Locals go to the B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery in Water Valley, Mississippi, for its Skillet Biscuits and Sausage Gravy breakfasts, made-to-order chicken salad and spicy Tex-Mex Pimiento Cheese sandwiches, and daily specials like Shrimp and Grits that are as good as momma made. The B.T.C.’s freezers are stocked with take-home Southern Yellow Squash Casseroles and its counter is piled high with sweets like Peach Fried Pies as well as seasonal produce, local milk, and freshly baked bread.
“Be the Change” has always been the store’s motto, and that’s just what it has done. What started as a place to meet and eat is now so much more, as the grocery has become the heart of a now-bustling country town. The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook shares 120 of the store’s best recipes, giving home cooks everywhere a taste of the food that brought a community together, sparking friendships, reviving traditions, and revitalizing an American Main Street.
Water Valley, Miss., is a small, rural village saved from obscurity by being just 25 minutes from the campus town of Oxford, and by being fortunate enough to be the home of chef Grimes and self-made business woman van Beuren. B.T.C., which stands for "Be the Change," is their little grocery cum diner that could, a local favorite that caught national attention when van Beuren was profiled in a 2012 New York Times article that also highlighted Grimes's pear zucchini soup. This effort to share the B.T.C. experience is a gentle mix of traditional Southern fare, creative variations thereon, and profiles of the only mildly colorful local residents like Mickey Howley, who drops by for cauliflower soup, and Billy Ray Brown, their milkman. Van Beuren's unadorned prose keeps the character studies pure, with a refreshingly minimal amount of folksiness, while Grimes's 120 recipes alternate between classic and surprising. Her shrimp salad is chock full of Hellmann's, but her tuna salad calls for two types of raisins. Having cooked in several fine restaurants over her 20-year career, Grimes also has no problem combining interesting flavors and textures, as with her honey pecan catfish and her oyster casserole with pimentos, dry vermouth, and nutmeg, topped with crushed Ritz crackers.