Food & Drink

The Southern Cookbook Canon

An A-to-Z guide of the cookbooks that have shaped our region’s culinary traditions, from the people who know them best—chefs and other Southern food authorities

Bluegrass Winners: A Cookbook by Kentucky Garden Club of Lexington

“This book has pride of place in the kitchen of my mother and grandmother, and it’s one of the favorites in my kitchen, too; for me, it’s all about nostalgia. Our storied horse farms are featured along with forgotten dishes like Benedictine and Olive-Nut Spread, both of which my great-grandmother used to make. It’s a total trip into her kitchen.”

—Brooks Reitz
Restaurateur, Leon’s Fine Poultry & Oyster Shop,
Little Jack’s Tavern, and Melfi’s
Charleston, South Carolina

 


 

Charleston Receipts by the Junior League of Charleston

Charleston Receipts is a great historical reference. It is a collection of recipes by the Junior League of Charleston and first published in 1950 but has recipes that date back to the 1800s. It houses gems like old-fashioned layer cakes, rice purloos, crab dishes, and benne seed wafers. Pour yourself a glass of Madeira and sit in the shade on the porch to read this one.”

—Steven Satterfield
Chef and co-owner, Miller Union
Atlanta, Georgia


The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W. Twitty

“This isn’t strictly—or in fact at all—a cookbook, but it is the story of a food and a people that are at the heart of how we eat as Southerners and as Americans. My dear friend Michael Twitty honors our food heritage by keeping a record of it; everyone who cares about food or history or blackness or Southernness—or any combination of those things—needs to have this book.”

—Caroline Randall Williams
Co-Author, Soul Food Love,
and restaurateur, Woolworth on 5th
Nashville, Tennessee


Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South by Vivian Howard

“Vivian set out to create a cookbook, and wrote an enormous anthology of Southern recipes specific to the region in North Carolina where she is from. It is a beautiful book, but what I love most is the breadth of recipes. There is something for everyone and every ingredient. I can’t wait to cook her tomato pie each summer. I had it at her restaurant Chef & the Farmer, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.”

—Katie Button
Chef and owner, Cúrate, Nightbell,
and Button & Co. Bagels
Asheville, North Carolina


The Edna Lewis Cookbook by Edna Lewis and Evangeline Peterson

“Anyone worth their Southern cooking salt will already have Miss Lewis’s The Taste of Country Cooking. The author and the title speak for themselves. ButThe Edna Lewis Cookbook is my personal favorite. It is that wonderful intersection of high and low, the very fine and the down-home, that makes Southern food and Southern foodways matter to so many people. The recipes work. The voice is hers. It’s an essential.”

—Caroline Randall Williams


The Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine by John D. Folse

“Living in New Orleans has made me appreciate this book so much more. This is a great book to get acquainted with ingredients and dishes that are unique to Louisiana and that you wouldn’t normally find anywhere else in the United States. This book is the essence of Cajun and Creole cuisine.”

—Nina Compton
Chef and co-owner, Compère Lapin
and Bywater American Bistro
New Orleans, Louisiana


The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery by Linda Garland Page and Eliot Wiggington

“My heart swells when I hold this book. It is filled with the food of my home and often serves as a reference guide to show people where I grew up. The way Foxfire documented and respected the people of Appalachia has inspired me to start my own project. I owe a lot to The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery. It serves as a great source of pride for the cooking of my family.”

—Sean Brock
Founding chef, Husk restaurants
Nashville, Tennessee


The Heritage of Southern Cooking by Camille Glenn

“This book was my mother’s. She picked it up when I was about three years old, and then passed it on to me. The recipes in it are certainly a little more old-fashioned in their approach, and you will find things like aspic and Brunswick stew. I love to use the book for ideas, such as Vidalia Onion Pie, to which I might decide to add some thyme sprigs, or I might take the idea for a simple ham with zucchini and finish it with ribbons of prosciutto or jamón ibérico instead of slivered baked ham. There is also Camille’s Golden Cointreau Cake, which is an airy sponge cake laced with Cointreau and served with frosting with another heavy dose of Cointreau. When I was a little girl, I loved baking, and I remember when I graduated from making devil’s food cake to this beautiful concoction. I was so proud, and it was so delicious. And yes, at the age of twelve, I did love the flavor of Cointreau.”

