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My Mother's Southern Kitchen: Recipes and Reminiscences Hardcover – August 18, 1999

4.9 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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The ultimate guide to preserving and canning is the perfect complement to America's Test Kitchen's recommended canner.
Foolproof Preserving: A Guide to Small Batch Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Condiments, and More
Foolproof Preserving: A Guide to Small Batch Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Condiments, and More
Foolproof Preserving: A Guide to Small Batch Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Condiments, and More
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

James Villas' background is an unusual blend of Greek, Swedish and old American South, and this book combines the recipes and often-hilarious cooking tips of his genteel-yet-feisty mama, Martha Pearl (Martha Pearl says: "There's nothing, repeat nothing, worse than a heavy, poorly seasoned, warmed-over hush puppy that's been fried in old fat") with memories of a happy gourmet childhood. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

From the introduction, with its wry recounting of Martha Pearl Villas's vilifications of the Northern flour intended for baking "biscuit," to the carefully collected family photos, James Villas re-creates the bustling and sometimes brawling approach to cooking that typifies his family. Martha Pearl Villas, the author's mother, fights the good fight for Southern tradition. James Villas, food editor of Town & Country and author of several cookbooks, adopts the chatty vernacular of his native South in documenting his culinary heritage. Snobs may find the tables turned, as favorite targets of food jokes (the recipes that begin, "Take a can of cream of mushroom soup") are staunchly defended by Mrs. Villas: "All real Southern cooks use canned soup in certain casseroles. Why don't you taste it before ridiculing?" So, bring on the can openers for the "Congealed Sunshine Salad," made with canned pineapple. Not that Mrs. Villas has anything against fresh food; she waits at farmstands for Silver Queen corn to come in from the fields to get the very sweetest ears for her corn pudding, made with lots of of eggs, butter and half-and-half. Though many of the dishes here seem exceedingly rich, remember that a good deal are meant for feasts and holidays. Lively anecdotes of Martha Pearl Villas butting heads with Craig Claiborne over the proper way to make giblet gravy, or arguing with her son about the best binder for meatloaf, will give rise to smiles.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Cookbooks (August 18, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688171745
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688171742
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 7.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #555,769 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Being a native South Carolinian, and a Charlotte, NC resident now, for years I searched for a cookbook that embodied our regional cuisine. Losing a mother at an early age, I was deprived of some of her food preparation "secrets" or "tips". This book helped with some of the information she surely would have shared. And, by the way, you must try the Mint Julep recipe! It's fantastic!!!!
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Format: Paperback
James Villas makes no apologies for the simple ingredients that yield such delicious fare as found in this delightful cookbook. He makes it clear that these favorite foods of his childhood -- and adulthood -- depend on high-quality products and correct techniques, as well as the appeal of knowing that generations of his family have enjoyed and refined the same dishes over many years. Both reference guide and a slice of Southern culture (who won't love the inimitable Martha Pearl?), this book has a place in all kitchens. *Among many recommended recipes: Cheese Biscuits (you Southerners know that these are savory little party snacks, not bread), Yellow Squash Souffle, Crab Bisque, Peanut Soup and 1-2-3-4 Cake with Caramel Sauce
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Format: Hardcover
Jim Villas is one of our better cookbook and culinary memoir writers, while remaining a throwback to the likes of James Beard and Craig Claiborne. His affinity to Claiborne is especially strong, as both are unreconstituted Bourbon drinking Southerners who live(d) on Eastern Long Island and wrote for the `Eastern Establishment' publishing powers. Villas' special talent seems to be in recapturing what is most familiar and most comfortable about food for Americans. This is certainly true of his most recent cookbooks `Crazy for Casseroles' and `Biscuit Bliss'. His most recent collection of culinary essays and opinions `Stalking the Green Fairy' brings out this orientation in well written essays, but no book represents his culinary roots and inclinations quite as well as this book, cowritten with his mother.
On the face of it, this book would seem to be a transcription of mother Martha Pearl's little black recipe book into a form which William Morrow can publish and we can read and effectively translate into reproductions of Mrs. Villas favorite dishes. The back story of the book seems to be much more complicated than this, as Mrs. Villas' written recipes were sketchy, poorly handwritten, and done only as an aide d'memoire for someone who cooked almost entirely by experience, and look and feel, just like every other traditional southern cook whose praxis has been memorialized in writing. Thus, Villas had to do anthropology by observing his mother at work and doing his best to estimate amounts from quantities doled out by hand and eye. This too was made difficult by an entirely familiar friendly antagonism between mother and son in the kitchen.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is something of a Bible in my kitchen, so much so that I've had to buy two more copies to lend to friends who rave about my culinary skills. The clear instructions and the very helpful hints enable anyone to turn out perfect examples of Southern cooking. Being a Southerner now living in the Southern hemisphere, the ability to recreate the foods of my youth is an anchor to the past. This is the best book available (and works really well in metric countries, despite the lack of metric instructions).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Martha Pearl is a spunky wonderful character. More than that, she is a wonderful Southern cook. Her son,James, shares her sense of humor and love of cooking. I adore the way she puts him in his place when he wants to "fuss" with her recipes. I am almost through with the entire cookbook. I have laughed and underlined and referenced. It is a great, wonderful read. Knowing recipes as I do, I can tell you that you can trust this book to give you great food. Don't wait. Don't even put this on your wish list. It's a keeper. Yum
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Format: Hardcover
This is the cookbook I can pull out and count on to produce a wonderful dish every single time. I haven't come across a dud yet. Martha Pearl is delightful (and yes I AM hinting for a dinner invitation) and so are her recipes. The macaroni and cheese is a family favorite that already has stains on the page because I make it so often. The pecan coffee cake is another recipe I have made many times and always get compliments on. I live near Charlotte and keep hoping to run into Jimmy and Martha Pearl picking over the Silver Queen corn at the farmer's market. I would unabashedly tell her what a devoted fan she has made of this transplanted Yankee.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like me, many of you have probably come across stacks of so-called southern cookbooks that are full of non-southern recipes! I was beginning to think that no one had published an accurate accounting of deep south cooking.

Then, I found this book! It is by far the best and most authentic southern cookbook I've ever seen, and I regularly use many of the recipes.

My family and I are from Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Texas, and like so many other southerners, we're very particular about getting food just right. After moving out west <gasp>, I longed to have a greater selection of the southern recipes I enjoyed as a child, but unfortunately, the family cookbook that was passed down to me only contained a limited number of recipes. (Like Villa says, it is typical for southerners to not have recipes written down.)

Anyway, this is a highly recommended book. It won't disappoint!!
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