10 Cookbooks Every Southerner Should Own
In the South, cookbooks are considered just as high an art form as our literature. So much more than recipes, cookbooks communicate our culture in tactile terms and humanize the stories passed down in them. They help us understand our sense of place and home. To name just 10 books from the South that do all those things and more (like help us learn the alchemy behind pimiento cheese) is challenging, but if pressed to pick a few for those beginning their cookbook collection or those wanting to complete it, these books would be worthy additions.
The Gift of Southern Cooking
While each of these author’s contributions stand alone, it’s in their friendship that they take on the natural Southern repose of dialogue. It’s in their back and forth between their differences and similarities, Lewis’ Virginia roots in a small farming community founded by freed slaves and Peacock’s Alabama upbringing, that a more complete picture of Southern cooking comes into focus.
Buy It: $20.33; amazon.com
The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook
Drawing upon the tradition of spiral bound community cookbooks from Junior Leagues and civic groups across the South, the Southern Foodways Alliance applied the concept to the greater South by employing their favorite chefs and writers to contribute recipes from cornbread to tomatoe pie and gumbo z’herbes. They illustrate the microregions of cooking traditions and how they come together like patchwork quilt.
Buy It: $18.67; amazon.com
While many came to understand Cajun cooking from prototypical celebrity chef Paul Prudhomme and his famous blackened redfish, Chef Donald Link (Herbsaint, Peche, Cochon) gives readers a deeper sense of Cajun cooking traditions and ingredients from his both enigmatic and rustic homeland.
Buy It: $20.30; amazon.com
Nancie McDermott’s approachable, joyful, and intensely thoughtful demeanor comes through in recipes that are equally sweet and educational. This is an essential for any Southern baker who wants to know more behind the true histories and techniques behind Lane, Red Velvet, and Coconut cakes.
Buy It: $12.06; amazon.com
Seasoned in the South
From the chef of one of the most important restaurants in the South, Bill Smith and Crook’s Corner, an unassuming cafe in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, helped give Southern food status with national critics and rise to the shrimp and grits phenomenon.
Buy It: $12.67; amazon.com
The B.T.C Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook
Although Alexe Van Beuren, Dixie Grimes and Kagan Coughlin started the B.T.C. Grocery in 2010, the revived business feels like an intrinsic part of Water Valley, Mississippi. The gathering spot has become known for its Tex-Mex pimento cheese, take-home casseroles, and hand-pulled chicken salad.
Buy It: $10.88; amazon.com
Root to Leaf
Southerners know that the true beauty of our region’s food lies not in the fryer but in the fields, gardens, and groves. James Beard Award-winning Chef Steven Satterfield of Miller Union in Atlanta gives readers a comprehensive guide to cooking with Southern produce through a seasonal lens.
Buy It: $29.17; amazon.com
Pick a Pickle
This flash card-like, fold-out booklet of canning and pickling recipes is the kind of construction we wish we saw more of in publishing. With heavy-duty, near-waterproof pages, you won’t be afraid to actually reference one of its recipes while you’re boiling up a brine for bread and butter pickles. Hugh Acheson’s duality of reverence and inventiveness for this ancient culinary art is apparent from his recipes for classic chow chow to carrot and cabbage kimchi.
Buy It: $8.16; amazon.com
More than recipes, Chef Sean Brock dives into the histories, legacies, stories, and anecdotes that have not only helped shape him into one of the most important voices in Southern culture but also how many voices have brought Southern cooking as a whole to the exciting place it is today. The stunning photography will make you see even the most humble of Southern ingredients in a new, captivating light.
Buy It: $26.34; amazon.com