Books | August 2016
As the heat and humidity devour what is left of another summer season, it is easy to start wishing for the comfort and mild temperatures of autumn. Even with summer’s end rapidly approaching, however, there is still plenty of warm weather’s bounty left to savor in terms of food and travel. It just would not quite be summer in the South without delicious fresh garden produce, a spur-of-the-minute weekend road trip, and of course, a few roadside eateries along the way. Be sure to check out these summertime reads, perfect for inspiring those last-minute hot weather plans.
The Southern Vegetable Book by Rebecca Lang
Perhaps nothing rings as clearly of summertime as a bucket of vegetables fresh out of the garden. Their presence on the dinner table in all their homegrown splendor, though, is the real treat. This is the essence of Rebecca Lang’s exploration in her new book, which discusses all things vegetable in its quest for a new appreciation for this old Southern tradition. The connection between Southern culture and vegetable gardening is undeniable. It’s not just growing the food or preparing it that is important. Rather, Rebecca turns her attention to the sense of community, history, and connectedness that Southern gardens hold. She writes, “Thanks to growing up in a farming community, I often saw vegetables come in the back door in bushels rather than in grocery store bags. It was those grand volumes of fresh produce that drew my parents and my grandmothers to the screened porch to shuck, shell, string, or snap. Fingers would work while legs gently nudged gliders and rockers into a contagious rhythm.” What memories these lines will invoke for readers who have had the joy of participating in such time-honored summer traditions. But, beyond that, the book goes on to impart a great degree of useful and practical information for new gardeners and seasoned farmers alike. For instance, the book includes sections such as “Ways to Shop for the Best Vegetables” and “Making the Right Vegetable Cut.” It is not all about actually growing the veggies (though it is full of nostalgia where that is concerned), but instead focuses on selecting and preparing all the best local food regardless of whether you buy it or grow it yourself. Beautiful recipes abound in this volume, which is neatly organized by vegetable and season with entire sections dedicated to beets, fennel, and the like. The photography is gorgeous and is sure to beg readers to try each and every one of these tempting recipes.
Southern Routes: Secret Recipes from the Best
Down-Home Joints in the South by Ben Vaughn
For anyone who has ever wished they could gain the inside knowledge about the South’s best recipes, Ben Vaughn has created the perfect answer in this volume chronicling his journey from North Carolina to Texas in search of the best dishes our region has to offer. As an award-winning chef, author, and restaurateur, as well as a Food Network host, he is certainly up to the task. In this book, his mission was to provide the 100 most delicious Southern recipes and he was able to meet that challenge, even if it was not always easy. The book is more than a compilation of recipes, though. There is plenty of entertainment woven in as he captures the real stories of the folks along the way. As most Southerners well know, recipes are often top secret as many have been passed down through the generations. As Ben encounters one such situation, he effectively recreates the recipe in question on his own in order to provide the recipe. He even puts those replicated versions to the test by getting approval straight from the source. This book is said to be a virtual roadmap for hitting all the South’s best kitchens including the Delta’s Mat and Naddies and Carlos, as well as Rocky’s in New Orleans. Wendell Smith’s Restaurant in Tennessee and Martha’s Menu in Mississippi also grace the book’s pages alongside many other classics. Ben sits on the culinary advisory board to National Food Day while also serving as CEO and culinary director for his own restaurant group. Southern Routes is sure to inspire a delicious meal creation (if not an end-of-summer road trip) for readers on either side of the Mason-Dixon.
Produce & Podunks
Southern food and travel take center stage in two of the summer’s most
entertaining regional books for passing the dog days
Review by Shana Raley-Lusk