Moonshine

Living as I do in the heart of moonshine [white lightning] country, I just about dropped the cookbook when I saw the word “Moonshine.” If it had been a Southern cookbook or a Foxfire book, I would have turned the page without a second thought and been done with it. But this reference to “Moonshine”…

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West African Origins of Southern Cooking

Nearly all writers on Southern food agree that African slaves influenced the evolution of Southern food. Here's a video of Burkina Faso, where I lived for two years, and a lunch served in a village.

Majorie Kinnan Rawlings and Cross Creek

No longer a well-known writer, Pulitzer-Prize winner Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings deserves more attention. Author of the popular coming-of-age novel, The Yearling (1938), Rawlings immortalized the lives of the rural people of north Florida, often derisively called "Crackers." This photo essay grew out of my recent trip to north central Florida, as well as from long-term…

Another Fish in the Sea: Mullet

Of all the nurslings of the sea, mullets have the most gentle and just disposition, harming neither each other nor any other creatures, never staining their lips with blood but...always feeding on the green seaweed. ‑‑Oppian‑‑ Ancient Greek Poet Silvery jumping mullet cause otherwise staid fishermen to jump for joy, especially now since fall passed…

Hog and Hominy: Soul Food From Africa to America, by Frederick Douglass Opie

Several books on African-American cooking tempt me right now, all brilliant in their own way. See Building Houses Out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, & Power, by Psyche Williams-Forson; Savage Barbecue: Race, Culture, and the Invention of America's First Food, by Andrew Warnes; African American Foodways: Explorations of History and Culture, edited by Anne…

Okra’s Obstreperous Origins

Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus, previously Hibiscus esculentus), that beveled beauty so beloved by Arab, Indian, Southern American, and West African cooks for its mucilaginous nature, originated in Ethiopia. From the Niger-Congo language family, the term "okra" derives from a Twi word, nkuruma, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). By the early 1800s, English speakers called…

The Lady From Chatham, Virginia

Southern hospitality is not gone with the wind, at least not in Chatham Virginia. Food writer Patricia Mitchell,* owner of the now-closed Sims-Mitchell House Bed & Breakfast, makes sure of that. And you can’t expect anything less from a woman who called her first 1968 Mustang “Penelope.” You know, after Odysseus’s wife, who kept the home fires burning and the soup bubbling while the hero was off slaying monsters and avoiding Sirens. Every day Mrs. Mitchell’s guests enjoyed baked concoctions at breakfast that would cause Scarlett O’Hara to swoon, even without tight stays or Rhett Butler lurking around.