Comments: The more cookbooks we read, the more homogeneous they all seem. This is not one of those cookbooks. This book celebrates Crackers – the poor white people of the American South – their history, culture, and decades of their cooking.
The book includes a sense of time, place, and family that you don't find in most cookbooks, and was written with heart, soul, and humor. The writer Pat Conroy, who wrote as good an introduction as we've seen, wonders why author Janis Owens, who also has three novels to her credit, isn't world famous. We wonder why, too, and why we don't live closer.
The recipes are arranged in menus relating to holidays and life's big events (baby showers, tailgate parties, poker night, etc.). There are recipes here you've never heard of and will probably never try – Strawberry Pretzel Salad, Velveeta Rocky Road Fudge, Sister Wilson's Marinated Cole Slaw (that isn't much more than cabbage and sugar), Little Smokies (cocktail wieners) in Grape Jelly, and a whole section on wild game (or road kill), including armadillo, possum, turtle, rattlesnake, and squirrel.
In fact, there are many recipes here at which many people will turn up their noses – they're not trendy or innovative, and certainly not nouvelle. They are old or traditional or evolving Southern recipes – some born of poverty, some of celebration, some including processed foods, some including, well, road kill – but there are wonderful recipes and sometimes multiple recipes for chicken and dumplings, fried chicken, biscuits, pecan pie, red beans and rice, grits, and every other Southern dish you've had a secret hankering for.
Quite possibly an editor, in his zeal for homogeneity or to avoid lawsuits, put in some extra canning directions, but put them in backwards (put the marmalade in the jars first, then process in boiling water), but it's one of very few flaws in an otherwise absolutely charming cookbook. We wish we could write a review that would do it justice….