The Taste Of Country Cooking

The Taste Of Country Cooking

Back of the Bookshelf: Country Cooking

Our most loved cookbooks are often the oldest: Books we grew with, books that our grandparents passed on to us, old books purchased new over a decade ago, and even books that were found at yard sale or thrift stores. In this column, we celebrate these bibliographic treasures, and our favorite recipes therein.

This cookbook is widely recognized as being one of the best of the 20th-century. Therefore, it’s not logical that it should be revived and it shouldn’t land on the back cover of any bookcase. Although Edna Lewis is a well-known name, most people assume they know everyone else. A poll of friends showed that only a few knew about her, and almost none of them had ever owned one of her cookbooks. This could be a sign that I am not choosing enough Southerners as friends. Too few cooks? However, I worry that she might be one those food writers not as popular as other chefs.

The Taste of Country Cooking focuses on Lewis’s childhood and the life she led in Freetown Virginia. This book describes a year of Freetown life, including seasonal recipes as well as stories about life with family and friends. There are three menus with evocative titles that correspond to certain events and times of the year. These include an Emancipation Day dinner, a meal celebrating the Last of the Barnyard Fowl, or a late-spring lunch after wild mushroom picking. Lewis is warm and supportive and each menu contains personal tips and anecdotes about how to work with the ingredients. For those who like to share the cooking experience with a friend, this cookbook will be a great companion. It inspires readers to use the highest quality, freshest ingredients.

The Taste of Country Cooking is a favorite of mine. I go back to it for the Busy Day Cake recipe, which I love as a snacking and cake. But Lewis’ voice brings me great comfort. This book is like an adult fairy tale, telling the story about a past and present time. A place deeply connected to the earth and seasons, and full of simple pleasures like wild strawberries, first snows, and harvest time. The relationship between food and life is what I find most appealing as a 21st Century resident. Lewis makes a convincing argument for seasonal and local eating, which is as relevant as ever. Lewis is a leader, free from the political rhetoric of today. In Freetown, local and seasonal eating was simply a way of life.

Edna Lewis says that cooking was, to her, a process of trying to recreate the delicious flavors and beauty she enjoyed growing up. We don’t all have the same childhood as hers but we are able to learn from her.

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The “first lady” of Southern cuisine (NPR), shares her childhood memories and seasonal recipes in this timeless Southern cookbook. The author shows how we can recreate timeless Southern dishes at home using natural ingredients. With a preface by Judith Jones and foreword by Alice Waters.

Miss Lewis shares recipes and tips for all four seasons with menus that will delight you.

From the fresh taste of spring the first wild mushrooms and field greens to the feasts of summer garden-ripe vegetables and fresh blackberry cobbler and from the harvest of fall baked country ham and roasted newly dug sweet potatoes to the hearty fare of winter stews, soups, and baked beans Lewis sets down these marvelous dishes in loving detail.

These are the recipes for Corn Pone, Crispy Biscuits and Sweet Potato Casserole, Hot Buttered Beets and Sweet Potato Casserole, Pan-Braised Spareribs and Chicken with Dumplings. Dishes are organized into more than 30 seasonal menus, such as A Late Spring Lunch After Wild-Mushroom Picking, A Midsummer Sunday Breakfast, A Christmas Eve Supper, and an Emancipation Day Dinner.

In this seminal work, Edna Lewis shows us precisely how to recover, in our own country or city or suburban kitchens, the taste of the fresh, good, and distinctly American cooking that she grew up with.

Edna Lewis’S Cookbook Love Note: Edna Lewis’S Taste Of Country Cuisine

This Valentine’s Day is a great time to ask some favorite chefs and food writers for advice on the books that changed their lives and made their heart beat faster.

