Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
A Southern Cook’s Companion
In the early 20th century, many a Southern housewife relied on weekly cooking column of one Henrietta Stanley Dull.
Mrs. S. R. Dull’s recipes in the Atlanta Journal were so popular they were first published in 1928 as the book Southern Cooking. The book of 1,300 recipes has been reissued by the University of Georgia Press.
Mrs. Dull died in 1964 at the age of 100, which means her life and career spanned a time of great societal change. Just think of how kitchens changed during those 100 years. Damon Lee Fowler writes in the foreword: “Family lore holds that Mrs. Dull cooked her first corn pone on an open hearth at the tender age of six, and she cooked her last one, nearly a century later, on a modern range.”
Of course, books about regional Southern cooking are plentiful. One recent favorite is A Gracious Plenty by John T. Edge. How do these books compare? Mrs. Dull’s book contains an amazing 1,300 recipes and is valuable for its breadth but also for its history — the language of the text and the types of dishes reflect an earlier day. Edge’s collection, though smaller, contains heritage recipes in a more colloquial vernacular. Its dishes are on the rural side, while Mrs. Dull’s book has a slight city edge. Both, however, have worthy places on the bookshelf.
When Southern Cooking was originally published, some households still employed cooks, but more wives were learning to make their way in a kitchen. Mrs. Dull’s book, then, would’ve been an authoritative companion for a new cook of any age. As such, it begins with a discussion of kitchen organization, utensils, caring for the refrigerator and other appliances. Considerable attention is given to the importance of learning how to prepare a meal so that all dishes are finished on time.
This book is charming as well as useful, and will make for fine reading and tasty meals.