The Southerner's Handbook: A Guide to Living the Good Life
Reviewed by Virginia B. Wood, Fri., Dec. 6, 2013
by the editors of Garden & Gun magazine
HarperWave, 304 pp., $27.99
While some national magazines have fallen by the wayside as a result of the seismic changes in the publishing industry over the past few years, regional magazines such as our own Texas Monthly and South Carolina's Garden & Gun are all the rage. Founded in 2007 in Charleston, South Carolina, Garden & Gun is the award-winning new voice of the American South. Topics range from food to sporting and adventure, drinking like a Southerner to home and garden, and many things in between. This handy compilation of short pieces from the magazine, some attributed to terrific individual writers and many not, makes for an afternoon of light reading on a variety of crucial Southern topics. Fix a glass of sweet tea (p.111) or a New Orleans classic cocktail (p.94) and dip into it at your leisure.
The food section offers essays on such important subjects as the proper method of oyster shucking, the care of cast iron cookware, preparing (and buying) grits correctly, boiling peanuts, and making your own charcoal. There are also recipes worth having such as the biscuits from John Currence's Big Bad Breakfast in Oxford, Miss., and the perfect fried chicken from Beasley's Chicken + Honey in Raleigh, North Carolina, sausage gravy from our own chef David Bull, and the signature roux from the Creole Queen of New Orleans herself, Leah Chase. In the style section, Julia Reed's contribution, "Secrets of a Southern Hostess," made me pine for an invitation to one of her parties, while pieces on "How to Behave" and "Putting Pen to Paper" made me realize how far my manners have slipped from the Southern training of my youth. This book would make a very welcome gift, but it's so engaging, you probably won't want to give it away. Get several.