“The Southern Living Community Cookbook: Celebrating Food & Fellowship in the American South” by Sheri Castle
Oxmoor House, $29.95
Every year in late December, I find myself going through new cookbooks looking for recipes to try for New Year’s Day. The recipes, of course, have to feature black-eyed peas for good luck. More often than not, I find a variation of a rice and black-eyed peas dish in at least one new cookbook. This year was no exception.
Food writer and recipe developer Sheri Castle’s new book, “The Southern Living Community Cookbook: Celebrating Food & Fellowship in the American South,” came to my rescue. The book’s recipe collection comes from top community cookbooks throughout the South, including two Louisiana Junior League books, “Talk About Good! Le Livre de la Cuisine de Lafayette” and Baton Rouge’s “River Road Recipes.”
The author notes that good community cookbooks “are also histories, storybooks, souvenirs and heirlooms” that give their readers a look “into the way people lived, cooked and ate in a specific place at a specific time. Finding an old community cookbook is like opening a time capsule.”
She says the first community cookbook, “A Poetical Cook-Book,” was written in 1864 and sold in Philadelphia to raise money for Civil War field hospitals.
The book’s eight recipe chapters range from “Snacks, Nibbles & Appetizers” to “Beverages & Libations.” Some recipes in “The Southern Living Community Cookbook” are selected from those submitted by readers from February 1966 to February 2014, while others are labeled as chef’s recipes, including the Gumbo Z’herbes recipe from Leah Chase, of New Orleans. Others are called a “Southern Living Classic” such as Hummingbird Cake from Mrs. L.H. Wiggins, of Greensboro, North Carolina, “the most requested recipe in Southern Living history.” Still others, like “River Road Recipes,” are labeled “Community Cookbook.” I was surprised at Castle’s choice of recipe to represent the classic Baton Rouge cookbook — Lime Gelatin and Cottage Cheese Salad, which the author says “offers everything people adore (or cannot abide) about over-the-top congealed salads.”
Castle also includes Southern Tales & Traditions sidebars about the South’s culinary history and traditions, such as info on the New Orleans muffuletta.
With its collection of both “oldie” recipes like Deviled Crab and modern favorites, “The Southern Living Community Cookbook” is a definite keeper.
Wishing you a happy and prosperous new year!
Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s food editor. Her email address is email@example.com.