Books Good Enough to Eat

Spring-Summer Book recs

This spring and summer have seen the release of a wealth of excellent foodways books penned (and photographed) by Southern Foodways Alliance members, contributors and friends. (If we’ve left out any can’t-miss new releases here, that’s all the more reason for another “Recommended Reading” post in the near future. Stay tuned.)

Barbecue Crossroads Cover

Barbecue Crossroads: Notes & Recipes from A Southern Odyssey

by Robb Walsh, with photos by Rufus Lovett

(University of Texas Press, April 2013)

Author Robb Walsh, a veteran chronicler of his native Texas barbecue, hits the road with photographer Rufus Lovett to chronicle barbecue styles, stories, and recipes from the Lone Star State to the Carolinas and everywhere in between. The result is a gorgeously photographed travelogue, but also one that asks tough and important questions about race, class, labor, and authenticity in Southern barbeculture. Look for a snippet of Barbecue Crossroads to appear in Cornbread Nation 7, edited by Francis Lam and out from UGA Press in spring 2014.

Prophets of Smoked Meat coverThe Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue

By Daniel Vaughn, with photos by Nicholas McWhirter

(Ecco: An Anthony Bourdain Book, May 2013)

Earlier this spring, much was made of Daniel Vaughn’s hiring as the barbecue editor of Texas Monthly. As far as we know, it’s the only job of its kind in the country, and Vaughn’s new occupation provoked waves of envy and respect among food journalists and weekend smokers alike. We like to think that Vaughn’s summer 2012 gig as an SFA Barbecue Digest blogger helped him train for the job. If it’s smoked, and it’s from Texas, Vaughn has not only tried it, but he’s got some insightful commentary and tasting notes, as he proves in The Prophets of Smoked Meat. Nicholas McWhirter’s excellent photos help set the scene for those who can’t make it to legendary spots like Louie Mueller and Franklin Barbecue.

treme coverTreme: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans

by Lolis Eric Elie

(Chronicle Books/HBO, July 2013)

If you aren’t familiar with the HBO series Treme, you might open Lolis Elie’s new book and say, “This Janette Desautel sounds like a good chef…now why haven’t I heard of her?” It would take you a while to realize that Elie, a former writer for Treme (and a founding member of the SFA), has divided the book into sections curated and introduced by the show’s main characters themselves. So, after Desautel’s opening section, Wendell Pierce’s Antoine Batiste shares his recipes for Creole stuffed bell peppers, smothered okra, and shrimp with white beans. And on it goes, offering a wonderfully wide array of home- and restaurant-inspired recipes and stories capturing practically every facet of New Orleans foodways, from Bayona’s sweet potato brioche to Dooky Chase’s gumbo z’herbes. Like the Treme series, and like New Orleans itself, the Treme cookbook is a lot to take in—in the best possible way.

Soul Food Book CoverSoul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time

by Adrian Miller

(UNC Press, August 2013)

Like the Treme cookbook, Adrian Miller’s Soul Food is arranged around a conceit that could have come off as gimmicky but ends up working as an excellent structure: the quintessential soul food meal. Each chapter delves into the history and significance of an iconic soul food, including fried chicken, black-eyed peas, mac and cheese, and hot sauce—washed down with red Kool-Aid. It makes for a book that’s smart but often light-hearted, and one that offers substance without feeling dense. Miller, like Vaughn, was one of our 2012 Barbecue Digest bloggers. We knew that he was hard at work on this book while he was writing for us, and we’re excited to see the finished product. If you’ve ever wondered how fried chicken achieved its status as the quintessential Southern post-worship repast, check out the fascinating chapter called “Fried Chicken and the Integration of Church and Plate.”