Book Review: A Knead To Read
Sit down with a book when it's too hot to cook
Reviewed by Virginia B. Wood, Fri., May 27, 2011
A Southerly Course: Recipes & Stories From Close to Homeby Martha Hall Foose
Clarkson Potter, 256 pp., $32.50
The state of Mississippi has produced an impressive list of great storytellers, from William Faulkner and Eudora Welty to Willie Morris and Jill Conner Browne. Now we can add Martha Hall Foose to that list. Her first book, Screen Doors and Sweet Tea, won a James Beard cookbook award in 2009. With this new work, Foose earns her rightful place among the list of respected writers from the Magnolia State. Every aspect of her meandering writer's journey – from charming recipe headnotes and engaging essays to quirky historical footnotes and useful serving suggestions – makes for damn fine reading. But it's the way the good storytelling enhances and completes the mouthwatering regional recipes that makes this book a real keeper.
For example, the headnote preceding fig pecan fondue made me yearn for the gift of homemade fig preserves from a best girlfriend and also want to prepare the dish. The details about the development of the variety of premium No. 1 Beauregard sweet potatoes from Vardaman, Miss., makes the simple recipe for roasted sweet potato wedges that much more inviting. The soulful essay tribute to summer sweet corn completely elevates the recipe for skillet-fried corn off the cob, while the story about the Beanshooter Man feeding his family small game brought down by a slingshot made from a dogwood fork piqued my interest in the rabbit terrine. The essay titled "Family Pieces" brought tears to my eyes and reminded me to treasure the inherited pieces of my kitchen equipment. My favorite essay includes Foose's description of her teenage self curiously eyeing the elder Eudora Welty in a Jackson grocery store, followed by the story of her subsequent recipe research in Welty's home kitchen in the family home that is now a Jackson museum. This is a cookbook that will touch your heart.