A New York Times bestseller
Part cookbook, part memoir, The Best Cook in the World is Pulitzer Prize-winner Rick Bragg’s loving tribute to the South, his family and, especially, to his extraordinary mother. Here are irresistible stories and recipes from across generations. They come, skillet by skillet, from Bragg’s ancestors, from feasts and near famine, from funerals and celebrations, and from a thousand tales of family lore as rich and as sumptuous as the dishes they inspired. Deeply personal and unfailingly mouthwatering, The Best Cook in the World is a book to be savored.
For Southerners, notes Bragg (All Over but the Shoutin'), every recipe is a story, not simply a list of ingredients, and he cannily shares the stories of the meals of his mother's Alabama upbringing. For the book, Bragg asked his mother to share the secrets of her cooking, only to realize that she follows no rules or recipes: "She cooks in dabs, and smidgens, and tads, and a measurement she mysteriously refers to as you know, hon, just some.' " Bragg recalls his grandmother Ava's first real feast cornbread, carrot and red cabbage slaw, creamed onions, boiled red potatoes and butter, and pinto beans and ham bone and the impression it made on his mother. Bragg intersperses his memoir with recipes, including for pinto beans and ham bone (a main course, not a side), collard greens (which are sweeter after the first frost), pan-roasted pig's feet, cracklin' corn bread, baked possum, and pecan pie. In a disturbing though hilarious story, his father, speeding down a country road so he can make it home in time for supper, hits a body and leaves it there (it turns out that the body was that of a dog that miraculously survived and made its way home). Bragg's entertaining memoir is a testament that cooking and food still bind culture together.
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Wonderful, Simply Wonderful
There are books that you read because of the adventure and ones that make you want to be one of the dashing characters. Some you read for inspiration and others simply for the author’s eloquent prose. For me, Rick Bragg transcends all of these.
When he writes about “his people” it conjures up memories of my own. Memories of poached eggs and toast with my great grandmother, sauerkraut curing in a crock on the kitchen counter and fat, floppy eared, rabbits that were raised not as pets but for the table. It reminded me of turkeys and geese corn fed by my grandfather and expertly cooked by my grandmother for our thanksgiving and Christmas family feasts. Memories of a kitchen table sagging under the weight of home baked cookies, pies, and cakes, all masterfully baked by my mom, her sisters, my grandmother, great grandmother and great aunts. I was blessed to grow up with three generations of woman who might also qualify as the greatest cooks in the world. This book brought back memories of all of them. I have rarely ran across a more satisfying read.