25 July 2008

Screen Doors and Sweet Tea

There are instructional cookbooks and then there are reading cookbooks. I rarely prepare a meal that doesn't include a packaged dinner of some kind, but I daydream about cooking real food. My favorite cookbooks are the ones that have personal stories from the author about how they acquired the recipes or when they like to serve a particular dish. Plenty of color photos also help.

Screen Doors and Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales from a Southern Cook by Martha Hall Foose is a great reading cookbook. The author is a Mississippi native who left America only to find that she really appreciated her home cuisine. When I picked up this book, I expected recipes for Southern staples like baked macaroni and cheese and cornbread and there are plenty of those. What I didn't expect were the recipes from ethnic cuisines that aren't normally associated with the American South. For instance, there is a recipe for Chinese Grocery Roast Pork as a nod to the fact that the Mississippi Delta has had a large community of Chinese Americans for over 80 years. Foose also includes several Mexican-inspired dishes. You don't expect to see these dishes included in a Southern cookbook, but we don't live on grits and gravy alone down here.

Since I like to daydream about cooking this food instead of just eating it, the illusion is broken if the recipes are too convoluted. The recipes in this book seem straightforward with ingredients that are easy to obtain. I found myself wanting to go to the grocery store right away so I could start cooking. If you want to try a taste of the old and new South, pick up this book.

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