Friday Book Whimsy: The Best Cook in the World

Former New York Times reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Braggs grew up in the Deep South. His family members weren’t aristocratic Charlestonians. He didn’t cut his teeth in fancy restaurants in Atlanta, GA. He grew up poor, with oil under his fingernails from fixing his own broken-down cars. His father was a ne’er do well who had almost no role in Braggs’ life except to give him his last name. But he was reared by a loving mother and her poor but kind family, who knew how to love and how to cook, perhaps in that order.

Braggs pays tribute to his upbringing — and his mother in particular —  with this combination memoir/cookbook The Best Cook in the World: Tales From My Momma’s Table. Given my love for stories about the South, and my appetite for southern cooking, this book was a dream come true. Braggs writing makes me ashamed to refer to myself as a writer.

I was only a little ways into the library book when I knew I’d have to buy the book using CASH MONEY, something I rarely do these days. While the stories he tells about his extended family are funny and told with such love, it’s the recipes to which I will refer again and again. If it was a paper book I owned, the pages would be tattered.

I loved The Best Cook in the World. While I suspect many of us think those words could refer to our own mothers’ cooking, Braggs use of his mother’s very own words to describe the cooking method gives the reader such a picture of his mother that she could be our mother too.

Here is a link to the book.


Friday Book Whimsy: Whiskey in a Teacup

I have a THING for cookbooks. Well, at least I USED to have a thing for cookbooks. Now I have a thing for Pinterest and cooking shows with recipes that I can save to Pinterest and read from my iPad. Still and all, the Joy of Cooking cookbook that my mother-in-law gave me many years ago remains one of my most precious possessions. Why, it even tells me how to dress a deer (and I don’t mean dress as in put it in knickers and a cardigan sweater and call it ready for church).

I rarely make it into bookstores these days, but when I visited a bookstore recently with a friend, I found myself wandering through the cookbook section. One of the cookbooks reached out to me: Kris, your southern roots are calling your name, it said.

I have no southern roots, but just as I would like to like to garden, I would love to love my southern roots. Unfortunately, I have never lived south of the Mason-Dixon line. At least not in this life. I am convinced, however, that I was a southern belle in a previous existence.

The book that caught my attention was Whiskey in a Teacup, with the unexpected author being Reese Witherspoon. Witherspoon, of course, is best know for being an actor, with my favorite of her movies being Walk the Line. What can I tell you? My southern roots from a different life.

In her introduction, Witherspoon says that her grandmother Dorothea always said that women’s combination of beauty and strength made them “whiskey in a teacup.” I love that description, and I equally love that title for the cookbook.

The cookbook does actually have a fair number of recipes; in fact, there is one or two in nearly every chapter of the book. Good southern recipes, in fact; recipes I’d like to try. But the book is more of a combination of nostalgia and common sense advice on handling an uncivilized world in a gracious manner. Knowing how to make a room beautiful or how to set a pretty table doesn’t make a person incapable of making strong business decisions. Beauty and strenth: whiskey in a teacup.

While I may not feel the need to monogram anything that isn’t moving, I agree that knowing and using (and teaching your children and grandchildren) good manners will make the world a nicer place.  I loved Witherspoon’s memories of growing up, her stories of bringing up children with good manners and a kind spirit, and even her suggested playlists for different occasions.

I enjoyed Whiskey in a Teacup, and plan to rent Walk the Line sometime soon.

Here is a link to the book.