My Mother's Southern Kitchen: Recipes and Reminiscences Paperback – Dec 1994
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James Villas' background is an unusual blend of Greek, Swedish and old American South, and this book combines the recipes and often-hilarious cooking tips of his genteel-yet-feisty mama, Martha Pearl (Martha Pearl says: "There's nothing, repeat nothing, worse than a heavy, poorly seasoned, warmed-over hush puppy that's been fried in old fat") with memories of a happy gourmet childhood.
From Publishers Weekly
From the introduction, with its wry recounting of Martha Pearl Villas's vilifications of the Northern flour intended for baking "biscuit," to the carefully collected family photos, James Villas re-creates the bustling and sometimes brawling approach to cooking that typifies his family. Martha Pearl Villas, the author's mother, fights the good fight for Southern tradition. James Villas, food editor of Town & Country and author of several cookbooks, adopts the chatty vernacular of his native South in documenting his culinary heritage. Snobs may find the tables turned, as favorite targets of food jokes (the recipes that begin, "Take a can of cream of mushroom soup") are staunchly defended by Mrs. Villas: "All real Southern cooks use canned soup in certain casseroles. Why don't you taste it before ridiculing?" So, bring on the can openers for the "Congealed Sunshine Salad," made with canned pineapple. Not that Mrs. Villas has anything against fresh food; she waits at farmstands for Silver Queen corn to come in from the fields to get the very sweetest ears for her corn pudding, made with lots of of eggs, butter and half-and-half. Though many of the dishes here seem exceedingly rich, remember that a good deal are meant for feasts and holidays. Lively anecdotes of Martha Pearl Villas butting heads with Craig Claiborne over the proper way to make giblet gravy, or arguing with her son about the best binder for meatloaf, will give rise to smiles.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
On the face of it, this book would seem to be a transcription of mother Martha Pearl's little black recipe book into a form which William Morrow can publish and we can read and effectively translate into reproductions of Mrs. Villas favorite dishes. The back story of the book seems to be much more complicated than this, as Mrs. Villas' written recipes were sketchy, poorly handwritten, and done only as an aide d'memoire for someone who cooked almost entirely by experience, and look and feel, just like every other traditional southern cook whose praxis has been memorialized in writing. Thus, Villas had to do anthropology by observing his mother at work and doing his best to estimate amounts from quantities doled out by hand and eye. This too was made difficult by an entirely familiar friendly antagonism between mother and son in the kitchen.Read more ›
According to Villas, "the Southern day begins with a hearty breakfast" such as Ham with Red-Eye gravy, fresh country sausage, crusty Green Tomatoes, and Real Grits (recipes for each are found within, of course). Villas's Mother, Martha Pearl, has combined backgrounds from the Greek and Swedish heritage both families share and adds her own special Southern touch to create fabulous luncheons for bridge clubs, church bazzares and charity get-togethers. My favorite is a lovely recipe for Lemon Tea Bread- light and rich all at once, it's a perfect bread for a light tea, or, as I often do, to bring to a get together when a dessert is requested (never fails to draw "oooh's" and "ahhh's"). From her homemade Macaroni and Cheese to an impressive recipe for Shrimp Bisque, you'll find this cookbook is a great investment. I love the way Martha Pearl watches all her family members, her children included, as they embark on trial recipes of their own- she then adopts these recipes herself, but adds her own little touch (Villas lovingly included Martha's recipe cards and notes- such a personal touch!). Still, she always gives credit to whom it is due. The hallmark of a truly great cook!
These are not recipes, however, that one can consume on a regular basis. Almost every recipe calls for either butter, cheese, heavy cream, lard, bacon and/or bacon grease, sausage, etc.Read more ›
As a bonus you get the story behind many of the recipes and running commentary from Villas' mother on many of the recipes. It is clearly a give-and-take mother and son relationship when he says his mother drives him crazy over this or that ingredient and she implies that his version of the family recipe is a little "uppity". She says Jimmy makes his hush puppies with yellow corn meal, but she prefers white. It is both bitchy and sweet at the same time!
I already have my next meal planned from this wonderful book and can recommend it for the cole slaw and BBQ chicken recipes alone - not to mention the lively stories and commentary. Enjoy.