Written from the perspective of a cook living in the Mississippi Delta, this book aims to depict tasty meals and a laid back lifestyle. Texas born and raised in the big city, I envy such a lifestyle even with knowing that it isn’t always what it is purported to be. Pictures never capture the oppressive heat and humidity or the sheer joy of a cloud of gnats descending upon you.

 

The cookbook opens with a section titled “Mailbox Happy hour and Pick-up Party Food.” Or, as I would call it, “appetizers and booze.” Drinks made with alcohol and small finger foods guide these recipes and occasional color pictures. Little sections of commentary or background lead into these easy to make recipes along with notes (tips) on how to make items. And of course, there is the obligatory “Deviled Egg” recipe complete with paprika along with some more complicated recipes such as “Red Drum Starter” and “Inland Prawn Toast.”

 

“Luncheons, Salads and Dressings” is the next section. Along with recipes for tasty “Chicken Salad, Frozen Cucumber Salad,” and “Three Bean Salad,” there are ones for “Homemade Mayonnaise” and “Pimento Cheese” spread. There are many others in this section and certainly something here is going to work for somebody.

 

The next section is “Gumbos, Soups, Dumplings and a Bisque.” Pretty much obvious by the name what is covered in this chapter. Lots of good things here like “Seafood Gumbo, Curried Sweet Potato Soup, Monday Red Beans and Rice” and many others. The bisque is a recipe for “Belzoni Crawfish Rice and Corn” and is found on pages 84 and 85. There is even a recipe for “Turtle Soup” using the large alligator snapping turtles along with a warning about checking with your state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries regarding trapping regulations.

 

“Dishes From the Backyard and Kitchen” come next and involve chicken, turkey, poultry, pork in a variety of ways, steak, ribs, etc. The recipes include “Proper Fried Chicken, Double Cut Pork Chops, Blue Cheese Porterhouse” and many others. If it were me, I’d save the blue cheese for the dressing on my salad, the sour cream for my potato, and eat the steak well done without anything on it. That is after cooking it over a wood fire under a blue Texas sky next to a lake. But, that is just me.

 

The book then moves on to sides and these aren’t simple mashed potatoes, or string beans with a dollop of butter. In  “Field Peas, Greens, Sides and the Like” the recipes are for things like “Crumb Cauliflower ” (which just might make the stuff edible) “Green Chile Rice, Succotash, Corn and Red Pepper Pudding” along with many more. And yes, there is the obligatory sweet potato recipe.

 

“Hot From the Oven” should have been titled “Biscuits and More” or something straight forward along that line. The recipes cover various items such as “Apron String Biscuits” (with Red-Eye Gravy or Tomato Gravy) Sweet Potato Biscuits, Blue Cheese Pecan Bread, Delta Cream Doughnuts” and many others. Just looking at the pictures of these items can cause your waistband to spontaneously expand.

 

The next chapter “The Sweetest Things” doesn’t help that at all. Deserts such as “Banana Pudding, Lemon Icebox Pie” (my grandmother recipe was and is better), “Silent Shade Cobbler” and numerous others are covered and include recipes for sherbet and ice cream.

 

This 284 page delectable cookbook closes with an index and author acknowledgement. It is a book filled with numerous color photographs, many of the area and not of the food, good recipes, plenty of tips and information and a liberal dash of humor.

 

My only quibble with this book is the lack of dietary information. There is nothing in this book about salt content, fat grams, or any of the rest of it.  I suspect the numbers are quite high, per serving, in many cases but the book doesn’t address that in any way. Considering the increasing obesity epidemic and growing media attention to health issues, this very good book would have been markedly better if that information had been included.

  

Screen Doors and Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales from a Southern Cook

Martha Hall Foose

Clarkson Potter/Publishers (Crown/Random House)

http://www.clarksonpotter.com

April 2008

ISBN# 978-0-307-35140-1

248 Pages

$32.50

  

Review copy provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

  

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009

 

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