Wednesday, August 02, 2006

30th Anniversary of THE TASTE OF COUNTRY COOKING by Edna Lewis

I was thrilled to learn of a recent episode of NPR's Talk of the Nation in which "Scott Peacock, executive chef at Watershed Restaurant and author of The Gift of Southern Cooking: Recipes and Revelations from Two Southern Chefs, commemorates the 30th anniversary of the late Edna Lewis' southern cooking classic, The Taste of Country Cooking."

Only eight minutes long, this segment is a real gem (you'll need RealPlayer to listen). Peacock explains that Lewis was at the forefront of an approach to cooking that focused on purity and the immediacy of the seasons ("What grows together, goes together.") I regret that I cannot transcribe this interview for you to enjoy. Here's a snippet of Lewis' book which the show's host, Neal Conan, reads aloud:
Breakfast was about the best part of the day. There was an almost mysterious feeling about passing through the night and awakening to a new day. Everyone greeted each other in the morning with gladness and a real sense of gratefulness to see the new day. If it was a particularly beautiful morning it was expressed in the grace. Spring would bring our first and just about only fish--shad. It would always be served for breakfast, soaked in salt water for an hour or so, rolled in seasoned cornmeal, and fried carefully in home-rendered lard with a slice of smoked shoulder for added flavor. There were crispy fried white potatoes, fried onions, batter bread, any food left over from supper, blackberry jelly, delicious hot coffee, and cocoa for the children. And perhaps if a neighbor dropped in dandelion wine was added. With the morning feeding of the animals out of the way, breakfast was enjoyable and leisurely (pp. 3-4).

As I was thumbing through the book this evening, I found a statement that many of you will appreciate:
The smell of coffee cooking was a reason for growing up, because children were never allowed to have it and nothing haunted the nostrils all the way out to the barn as did the aroma of boiling coffee (p. 26).

In the comments to my review of My Life in France by Julia Child, I recommended Lewis' book and observed that

Julia Child (My Life in France) and Edna Lewis (The Taste of Country Cooking) are no doubt glossing over the "messier" parts of life. Both women are looking back, after several decades have passed, on a time that they remember as having been "ideal." Do people often associate food with the "best times" of their lives? Can you recommend cooking narratives that deal with troubled times?

Any thoughts on these questions?

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