"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 AshleyNov 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.
Cynthia Graubart helps master book
Editor's note: Co-author Cynthia Graubert answers questions about "Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking."Q. Tell us about your history with Nathalie Dupree. A. Nathalie was looking to do a cooking show, but needed a producer and a way into Georgia Public Television. I was an independent television producer working on a project for Georgia Public Television and my director mentioned my name to Nathalie. After joining forces, I brought the project to the station, and I'm proud to say "New Southern Cooking With Nathalie Dupree" was the first nationally syndicated television series to come out of the state of Georgia. We traveled extensively around the South producing the location segments for the series, and those are some of my fondest memories. She also introduced me to my husband, and we'll be celebrating our 25th anniversary in July. Q. How did you become involved in this book, and what was your role as co-author? A. Nathalie had the contract for the book, but was floundering under the massive scope of the project. I joined her after she was about two years into it and we worked together for four years on it. I worked right alongside Nathalie with the recipes and kept everything organized - no easy task! Q. Southerners love a good story. Is there one you can tell us in the making of this book? A. When we were working on the biscuit chapter for the book, we were suddenly up to 35 biscuit recipes when we realized the importance of biscuit technique. We took a completely new approach in writing the language for how to make a biscuit (instead of "cutting-in the fat" we say "snap in the fat" - today's inexperienced cook might have grabbed a pair of scissors for the cutting-in!). We took a short break from writing the big book and released "Southern Biscuits" in May of 2011.Q. What are you most proud of about "Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking"A. I'm so proud that we have presented the cherished foods of our region is such a comprehensive way and have documented the techniques so these recipes won't be lost to future generations. Q. This book has more than 700 recipes. What are a few that you consider real gems?A. It is so hard to pick favorites, but getting the story right (after years of criss-crossing anecdotes) on Country Captain is a real gem. Q. Southern cuisine is gaining ever more respect. Why is that happening?A. Southern food means real taste and real flavor. I honestly think people are truly hungry after the decades of fancy food in leaning towers. Southern food satisfies in a very soulful way and people crave it.Q. How do you hope that people will use this cookbook?A. My fondest wish is that each person who brings this book into their kitchen will stain it with their favorite ingredients, dog-ear the pages, and write in the margins. In the end, I hope it will be a treasured collection that children fight over to inherit. That would be the ultimate compliment.
Nathalie Dupree (left) and Cynthia Graubart have collaborated for years on food projects.×
Rick McKee An abundance of fresh figs in the South is inspiration for delicious sweet-and-savory nibbles.×
Rick McKee Caramel cake is a Southern classic.×
Rick McKee The object of desire for many a Southerner: a tender hot biscuit.×
The flavor of summerís favorite veggie is concentrated in Roasted Tomato Tart.×
Boiled peanuts, a favorite Southern snack.×