search.yahoo.com/search?ei=utf...

                10 Replies
                1. re: alkapal

                  Oh.. I totally forgot Edna Lewis, Alka. Her book "The Taste of Country Cooking" was the June 2007 COTM.

                  1. re: Gio

                    Ooh, I didn't know it was COTM. I've had it for ages but not sure I've EVER cooked from it. Thanks, Gio.

                  2. re: alkapal

                    +1 for those Junior League type cookbooks...eg River Road and Charleston Receipts.

                    I have a couple from a little community in Southeast Louisiana, that I love.

                    I also enjoy The Lee Brothers Southern Cookbook.

                    Disclaimer: I am a mis-born Northern boy, so I don't have the "bona fides" of others...these are just opinions!!!

                    1. re: Monch

                      Here's another good Junior League cookbook, Pirate's Pantry out of Louisiana.


                      Another one I love is Oceans of Cooking, just Texas Gulf coast seafood.


                      1. re: James Cristinian

                        yes indeed, "pirate's pantry" is a rock star of real-deal southern seafood cookbooks! nice to see you, james!

                        1. re: alkapal

                          Thank you alkapal, enjoy your posts and you always keep it civil.

                    2. re: alkapal

                      I love River Road recipes too, along with Southern Sidboards (Jackson, MS) and Pirates Pantry ( Lake Charles, LA). I've yet to pick up Charleston Receipt's although I should as it's part of my family heritage. Who's Your Mama books 1 and 2 by Marcelle Bienvenu are also wonderful. Although not with the OP is looking for.

                      Are you thinking of Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook? It's been around for quite awhile in various editions. I haven't seen the 1001 book yet.

                      1. re: rasputina

                        I didn't see your Pirate's Pantry post until just now. Obviously, great minds think alike,

                        1. re: rasputina

                          rasputina, i have a very old Southern Living cookbook --maybe-- : "Best Recipes," with a brown cover. My mom gave it to me around 1980.

                          My sister, Kay, sent in and had published from SL a cornflake oven-fried chicken recipe back in the 70's.

                        2. My rural southern background does not really involve recipes.

                          You get vegetables out of the garden, put them in a pot with some bacon grease and cook them until nice and tender. Tender enough to make CH shudder.

                          Pork chops, cubed steak and chicken are dredged in flour and fried in a skillet.

                          Roasts are seared and then braised with (gasp) water.

                          We get Southern Living magazine and they always have some tasty looking recipes but they are nouvelle southern.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: kengk

                            Southern Living magazine recipes are often trendier than those in the SL cookbooks I own.

                            As to recipes, one of the joys of these Southern cookbooks is the fabulous array of southern pies and cakes! For most of those (esp. cakes), one does need recipes -- recipes that used to be guarded like hawks would guard their young! LOL.

                            I suggest a relatively new high-quality magazine for those who appreciate the South -- Garden & Gun. Check it out online, and then subscribe. It is a substantial magazine printed on quality paper with quality writing and photography. (You'll treasure back issues and never toss them. You'll want to share them with family members, but get them back. Ha!). http://gardenandgun.com/magazine

                          2. I agree with thos have suggest the River Road Recipes from the Baton Rouge Junior League. All of them are fantastic.

                            I have also used A Gracious Plenty: Recipes and Recollections from the American South. I find everything in it to be authentic southern. http://www.amazon.com/Gracious-Plenty...

                            Another good one is Meals Like Mom Used to Make. I grew up in the south and while this one may not be specifically southern it is the meals I had growing up. http://www.amazon.com/Meals-Like-Mom-...

                            I know Paula Deen elicits either a love or hate response from most people but I very much like her Southern Cooking Bible. Just throwing it out there.

                              1. re: mudcat

                                I agree, Bill Neal's Southern Cooking could be the book the OP is looking for.
                                The author was a key figure in the Southern food revival in the late 80's - nearly every modern version of shrimp & grits is based on the recipe from his restaurant. It's a short but authoritative book - he was both very smart and a good writer.

                                1. re: caganer

                                  Thanks for your comments. However, I'm not looking for a late '80s, "modern" version of Southern cooking. That's just what I don't want. As I explained, I'm looking to make some of the dishes that my grandma's black cook served us when I was a kid, some 50-60 years ago, and she was elderly even then. And I've found some sources that are giving me what I want.

                                  1. re: John Francis

                                    Then Edna Lewis is who you are looking for......

                                    1. re: John Francis

                                      There is nothing "late '80's 'modern'" about Bill Neal's Southern Cooking. The book is explicitly intended to showcase recipes that would have been recognizable to a Southern cook in early 20th century - before convenience foods and canned soup began to obliterate traditional cooking.
                                      It is the one of the most thoughtful and well written cookbooks on the subject. You can reject it for the fact that it was written in the 80's if you want, it's your loss.

                                        1. re: mudcat

                                          I agree. His are authentic home cooked recipes,and his baking book is also wonderful, and historically based (with great historic photos). It's not 80's cooking at all.

