When I visit a new part of the state or country, I look for a community cookbook. They are great for getting a real sense of a place. And they are full of good home cooking, not cuisine from coiffed heads on TV. Can there be a community cookbook for the entire South, with all its diversity? The Southern Foodways Alliance has proved it can be done.
“The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook” edited by Sara Roahen and John T. Edge (University of Georgia Press, $24.95) brings together recipes and stories from across the region. The SFA, based at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, documents and celebrates the area’s food cultures. I’ve been a member for several years.
These are real recipes cooked by real people, ranging from greens and rice to game and desserts. In the interest of full disclosure: My recipe for Strawberry Jam is included in the Put Up chapter.
You can walk right into this book and hang out for hours, reading the notes and history throughout. When you get hungry after all that reading, there are plenty of classics to try. My eye was caught by the inevitable Southern love of pork and the recipe for Deep-Fried Bacon. Nothing is more appealing than a touch of excess. More restrained folks can sample Corn Fritters, Grits and Grillades or Gumbo z’Herbes, a lesser known Louisiana gumbo packed with greens of all kinds. And you know you’re reading a Southern cookbook when you see an entire chapter on gravy.
Another thing I like about the book is that is has a spiral binding. That means it will lay flat on my counter while I’m cooking instead of needing to use the coffee grinder to press it open. So, dig in.