Like any chef worth his weight in salt, I’ve amassed quite the cookbook collection over the years. Some books were inherited from family members, while others were purchased on recommendation from my peers. The “must-haves” of chefs such as Thomas Keller, Alain Ducasse and others are my collection, along with modern masterpieces like Alinea Nama Faviken. Each one of these I love. They are my favorite things about my fellow chef and culinary professionals.

It is difficult to choose your favorite child. I believe the same about cookbooks. However, the first book I fell for was still with me. After reading it cover-to-cover, I was hungry and demanded my friends and coworkers to follow my lead. My first love was too straightforward, too basic, and too easy to them. But the moment I cracked open Edna Lewis’s The Taste of Country Cooking , my life changed.

In 2003, I discovered Ms. Lewis’s book on a shelf right outside the door to a Decatur restaurant, Watershed. Scott Peacock is the Watershed’s chef. This book was called The Gift of Southern Cooking. It contains recipes and insights from two of America’s greatest cooks. Atlanta loved him and his cuisine. Watershed is home to southern traditions and history, so people almost trampled each other. I was one among the many who just couldn’t wait for my chance to witness all of this excitement.

It was a great meal. The truth is, I don’t recall. What I do remember was wondering who that woman could have been on the book’s cover. I had never heard of Edna Lewis before, and to me she just looked like an old lady. While I now realize this is terrible, it still evokes a picture of a young chef wearing a long hat and starched white jacket. Peacock won the James Beard Award and gave credit to Lewis. This made me curious. So I took the only rational thing I had to do and bought Ms. Lewis’s book.

Michael Tuohy was the man I started with. He owned a restaurant called Woodfire Grill, and, as a line cook for Michael, it was my first time in the world of farm-to-table cuisine: Fresh vegetables from just down the road arrived at the back door daily. Woodfire Grill was about being a part of the local community. Michael believed that great food began with great ingredients. These thoughts had never crossed my mind before.

My first evening with Ms. Lewis was spent poring over the pages of her book. Each story showed me that we had more in common than I thought. Although Lewis is an African American girl who was born in Virginia, some of her experiences mirrored those I had growing up as a white man in Georgia. Michael Lewis was my mentor. Like Ms. Lewis, she believed that good food only comes from great ingredients. Because her thinking on cooking was so contemporary, I found it hard to resist flipping the page back to the original book. It was published in 1976. What could possibly make a book older than me so compatible with a growing movement in the South? Atlantans in the 1960s could only shrug off if asked what “seasonal” meant. Many people had lost touch with the true taste of fresh, real fresh meats. Reading Ms. Lewis, I knew she’d been on to this trend for decades. To her it was not a trend.

I also learned, for the first time really, that being a cook meant being a storyteller as well. The Taste of Country Cooking transports me to another time. I was barefoot and walked along with Ms. Lewis on a dirt path, collecting wild greens which had grown in the ditches or by the roadsides. I could see the crisp, cold Virginia mornings when they slaughtered hogs for the season. She was like a part of my world, her words my world. What makes stories about someone else so familiar to you?

As I kept reading, I felt more and more proud to be a southern-born chef. My first two years in my new career felt like I was making excuses to European chefs, who tried to show me how to cook “real food.” They would go on and on about Americans not being able to claim a particular cuisine. The lack of a true food identity. How it would be impossible for me to grasp the elegance and sophistication of la cuisine française. In 300 pages, Lewis convinced me of the importance of food that I loved and respected as much as other cuisines. I wanted nothing more than to go back to work, tell Michael that I finally understood where he was coming from, and start letting my own history pour onto the plate, just as Ms. Lewis had.

I lost Ms. Lewis in 2006 and never met her to say how much she had inspired me. She made it possible for me to feel empowered again to believe in south food. I consider that missed opportunity to be one of my biggest regrets in life. It’s not just me. Edna Lewis was an inspiration to many in the south. She inspired a whole generation of talented cooks, and has left an indelible mark on the foodways we love. I wish I could say thank you in person. Instead, I’ll have to let my food do the talking. I think she would have preferred it that way, anyhow.

the taste of country cooking

Thirty-years later: A Taste Of Southern Cooking

Download iframeSRC=”″ Width=”100%”, Height=”290″ Frameborder=”0″ Scrolling=”no “>Transcript Scott Peacock (executive chef at Watershed Restaurant) commemorates Edna Lewis’ 30th anniversary of Taste of Country Cooking.

