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The Gift of Southern Cooking: Recipes and Revelations from Two Great American Cooks Hardcover – April 15, 2003

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Editorial Reviews Review

The books of Edna Lewis--In Pursuit of Flavor, The Taste of Country Cooking, and the out-of-print Edna Lewis Cookbook--should be on any serious cook's bookshelf. Add to that list The Gift of Southern Cooking, which she wrote with fellow Southern cook, Scott Peacock. In her time, Edna Lewis has quietly upheld the virtues of a good meal and the Southern cooking she learned as a child. Her grandfather, a former slave, joined with freed slaves to found Freetown, a Virginia farming community. So Lewis grew up with the food at hand, fresh buttermilk, for example. She moved to New York City early on where she cooked for and rubbed shoulders with artists and actors, musicians and writers, cooks and Communists. And through all her years, through her life and through her cooking, she described the most elegant, simple line. It's there for you to see in each of her recipes, the way she approaches flavor.

Here in her mid-80s Lewis brings out the best of Southern cooking with a collaborator less than half her age. She's a Virginian; he's from Alabama. So get ready for a delicious spread. They are both dedicated to preserving Southern food ways, and to updating whenever they can. The book is simply packed with wonderful treats from Spicy Eggplant Relish all the way to Warm Apple Crisp. It's written in Peacock's voice and unless he says so there's no telling where his recipes end and hers begin. But it doesn't matter. They are peas in a pod, those two. You will not only learn how Southern food should taste with The Gift of Southern Cooking, you will learn why and you will learn how. Neither your fried chicken nor your buttermilk biscuits will ever be the same. --Schuyler Ingle

From Publishers Weekly

Lewis (In Pursuit of Flavor), grande dame of Southern cooking, has at last come out with a cookbook explicitly devoted to the traditional cooking of the American South. Authenticity is always an issue in southern cooking each state has its fiercely held opinions and sacred recipes but Lewis and her young friend and protege, Scott Peacock, have unbeatable credentials. Peacock, a restaurateur, is from Alabama, Lewis from Virginia, so their culinary reach extends from the Tidewater to the Gulf. They have decades in the kitchen between them and have been cooking together since 1988; indeed, much of the book's charm rises from their heartfelt friendship and mutual respect. Though the book is written in Peacock's voice, nearly every page offers anecdotes and instructions from Miss Lewis. These are mouthwatering recipes, conceived with integrity (there's even a recipe for your own baking powder if, like Miss Lewis, one is habitually suspicious of industrial food) and include a panoply of classic southern favorites: Cornbread-Pecan Dressing, Old-Fashioned Creamy Grits, Country Ham Steak with Red-Eye Gravy, Hot Crusty Buttermilk Biscuits, and Southern Greens Cooked in Pork Stock. But as if to prove that the Southern kitchen does not begin and end with the pig, several more modern innovations appear: Sauteed Frogs' Legs with Brown Butter and Capers, Silken Turnip Soup, Chanterelles on Toast. The rest of the country owes its thanks to this unlikely pair for bringing Southern comfort back to everyone's table; and so, as one chapter puts it, Praise the lard and pass the biscuits.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (April 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375400354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375400353
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,245 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