—Katie Button


Hoppin’ John’s Lowcountry Cooking: Recipes and Ruminations from Charleston & the Carolina Coastal Plain by John Martin Taylor

“I bought this book in the late nineties, while I was still a teenager. I had just moved to Charleston, South Carolina, from southwestern Virginia and was trying to study Lowcountry cooking with an intense curiosity. This was the book that everyone suggested. Flipping through those pages was my first deep dive into a cuisine that I am still just as fascinated by. Hoppin’ John is a hero of mine. I was immediately inspired by his passion for the food of his family. Turn to page two and you’ll find a story about how his mother cooked the shrimp he would catch in the creek water. It’s safe to say that I’ll never cook shrimp another way.”

—Sean Brock


A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen by Hugh Acheson

“I think Acheson really captures modern Southern cuisine in his book. He is such a talented chef and is able to demonstrate that tradition and innovation can come together to create delicious food.”

—Nina Compton


Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner by Ashley Christensen

“Ashley’s food is super tasty, and she is a powerhouse Southern chef. She shares great stories while creatively reimagining Southern favorites, and she delivers it in a way that is fun, approachable, and lighthearted. What more could you ask of an awesome cookbook?”

—Cassidee Dabney
Chef, the Barn at Blackberry Farm
Walland, Tennessee


Root to Leaf: A Southern Chef Cooks Through the Seasons by Steven Satterfield

“Southern food is often unfairly pigeonholed as ‘heavy’ by some, but this book by one of my favorite Southerners is a testament to the elegance, lightness, and nuance of our vegetables in the South. This is the first book I pick up when I’m looking to celebrate the South and keep things healthy and nourishing.”

—Brooks Reitz


Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel by Alon Shaya

“You don’t have to be born and raised in the South to be a great Southern chef. Alon weaves an awesome journey of food and life in this book, and it will draw you in—to the story and the plate.”

—Cassidee Dabney


Bill Neal’s Southern Cooking by Bill Neal

“His path as a chef feels similar to mine. A kindred soul who had an awakening and a discovery that developed into an appreciation and deep love of the foods and flavors all around him. While he started as a French chef, he evolved into a Southern cook. Wish I had met him.”

—Linton Hopkins
Chef and co-owner, Resurgens Hospitality Group
Atlanta, Georgia


Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, in History by John Egerton

“This is what happens when a brilliant writer and compassionate thinker uses the table to speak about culture. I ‘borrowed’ this book from the library at my culinary school to be the basis of my final project on Southern cooking. Years later, I was able to cook a dish in his honor at Blackberry Farm and confess my plagiaristic sins to John. He got a good laugh out of it, and I felt a little relief. Make the recipe for Pine Bark Stew and tell the story of its history the way John writes it. Hopefully you will see why books like this are so important for the future of Southern food.”

—Sean Brock


Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine: Recipes and Reminiscences of a Family by Norma Jean and Carole Darden 

“I don’t think my cookbook would exist without this one. The Darden sisters are two strong, smart black women who put pen to paper to tell their family’s story through food. The elegant, honest soul of this book is one of the first places I saw how food tells a story, how you learn your family through what they ate, and how.”

—Caroline Randall Williams


The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis

“Edna’s recipes are timeless, comforting, and rich in tradition. It’s such a personal cookbook, and you really get a sense of her appreciation of food and the importance of cooking with seasonal ingredients. It’s full of soul, and that’s what Southern food is all about.”

—Nina Compton


Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes by Ronni Lundy

“The traditions of cooking, food, and culture in the Mountain South are still relatively untouched, and this book captures them really beautifully. Ronni really helped legitimize Appalachian food as a true cuisine with this book.”

—Jeremiah Langhorne
Chef and co-owner, the Dabney
Washington, D.C.


The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph

“I have many reasons for loving this book, along with the Southern regional cookbooks of the nineteenth century, because they were created before there was a canon of defined Southern food classics. This book is the birth of many of our classics—fried chicken being one prime example—but there are other amazing dishes such as Catfish Soup and the ‘from scratch’ method for cleaning turtle, because you may need to know.”

—Linton Hopkins


What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, Soups, Pickles, Preserves, Etc. by Abby Fisher

“The 1881 book was for years considered the first African American cookbook and remains a compendium of favorites.”

—Jessica B. Harris
Culinary historian and author, My Soul Looks Back
New Orleans, Louisiana

 


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