After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.
Gumbo is not only a perfect party food, but a metaphor for Southern foodways. Diverse communities, unique holidays, and local ingredients all combine to create dishes and events of particular savor.
UNC Press’ Savor the South series has focused on ingredients and foods–bourbon and biscuits, sweet potatoes and buttermilk–but this book reflects community, from the Durham, North Carolina Greek festival to Cajun Style Matzoh Balls served at Passover.
It also records the celebration foods of holidays particular to the South–Nanticoke Catfish on Juneteenth or Brandy Milk Punch for Mardi Gras.
In her headnotes, Moose puts each dish in context. Her oyster roast is inspired by the Outer Banks’ Old Christmas, a community celebration based on the Epiphany. The Italian fig cookies, Cuccidati, are a staple of St. Joseph’s Day altars, and a Blessing of the Fleet wouldn’t be complete without Vietnamese Spring Rolls. The dishes are a reflection of new communities, old traditions, and updated flavors.
And just because theses are celebration foods, doesn’t mean they can’t be enjoyed everyday. Smoky Red Rice, another Juneteenth recipe, makes a perfect Friday night supper–comforting after a long week. The Greek Chicken served at the Durham festival takes its bright flavor from a simple marinade of lemon juice, olive oil, and oregano, and it brought back olfactory memories of my mother-in-law’s cooking–a little bit melancholy and a lot delicious.
Whether you’re after authenticity, savor, or just dinner–make it a holiday.