I'm a Yankee born and bred, and when I was a child, I had a narrow view of Southern food. I thought it consisted mostly of collard greens, grits, sweetened iced tea, cornbread, and fried chicken. Of course, as I matured and traveled, read and cooked, I learned just how wrong I was.
The short essays collected in Randall Kenan's The Carolina Table: North Carolina Writers on Food celebrate all kinds of Southern food and especially its connection to family and tradition.
The stories take us back to grandmother's kitchen or an aunt's vegetable garden. They remind us how a family recipe can resurrect precious memories. They return again and again to the role food plays at all of life's important moments, not just deaths and births but Sunday supper after church and lazy summer picnics.
The thirty pieces in The Carolina Table are varied and deeply personal. Here are a few highlights:
- I chuckled at Northerner Fran McCullough's discovery of the proper way to cook butter beans.
- Lee Smith pondered the differences between the food her mother cooked for the bridge club and the everyday dinners she made for the family.
- Bridgette Lacy made me miss summer with her essay on the splendor of garden-fresh tomatoes and the perfect mater sandwich.
- Daniel Wallace convinced me that the North Carolina Piedmont is the place for barbecue.
- I agreed with Marianne Gingher that "you can taste 'loving care' if foods are truly prepared with it."
- I smiled at Cathy Cleary's description of how homemade pork sausage changed her diet.
- Who could resist an essay that begins "Food is her only currency"? Diya Abdo, a Southern transplant from Jordan, tells that story.
If you like food writing, personal essays, Southern writing, and just plain good writing, you'll love the essays Randall Kenan gathered between the covers of The Carolina Table. Pour yourself a sweet tea, settle into the porch swing, and enjoy an afternoon of reading.
Published by Eno Publishing, 2016
Source: review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)