                                2. Nathalie Dupree just came to mind. She was about the most spastic "tv" chef ever but she made good stuff. Don't remember looking at any of her books.


                                  Also, don't forget your public library. Here, cookbooks are one of the most popular things on the shelf and they have a very good selection.

                                  1. Craig Claiborne has a good one on southern cooking, but I don't recall the name.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. I think Marion Brown's Southern Cookbook is exactly what you are looking for. It was originally published in 1951. It is a classic and captures the style of cooking that your grandma' cook was familiar with.

                                      It has been reissued but there are plenty of used older copies available. Every chef I know who is interested in Southern food has it in their collection.

                                      15 Replies
                                      1. re: meatn3

                                        Oh, I found this at an antique store once. It is terrific. A great historical document.

                                          1. re: meatn3

                                            I ordered this - the 1968 edition, though some say it's not as good as the 1951 - and when it arrived, the first recipe I turned to was spoonbread. Source: the chef of the Hotel Roanoke. Can't get much closer to home than that! And from the ingredients list, it ought to be pretty much like my grandma's cook used to make. Glad you suggested it. I think this may be the southern cookbook for me, though the Roanoke Valley Junior League's cookbook is also on the way.

                                            1. re: John Francis


                                              I've had really good results from this book. The only problems have been due to ingredients no longer available... Many recipes don't look like much but taste so much more than they read.

                                              Have fun! There is not much better than tasting a dish from the past. I spent over 30 years trying to recreate a dish of my Grandmothers to no avail. Finally found it in a completely unexpected source. I made it for a potluck last year and every person there who was of the same age and ethnicity approached me to discuss the dish. All of them had been searching for their Grandmothers dish and were ecstatic to have found it!

                                              1. re: meatn3

                                                Looking further into the Southern Cook Book, I find it not only omits at least one recipe from the first edition but does it clumsily - duchess potato croquettes calls for "3 cups Duchess Potatoes (see recipe)" but the recipe isn't there. So I'm getting the first edition, which is in the right period anyway since it came out in 1951.

                                                1. re: John Francis

                                                  I recently replaced my old ratty paperback copy with a hardback. The larger format is easier to read! I seem to have the same edition as you.

                                                  I "think" the recipe is on the following page under Duchess Potato Roses which adds an egg to the preceding Creamed Potatoes.

                                                  Agreed that this is cumbersome and lacks clarity. In that way the book is much like a community cookbook - the recipes are from various sources so the voice is a bit erratic.

                                                  Perhaps someone with the original edition will take a peek?

                                                  1. re: meatn3

                                                    I now have the 1951 edition. It's blameless, as it doesn't include the recipe for Duchess potato croquettes which starts, "3 cups Duchess potatoes (see recipe)." There is no such recipe; we're left to infer it from the recipe for Duchess potato roses, which doesn't spell it out.

                                                2. re: meatn3

                                                  What ingredients in Marian Brown's book can you not find? I've never come across anything in that book that I have been unable to get.

                                                  1. re: Candy

                                                    Good question and upon reflection I think it was in her Pickles and Preserves book. The one item that comes to mind was a recipe calling for a vial of Lilly's lime. After quite a bit of sleuthing I found that the product has been off the market for years. Pickling Lime can be substituted but it is really not the same...

                                                    I seem to think there were a couple of more things like that, but it has been several years since I really have read the book page by page.

                                              2. re: meatn3

                                                I have 5 copies, anytime I spot a copy in used book sales I grab it,

                                                1. re: meatn3

                                                  You're right, the 1951 edition is the one to have. It contains all the recipes I picked out of the 1968 edition and some others I'm interested in that were dropped. Two of the best recipes in the Roanoke Valley Junior League cookbook, from the chef of the Hotel Roanoke, are right out of Marion Brown.

                                                  The only problem with this book is that the recipes can be, how you say, informal. The one for sweet potatoes Margherita says to layer the five yams in a baking dish but not that they should be sliced or cut up, but if that isn't done you can't layer them. Also to add "dots of butter" between the layers without saying what a dot is, and enough water to make a syrup with the sugar between the layers - but not a clue about how much will be enough but not too much. No doubt this is authentic, but it doesn't help me get the dish right the first time. But I'm sure I'll eventually get it right and it should be worth the trial and error.

                                                  1. re: John Francis

                                                    For the sweet potato dish slice them about 1/3- 1/4" thick - any thinner and they will fall apart. Slice into rounds. They allow ease in arranging and offer more nooks and cranny's for the syrup to bubble through.

                                                    Butter dots: Picture a pat of butter like casual restaurants offer. Now imagine the pat cut into 9 equal bits. That's the approx. size you want for a "dot". Basically a dot is the amount which is easily pinched from a slice.

                                                    The water is trickier. Essentially you are ending up with a thick simple syrup which is a 1/1 ratio of water/sugar. Measure your brown sugar and use the same volume water.

