It wasn’t easy to write this review. Every time I sat down to write, I’d flip through the book, find another recipe, and head back to the kitchen—Rachel Thomas’ Deviled Eggs, True Southern Biscuits, Charred Corn Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette.
Those are the kind of recipes that anyone with a decently stocked pantry and freezer, and perhaps a CSA share will find easy to work into the menu. Homey, straightforward dishes that, as promised, will “really make the plate.” Even when the sound a little odd, like Virginia Bagby’s Tomato Pie, a layering of tomatoes, cheese, mayo, and basil, you will be delighted with the savory, smooth, and irresistible results.
Fred has no snooty pretentions—he’s just after tasty food and has no qualms about using canned soup in a casserole, crushing potato chips into a crust, or calling on frozen vegetables. He has a delightful perspective on these recipes, and asks, for example, “please don’t laugh at the ingredients” in Fred’s Opinion on Pimento Cheese. I think he’s a bit embarrassed by Velveeta Cheese, Miracle Whip, and onion powder. On the very next page he offers a more “classic” recipe.
But Fred is no rube in the kitchen. He splashes truffle oil, crumbles blue cheese, and drizzles on chili oil. The book is a cookable balance of new and old, mama’s kitchen and chef touches, supermarket ingredients and southern specialties. Even if you can’t source Beauregard sweet potatoes, fine ground cornmeal, or crowder peas, you can make perfectly reasonable substitutes with no fear.
When you’re stuck with a pile of zucchini, feeling an odd adventurous craving for turnips, feel like your cornbread needs a tweak, looking for a sauce with some zip or an appetizer that is a welcoming treat, turn to Fred, who is a dab hand in the kitchen.