Butter Beans to Blackberries: Recipes from the Southern Garden
by Ronni Lundy
Published by North Point Press
347 pages, 1999
Buy it online
From a Southern Garden
Reviewed by Linda L. Richards
There's a certain type of cookbook that jumps most readily into my hand. It seems to have little to do with the type of food on offer -- I love all kinds -- or the food illustrations or lack thereof. For me it's a combination of inviting recipes, logical layout and happy anecdotes and tone. Butter Beans to Blackberries: Recipes from the Southern Garden is a stand up in all of these areas. The book fairly leapt into my hand on first encounter and hasn't been far from it since.
The cooking of the South is diverse, ranging from the delicately spiced melanges of Creole coastal cuisine to the more straightforward down-home slow-simmer style prevalent in the highland mountains. It is nearly impossible to define by specific cooking techniques, spices, or ingredients, although to paraphrase: You'll know it when you eat it.
You'll know it when you read it, too. This is the food the South is made of and Lundy's cheerful, down-to-business style is rivaled only by the recipes she's collected for this book.
Vincent told me that his most French interpretation of fried grits is when he mixes in foie gras. I told him that there is a classic Southern breakfast dish made not with grits, but with its kissing cousin, corn mush, and cooked chicken liver, ground to a paste-like consistency. "There you go," he said. "All great tastes end up being Southern."
The book had been in my hands less than 30 minutes before I tried the Mizithra Grits Casserole, with great success. Subsequent experiments have been just as wonderful.
Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.