When “Baltimore boy” and chef John Shields brought his Chesapeake Bay-style cooking to California years ago, he was urged to write a cookbook about the regional cuisine. Chesapeake Bay Cooking with John Shields is in its 25th anniversary edition now, but its recipes and reminiscences are as fresh as they are delicious.
People can be mighty particular about their cornbread. They have strong feelings about which kind of meal to use (yellow or white), what to cook it in, what to use for leavening, and what to add in for extra flavor—or not. From such regional and personal beliefs comes Crescent Dragonwagon’s The Cornbread Gospels, with delicious takes on this homespun favorite.
If you’re looking to expand your knowledge of the joys of cornbread, whether it’s a semi-soufflé of spoonbread for the Thanksgiving meal or something plainer to go with your New Year’s Day black-eyed peas, The Cornbread Gospels has your dish. Drawn from the recipe files of excellent cooks from across America and around the world, you’ll get a taste for different cultures as well as their preferred methods and flavors, with the talented wordsmith Crescent Dragonwagon as your guide.
Some people hike through the Appalachian Trail as quickly as they can, trying to set speed records. Some people spend hours in the car each autumn, looking at the bursts of colorful leaves on mountainsides, before heading back to their homes on flatter ground. They get something out of their journeys, sure, but they are missing a whole way of life.
Living in the Appalachians can be hardscrabble. Many of the people there are poor in material things. Why don’t more of them leave for better jobs? Some do. But many prefer to stay, and the answer lies in the strength of their families and communities. For hundreds of years, descendants of mainly Scots-Irish, English, and German immigrants, as well as members of the Cherokee Nation, lived in a culture that is self-reliant, and, yes, hospitable—assuming their visitors remain well-mannered.
Foodways are a big part of that culture. In his James Beard Award-winning Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, and Scuppernong Wine, Joseph E. Dabney delves into those delicious delights, while including enough personal notes that you’ll feel you’ve spent some time chatting on screened porches.
You know it’s a Southern slow cooker book when recipes may call for the ingredients to be first kissed by a cast-iron skillet. Heirloom and well-loved vegetables, such as pole beans and sweet potatoes and kale, are a part of the package, along with Smokey Navy Bean Soup (with cornbread), Creamy Cheese Grits, Shrimp Creole, and Carolina-style BBQ—its sauce from scratch, not a bottle.
Fried chicken. Cornbread. Sunday morning bacon. Apple Brown Betty. All of these delicious, home-cooked foods traditionally come out of a cast-iron skillet. At my house, we have three or four of them that have been passed down through generations. While Ellen Brown’s New Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook has takes on these basic things, it opens a wider range of flavors and techniques from around the country and around the world.
Southern Living’s Farmers Market Cookbook has interesting, beautiful recipes that are not difficult for an ordinary cook to produce. This is to be expected as it is typical of anything from Southern Living’s magazines and cookbook lines. But what is different here is the book’s focus on vegetables, fruits, cheeses, and other foods that are available seasonally at local farmers markets.
Legendary New York Times food writer Craig Claiborne wrote more than 20 cookbooks, but surely none could have been closer to his heart or his roots than Southern Cooking.