Thursday, October 6, 2011

Book Review: The Southern Heritage Company's Coming Cookbook

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: The Southern Heritage Company's Coming Cookbook

Author: staff of Southern Living magazine

Date: 1983

Publisher: Oxmoor House

ISBN: 0-8487-0603-X

Length: 143 pages including index

Illustrations: many photos

Quote: "[C]ompany's on the way! Let's give them a real Southern welcome."

This book represents a transition point in its publisher's history.

Real "heritage" menus and recipes tend not to be very popular these days. One reason may be that the relative prices of different food items have changed. Plain corn meal used to be cheap home-grown fare, served with resignation or defiant pride by poor people; now it's a specialty item. Oranges used to be special treats, available north of Florida only during the Christmas holidays; now they're available, if not always very good, all year. People whose grandparents used to "have to" eat "weeds" such as burdock now think of gobo as a new, special Japanese thing, and may not recognize that it's basically the same plant they try to kill when it appears in their gardens.

Another reason is that even the Atkins Diet recommends less fat and fewer calories than Grandma might have served in good conscience. Today's Southern Living magazine now emphasizes Cooking Light. Less butter in the biscuits, less grease in the gravy, and less sugar in the coffee, are important new rules. A hundred years ago most Southerners spent enough time working on the farm to burn off all the extra calories they could get, and Southern cooking was rich, sweet, and buttery. Now that more of us commute to office jobs, the demand is for low-calorie cuisine.

The recipes in the Company's Coming Cookbook can't be called "light" but they're not as heavy as some of Grandma's recipes. Very few call for a cup of butter, or insist that lean meat be completely covered in bacon while it's being roasted in lard.

Some of them also call for specifically Southern ingredients like rice and oranges...on the other hand, these items are now sold in supermarkets almost everywhere. This is not the book to consult for specific regional treats like sorghum gingerbread, pawpaw pudding, ground-cherry pie, fried morels, or field cress.

Vegetarianism is not a Southern tradition. "Seasoning" cooked vegetables with a chunk of fat meat is a Southern tradition, although it's not mandatory. Because corn and rice grew in the South better than wheat did, because sugar was often rare, and because cheesemaking was traditional in only a few Southern families, this book does offer a good number of wheat-free, sugar-free, and cheese-free dishes. Several are dairy-free, too. There are also lots of substantial vegetable dishes that can be served as vegetarian entrees, but there aren't any completely vegan menus. As usual, people on special diets need to select and adapt recipes, but they'll be able to use this book.