Hello. My name is Kim and I am a cookbook-aholic. I’ve flagged more cookbook recipes than would be humanly possible to make in a single lifetime. Yet my obsession with acquiring new and old cookbooks persists unabated. This month I share my compulsive tendencies via the “21 Days” series, featuring some of my favorite cookbooks from local authors and publishers. Please feel free to join me in finding new cookbooks to feed our passion at any of my favorite Triangle indie book sellers: The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, Chapel Hill’s Flyleaf Books, Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh or McIntyre’s Books in Pittsboro’s Fearrington Village.
When I browse for cookbooks at my local book store, I flip through the pages making a mental note of recipes that look interesting. Sometimes a few witty head notes and/or side bars win me over. Other times the recipes seem simple but there’s such a plethora of added information, historical perspective, interesting stories and the like I decide to purchase the book. In the case of Jean Anderson‘s A Love Affair with Southern Cooking it was pages replete with history and folklore, along with quite a few good looking pie recipes, that prompted that purchase.
Though there are many recipes in this cookbook, the profiles of iconic Southern food companies, like Cheerwine, Little Debbie Snack Cakes, and Texas Pete, augment the book’s worth as a resource for me. I learned that Duncan Hines was the name of an actual person, a traveling salesman who likely was the first to compile a list of restaurant recommendations later published as Adventures in Good Eating: A Guide to the Best Restaurants along America’s Highways (those being highways of the mid 1930s). His name became synonymous with good taste. Eventually, his “brand” was applied to food products and those cake mixes with which I’m sure you’re familiar. That delightful detail was inserted between two seafood soup recipes, perhaps to help pass time as I slowly stirred a simmering pot.
Another added bonus to this cookbook are “heirloom” recipes (those that don’t bother with details like measurements, timing nor temperatures) mixed in with more contemporary recipes. Those less-than-specific recipes lend a perspective to time and place, a certain nostalgia. But this cookbook is useful for every day, modern era meals too. There are abundant contemporary recipes for traditional Southern cuisine, like the Iron Skillet Corn Bread (pictured above) and for those that yearn to learn more about Southern food culture “The Language of Southern Food” section deserves a thorough review while you wait for that cornbread to bake.
Anderson is a prolific cookbook author, having covered many topics and techniques beyond simple Southern cuisine. A Love Affair with Southern Cooking is not her latest book, nor her first. I suspect, however, given the depth of detail about Southern food culture found within the book, writing it may have indeed been her first love letter to Southern food and I’m happy she shared it with us.