Q&A with Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart, authors of Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking
“Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” is Nathalie Dupree’s 13th cookbook and 11th hardback. It is the second book she has co-authored with Cynthia Graubart. Dupree lives in Charleston and Graubart in Atlanta. Here is what Dupree has to say:
“Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” co-authors Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart will be signing copies of their book on the following dates:
Sunday, 1-4 p.m., Preservation Society of Charleston Book & Gift Shop, 147 King St.
Nov. 16, 2-4 p.m., Blue Bicycle Books, 420 King St.
Nov. 17, 11 a.m., Costco, 3050 Ashley Town Center Drive, West Ashley
Nov 17, 4:15 p.m., Barnes & Noble, Mount Pleasant Towne Centre
Q. How long was this book in the making?
A. Nearly six years.
Q. Well, what took so long?
A. It was hard. Really hard. I couldn’t get a handle on it; the subject is so big. The South is bigger than Europe, and we treat it so cavalierly. Italy has multiple cuisines, for instance.
Q. What was the original concept for the book and did it change over time?
A. Originally, I was going to divide it by technique, and make it more complicated than it is. Ultimately, we put it in traditional chapters to make it more accessible to home cooks.
Q. You collaborated with different people on the book in the earlier years. How did you and Cynthia get on the same page, so to speak?
A. No one else was willing to be my mother, get me organized, keep everything straight. But everyone, everyone helped.
Q. There are so many Southern cookbooks out there now; what makes this one different?
A. Very few really acknowledge the techniques of Southern cooking. That’s what has always interested me.
Q. Some people might think it’s bit audacious to mimic the title of Julia Child’s first and best-known cookbook. Why did you name it such?
A. As I said in my introductory material, she always told me I was the one who should do a technique book of Southern cooking. I met her the day I graduated from culinary school in 1970 and knew her the rest of her life. She didn’t tell me to use her title, but someone else put out the “Bible of Southern Cooking,” and there wasn’t a lot else to convey the meaning.
Q. 720 pages, 750 recipes, and 650 variations – wow that’s a lot of material. How did you convince the publisher to go that large?
A. We cut hundreds of pages! The publisher always wanted a big book, but they saw it as black and white and then changed their mind. The paper makes it thicker, as well as the size. We discussed two books but decided on one.
Q. Please tell us about one or two recipes that you are particularly proud and/or excited to have in the book.
A. The egg chapter is my favorite. Imagine being afraid of making a custard when eggs are so cheap. But people are always told, “do not boil” when eggs curdle under 212 degrees. So no wonder they are dismayed. We tell them the temperatures that the eggs — whites and yellows are different — are cooked.
Q. You are one of the pioneers of “new Southern” cooking. Define that for us and tell us when and how you came to it.
A. I started “new Southern cooking” in the 1970s when I returned from Majorca (Spain) to a small restaurant we started in an old warehouse between Social Circle and Covington, Georgia. I had classic techniques from culinary school, and used them with the ingredients available to me. When it came time to write the book, “New Southern Cooking,” in the mid-’80s, it was a combination of classic Southern cooking with more modern style — some beans that weren’t cooked for a long time, etc.
Q. Is this book more “new” or “old” Southern cooking?
A. It’s both. One melds into the other. Southern cooking is the mother cuisine of America, and so like any basic, it is built upon.
Q. Where do you think Southern cooking is headed?
A. The chefs are capturing its momentum, and it remains to be seen if this catches on at home.