                                                    How much brown sugar? Candied yams are usually ungodly sweet. My Mother's used a large can of yams, a box of brown sugar and a stick of butter. I loved them as a child, now I can't touch them 'cos they are too sweet. Personally, I'd start with a cup of packed brown sugar. Your taste and the variety of sweet potato will help fine tune it in future renditions.

                                                    Light brown sugar will allow the flavor of the orange to come through a bit more. Dark brown sugar is more traditional in in most Southern candied yams in my experience.

                                                    Hope this helps!

                                                    1. re: meatn3

                                                      Thanks - it's very helpful. Now to see how it turns out. If it's very sweet, that's how Grandma's cook's candied yams were.

                                                      1. re: John Francis

                                                        If you want very sweet then use more than a cup of brown sugar!

                                                        When I try to recreate a dish I look at half a dozen recipes and study the ratios. Most of them will be similar. That gives me a good starting point!

                                                    2. re: John Francis

                                                      The cook probably didn't measure, not unusual. My grandmother would have probably told me how to prepare a dish and not give me any measurements. She just knew.

                                                  2. Secret to southern cooking, when in doubt fry it in butter or fatback.

                                                    19 Replies
                                                      1. re: jrvedivici

                                                        Um. NO. You clearly have no understanding of the diversity of Southern cooking at all.

                                                        1. re: jmckee

                                                          I just called my local farmer's market looking for okra, not in yet, for my nearly world famous okra, corn and tomatoes. Other than a little oil for sautéing the onions, garlic, peppers, and tomatoes, it is fat free. I guess I could use bacon grease instead of olive oil, nah.

                                                          1. re: James Cristinian

                                                            you mean you found some corn and tomatoes IN season? LOL. (the only tomatoes in season now are in florida, that i know of). may-august for okra, i read.

                                                            as an aside…

                                                            i find the frozen cut okra to be perfect for dishes like that, which are cooked in a pot with a little moisture, not fried. i've never tried to fry the frozen okra from a thawed pack of frozen pieces, which i would prep myself with a dusting of cornmeal and flour.

                                                            so, if it is out of season (like for mardis gras gumbo), try the frozen.

                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                              A lot of the produce we get here comes from Mexico, so yes they had corn and tomatoes. They had fresh okra a couple of weeks ago and I missed it. They're expecting okra soon. An aside, this place is not a true farmer's market as much of the produce comes from Mexico and elsewhere, but that' what everyone here calls it.

                                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                                  I just saw some beautiful okra at the local HEB from Mexico, but it's 3.98 a pound and that's not happening until the "farmer's market" has it at half the price.

                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                      Indeed!! I just one uped you on punctuation marks, ahhhh!!!!!

                                                                      1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                        darn, now i'm wanting some good fried okra, but will not fork over $4 a pound.

                                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                                          Back when I had a house and a mini farm in the backyard I had to be careful not to plant too much. It loves Houston heat and humidity, and literally grows a couple of inches a day.

                                                                          1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                            It does grow like crazy. Last summer I had about 6 plants and the pods would literally grow several inches a day.

                                                                    2. re: James Cristinian

                                                                      Living in NoCal the price of okra pains me every year. Same with collards. Like $4 for a 'bunch' that ain't as big as any bunch I've ever seen.

                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                        I called the local so called farmers market and they had it mid week, crossing my fingers for Saturday.

                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                            Score, fresh okra 1.69 a pound last Saturday.

                                                            2. re: jmckee

                                                              I think that a tongue was placed firmly in the jowl there.

                                                              Now, I use the "deep-fried lard" joke often, but then, I AM from the Deep South.


                                                          2. I'm not familiar with food from Virginia but I'd look into the Junior League editions, especially the older ones. I'm very happy with the ones I have. But was your mothers black cook from southern VA originally? Because her recipes are likely local to where she grew up.

                                                            I like Thompson's Southern Sides cookbook.

                                                            1. I just re-read your post and wanted to hone in on the SW Virginia aspect. If your grandma's cook was from the mountains then she was raised in Appalachia. That region has some different influences than most of the rest of the South and the traditional recipes reflect that.

                                                              A really good book is Appalachian Home Cooking
                                                              History, Culture, and Recipes
                                                              By: Mark F. Sohn

                                                              1. I love the Southern Foodways Alliance cookbook. New Orleans does creep in a bit, but it's mostly food that my grandmother used to make. It's worth it for the Angel Biscuit recipe alone.


                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: KtMeyers

                                                                  Ah, another good one, that I had unfortunately omitted. We have done their culinary events at Blackberry Farm, and also have the cookbook. Just great.


                                                                  1. re: KtMeyers

                                                                    everyone should hook up with the southern food ways alliance folks. good stuff.

