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Making the Cut – Southern Living Magazine “100 Best Cookbooks of All Time”

Part 1

(Please go to Southern Living’s website for authors)

Last month I received exciting news. Carole Darden, the co-author with her sister, Norma Jean Darden, of a favourite cookbook, Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine: Reminiscences of a Family, (#82) (see www.raillinebooks.ca/books) wrote to let me know that their book was chosen by Southern Living Magazine as one of “The 100 Best Cookbooks of All Time.” I was so happy to hear this about my cousins’ book and to realize that my instincts regarding my choices of cookbooks to recommend have been corroborated. The 25th anniversary of Spoonbread was marked by a second printing in 2003.

Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine 25th Anniversary Edition

All the cookbooks mentioned on the List are books by American authors. The list includes several of the books I have reviewed in my posts and also those I mention in my Introduction to The Passionate Artist’s Palate Cookbook. I was gratified and so tickled to see that so many of my choices were on the list.

What makes this a valuable list, particularly for those who aren’t yet regular cooks, are the succinct and relevant comments on each book. Selections by Southern Living Magazine cover easier simple food preparations to complex and difficult ones. For example, The Settlement Cookbook by Mrs. Simon Kander and Mrs. Henry Schoenfeld 1903 (# 59) is described as having “…back to basics recipes … [that] might seem old-fashioned, but many of them still suit today’s busy lifestyles.”  This cookbook would appeal to me not just for the fact that it contains important basic information for cooks arriving in the U.S. and unfamiliar with some American foods, but also because, in my experience, basic recipes can be extremely satisfying and can be less time-consuming than many modern time-savers. There is a knowledge of frugal, time-sensitive preparations that retain flavour well. In addition, many of the older cookbooks, have a far-ranging food repertoire that many books no longer do. How many fish steaks prepared essentially in the identical manner can one take? Few of the splashy, publisher-/celebrity-driven cookbooks we have purchased in the last 10 years contain recipes for whole fish of all sorts rather than only steaks and filets. The sauces and dressings are different and so varied in the older books; the taste of a whole fish can awaken the taste buds beautifully.

With a swing of the pendulum in the other direction, Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor’s Vibration Cooking: Or, The Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl (# 81) is described as “…food that’s prepared intuitively based on whatever ingredients are at hand and the mood of the cook.” Smart-Grosvenor’s goal is to showcase food as an avenue for African-American women to find validation.

It is not everyone’s forte to be an intuitive cook. Everyone in my family fits into this category. Like Smart-Grosvenor, we have travelled extensively, always tasting the foods we encountered with a taste bud ready to remember the details of the foods.

Intuitive food preparation is an art. For those interested in food as a manner of self-expression, travel and open-mindedness can be the triggers for intuitive cooking stemming from a deep interest in preparing foods. Smart-Grosvenor travelled around the world to land where she is now. Her roots are deep in Gullah-Geechee country in the southern U.S. so, everything she has learned about international cuisine sits alongside her home cooking.

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