Happy Birthday, Miss Lewis.

Miscellaneous, Southern / Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Two years ago, Gourmet printed an essay by the late Edna Lewis called “What Is Southern?”

It came out the month after I’d left my job making pastries for a European-style bakery.

I could make croissants in my sleep. But I’d never even tried to bake a biscuit.

That’s why God made Mommaws.

I didn’t see my place as a link in the chain, preserving my food culture and passing it on, until I read Miss Lewis’ essay.

Then, I started working my way through her recipes.

I could go for a slice of this Lemon Chess Pie right now. The filling has just the right balance of sweet and tangy.

Buttermilk Cookies! Simple and good. They sneak up on you.

This Sour Milk Cornbread makes me crave a plate of Beans N’ Greens in the worst way.

One of my favorite vegetables, Macaroni and Cheese. I love the grated onion in this recipe.

Peach Cobbler is a reason for living. Don’t even look at how much butter is in this recipe. I’m sure it evaporates.

And I couldn’t go without showing some biscuits. This recipe for Hot, Crusty Buttermilk Biscuits actually comes from Scott Peacock. He and Miss Lewis wrote “The Gift of Southern Cooking,” and he took care of her until her death in 2006. I’m including this recipe, because it’s hard to think of one of them without thinking of the other.

When I first decided to learn how to make Southern food, I thought it’d take me a summer.

Two years later, I know I’ll spend the rest of my life learning about Southern food and trying to get it right.

Thank you, Miss Lewis. And happy birthday.

Note: The first photo in this post is Miss Lewis’ Busy Day Cake.

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21 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Miss Lewis.

  1. A friend sent me that article by Edna Lewis back in the fall–it was so wonderfully written. She is a jewel.
    I was looking at her cookbooks this morning–they're the next on my wish list. Now I cannot wait to have them in my hands.

  2. I couldn't help to drop by when I saw your post on twitter. I just this minute did a post celebrating Edna Lewis and was delighted to find your previous recipe for Peach Cobbler. (Today is also National Peach Cobbler Day!)

    I hope you don't mind I "borrowed" your link to include in my post. However, now I need to do a quick edit to include this most inspiring new link! Thank you so much for sharing. You can find my most recent post here.

  3. There is definitely something to be said for southern food in all of it's comfort food glory. That being said. I am bookmarking all of these. Imminently.

  4. Mmmm… lemon chess pie. Gorgeous photos! I'm definitely going to pick up The Gift of Southern Cooking and bring some Southern cooking to San Diego.

  5. This post really made me weep. I am a southern girl also who has been blessed to grow up in a large family of southern cooks. Thanks for sharing so many great recipes!

  6. Saw your column mentioned in the Chicago Sun Times this morning… so glad you can spread the love of Southern culture. Everyone needs a biscuit.

  7. Lovely photos, great story. One blogger I follow recently said of Southern cooking, "If Southern cuisine was a person it would be a very beautiful drag queen." I thought that was just about perfect.

  8. Mmmmm. I made Edna Lewis' Busy Day Cake after reading about it on Orangette last year. So good. This is reminding me that I will have to make it again very soon, only this time I will top it with your rhubarb compote. And those buttermilk cookies…those are on my list too.

  9. You're singing my song! My ancestors came to the deep South in 1769 and I live only 50 miles from where they settled. So I'm about as southern as they come. All of these recipes are regulars for our family–except the Buttermilk Cookies. Will have to try those soon.

  10. I feel so very grateful to my mother, her mother, my aunts, and all the other ladies of the family. I grew up in the deep South in a family of fun loving and wonderful cooks. My most valued treasure.

  11. Oh I love this post. Especially I consider myself a Southern gal myself. And those biscuits look amazing. Look at that height!

  12. Al of these look lovely. Southern food looks great. I love the Southern accent so much and it reminds me of my favourite all time film, Gone with the Wind (I hope that isn't offensive….)

  13. Wow. My mouth is literally watering. I'm definitely going to be making some mac & cheese soon. We talked about Edna Lewis in my Southern Foodways class at Vandy, so thanks for the link to the article!

  14. One of my very favorite posters on Chowhound died the day you posted this. I never met him and only knew him through that somewhat anonymous format, but somehow I'll miss him. There are certain people whose writing connects me to them- almost as if I recognize their voices- and I feel the fellowship of food as a connection of all humanity in their writing. Edna Lewis was certainly one who articulated food as fellowship in a unique and resonant way. Thanks for the post.

  15. As a Southerner, I'll just say that knowing how to cook good Southern food gives you what you need to cook just about anything well. The main thing is that Southern cooking isn't so much about the food as it is about the sharing of it. Less than an hour after meeting me, a friend told me, "You love people with food, don't you." And that's what Southern cooking is all about. (Which is why you don't find Southern recipes "for two.")

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