The first thing we do when we get a new cookbook is to tear through it looking for the recipes we want to start with right away. I think this behavior is to be expected, considering we are from a generation who were deeply affected by the annual arrival of the Sears wish book. Only today, for us at least, cool robots and new bikes have been replaced by souffles and braises.
We are always excited about an opportunity to learn a new technique or an excuse to buy a new kitchen gadget or ingredient. Christy Jordan’s Southern Plate did not fail to challenge our pantry, but in a different direction than normal.
For instance, the cheesy hash brown casserole calls for cream of chicken soup and frozen shredded potatoes. We never have canned soup on hand, so we couldn’t make it or the sour cream hash brown casserole either — it calls for cream of celery.
One recipe that we come closer to being able to make is the Texas caviar. Sold by Oxford-based chain Newk’s as “Tippah County” caviar, the dish is a mix of black-eyed peas, diced tomatoes, whole kernel corn, onion, Italian dressing, and maybe some herbs. We have canned tomatoes. Lately, we haven’t gotten around to canning our own. And we keep canned peas and beans. It’s nice to have a variety to put into a soup or chili. Italian dressing would be more of a challenge, but we could make it work.
But am I being critical of Jordan’s recipes? By no means. They do call to mind a widely loathed food personality who has made a name with dishes cobbled together from cans and bags, but there is a huge difference here. Soul. Everything Jordan does is done with soul.
Jordan’s soul and the love it pours out is expressed clearly in her book. The inside of the dust jacket begins with the quote, “My name is Christy Jordan and I like to feed people.” And you can tell that she does feed people. Some recipes feel like Jordan just had a good idea one day and threw something tasty together. Other recipes come with a story, and those stories all involve family and friends because that’s how Jordan cooks, for and with family.
I haven’t addressed the Southern aspect of the book, and I should. As a Southerner, everything about this book speaks to me. The stories remind me of our monthly “uncle’s lunch” with my father’s brothers. The food reminds me a little of my mom’s mother, but it reminds me even more of dinner on the grounds at Greenleaf UMC in Greenleaf, Mississippi.
In fact the memory led me to the bookshelves to find my copy of Greenleaf Country Cooking 2006. I knew I had the book, but I had forgotten that it was inscribed to me by my cousin Janice. Looking through the book, I see dishes we should try, but, more importantly, I see the names of a lot of family that I need to visit.
But back to Jordan’s book. If you have similar memories, you will enjoy Southern Plate. And if you haven’t lived that Southern life, then you need this book so that we can start to bring you into the fold.
If I had to register a complaint about Southern Plate, it would be about that dust jacket quote. It doesn’t take much time at all to see that Jordan more than likes to feed people. She loves to.