Community Cookbooks: Why Southern Cuisine Reigns Supreme

In a world of celebrity chefs, popular food bloggers and recipe sharing sites, y’all might be surprised how many Southerners still consult rinky-dink, fund-raising cookbooks put together by their local church or community organization.

Not even the Baptists consider perusing food porn a sin, nevertheless, you will find none in the pages of these DIY spiral-bound cookbooks. What you will find is good, old-fashioned recipes handed down through generations of Southern cooks. While some folks had the good fortune to work alongside grandma, learning how to make fried chicken or caramel frosting, many Southerners (myself included) did not. With these books we can at least learn how to make SOMEbody’s grandmother’s famous chicken and dumplings.

In “Florence Favorites” compiled by folks at the First Baptist Church in Florence, MS, you’ll find recipes like:

Mama Hazel’s Texas Nut Bread
Tristin & MeMaw’s Cookies
My Mamaw’s Oatmeal Cookies
Granny’s Rolls
Aunt Eloise’s Coconut Cake

And, of course, you can’t put out a local cookbook without adding at least one of these gems:

Recipe for Happiness (Page 82, if y’all are following along)

2 heaping cups of Patience
2 handfuls of Generosity
1 heart full of Love
dash of Laughter
1 head full of Understanding

Sprinkle generously with Kindness. Add a dash of Faith. Mix ingredients well. Spread over a period of a lifetime and give large portions to everyone you meet.

Contributed by Cindy Godfrey

I think her portions might be a bit off. What Southerner only adds a dash of laughter? What Baptist only adds a dash of faith? I think Cindy should have added a caveat: Your results may vary.

When my sister was flipping through the book, she noticed a page where one of the recipes had another recipe glued on top of it. Obviously, a post-printing correction. But what could have gone so wrong that every copy had to be corrected by hand? They used industrial strength glue that couldn’t be peeled off, but if you squint, you can see that “Tropical Fruit Slush” covers a recipe for “Amaretto Punch” contributed by Janie Cook, who is obviously a heathen trying to sneak demon liquor into a Baptist cookbook! The nerve!!

I love how these cookbooks have 8 or 10 recipes with minute variations for Southern staples like corn bread or pecan pie. Have they no editors? At least the Baptists filtered out the racy Southern recipes for “Better than Sex Cake” or the dessert folks call “Sin,” which turns out to be the exact recipe of the dessert my family calls “Chocolate Stuff.”

Sometimes the recipes don’t offer much in the way of explanation, such as:

Lazy Man Peach Pie

1 stick butter, melted
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
milk (to form dough)

Stir peaches into dough (part of juice). Add brown sugar and cinnamon. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

The person who contributed this one was indeed a Lazy Man, but I suspect he might be a Drinking Man, as well.

The original Bells Best features a section toward the back cryptically called “Men’s, Microwave.” It ranks just about “Salads” and “Vegetables.” Probably the sections are in alphabetical order, but it seems a little suspicious to me.

Best I can tell, “Men’s, Microwave” features recipes contributed by men, along with three microwave recipes that nobody could figure out what to do with (Microwave Fudge, Hamburger Vegetable Medley, and Microwave Rice).

The men’s recipes include such delicacies as: Hobo Casserole, Deer Meat Supreme, Fried Crappie, Dump Cake (which tastes better than it sounds) and, inexplicably, Quiche.

A couple of years ago at Christmas, my nephew Jackson gave me a cookbook called “A Child’s Plate” that was a fund raiser for his kindergarten. One of the main recipe contributors was my sister, Jenna, who included dishes we learned from our mom and our two wonderful sisters-in-law, Karen and Kay. I have to say that I’m proud to see our family’s recipes printed in an actual cookbook. Even if it is one of the low-rent, spiral bound kind.

Do you have any community cookbooks on your shelf? Which ones? Do you still use them?

Stop by for a visit and discuss all manner of Dixie delicacies and doo dads at Stuff Southern People Like.

 

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Comment by Vicki Hale on December 11, 2013 at 5:19pm

My grandmother, my mom and my aunt all had copies of the 1967 edition (sixth edition) of the cookbook "Favorite Recipes from Murray Woman's Club." There have been other editions published since, but this is the one that has the reputation for all the greatest recipes. It's pretty legendary, in Calloway County, KY. I inherited my aunt's copy of the cookbook after her passing. It's missing the covers, but has all her handwritten check marks and notes identifying recipes as "good." Can't go wrong.

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