It’s that time of year again, when your faithful food writer samples the new crop of fall books and shares her choice selections with you. This year, we’re changing it up a bit to home in on titles that highlight what’s tasty about the Carolinas.
A hands-down favorite is Kiln to Kitchen: Favorite Recipes from Beloved North Carolina Potters. Author Jean Anderson and photographer Lissa Gotwals showcase the marriage of two iconic Carolina art forms: cookery and pottery. It’s a compelling concept that makes for a beautiful book that’s full of lore, instructions for cooking in pottery, and the detailed-yet-readable research (including recipe testing) for which Anderson is known. I like to pass along cookbooks after I’ve read them, but I’m not going to part with this one.
At a meeting a while back, I stumbled into the catering line and met Ricky Moore, who was providing the astonishingly good grilled fish and stew from his restaurant. That makes me one of the many people overjoyed to see that Moore’s Saltbox Seafood Joint Cookbook has just been released. With co-author K.C. Hysmith, Moore demystifies seafood cookery and divulges the seasonings and methods that will give home cooks great results. If you have trouble telling the difference between a grouper and a snapper, there are helpful illustrations and charts that show you what to buy when. I'm not a confident seafood cook but I'm looking forward to trying out these “Fried and Joy” tips.
Nathalie Dupree’s Favorite Stories and Recipes is the latest from the incomparable Charleston-based cookbook author, restaurateur, and television personality whose expertise is matched by her wit and her warmth. Co-written with frequent collaborator Cynthia Stevens Graubart, the book wonderfully evokes Dupree’s energy and her boundless joie de vivre. The photos by Helene Dujardin are luscious, but it’s the weathered personal photos from the author, herself, that make her culinary journey come to life. (She also posts slice-of-life updates on Facebook regularly that are sometimes pretty juicy and salty.) If you need convincing that this is an essential book for lovers of Southern food and storytelling, the recipe for Two-Ingredient Cream Biscuits alone is worth the price.
Sallie Ann Robinson grew up on Daufuskie Island, off the coast of South Carolina. She’s just released her third cookbook, Sallie Ann Robinson’s Kitchen: Food and Family Lore from the Lowcountry. Without electricity until the 1950s, the Gullah islanders were considered by members of mainland society to be backward and deprived. Robinson upends those stereotypes to tell stories of a rich culture that relied on hunting, fishing, and foraging for self-sufficiency. (As one of the children fictionalized in Pat Conroy’s book, The Water is Wide, she maintained a lifelong relationship with the author until his death.) Robinson remains an important keeper of Gullah traditions.
South: Essential Recipes and New Explorations by Sean Brock was just released a week ago and it’s already the No. 1 new release in “Southern Cooking, Food and Wine” on amazon.com. How does that happen? Such is the power of the author and restaurateur whose first book won both a James Beard Award and an IACP Julia Child First Book Award. Now, as someone who reads cookbooks as much (or more) for the narrative as the recipes, I’m a fan of Brock’s ability to captivate readers. Consider this: He discusses how the geographic area of the Southern United States and Europe are roughly equivalent. Then he challenges us to consider that we, too, have a breadth of culinary ingredients and styles that should be just as deeply investigated – and celebrated. I’ll be savoring this one slowly.
Lastly, every food experience needs a beverage to go with it. So let’s lift a glass – or a jug, actually – to Tar Heel Lightnin’: How Secret Stills and Fast Cars Made North Carolina the Moonshine Capital of the World. It’s a surprisingly enjoyable book. Daniel S. Pierce does a deep dive into the history and economic impact of liquor in the state. The author proposes a "Moonshine Hall of Fame (and Shame)," and populates it with profiles from his roster of renegades. It's always a joy to read about people whom an author genuinely admires, and Pierce truly recognizes the “world-class creativity, entrepreneurship, and native intelligence” of the people he profiles. And he dedicates the book to Andy Griffith, so you know he can be trusted.
Happy fall reading!
Amy Rogers writes WFAEats, a fun adventure where we explore all things tasty and tackle the meatier side of the food scene in and around Charlotte.