There are only two questions to ask about food. Is it good? And is it authentic? We are open to new ideas, but not if it means destroying our history. And food is history.
With this book, Elizabeth Sims and Chef Brian Sonoskus, who runs the Tupelo Honey Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina, demand new respect for much-maligned “hillbillies.” After all, how can you not love a place that serves biscuits and blueberry preserves “first thing.”
This book gives the mountain south its culinary due at the same time it connects with a little bit of trendy sophistication. Dishes are driven by the unique mountain culture. Those blueberry preserves made with foraged berries, and the drinks that open the book inspired by the tradition of moonshining. The Lohito is a perfect distillation of tradition and modernity– a version of the trendy Mohito made with lemongrass-infused moonshine.
The proprietors of Tupelo Honey believe “in the transcendent power of gathering around the table,” and I used this book to create a Sunday brunch that had the cousins showing up on time.
We started with Rosemary Peach Lemonade. Squeeze some lemons, steep some rosemary, and pour some peach nectar–that’s all there is too it. I goosed it with some gin–an excellent Sunday morning addition.
And because it’s Sunday morning and I didn’t want to be jumping up and down with last minute cooking or laden with bacon grease inside and out for the rest of the day, I made Technicolor-rama Asian Slaw–sparkling with red cabbage and carrots, and slightly sweet with a granny smith apple–nothing stodgy about it.
Breakfast Pie is what a snooty Yankee might call quiche, here with optional flavorings–one of bacon and mushrooms and one with spinach. The table was rounded out with Baked-Walnut Stuffed Apples and because I can’t resist a cookie with a spicy snap, we finished with Spiced Pecan Butter Cookies.
I chose recipes that would ease us into Sunday morning, but there’s more to cook here, from Tomato Jam and Deep-Fried Macaroni and Cheese to a Cremini Mushroom Shallot Ragu. Grits get cooked up with basil, shrimp is turned to chili, and vinaigrette gets a dash of blueberry.
Down from the mountain, this cookbook can become a kitchen bible.