                                                                  2. Southern Living's "Deep South Cookbook" (1972) is a good overview.

                                                                    THE classic is by Mrs. S. R. Dull, and if I could find my copy I'd tell you more, but she was the first to define and explore the genre in an encyclopedic book. John Egerton owes her a debt of gratitude, I'm sure.

                                                                    My most-consulted one might be hard to find: "Miss Mary's Down-Home Cooking," by Diana Dalsass, presents recipes from Miss Mary Bobo's (1881-1983) famous boarding-house in Lynchburg, TN, that evolved into a reservations-only, two seatings per day family-style restaurant. This is from NAL Books, 1984. There is also "Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House Cookbook" by Pat Mitchamore and Lynne Tolley (Rutledge Hill Press 1994) that is more extensive and gives all the history of the place; this one is probably still being sold at the gift shop in Lynchburg. Nobody there would admit to knowing about the first one …

                                                                    Martha Phelps Stamps, "The New Southern Basics" (Cumberland House 1997). Martha is well known and liked in Nashville for several of her ventures, the last that I know of being the now-closed (darn it) Martha's At the Plantation, on the grounds of the Belle Meade Mansion. She also a good acquaintance and a very good writer. This is full of Tennessee favorites either faithfully polished up and passed along or given a useful makeover, plus a lot of her own ideas about what to do with vegetables.

                                                                    I'm sure all of these are out of print in the editions I have - I know two of the publishers are long gone - but I got just two of these new anyway. Just a good excuse (if you need one) to hang out in used-book stores …

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: Will Owen

                                                                      will, i am always so happy to see your posts!

                                                                    2. Though already mentioned
                                                                      I want to put a clear vote for Edna Lewis' books

                                                                      1. The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery:


                                                                        Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes, and Honest Fried Chicken:


                                                                        Look for church and community cookbooks from your area. I love church lady cookbooks.

                                                                        1. Try looking up White Trash Cooking by Ernest Matthew Mickler - some of the recipes are things my Mississippi raised mother-in-law would fix for family gatherings, others I wouldn't eat to save my life; but it is one of the funniest books I have ever read! The side note stories are the best!!!!

                                                                          1. We have many, and some get a tad specific, in that they are New Orleans/Louisiana-centric, but here are some, that you might enjoy:

                                                                            Blackberry Farm's cookbooks: http://www.blackberryfarm.com/cookboo...

                                                                            River Roads Cookbooks: https://www.google.com/search?q=river...

                                                                            Talk About Good: https://www.google.com/shopping/produ...

                                                                            My wife also has many regional Junior League cookbooks, from various regions in the Deep South. Same for many volumes of "Southern Living Magazine."

                                                                            Good luck,


                                                                            1. I appreciate all the suggestions and see some that I'll try to check out. Perhaps I should have been more specific about location. My grandmother lived in Roanoke, VA, which is not Appalachia, and her cooks were local people. She herself was from Louisiana, but I don't remember any creole or cajun dishes on her table. Instead there were sweet potatoes (very sweet), spoonbread, black-eyed peas, and other dishes that we never had at home in Pennsylvania.

                                                                              The local Barnes & Noble has an impressive book that I haven't seen mentioned here, but on first look is promising: Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart's "Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking." The ingredients and procedures for these and other long-remembered side dishes may not be exactly the same as grandma's cook used 60 years ago, but my guess is that they might turn out well. Has anyone here used this cookbook?

                                                                              9 Replies
                                                                              1. re: John Francis

                                                                                Like "Southern Cooking," even the geographical reference to "Louisiana" is very broad, and extremely varied.

                                                                                New Orleans gets a lot of ink, and is a wonderful cuisine, with some varied elements, but it is NOT all that Louisiana has to offer. While there ARE some Cajun elements, that crop up in NOLA Cuisine, NOLA Cuisine is NOT Cajun, regardless of what some believe.

                                                                                Not all THAT far from New Orleans, there IS Cajun Cuisine, but the area of the state is fairly localized, and in the south, plus west of New Orleans, in general.

                                                                                If one heads to Baton Rouge (the Capital), and not THAT far north, the cuisine changes. Head even farther north, and the cuisine is more like that of Mississippi, or Alabama, or Georgia - Deep South, but also perhaps with a touch of Ozarks Cuisine (similar to, but different from Appalachia).

                                                                                Element of the cuisine of Texas can creep in, as one goes to the west.

                                                                                I've been a "student" of both New Orleans Cuisine, and also of much of the Deep South, but am so often confronted with new dishes, or treatments, or even culinary philosophies.

                                                                                Even in Appalachia, what was common in one hollow, might have been totally alien to the folk, a ridge, or two over, in another hollow, in the same region. Like micro-climates in wine regions, if one heads only a few miles in any direction, the peas, beans, corn, etc., that flourished in one spot, might be almost unknown to another, only a few miles away, but on the other side of a mountain.

                                                                                Also, as those "micro-regions" might have been settled by folk with different ethnic backgrounds, what played well in one, might be unheard of in another.

