I first became familiar with journalist/author Rick Bragg when I came across his book The Best Cook in the World: Tales From My Mama’s Southern Table. That book contained some old-fashioned southern recipes from that person he considers the best cook in the world — his mother. Accompanying each recipe is a story somehow connected to the recipe. I loved that book, and began reading other books crafted by this amazing writer.
Where I Come From: Stories From the Deep South is a collection of vignettes — some that have appeared in his column featured regularly in Southern Living Magazine. Bragg talks about his childhood growing up in the deep south, a child from a hardworking and often struggling family. However, he doesn’t write sad stories. He grew up in the 1950s, and the tales and thoughts he shares with his readers are funny, poignant, relatable, and beautifully written.
There were many times that I had to stop and reread one of the short stories again, just to enjoy the sound of his words. He writes in such a way that you can feel the humidity, hear the crickets chirping, and taste the lunch he buys at the meat-and-three near his boyhood home. His descriptions of food that is characteristic of southern cooking especially grabbed me.
The south of Rick Bragg has nothing to do with antebellum mansions or lifelong seats to UGA’s football games. His south is the south of fishing and hunting, of eating tomato sandwiches, of red dirt and fire ants. His childhood paralleled mine and all Baby Boomers despite not living in the south. Like the rest of us, he was outside barefoot all day long. He collected bugs in tin cans. His descriptions of life in the deep south like Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Florida read like a Pat Conroy novel.
For reasons I can’t explain, I have always been drawn to the southern United States. Perhaps that’s the reason that about halfway through the book which I had borrowed from the library, I stopped reading and bought the book. That way I can read his lovely prose any time I want.