Food editors know that November marks the official start of cookbook season because their mailboxes fill up faster around this time of year. There’s hardly room for the hate mail between all of the packages from publishers, containing titles ranging from the essential to the ridiculous. (Among the former, I’ve hung on to the Joy of Cooking: 2019 Edition, Fully Revised and Updated, and am eagerly awaiting Toni Tipton-Martin’s Jubilee.)
But food readers don’t need press releases to remind them to pick up a book. When the temperature drops and nighttime comes sooner, and Christmas gifting is just around the corner, it’s obviously a good time to scan (ahem) independent booksellers’ real or virtual shelves for new arrivals.
Among them are three books with Charleston connections, listed in order of publication:
South: Essential Recipes and New Explorations, by Sean Brock (Artisan, $40)
Perhaps the quintessential celebrity chef for the non-Food Network set, Sean Brock years ago moved away from Charleston. But the city pervades his latest book, which among its 125 recipes includes an eggplant purloo he developed in the company of BJ Dennis and the “Charleston ice cream” rice preparation which was the highlight of countless McCrady’s meals.
A follow-up to Heritage, South focuses on the interconnected culinary micro-regions which span from coastal Virginia to the Ozarks. Its opening pages feature a shrimp-and-grits matrix showing the different types of shrimp, grits and umami considered standard in the Lowcountry, Appalachia and the Gulf Coast.
Women on Food, by Charlotte Druckman (Abrams, $30)
Marion Sullivan has been busy! She was one of 115 “writers, chefs, critics, television stars and eaters” tapped to contribute to food writer Charlotte Druckman’s collection of essays, surveys and interviews.
Full disclosure: I’m in there too, so the book’s pleasure for me came from seeing how friends handled the same short-answer questions I received — without much additional instruction, as is clear by the section titled “What’s the best thing since sliced bread (in food)?” Monique Troung and I cited the fair-wage movement; Cathy Erway railed against sliced bread and Sullivan celebrated “a summer tomato sandwich slathered with Duke’s mayo.”
But my guess is folks far removed from the food world would enjoy the insider talk and identify with many of the complaints. The book isn’t designed to be read cover to cover. It’s more like a Whole Earth Catalog for people thinking about food.
Southern Women: More Than 100 Stories of Innovators, Artists, and Icons, edited by Amanda Heckert (HarperWave, $30)
Charleston-based Garden & Gun has previously put out books about Southern food and loyal dogs, but the magazine’s now turned its attention to “women whose stories for too long have been overlooked or underestimated,” as publisher Rebecca Wesson Darwin puts it in her introduction to the collection of profiles, essays, interviews and one poem, authored by Ashley M. Jones.
In Jones' “I Cannot Talk About the South Without Talking About Southern Women,” she writes “To tell you who they are, I must start with who they are not: servants, kitchen-bound mammies, silently obedient wives.”
Instead, the book is organized by professional interests, with sections including “Singers & Songwriters,” “Writers & Readers” and “Chefs & Mixologists,” among them Mashama Bailey, Edna Lewis and Nathalie Dupree.
Southern food, Dupree told Garden & Gun’s CJ Lotz, is “frequently too complicated and precious. Male chefs can’t stop adding something that’s unique or that will cause a little comment ... Sometimes I just wish they would serve a really good plate of butter beans.”