                                                                                The cuisine of The Deep South is a wonderful thing, and fortunately, many are working hard to perpetuate it, in all of its forms.

                                                                                Now, the "Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking," is new to me, so I need to get a copy for my wife - the "Southern cook" in our family. She has an entire wall in the "cookbook library" just for her "Southern Living" cookbooks, and has most of them, going back 30 years. She did stop getting their "Christmas" editions, as there was too much repetition. She also has hundreds of other cookbooks, mostly dedicated the cuisine of the South, and the Deep South. Still, we pick up new ones, all the time.

                                                                                Many have a totally mistaken impression on "Southern Cooking," as evidenced by a "joke reply" above. Most fail to factor in regionalization, and try to view it in a homogeneous manner. It cannot be defined that way, though there ARE some similarities - grow what you can, prepare it with what you have nearby and enjoy.


                                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                  I do understand about differences within regions and indeed between households, but your long post is interesting. Thanks for posting.

                                                                                  It would be helpful to know more about your wife's angle on southern cooking, regional or otherwise, and whether she recommends a particular cookbook or two from the many she's used, one that might answer my need.

                                                                                  1. re: John Francis

                                                                                    In my wife's case, she is first a "child of New Orleans," and second "of the Deep South." While there is some culinary overlap, there are probably more differences, than similarities.

                                                                                    That gets to the root of "regional differences."

                                                                                    Still, she adapts well to those, and can interpolate between the differences. We are fortunate to have recipes (and cookbooks - the topic of this thread) from both the Deep South, and from New Orleans. Kind of "the best of both worlds."

                                                                                    As for "regional Southern" recipes, we are always finding new ones, at least to us.

                                                                                    Here first "go-to" cookbook is "River Roads."


                                                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                      Thanks again. That's "River Road Recipes: The Textbook of Louisiana Cuisine" by the Junior League of Baton Rouge, right? The index looks promising and it's not expensive, so maybe I'll pick it up, since I love Louisiana cooking. But it's further south than I have in mind.

                                                                                  2. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                    Bill Hunt

                                                                                    I am always enlightened by your posts! I am fascinated by the cuisines of the US. It is so varied it's like a history lesson. Can you recommend a book or books that you've enjoyed that expounds on this theme?

                                                                                    1. re: ItalianNana

                                                                                      As mentioned above, my wife's favorite is "River Roads," which deals with more New Orleans, and South Louisiana cuisine, than the Deep South. OTOH, she has maybe 20 years of "Southern Living" cookbooks, and is always on the lookout for similar, localized Junior League cookbooks.

                                                                                      Though neither of us grew up in the Smoky Mountain Region, she has enjoyed several of those too. More Deep South, than New Orleans, by a long shot, but still great. She loves the "Blackberry Farm" cookbooks (two, if I count correctly), and they concentrate on the foods of the Smoky Mountains, and the produce of that region of the Deep South.

                                                                                      Saying "the cuisine of the South, or Deep South," is almost like saying the cuisine of Western Europe - it encompasses so many different regions, just like Western Europe encompasses so many countries, that it's tough to define. Can one typify French Cuisine vs Italian Cuisine? How about Swiss Cuisine vs Spanish Cuisine? Cannot be done.

                                                                                      IMHO, the US is as diverse as the same geographical area, placed over a map of Western Europe. Though there are far fewer international boundaries, the cultures, the cuisine and even the societies, exhibit a similar diversity.

                                                                                      Though it has been covered, and in great detail, I see similar when talking about "Mexican cuisine." Large, diversified country, with many influences. Little is really common to the entire country, and though some names might seem familiar, when one gets down to the details - to the recipes - they find many differences.


                                                                                  3. re: John Francis

                                                                                    John, I grew up and live about an hour north of Roanoke, and I have to say that everybody I grew up with is under the impression that we, and Roanoke (Big Lick), are in Appalachia. Geographically and culturally. Not that there are no other influences -- but Appalachian ways are a fundamental part of this region.

                                                                                    1. re: ellabee

                                                                                      Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread & Scuppernong Wine: The Folklore and Art of Southern Appalachian Cooking” by Joseph E. Dabney

                                                                                      1. re: Madrid

                                                                                        I have this, but it is not my favorite. I am not certain why, but it leaves me a little cold.

                                                                                        Part of it is the biscuit section where he says his mother used to tell the preacher, "Take two, and butter 'um while they're hot." It's "butter 'em" or "butter'm".

                                                                                  4. john, get started with the roanoke junior league's own cookbook, "oh my stars, " for next-to-nothing dollars, right here at alibris ---> http://www.alibris.com/booksearch?qwo...
                                                                                    you might recognize some names!

                                                                                    next, get "cotton country collection."

                                                                                    those two should keep you busy for quite a while.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                                      Now that's getting close to home! I'll look into it. Thanks.

                                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                                        I have found that the various Junior League cookboods are great resources, regardless of the region, and give your rec. a big +1.

