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A Gracious Plenty Hardcover – October 25, 1999
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There is a calmness to this book, and it comes from an assured knowledge rising out of the kind of scholarship that sets aside popular mythology in favor of the ways things actually are and have been. No U.S. region suffers more from popular mythology, some of it benign, much of it mocking and cruel, than the South. Author-editor John T. Edge encourages the reader of A Gracious Plenty to taste the South for what it is and has been. The book has the backing of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. In his introduction, Center director Charles Reagan Wilson points to the Southern Thanksgiving of his father-in-law, a native Mississippian who happens to be Lebanese. Both deep-fried turkey and kibbe are served, with stuffed grape and cabbage leaves as well as oyster dressing and sweet potato casserole. The heritage, he writes, is strictly Southern.
The recipes are drawn from community cookbooks--"those clunky, spiral-bound, gravy-spattered volumes." While they get little respect, these volumes are an important part of the Southern kitchen and food tradition. The earliest ones date back to the Civil War and then as now were published to raise funds for a cause. Apparently, by the close of the 19th century, more than 2,000 community cookbooks were in print. Edge rightly points out that recipes gathered into a community cookbook are never authored by one, but by many. In effect, he encourages the reader to pull a seat up to the Southern table. Many of the voices heard in A Gracious Plenty come from material gathered by writers and journalists between 1935 and 1942 working for the Federal Writers Project.
The recipes are divided into sections that include appetizers, beverages, breads, salads and dressings, sides and vegetables, soups and stews, meats, poultry, fish and seafood, sauces, preserves, jellies and pickles, desserts, and a final section on menus. These are home recipes, church-basement recipes, proud recipes. They taste like reality made up of pain and hospitality and careless laughter. A Gracious Plenty is a wonderful book and an important addition to anyone's cookbook library. --Schuyler Ingle
From Publishers Weekly
Food writer Edge and Rolfes, a cookbook packager, present an introduction to Dixie food, from Gumbo Z'herbes, Smothered Chicken, Crawfish Jambalaya and Turnip Greens to an assortment of sweet desserts. More than 400 recipes have been chosen from dozens of community cookbooks (e.g., High Cotton Cookin', The Black Family Reunion Cookbook and True Grits), some dating back to the Civil War. These dishes, from real home cooks, are simple and dependable. The authors maintain that "the best cookbooks are storybooks," and theirs is liberally peppered with stories from Southern writers, artists and cooks. Novelist Reynolds Price muses on pimiento cheese ("It was the peanut butter of my childhood"), B.B. King extols the virtues of yams and Edna Lewis (The Taste of Country Cooking) gathers all kinds of bitter greens for eating and medicine. Vintage black-and-white photographs add charm, and a closing selection of menus advises cooks how to plan a New Orleans Jazz Brunch or a Texas Barbecue.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
Simply put this is a great read in addition to being one of the most clear and useful cookbooks I have. It has the feel of a project undertaken with love and reverence.
There are litterally hundreds of recipes sprawled out onto these pages with as many as four on a page with a few needing the page turned, which is my cardinal sin. Most of the recipes are easy to follow and easy to make with only a few needing ingredients that may not be readily available in your local markets. Some of the recipes are time consuming but have incredible ending results. I am sure this cookbook will look much better printed in color, as it is supposed to be, even with the many black & white photographs that are scattered throughout the pages. I am quite sure that most of the recipes will destroy my low-cholesterol and blood-pressure lowering meals that I am supposed to now be eating but my taste buds will be thanking me.