224 of 228 people found the following review helpful By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on July 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
On the surface, this book bears a strong resemblance to the volume by James Villas and his mother, Martha Pearl Villas, entitled `My Mother's Southern Kitchen', as it is written by a younger man and an older woman, both of whom have serious culinary chops, and where the younger man does most of the actual writing. The differences between the two books, however, are much more instructive.
First, in this book, both authors are professional restaurant chefs who both grew up eating southern cuisine and who specialize in cooking it. In the Villas' book, neither are professional chefs. This means that there is just a bit more fussiness about the methods and ingredients in the Lewis / Peacock recipes. One example is that while both pair of authors endorse homemade mayonnaise, Lewis and Peacock go an additional step by recommending and giving a recipe for homemade baking powder, especially for use in making biscuits. Skeptics, please note, I have made biscuits with my White Lily flour and homemade baking powder, and the homemade stuff does make a difference in eliminating the faint metallic aluminum taste in the stuff from Clabber Girl or Count Rumsfield.
Second, in this book, the two authors are originally from two very different parts of the south. Edna Lewis was raised in rural Virginia and Scott Peacock grew up in Alabama. Both now work in urban Georgia. The Villas' are native of low country North Carolina. Therefore, this book is much stronger in discussing regional differences between, for example, the peanut oil cooking Alabama and the lard cooking Virginia. While the Villas' book deals with some regional issues, such as the dispute over the source of Brunswick stew, it is largely oriented around the cuisine of a single North Carolina low country household and extended family.
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74 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Wayne Fogel on May 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book meets every criteria of a first rate cookbook. (1) The recipes are uniformly well tested and good tasting; (2) The directions are clear and easy to follow; (3) The production value is high with large type, excellent pictures and easy to read bright white coated paper; (4) When combination of dishes such as Country Captain Chicken and Coconut Rice are appropriate, they are recommended; and (5) It authoritatively addresses its subject - Southern Cooking. Very few books meet all of these criteria. The authors and the publishing house are to be congratulated for their achievement.

I have tried a number of recopies from this book and while I can recommend them almost without exception, I would like to suggest two of them to start with. For a wonderful Sunday dinner make Country Captain Chicken and serve it as suggested with the Coconut Rice. I use chicken thighs instead of cut up chicken. It's easier to control the cooking times when all the pieces are the same size. It has always been a smash hit with company or when my children and grandchildren come to visit. I do cheat and use the Goya canned coconut milk. For a picnic make the Southern Pan-Fried Chicken and serve it cold together with the Potato Salad made with homemade mayonnaise. Brine the chicken for both of these recipes - it does make a difference.

As for the lard question - just like Coconut milk I am not going to make it myself! I am into cooking but not that much. Also, my wife would take strong exception to my tying up the stove for three days to render lard. Go to your local grocery store. If they do not carry it, ask them to order it for you or go on the net and find some.

Buy this book and cook from it for one month. If you are like 99% of the people in this world, you will learn to appreciate a whole set of tastes.
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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
That is,if you are a southerner or you appreciate southern food. OK,so the reviewer from New Jersy is upset because he doesn't get a recipe for lard and thinks the writer chefs should have spent more time out of the South-Miss Lewis spent a lifetime in NYC but thankfully,it didn't ruin her cooking.
The recipes are easy to follow,make sense,don't "weird-up" the classics by doing things like adding lemongrass to grits and the text is interesting.There are recipes for many different kinds of dishes. No,its not low fat but who cares? You gotta love these two for reminding me of when people dared save their bacon grease in a can!
The two chefs have a sweet relationship that was recently profiled in the NY Times.It comes through in Chef Peacocks writing.
This book resonated with me in an emotional way. If you grew up with traditional southern food,or wish you had,buy this book!
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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on September 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This collaboration of a descendant of slaves born before 1920 and a white son of modern rural Alabama, celebrates the variety and richness of southern cooking from Red Pepper Catsup to Catfish Stew. Arranged by course, from condiments to desserts (three chapters!) this book reflects the serious authority of its authors, particularly Lewis ("The Taste of Country Cooking"), who has won numerous awards over the years.
From Blackberry Cordial and Smoked Pork Stock, Old Fashioned Boiled Dressing and Wilted Salad, to Slow-Cooked Oxtails, Spicy Collards in Tomato-Onion Sauce, Corn Pudding and Buttermilk Biscuits, the authors encompass the range of time-honored dishes, each prefaced with a touch of history or a word on technique.
Emphasis is placed on quality of ingredients and, with the south's long growing season, the natural match of seasonal foods. This is a book that's nearly as nourishing to read as it is to cook from and comprehensive and elegant enough to be the only Southern cookbook you need.
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