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.
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