We recently ran a story to preview the annual Cooks & Books benefit for Literacy Volunteers of the Lowcountry Sunday (Feb. 12). As part of that, I tried something different. I asked the chefs about their favorite book, and I asked the authors their favorite Southern dish.
I ended up getting a good response, but, unfortunately, I had to cut a few due to the limits of print. But thanks to this thing called the "Internet," I can post everything uncut.
Here's all the responses I got:
Jim Jordan, "Savannah Grey"
Southern friends invited my wife and me to their house for our first Thanksgiving dinner in the Lowcountry, promising a deep fried turkey. I expected something fried in lard and breaded. Of course, I was surprised to see -- and taste -- the final result. Now, we have the succulent, juicy dish every year.
Jon Mills, "The Ronnie Gene"
Nothing beats barbecued baby back ribs. I love this Southern variation -- rubbed, slow-cooked, finished with a honey glaze, served with two sauces, one mustard-based, one vinegar based, with a side of mac and cheese or cheesy grits.
David Lynch, "Finely Feathered"
My favorite would have to be slow cooked barbecue ribs with a fairly sweet barbecue sauce. I also enjoy the traditional pulled pork barbecue, again, with a mild sauce. Either one should be followed up with a nice dish of peach cobbler.
Pat Branning, "Shrimp, Collards and Grits"
I think my favorite has to be fried chicken because of the memories that surround it: Gathering around my grandmother's big table at her home in North Carolina with all my aunts, uncles and cousins after church for Sunday dinner. She'd have a big pot of collard greens on the stove fresh from her farm along with sweet southern peas and corn. After the peas were passed around the table, pepper vinegar was never far behind, followed by the cornbread. These humble ingredients cooked masterfully together produces the elixir that tastes and feels like home in the South.
Carl T Smith, "Low Country Boil" (in full Swamp People mode)
It be gumbo from N'oleans made wid a dark roux, de shrimps, de ham, if you want it, okra and all de spices dat make you tounge stand up an holla, yeah!
Kathryn Wall, Bay Tanner mystery series
My favorite Southern dish: Sweet potato . . . anything. Sweet potato fries, biscuits, soup, salad, souffle. And, of course, sweet potato pie. Vegetables as dessert ... what a concept! And nary a marshmallow in sight. Who knew?
Mary Kay Andrews, "Summer Rental"
Have to say my favorite southern dish is pound cake! I make a mean lemon cream cheese pound cake. It's as sweet and moist and yummy as a baby's kiss.
Sallie Ann Robinson, "Gullah Home Cooking the Daufuskie Way"
I love seafood and I can eat it almost every day cooked different ways. I am talking about crab, shrimp and fish. When caught and cooked fresh with the right ingredients. First you add the seasoning that wakes up the aroma, then you taste the flavor that makes your taste buds go wild and want more. Saying that my most favorite dish from a child is Ol' Fuskie Fried Crab Rice. Even though a lot of work goes into this dish such as catching the crab, boiling and picking them, it is all worth it when you taste the flavor of freshness and joy all bouncing around in your mouth. This dish to me is like a gourmet dish with an old fashion southern attitude. Crab rice is easy to make and leaves a lasting taste in your mind reminding you to prepare it again soon.
Ramona Fantini, owner Pino Gelato
That's a tough one, I have several and I have several current ones. For recreational reading, Anita Shreve is my favorite escape author and my favorite of hers is "The Last Time They Met," full of romance, regrets, life history and surprises. For non-recreational, "Onward" by Howard Schultz. Full of learnings, good advice and heartfelt passion for his business. Also, "Happier than God" by Neale Donald Walsch, one of his most inspiring books that go hand in hand with his series. Emphasis on the "law of attraction" and positive thinking. Great inspiration.
Chef Luke Lyons, Frankie Bones
I would have to say, along with any good cookbook, my favorite book would be a series of books - The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I guess that the creativity of J.R.R. Tolkien allured me to when I was a child with his detailed style of writing that described his own world with a language he created. I remember when I saw the movie how the lands and the character Gollum were almost exactly how I had pictured it when I read the story.
Chef Ken Ballard, Kenny B's
Me, being a chef for some 30 years, you would think some culinary book would top the list. Me, being a school football coach, you would think some motivational Lombardi type book would top the list. But here it is. I get tears in my eyes whenever I read it, not a long book, but in a way, it can sum up your whole life and how important family means. I bought the book for my wife, Lavern, back when our first son was born - "Love You Forever" by Robert Munch. It begins with a mother rocking her newborn baby. In just a few short pages you not only think of your childhood, you think of your wife as a mother, you think of your son and watching him grow up, and then you think of your own mother growing old and leaving you. Quite a bit to absorb, but it makes you feel how short life is. Whenever I need a pick me up, I always think of that book.