Tag Archives: Mississippi Delta

Two Great New Southern Books

21 Dec


As many of you know, we here at DixieDining.com have a strong fondness for New Orleans and the region known as the Mississippi Delta.

Our years living in places like Mobile, AL and Hernando, MS have allowed us great access to this wonderland of history and great eating.

The University of Mississippi has recently released 2 books that fall into this category. Check them both out and please consider them as possible Christmas gifts for that Southerner or Southerner at Heart in your family or circle of friends.  


Eating and cooking well are not just industries but ways of life for all New Orleans. Writer and photographer Elsa Hahne has visited the kitchens of thirty-three of New Orleans’s home cooks and raconteurs and has served up an expansive smorgasbord inspired by this vibrant city’s love affair with food.

Almost every cultural group that has made its mark on New Orleans is represented in these pages: Creole, African American, Native American, Isleño, German, Cajun, Italian, Irish, Greek, Hungarian, Croatian, Cuban, Honduran, Mexican, Indian, Filipino, Chinese, Vietnamese, and more.

With thirty-three first-person accounts and over one hundred black-and-white and full-color photographs, You Are Where You Eat proves that the local population remains as passionate about cooking after the hurricanes of 2005 as at any time before. Among the eighty-five recipes are such classic New Orleans dishes as red beans and rice, catfish court bouillon, crawfish bisque, filé gumbo, grillades, and daube glacé, but also more recent arrivals to local tables: yakamein, pork tamales, crawfish samosas, and Vietnamese spring rolls.



The Mississippi Delta evokes mystery, beauty, and hardship in equal measures. Its haunted fields, turbulent history, and resilient people have fueled countless songs, tales, and literary works, and its presence resonates strongly in the construction of the American South.

In Delta Deep Down, photographer Jane Rule Burdine captures the region with clarity and warmth. Since the early 1970s, Burdine has used the Delta as her muse, traversing and documenting the ever-changing landscape in color photographs. These powerful images reflect how the Delta and its citizens have responded to each other, and how each has in turn been changed. Weatherbeaten shacks, cotton and soybean fields, industrial equipment, people at work and play, and cloud-draped, endless horizons are all seen through Burdine’s lens. The Delta’s past and present mingle in every photograph of the inhabitants–black and white, young and old, rich and poor–in moments of contemplation, hard work, and joyous revelry.

Novelist and Indianola native Steve Yarbrough offers a touching, personal introduction that explores how Burdine’s photographs reveal the place he once called home, and how, through her photographs, the hold this fertile ground claims on his heart is reinforced. Delta Deep Down offers an unforgettable portrait of a quintessential Mississippi place and the people who abide in it.

Wendy McDaris provides historical context and locates Burdine’s work among current trends in fine art photography.


Julia Reed Serves Up Another Winner

9 Nov


I just finished this fun little book — a very quick and entertaining read. However, I am far from done with Julia Reed’s latest release. Why? Because this volume is also chock full of wonderful recipes. Most Southern … many elegant … rarely a shortcut taken. Reed’s stories are always charming to read. She is a fine writer blessed with a colorful raising and an eccentric cast of family and friends.

The best yarns unfold when Julia recalls her privileged childhood in the Mississippi Delta. Some might say her stories can sometimes lean towards the high brow (see the NYC-based entries), but her earthy sense of humor never wavers. This book is a hoot from start to finish — even when Reed is tossing around high-falutin’ names like party favors. She always makes us yearn for days gone by when glamorous entertaining, a much slower pace, and gentile Southern graciousness ruled the day for the monied families of Dixie hubs like Greenville, Natchez, Clarksdale and Vicksburg. Crisp linen tablecloths, fine china, heirloom silverware, and tinkling crystal — they’re all found here.    

Julia Reed is as worldly as a gal from the Deep South can possibly get. And thank the Lord for that! This book is high cotton throughout, yet never at the risk of losing its well-centered soul.

So read on, y’all … and remember, pinkies extended!

What follows is the Product Description found at Amazon.com …    

Julia Reed spends a lot of time thinking about ham biscuits.  And cornbread and casseroles and the surprisingly modern ease of donning a hostess gown for one’s own party. In Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns and Other Southern Specialties Julia Reed collects her thoughts on good cooking and the lessons of gracious entertaining that pass from one woman to another, and takes the reader on a lively and very personal tour of the culinary—and social—South.

In essays on everything from pork chops to the perfect picnic Julia Reed revels in the simple good qualities that make the Southern table the best possible place to pull up a chair. She expounds on: the Southerner’s relentless penchant for using gelatin; why most things taste better with homemade mayonnaise; the necessity of a holiday milk punch (and, possibly, a Santa hat); how best to “cook for compliments” (at least one squash casserole and Lee Bailey’s barbequed veal are key). She provides recipes for some of the region’s best-loved dishes (cheese straws, red velvet cake, breakfast shrimp), along with her own variations on the classics, including Fried Oysters Rockefeller Salad and Creole Crab Soup. She also elaborates on worthwhile information every hostess would do well to learn: the icebreaking qualities of a Ramos gin fizz and a hot crabmeat canapé, for example; the “wow factor” intrinsic in a platter of devilled eggs or a giant silver punchbowl filled with scoops of homemade ice cream.

There is guidance on everything from the best possible way to “eat” your luck on New Year’s Day to composing a menu in honor of someone you love. Grace and hilarity under gastronomic pressure suffuse these essays, along with remembrances of her gastronomic heroes including Richard Olney, Mary Cantwell, and M.F.K. Fisher. Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns and Other Southern Specialties is another great book about the South from Julia Reed, a writer who makes her experiences in—and out of—the kitchen a joy to read.

Get your copy today … your party guests will thank you!