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The Gift of Southern Cooking~ a cookbook review

I love winning things.  I know...odd.  I especially love winning cookbooks.  My dear friends...nudging a slot into the packed shelves and teetering stacks they call home.  So, imagine how excited I was to win The Gift of Southern Cooking by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock from Bo over at Bo's Bowl...thanks again, Bo!  Okay, ecstatic...I love new friends cookbooks; books of any kind, really.  As usual, when I get my hands on a new book, I sit down with some sort of paper, ready to bookmark.  Since I was completely unfamiliar with either Lewis or Peacock, this was a great new endeavor for me!  The book is packed with personal intros to the recipes...anecdotes and notes on the history of certain foods and how they relate to Southern cooking or one of their experiences in general...and ends with a compilation of seasonal menus devised from recipes in the book.  Plenty of learnin' packed into this book...enough to make a Yankee like me start speakin' with a lazy drawl.  Oh, and it may sound trite, but I think I was  hooked the minute I opened up the book and saw a quote from one of my favorite books notice I said book, not movie...can't stand the movie, LOVE the book. Yes, I've said it before...more than likely I'll say it again.  I mean, it doesn't get much more Southern than... "As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again." -Scarlett O'Hara

The first thing I made...because I've been meaning to make it forever anyway...was Candied Bacon.  Bacon Candy.  Whatever you decide to call it...it's heaven.  Sweet and salty and melt-in-your-mouth fabulous.  Really, it couldn't be easier to make, either.  Dredge some good, thick bacon in brown sugar and bake it at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes.  Yup, 15 minutes to wait in order to experience bliss...not too much to ask.
Something else I love?  Vinegar...especially Hot Pepper Vinegar.  Dousing it on hot fries or a burger or a bowl of chili...oh man, I actually crave the stuff!  It too, is easier than the dickens to make.  They say this is the "essential condiment of the Deep South, used to season greens other vegetables, and meats.  You'll find this vinegar on every table, often in old catsup or liquor bottles."  I'm ready to adopt that deep south tradition in my house!  And you bet I'm using it to season my next batch of greens....oh, my mouth is watering... 
The next dish I knew I had to make was Pigs' Feet in Savory Tomato Sauce.  If you've never worked with or eaten pigs' feet before...you are missing out!  The feet of any animals are often dismissed and forgotten in many parts of the U.S. these days.  People want their chops and their bacon and their tenderloin...but I think it's important to honor that animal that gave its life, so that we might fill our bellies, by utilizing every last part of it that we can.  They don't yield a lot of meat, but the "succulent morsels of meat" they do produce are beyond worth it!  It takes ~4 hours to cook, but that is mostly unattended.  Plus, the liquid that comes from the initial simmering of the pigs' feet makes for a wonderful, gelatinous broth that you can put away to use later when making soup or cooking beans...bonus!  On a separate note, I don't know if it's just me, but I can't see pigs' feet or even say the words without getting that line from Friday stuck in my head... Every time I come in the kitchen, you're in the kitchen...eating up all the got d--- food!  I like piiiiiigs feet! I like collared greens!...  But you have to say it like the dad says it...with passion... Ha! Seriously, I'll be saying it for the rest of the day now.
Coffee Jelly was something else I just could not resist making. Tell me coffee lovers, could you resist an intro like this: "In the Old South (and in England and Europe today), a "jelly" meant a chilled gelatin dessert, not something to spread n toast.  But despite its antique name, this unusual and refreshing summer treat was born for my love for very strong iced coffee.  Barely jelled, but intensely flavored and slightly sweetened, the dark "jelly" trembles in its glass....and melts in the mouth."  I thought not.  It was wonderful and quite different from what us Northerners know as jello.  I wondered if it had actually "set" because it stilled looked so wobbly, but as promised it was intense with just the right hint of sweetness with an intriguing wiggle to it.
I won't be stopping there...I have plenty more bookmarks to get through and more Southern specialties teasing my visual taste buds.  Lewis and Peacock show us how diverse, yet how common the different cuisines of the South are in this book.  Lewis is from Virginia, Peacock is from Alabama...they are separated by generations, yet united by their love and respect for culture, tradition, and food.  The stories told in this book are highly personal...yet welcoming.  A new companion I will cherish on my shelf...and in my kitchen...for years to come.
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*Update 12/24/10: I am sharing this review w/ the 12 Day of Bloggie-mas.