Scott Peacock hides caption NEALCONAN. The host:

Edna Lewis wrote The Taste of Country Cooking 30 years ago to preserve the rich flavors of her childhood, but also to celebrate the place she came from, Freetown, Virginia. Ex-slaves, such as her grandfather, purchased the land to start a bustling farming community. Their rhythms revolved around harvesting and transforming the crops into delicious dishes, like fresh peach cobbler and nutmeg sauce, green peas with cream and ham biscuits.

Edna Lewis lived for some time in New York City. There, she worked at Cafe Nicholson and Gage and Tollner. But she never strayed far from her Southern heritage and, over time, moved Southern cooking onto the nation’s front burner.

Edna Lewis, who died in January of this year but whose classic cookbook is now 30 years old has recently been reprinted. Scott Peacock will be joining us as we discuss Edna Lewis’ legacy. Scott, her long-standing friend and collaborator is the executive chef at Watershed Restaurant. Scott joined us via Georgia Public Radio. Welcome to TALK ON THE NATION.

Neal, it’s great to see you, Mr. Scott Peacock (Executive chef, Watershed Restaurant in Atlanta). Your kind words are greatly appreciated.

CONAN – Southern cooking can take time. It takes patience and skill to make the dishes. This book was originally published in 1976. Back then, television dinners and fast-food were the norm. How did this first book get received?

It was very well received, Mr. PEACOCK. I was in grade school at the time, so I can’t give a first-hand account. But I think it was recognized by some people as what it is; it’s just – it’s a terrific (unintelligible) and really an instruction guide back to a better way of life.

CONAN: She wrote the cookbook like she was telling an entire story. Every meal had an associated event.

Mr. PEACOCK: Yes. These menus look beautiful. These are, of course, lunch at wheat-threshing and certain other things such as hog-killing. While you might not consider them to be that special, she makes it sound very poetic. Also, she mentions mid-summer’s Sunday brunch and Sunday revival. She paints a vivid picture of her childhood. This is written by an adult who looks back at her childhood. I find it remarkable that her wisdom was so evident. She was also very intelligent and had no naivety. She lived most of her life in New York and she didn’t mess around, but she always held on to a certain innocence.

Get cooking with us Kitchn’s Nov Pick for Cookbookclub Is “The Taste Of Country Culinary” By Edna Lewis

This page was updated on October 13, 2020.

Hello, fellow Cookbook Club members! We’re only about halfway through the month of The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen , and it’s been a joy to cook through so far. It is amazing how many of these recipes can be interconnected. The wild rice pilaf asks for you to make corn stock (p 170), while the three sisters mashing (p 43) calls you to prepare the cedar braised beans (p 36), and cooked hominy(p 31).

As you enjoy Sean Sherman’s books, I want to let you know that Edna Lewis has published The Taste of Country Cooking, which will be our November cookbook. Find out why and how you could participate by reading on.

Kitchn’s digital Cookbook Club will allow you to participate. Let’s find out how to get involved in the digital cookbook club of Kitchn.

Purchase the book Buy the book at Amazon Bookshop, or go to your library. While some libraries are closed currently, digital copies may still be available. It might be worth looking into your local bookshop.

Kitchn Cookbook Club Facebook group . This group is for you all to share your thoughts on the book, ask any questions, and talk about how you cook.

Use #kitchncookbookclub to tag your recipe reviews on Instagram. Recipe from The Taste of Country Cooking Add a snap of your dish to Instagram and include a description of the recipe.

.The Taste Of Country Cooking

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