                                                                                        "Cotton Country Collection" is a new one for both of us, but we'll head off searching for it.

                                                                                        Thank you,


                                                                                      2. Just a note of thanks to everyone who put out recommendations, here. I am not the OP, and apologize if this hijacks the thread...not my intention.

                                                                                        I ordered eight of the books mentioned in this thread. Six delivered yesterday.

                                                                                        I am in heaven and this northern boy now knows the definition of "cushaw".

                                                                                        Lots of reading...then cooking....ahead.

                                                                                        Again, many thanks.

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Monch

                                                                                          This thread does have a lot of great suggestions!

                                                                                          So come on over to the thread for enablers, err...I mean cookbook purchases and tell us what you bought! People often chime in with details of their favorite recipes from the book mentioned or interesting facts about the author.


                                                                                          1. re: Monch

                                                                                            Thanks from me too, and I am the OP. :-) Still haven't decided which book(s) to buy, but the suggestions have given me a lot to think about.

                                                                                          2. Go get Nathalie Dupree's and Cynthia Graubert's Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking. It is on the Beard awards list. It is a comprehensive and great book. I worked on a section of it in early summer helping with proofreading before publication and knew it was going to be a must own for fans of authentic Southern cooking.

                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Candy

                                                                                              I'd just about decided to do that, and with your encouragement, that's what I'll do. Thanks!

                                                                                              1. re: Candy

                                                                                                I was really taken with this book when I flipped through it at the bookstore. Haven't had time to spend much time with it at home yet, though.

                                                                                              2. Wonderful thread. My go-to book is James Villas' "The Glory of Southern Cooking".

                                                                                                1. The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt and Ted Lee, Screen Doors and Sweet Tea by Martha Hall Foose, and Charleston Receipts by The Junior League of Charleston are my "go-to" Southern cookbooks. They have the traditional recipes that I remember without all the "gimmicks" attributed to Southern cooking like a jar of mayonnaise or a pound of butter in every recipe.

                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: libstewart

                                                                                                    Interesting. What recipes do you find that call for "a jar of mayonnaise" or "a pound of butter" (exclusive of, say, pound cake)? Or are you simply indulging in a little regionalistic stereotyping?

                                                                                                    1. re: jmckee

                                                                                                      i think she might be jabbing paula deen (unfairly, in my opinion, but there ya go. it is trendy to bash her).

                                                                                                    2. re: libstewart

                                                                                                      I love the Lee Brothers books too. However, I'm not southern and am on the outskirts of the south here in No. VA. We spend time in Charleston and the Lee Bros recipes have enabled me to recreate dishes eaten there.

                                                                                                    3. 'Glory of southern cooking' and 'My Mother's Southern Kitchen' both by James Villas must be included. Been using both for decades and his mother's non-grill BBQ has become a top staple of my kitchen.

                                                                                                      1. Taste of Home is down home southern cooking and they have cookbooks available.

                                                                                                        1. I recently purchased Mastering the
                                                                                                          Art of Southern Cooking Dupree and Graubart.
                                                                                                          I haven't tried any of the recipes yet.

                                                                                                          What dishes did u enjoy made the cook?

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: jpr54_1

                                                                                                            I haven't really gotten started, but I entered these in Living Cookbook - my first step since "Mastering" is too big and heavy for kitchen counter use:

                                                                                                            Buttermilk Corn Bread
                                                                                                            Caramelized Onions
                                                                                                            Corn Bread
                                                                                                            Glazed Baby Carrots
                                                                                                            Roasted Carrots
                                                                                                            Roasted Onions

                                                                                                            I don't eat much meat and haven't yet gone through those chapters thoroughly.

                                                                                                          2. If you can get your hands on a copy of Marion Brown's Southern Cooking you will have a treasure. It has been out of print for a long time. She collected recipes from Southern cooks all over the south. It was published in the 50's. It was our family bible cookbook. Another good oldie was Marion Flexner's book Out of Kentucky Kitchens. Edna Lewis' books,
                                                                                                            A gracious Plenty by John T, Edge, and Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubert's new award winning Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking. I helped with the proof reading last spring and that book is a keeper.

                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                            1. re: Candy

                                                                                                              Hey Candy - time has passed but I just saw your post.
                                                                                                              I found Marion Brown's 1950 cookbook and Marion Flexner's Kentucky book at estate sales. They are treasure's for sure as reflections of the cooking of those times as well as a pathway into people's speech and habits. Brown's recipes are cite and dated and some go back to the early 1900s and further. It is an amazing book.

                                                                                                              And I found all of the others, all 3 of Miss Lewis's both 'Gracious' and 'Southern Belly' by John T. and 'Mastering'..., so much of the current crop of cookbooks is flashy, trendy, poorly edited and won't pass the test of time. good to know you are out there.

                                                                                                            2. I like "A Love Affair with Southern Cooking" by Jean Anderson.

                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                              1. re: Chimayo Joe

                                                                                                                Good call - Jean Anderson is terrific!

