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The Glory of Southern Cooking

(article, Christina Eng)

In some ways, James Villas has been working on this title for years. Co-author (with mom Martha Pearl Villas) of My Mother’s Southern Kitchen (1994), My Mother’s Southern Desserts (1998), and, of course, My Mother’s Southern Entertaining (2000), he has written at length about specialties from this part of the country for decades. Here, he goes even further. 

The North Carolina native, a James Beard Award-winning journalist and former food and wine editor for Town & Country magazine, sets out “to canvass the food traditions of every single state in the South . . . to clarify the similarities and differences among most of the best-known classic dishes . . . and generally document, in recipes and headnotes, the most important factors inherent in this unique style of cooking.” 


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In addition to gumbos and grits, barbecue and biscuits — items we readily identify with the South — Villas talks about Georgia-style Pickled Shrimp, for example, eaten as an appetizer; Arkansas Caviar made with black-eyed peas; Kentucky Burgoo, a beef and lamb stew; and Tennessee Bean, Sausage, and Mixed Greens Soup. He writes of comfort foods prepared every day in Southern kitchens, of dishes presented at family get-togethers and church buffets.

Villas tips his hat often as well to restaurateurs and cookbook authors who have helped popularize the cuisine, extending its reach. He shares recipes from Paul Prudhomme, for example, and Ella Brennan, who run K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen and Commander’s Palace, respectively, in New Orleans. He gives proper due to television stars Paula Deen and Emeril Lagasse. And he celebrates Southern cooking in all its glory.

p(bio). [ "Christina Eng"] is a writer in Oakland, California.

*Also on Culinate: More on southern cooking.

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