This has been one of my favorite cookbooks since it was originally published in 2003. Ms. Lewis and Mr. Peacock had formed a curious cookbook partnership with Ms. Lewis African-American icon, culinary historian, and trailblazer combining her recipes and knowledge with a young, white, chef whose star was decidedly on the rise. How would the partnership work? Would the authors' egos, motivations, and generational differences inextricably collide, resulting in a work that seemed disjointed? Would the recipes suffer or the viewpoint of the book become muddied and undefined?
But, the resulting cookbook is wonderful. The recipes are a delicious mix of improved Southern classics and explorations of traditional methods and ingredients, with each chef interleafing their favorite flavors and dishes throughout each chapter. I later learned that they had developed this rapport through years of friendship and working together as professionals in the Southern food canon. From a cookbook standpoint, it's just outstanding work.
However, in reviewing the text through today's lens, The Gift of Southern Cooking also demonstrates a viewpoint and reminder that, as often as we like to debate the racial and cultural differences (and disparities) within this country, there are tangible reminders that cultural differences can overlap and be a form of celebration today. Viewpoints and history can be understood and shared and we can all sit together and find joy in the communal aspect of good food and common interests.
From the Publisher:
Edna Lewis--whose The Taste of Country Cooking has become an American classic--and Alabama-born chef Scott Peacock pool their unusual cooking talents to give us this unique cookbook. What makes it so special is that it represents different styles of Southern cooking--Miss Lewis's Virginia country cooking and Scott Peacock's inventive and sensitive blending of new tastes with the Alabama foods he grew up on, liberally seasoned with Native American, Caribbean, and African influences. Together they have taken neglected traditional recipes unearthed in their years of research together on Southern food and worked out new versions that they have made their own.
Together they share their secrets for such Southern basics as pan-fried chicken, creamy grits, and genuine Southern biscuits. Scott Peacock describes how Miss Lewis makes soup by coaxing the essence of flavor from vegetables, and he applies the same principle to his intensely flavored, scrumptious dish of Garlic Braised Shoulder Lamb Chops with Butter Beans and Tomatoes. You'll find all these treasures and more before you even get to the superb cakes (potential "Cakewalk Winners" all), the hand-cranked ice creams, the flaky pies, and homey custards and puddings. Lewis and Peacock include twenty-two seasonal menus, from A Spring Country Breakfast for a Late Sunday Morning and A Summer Dinner of Big Flavors to An Alabama Thanksgiving and A Hearty Dinner for a Cold Winter Night, to show you how to mix and match dishes for a true Southern table.
Interwoven throughout the book are warm memories of the people and the traditions that shaped these pure-tasting, genuinely American recipes. The result is a joyful coming together of two extraordinary cooks, sharing their gifts. And they invite you to join them.
About the Authors:
Edna Lewis was the recipient of numerous awards, including the Grande Dame of Les Dames d'Escoffier International (1999). She is the author of The Taste of Country Cooking, In Pursuit of Flavor, The Gift of Southern Cooking, and The Edna Lewis Cookbook. Although, she passed away in February 2006 at the age of eighty-nine, she still stands as one of the masters of African-American and Southern cooking.
Scott Peacock is a James Beard awarded chef (Best Chef Southeast 2007). He lives in Marion, Alabama, where he hosts private cooking explorations of the Southern culinary canon, including his celebrated Biscuit Experiences.
Release Date: April 2003