                                                                                                              2. My Virginia family has always had a copy of Maryland's Way in the kitchen. It was first published in 1963, but it's a collection of traditional recipes from cooks all over Maryland-- some from very old recipe books. Many are attributed to books from the 1800 and earlier, some just attributed to individual cooks from the area. It's both a great historical document and a usable cookbook. Published by the Hammond-Harwood House in Annapolis. There might be a fair amount of overlap between the traditional Maryland recipes and ones from the Roanoke area.

                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                1. "How to Cook a Pig" by Betty Talmadge. Out of print but available from various sources. Author is the wife of longtime Georgia senator Herman Talmadge; very good representation of old-school southern cuisine. NB: despite the title, it doesn't have a recipes for whole pig.

                                                                                                                  1. I was recently given a copy of "Around the Southern Table", by Angela Lang. I think she is an editor at Southern Living and they are the publishers.

                                                                                                                    It's nouveau Southern but a very nice book with lots of delicious sounding recipes.

                                                                                                                    1. We've split a query by John Francis about the best flour to use in Southern recipes to its own thread. You'll find it here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9000... .

                                                                                                                      1. I love Charleston Receipts, I have all of Natalie Dupree's books, and a bunch of my grandmama's church cookbooks. The paperback ones with the little plastic binders. Those are the real deal.

                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                        1. re: Sue in Mt P

                                                                                                                          charleston receipts is a true classic! i love it, too.

                                                                                                                          i guess i mentioned river road recipes and cotton country collection as two of my other "true blue southern" cookbooks.

                                                                                                                        2. Instore or online, Barnes & Noble currently has a special deal on Martha Stewart's latest, Martha's American Food, which has recipes for a couple of dozen classic dishes for each region of the country. The publisher's price is $40, but buy another new book - just about any book - and you get Martha for $12.99. This is a "good thing", even if you wind up using it as a gift.

                                                                                                                          Her Southern recipes include pulled pork, smothered greens, pound cake, spoonbread, and many more.

                                                                                                                          1. Found a copy of "Southern Cookbook 322 Old Dixie Recipes" at an estate sale. A lot of historical southern recipes. I think the one I have is from 1918? Might be something along the lines of what you're looking for? You can find it on eBay, actual copies and PDF versions.

                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: Nf98103

                                                                                                                              Thanks for the tip. I see that there are a couple of editions from the 1930s which might relate to what we had in the late '40s. The 1935 edition, which is on Kindle for $1.99, starts with a recipe for Kentucky Burgoo that makes 1,200 gallons. Promising!

                                                                                                                            2. I have a copy of "The Charleston Recipts" which was published in 1950 by the Junior League of Charleston


                                                                                                                              full of old south recipes - the dinner rolls I made from it almost killed me though - who knew that much sugar and lard could go into an innocent little roll? As I was making it I thought even Paula Deen would be horrified.

                                                                                                                              These rolls are the one and only thing my dog has dared steal from the counter in years - and he stole a roll twice.

                                                                                                                              I love the old southern recipes because as a Yankee it is like discovering an exotic foreign cuisine.

                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                              1. re: JTPhilly

                                                                                                                                Please look for John Martin Taylor's book 'Hoppin John's
                                                                                                                                Low Country Cooking (1992 and 2012). John is a culinary historian, cook and writer. It is one of the books that will help you place Charleston Receipts in context. His blog and writings are humorous, serious and honest. This is an example (on rice and peas/beans):

                                                                                                                                Many entries similar to those in C. Receipts can be found
                                                                                                                                in 'Two Hundred Years of Charleston Cooking', originally published in 1930 and reprinted with a new foreward in 1976 by the University of South Carolina Press.

                                                                                                                                Another resource is 'Charleston Recollections and Receipts; Rose Pringle Ravenel's Cookbook' edited by her great-niece, Elizabeth Ravenel Harrigan. Miss Ravenel lived from 1850 - 1943 and used an earlier collection of her mother, Eliza Butler Ravenel, from the early 19th century.

                                                                                                                                Should you decide to cook any of these, and I hope you will, please try to use the Carolina Gold rice, stone ground grits and Sea Island red field peas that have lately become available again, after almost being lost.

                                                                                                                                Look in Charleston receipts for 'philpy'. It's easy and delicious.

                                                                                                                              2. If you can find a copy of Marion Brown's Southern Cookbook, you'll have plenty of recipes, good luck the book is no longer in print. Other authors you should be looking for:
                                                                                                                                Nathalie Dupree;
                                                                                                                                Damon Fowler;
                                                                                                                                Hoppin' John Taylor;
                                                                                                                                James Villas;
                                                                                                                                John T. Edge;
                                                                                                                                and Ronni Lundy

                                                                                                                                You can get a very good southern cooking library with any of those authors. Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubert brought out an enormous book a little over a year ago, Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking. It would be a good start, I helped with a bit of the proof reading and knew it was going to be good. Marion Brown's book was my family cooking bible. Another great oldie that I treasure was written by Marion Flexner Out of Kentucky Kitchens.

