Friday, September 26, 2008

"The Gift of Southern Cooking" Cookbook Review and Bibliomancy Part 3

This is a lovely night on Short Street. Its late September, with a slightly chilly drizzle outside. The cakes and icings are all really fresh and happy from the cool weather. Eileen and I have been working all day on the three weddings plus the Blogapolooza Cake. Its been a good, productive day, and I'll be working into the night and all day tomorrow. I got to take a break and get pizza with my family a little while ago. They left to go to a party and I came home to bake- so I'm feeling rejuvinated and listening to loud music and having a Friday night by myself in the bakery/house.
And I feel inspired to write tonight while I bake, about a recipe book I love, called "The Gift of Southern Cooking" by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock.
And now I'm going to mix up several batches of lemon cake and put them in the oven and come back and write some more.
I would like to say that Beck's "Midnight Vultures" is a freaking great album.
I would like to add that there is a huge amount of dishwashing involved in this project.
And now:

"The Gift of Southern Cooking, Recipes and Revelations from two great American cooks," is a collaboration between the late Edna Lewis, storied and celebrated Southern chef, and Scott Peacock, Executive Chef at Atlanta's Watershed Restaurant. The two (one a young, white, gay man and the other an eldery black woman) had a long and enduring friendship that included them living together in Peacock's Decatur, GA home for the last 10 years of Miss Lewis' life. Their stories that unfold in the pages of the book are touching, and dignified, and interesting, from Scott's upbringing in rural southern Alabama, where he remembers picking field peas and making chowchow with his family, to Miss Lewis' hipster bohemian days in New York in the 1940s as the chef of the Cafe Nicholson, which was frequented by guests such as Truman Capote, Marlene Dietrich and Tennessee Williams.
And the recipes, the recipes are beautiful.
Where to begin? The lard biscuits. The Lemon Cheese Cake (which is not a cheesecake but a layer cake iced with lemon curd, or "cheese"). The okra pancakes. The cardamom-scented sugar cubes. The snapper. The deviled eggs. The AMBROSIA! Who would have thought that I could love an Ambrosia without marshmallows and maraschino cherries? But their simple rendering, with only oranges, coconut, sugar, cream sherry, and salt, is sublime.
Am I gushing? I'm not exaggerating. Their recipes are nothing less than an exquisite, subtle harmony between intuitive, seasonal, necessity-based seasonal home cooking and high culinary art born of imagination and studied professionalism. And the regional balance of Miss Lewis' Virginia upbringing- where the cuisine is much more informed by French and English cooking as well as cooler-weather crops- and Mr. Peacock's Gulf Coast-influenced culinary roots, is enlivening to the recipes, as well.
Other highlights are a description of the plantation history of the "cake walk" and the origin of the phrase "that takes the cake;" and beautiful photographs of the striking Miss Lewis from past decades, as well as beautiful photographs of Mr. Peacock and Miss Lewis together.

Like all good cookbooks, love is deep in every page, and in this case, its not just the love of food, or a landscape, or a time gone by that one feels when using it. I think it is also the love that the two great chefs have for one another that ultimately makes this cookbook so, well, beloved.
I love this book, the biscuits are my staple, and if you get a chance to pick up a copy, I think you'll be glad you did.
And now, for the bibliomancy:
"Corn pudding is a true Southern delicacy, and one of the great treats of summer. It can be served as a light supper dish, as an accompaniment to meat, or as a part of a vegetable plate. Use only the freshest corn, and bake until just set for the best texture."
There you have it. Part 3 of the Cookbook Review and Bibliomancy Series on My Life in Cake.
2 of the lemon cakes have fallen and I need more sour cream.
I'm tired and I'm going to bed and I'm going to start over on them in the morning.


Bailey said...

Hello -
I am a filmmaker in Atlanta. I read your latest blog with the mention of Edna Lewis, her recipes and her relationship with Scott Peacock.

I just wanted to let you know I produced a 21 minute documentary about Miss Edna Lewis and its viewable in its entirety on Internet at a Gourmet Magazine website:

and at a Georgia Public Broadcasting website:

My documentary is called "Fried Chicken and Sweet Potato Pie".

My website,

has more information about the film and the story of Miss Lewis.

Bailey Barash

FOO said...

Hi Jodi!

I just wanted to offer congratulations for all the much-deserved awards you got last night! My husband, Doug, went as a member of Scrutiny Hooligans and said your cake was a highlight! He also brought me back a piece and it was sooo yummy! I'm so glad that you are loving what you do and finding great success!

chall gray said...

Hey there,

Congrats on your awards! Hope to see you soon..


Sauce said...

Hola Jodi! Felicidades on all the awards!