cover image My Mother's Southern Kitchen: Recipes and Reminiscences

My Mother's Southern Kitchen: Recipes and Reminiscences

James Villas, Author, Martha Pearl Villas, With John Wiley & Sons $25 (330p) ISBN 978-0-02-622015-6

From the introduction, with its wry recounting of Martha Pearl Villas's vilifications of the Northern flour intended for baking ``biscuit,'' to the carefully collected family photos, James Villas re-creates the bustling and sometimes brawling approach to cooking that typifies his family. Martha Pearl Villas, the author's mother, fights the good fight for Southern tradition. James Villas, food editor of Town & Country and author of several cookbooks, adopts the chatty vernacular of his native South in documenting his culinary heritage. Snobs may find the tables turned, as favorite targets of food jokes (the recipes that begin, ``Take a can of cream of mushroom soup'') are staunchly defended by Mrs. Villas: ``All real Southern cooks use canned soup in certain casseroles. Why don't you taste it before ridiculing?'' So, bring on the can openers for the ``Congealed Sunshine Salad,'' made with canned pineapple. Not that Mrs. Villas has anything against fresh food; she waits at farmstands for Silver Queen corn to come in from the fields to get the very sweetest ears for her corn pudding, made with lots of of eggs, butter and half-and-half. Though many of the dishes here seem exceedingly rich, remember that a good deal are meant for feasts and holidays. Lively anecdotes of Martha Pearl Villas butting heads with Craig Claiborne over the proper way to make giblet gravy, or arguing with her son about the best binder for meatloaf, will give rise to smiles. (Oct.)