I wrote a “guest blog” for the News & Observer’s Mouthful, and this is what got published today.
We’re quite fortunate to live in an area with a plethora of great chefs and restaurants, with the quality of food improving each year. We have chefs who have won Beard awards, chefs who have been prominently featured in national food magazines, and even chefs who have won silly Iron Chef competitions.
But did you know that we also have an amazing number of cookbook writers here in the Triangle? Sure, a lot of those cookbook writers are chefs themselves, such as Ben and Karen Barker of Durham’s Magnolia Grill, Bill Smith of Crook’s Corner, Mildred Council of Mama Dip’s, or Andrea Reusing of Chapel Hill’s Lantern, who has her first cookbook coming out next year.
We also have a bunch of folks who are not chefs. There are a few people who write for the News & Observer, such as former food editor Debbie Moose and columnist Fred Thompson. Moose has written entire books on single topics, such as deviled eggs, wings, or potato salad. She’s also written about food for tailgating! Thompson also has written his fair share of single topic books, but his are typically focused on beverages, such as lemonade, iced tea, hot chocolate, and, soon enough, bourbon! He’s also written about seafood and grilling with gas.
We’re also blessed to have Raleigh native, Jean Anderson, one of the country’s most prominent cookbook writers, living in the area. Anderson has written over 20 cookbooks, including “A Love Affair With Southern Cooking” (which won the Beard award for best “Americana” cookbook) and “The New Doubleday Cookbook.” Anderson’s books have received numerous awards, and ten years ago, she was honored for her body of work by being inducted into the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame.
One of my favorite people in the world, and a super cookbook writer, is Nancie McDermott of Chapel Hill. Her “Southern Cakes” has been a big hit in my family, and we recently made an ultra-rich peanut cake from that book (recipe to come in a future blog post). This book continues to be a strong seller on Amazon, and that’s because the cakes are fantastic and not overly complicated. I also understand that she’ll soon be coming out with a book on Southern pies, so that’s good news for all pastry chefs in the area. Interestingly, McDermott is perhaps better known for her cookbooks on Asian food (she was a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand), and these are great sources to folks who have no clue how to cook Asian dishes. I can personally vouch that these books have helped me become a much better cook of Asian food.
Another great writer is Sara Foster, who scored a big hit with her “Foster’s Market Cookbook” in 2002. Durham’s Foster’s Market has been a mainstay for area foodies for years, and her three cookbooks have sold well.
I’d be remiss if I failed to mention what I still consider the most influential cookbook ever to come from the Triangle, “Bill Neal’s Southern Cooking,” by the late, great co-founder of Crook’s Corner. My food epiphany came at Crook’s over 25 years ago, and Neal’s wonderful book came out shortly thereafter. “Southern Cooking” is not just a collection of recipes, it’s a book focusing on the history and sociology of Southern food. Neal’s influence on Southern cooking is unquestioned, and his three books remain definitive sources on the cuisine.
So which local cookbook writers have I omitted? I’m sure there are plenty, so let’s get a solid list put together, and then we can remind ourselves of how lucky we truly are.