This new cookbook makes me want to shout “Hallelujah!” Or at the very least, “Amen!” Nicki Pendleton Wood has compiled a gorgeous and spirited Southern cookbook, and I’ll be sharing it with everyone I know who enjoys a good recipe or a good party!
Southern Cooking for Company: More Than 200 Southern Hospitality Secrets and Showoff Recipes feels like the friendliest hen party this side of the Mason-Dixon line. Wood has gathered recipes and entertaining tips from women all over the South – Texas to Maryland, Kentucky to Florida, not neglecting Nashville, Tennessee. At the beginning of each recipe, she features a short personal story from the person who sent her the recipe, often an important tip for getting the dish (or a gathering!) JUST right.
Of course I was partial to Brown Sugar and Spice Bacon Bliss, served up in Nashville by personal chef Marirae Mathis on New Year’s Day; Chicken Sliders with Bacon and Avocado-Basil Cream; Bacon Date Bites; Bacon and Kale Pot Pies (don’t judge until you see the picture!); and Baked Egg and Bacon Cups. Some of the other recipes I’ve flagged: Crawfish Fettucine; Tennessee Paella; Grilled Asparagus and Peach Salad; and Peach Almond Pound Cake.
I love that this cookbook includes recipes for the ambitious cook but also recipes for people like me who keep it simple. Wood is not above including the “Classic Southern Queso Dip,” which involves Velveeta and Rotel. I was glad to be reminded of what a delicious party treat it can be!
I also loved recognizing some of the wonderful recipes of my youth, such as the Polka-dot Party Ham and Swiss rolls and also Cranberry Freeze, which I grew up calling “Purple Salad.” Purple Salad was the most delicious thing my mother made… well, maybe the most delicious dessert, in hot competition with the banana pudding, dump cake, and almond pound cake.
This is not your mother’s church cookbook, though, and it’s not the Junior League cookbook; I own plenty of these and love them! Wood’s compilation feels freshened up, with innovative combinations and flavors, and the entertaining tips that accompany each recipe take this cookbook to the next level of helpful. Most of all, this collection feels curated with love and joy. “Of all the great ideas in Southern Cooking for Company,” Nicki writes in the introduction, “the best bit of advice is this: Don’t wait to entertain. Have people over whenever you can, however you can…. Now pass those pimento cheese sandwiches.”
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Please come celebrate Nicki’s book launch at Parnassus today at 6:30 or at Barnes and Noble on July 9th at 7 pm. You might also want to check out her website or her prior post at Bacon on Cornbread Nation 7.
She’s had great press at Chapter16.org (terrific interview with Nashville Porch Writers’ Susannah Felts) and Parnassus’ blog Musing this week… Nashville is celebrating Nicki and this splendid gift to us all!