Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Summer Heat

and makes me want to be wildly unfaithful to all the others. Martha Hall Foose has created such a cookbook with Screen Doors and Sweet Tea. Martha's credentials are impressive. She is the executive chef of the Viking Cooking School. She is a student of the famed pastry school Ecole Lenotre in France. She opened both the Bottletree Bakery and the Mockingbird Bakery in Mississippi. She was, in fact, born and raised in the Mississippi Delta. Martha Hall Foose, it can be safely said, has Southern cooking running in her blood, and she has brilliantly poured her knowledge into 248 pages of cooking bliss. When Martha spins a tale of how her Southern neighbors gather along the roadside for "mailbox happy hour" I knew I was in the company of someone special. What you find in Martha is The Real Deal- a woman comfortable enough in her Southern heritage to flip the mailbox lid down, set a pitcher of Mint Juleps on it, pass out the cups, and let the day fall where it may. Her recipes are annotated with local history and family heritage in a manner that makes you think you've pulled up a stool at her kitchen counter and you're hearing it from your Mother, or Granny, or Great Granny. The first thing I made from the cookbook was Martha's recipe for Sweet Tea. I couldn't help myself, as finding a source for authentic Sweet Tea can be like looking for the Holy Grail. Don't believe me? Try hers, and then you will understand that all Sweet Teas are not made equal.
As you flip through the book you will see titles like "Blackberry Limeade Amethyst Elixir". You will wonder if Mrs. Foose is on a quest to make you try everything in the cookbook without coming up for air. How can one resist an Amethyst Elixir? Just imagine Watermelon Salsa alongside chunky Guacamole the next time you're diving into a bag of tortilla chips. You find yourself saying the recipe titles out loud with a sense of wonder. Take, for example, Apricot Rice Salad. Apricots and rice are two ingredients that you just know will be amazing together and you wonder why you've never tasted this before. You'll still be marveling at this as you are running to the store for the ingredients to make it. You'll also be mulling about in your head the picture of the Tomato Soup, unlike any that you have seen before. One half of the bowl is chunky red, the other half chunky yellow-green. You think to yourself, I have been missing out. And you have. What this cookbook does above all else is make you think about your foods differently. It blends ingredients that you may not put together on your own, but once you learn of their compatibility, it feels like second nature. We were even a bit stunned to see the recipe for Curried Sweet Potato Soup. This is a place our Curry has not yet ventured and we cannot wait to go there. The education in Southern cooking gained from Screen Doors and Sweet Tea is difficult to measure. Take the recipe for Barq's Root Beer- Glazed Ham Amber Encasement. Sounds divine, but what you learn is this...root beer is a blend of sassafras roots and bark, dandelion, wild cherry, burdock, spruce, wintergreen, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and anise. A smokey ham encased in any one of these ingredients sounds incredible but together the ham is off the charts. Would a person ever think to make a root beer glaze for their ham? You will now. Foose has a variation of our Summer Squash Pancake we recently wrote about and like us, this recipe was developed after they had exhausted the squashes many other uses. We could go on and on about the merits of this cook book, but my copy just fell open to page 222. It reads, "Darkness on the Delta Cool Bittersweet Dessert" which Martha describes as a deep, dark-as-night fudgy dessert with bittersweet chocolate and Bourbon. So if you'll excuse me, I must go to the store NOW. It says it serves eight, but we'll just have to see about that.

1 comment:

  1. OUTSTANDING! Before I go to the store, I need to go to the bookstore and pray that this title is on the shelf! Can't wait to read it.
    Thanks for the tip.