cover image A Gracious Plenty

A Gracious Plenty

John T. Edge, Ellen Rolfes. Putnam Adult, $30 (432pp) ISBN 978-0-399-14534-6

Food writer Edge and Rolfes, a cookbook packager, present an introduction to Dixie food, from Gumbo Z'herbes, Smothered Chicken, Crawfish Jambalaya and Turnip Greens to an assortment of sweet desserts. More than 400 recipes have been chosen from dozens of community cookbooks (e.g., High Cotton Cookin', The Black Family Reunion Cookbook and True Grits), some dating back to the Civil War. These dishes, from real home cooks, are simple and dependable. The authors maintain that ""the best cookbooks are storybooks,"" and theirs is liberally peppered with stories from Southern writers, artists and cooks. Novelist Reynolds Price muses on pimiento cheese (""It was the peanut butter of my childhood""), B.B. King extols the virtues of yams and Edna Lewis (The Taste of Country Cooking) gathers all kinds of bitter greens for eating and medicine. Vintage black-and-white photographs add charm, and a closing selection of menus advises cooks how to plan a New Orleans Jazz Brunch or a Texas Barbecue. (Nov.)