                                                                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: Candy

                                                                                                                                  There are about 70 copies of that Marion Brown cookbook on Amazon at the moment.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: rasputina

                                                                                                                                    I should pick one up some time. My parents' copy, which they bought in Chapel Hill when my father was in grad school after the war, is missing the first 80-some pages.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: rasputina

                                                                                                                                      just learned that my $2, 1951 Marion Brown hardcover is priced at $129.00!! as if i would let it go.

                                                                                                                                      there are many many treasured cookbooks from pre-1960 (or even 1970/80) that are so much better than those heavily publicized today. I find them at estate and yard sales for just a few bucks. There are usually no pictures or hype. but The information is solid and the descriptions are poignant.

                                                                                                                                      Just today i found another copy of Charleston receipts at an estate sale for $5. I buy it every time I find it and give it as a gift to friends who love southern food. a lady next to me asked about it and was unaware of it - and she's born right here. I suggested that she get it and if she didn't like it, to call me and I'd buy it from her. She wants to cook 'more southern food' and thinks Paula D is a reliable source. No, i'm not hostile to PD, but it saddens me that people knows her, but not the depth of history and flavor in Charleston R., Marion Brown, Edna Lewis or John Egerton

                                                                                                                                      1. re: kariin

                                                                                                                                        Charleston Receipts was one of my mother's favorite cookbooks. It's not missing pages, but the cover and first several pages have lost the nibs that hold them into the spiral binder. So a couple of years ago "to be safe" I put it in a shallow box -- and now can't find where I put the box. Grrrr.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: Candy

                                                                                                                                      Thank you Candy

                                                                                                                                      I'm holding a copy of 'Kentucky Kitchens' by Marion Flexner that i found last year. $1 at an estate sale, while the copies of Paula Deen were being fought over.

                                                                                                                                      My vote added for Damon Lee Fowler, John Martin Taylor, Ronni Lundy and Hogn T Edge. I'm not as familiar as James Villas but he's reliable too.

                                                                                                                                      Damon Lee is one of the best : his blog is:
                                                                                                                                      http://www.damonleefowler.com/blog.htm and a great introduction is:
                                                                                                                                      'Essentials of Southern Cooking: Techniques & Flavors of a Classic American Cuisine'
                                                                                                                                      A collection of more than twenty-five years of writing about and teaching the history and techniques of the cooking of my native American South, the collection of cuisines that we loosely call Southern Cooking.

                                                                                                                                      And his 'Beans Greens and Sweet Georgia Peaches'
                                                                                                                                      is a wonderful book on vegetable, beans and peas, grains and fruit in southern recipes.

                                                                                                                                    3. Revisiting the thread. Thanks to all for the suggestions. Marion Brown's book, both editions, has become my go-to; the recipes are not by cookbook authors but home cooks, I'm guessing not those given named credit but their African-American kitchen help, plus a few from restaurants like the Hotel Roanoke.

                                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: John Francis

                                                                                                                                        Hey there - I was just cleaning out my loose recipes and ran across my mother's copy of this cookbook and ran across this thread trying to see what the differences were between the editions. My mother's copy is the paperback and is pretty much unusable...

                                                                                                                                        Went in search of a replacement because I still, at 52, remember the few things she cooked from it.

                                                                                                                                        You indicate BOTH editions? There are actually 3 or 4... which editions are you referring to?

                                                                                                                                        How much difference is there between the 2 you are talking about? (hopefully you are watching this discussion and will reply...)

                                                                                                                                        1. re: sandbarhappy

                                                                                                                                          I hope John Francis will see and can add to this.

                                                                                                                                          There are 3 editions, the original (1951) and one in 1968 and another in 1980. All have value: your preference is what matters.

                                                                                                                                          this is her preface to the 1968 version:

                                                                                                                                          there are many 'newer' southern cooking books. They are not hard to find but Brown's is very good.

                                                                                                                                          But my preference is for the 1951 original. There recipes and comments were gathered from women cooking in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. She compiled a varied and diverse groups of food knowledge. its a unique look into the past but also a source of basic reliable and re-produceable good cooking. Like Edna Lewis's work, this belongs in every southern cooking collectiom - to be read and absorbed.
                                                                                                                                          I hope you find it and consider it.

                                                                                                                                          what are your thoughts?

                                                                                                                                          1. re: sandbarhappy

                                                                                                                                            1961 and 1980. A good deal of difference but I can't quantify it. The earlier one serves my purposes a little better but I use both of them.

                                                                                                                                        2. Get Marion Brown's Southern Cookbook. Get either the original 1951 edition (which I have never seen) or the 1968 version (which I have in a 1970 paperback printing, now falling apart). Do not bother with the 1980 version.