For Martha Hall Foose, Mississippi born and bred, the stories behind the recipes in her new book, “A Southerly Course,” are just as important as the recipes themselves. Tales about her grandmother solving a local murder mystery before the police did and a group of female hunters she nicknames “Swamp Witches,” for example, invite readers not only into Foose’s kitchen, but also into her life.
Even if you’re not from the South, or frankly never really cared to visit, Foose says you can find a way to connect with her material.
“As much as we claim it, Southerners don’t have the market cornered on good home-cooking,” she says. “Telling stories around the table or a party that moves into the kitchen — that’s universal.”
Foose’s new book comes on the heels of her James Beard Award-winning “Screen Doors and Sweet Tea” cookbook and winds her stories of growing up in Mississippi with both classic and contemporary Southern fare. She uses local ingredients in fresh ways, serving up dishes like sweet pickle braised pork shoulder as well as Korean barbecue-style grilled green onions, which were inspired by her cousin’s wife.
It hasn’t been easy living in the South these past few years, as the region has been dramatically affected by Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. Still, Foose says it’s the “tenacious nature of the folks down here” that inspires her pride for her home turf. Ever a proponent of local business, she actively supports “the fishermen, coastal restaurants and hospitality industry down there.”
The next Hemingway?
Foose’s book is written so eloquently, one may begin to wonder if the cookbook author ever thought about becoming a writer full-time. However, she already has her alternative career choices all mapped out:
“If it wasn’t for cooking I wouldn’t be a writer,” she says. “I would probably be a librarian or star of stage and screen!”
Grilled green onions — Korean Barbecue
My cousin Daniel Foose fell in love with a girl he met in music school. Sueyoung Yoo and Daniel married out at our family farm, Pluto, on what might have been the hottest day that year, Saturday, June 30. Friends and family began to arrive the Wednesday before. As the bride and groom are both accomplished jazz musicians, she a pianist and he a bassist, most of the bridal party came with instruments in tow, and late-night jams filled the evenings.
Sueyoung made kimchi, massaging each leaf of cabbage with rich chile paste and placing it in her groom’s great-grandmother’s soup tureen. Her soon-to-be in-laws, Uncle Jon and Aunt Caroline, had driven from Austin with a plug-in home-size chest freezer in the back of their Suburban rigged to a battery and filled with all sorts of slow-cooked Creole and Tex-Mex food for the reception. The reception came together in an eccentric perfection combining cooking from New Orleans, Korea, Mississippi, and Texas; and the band played well into the night.
It is a joy to have Sueyoung in the family. Now out at Pluto we have kimchi buried in the yard and Korean barbecue is served on Christmas night.
4 bunches green onions or purple scallions
1 tablespoon sugar
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sake
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup finely chopped Asian pear or Golden Delicious apple
Heat the grill to low.
In a food processor, pulse together the white part of one of the green onions with the sugar, garlic, soy sauce, sake, honey, and pear. Place the remaining green onions on the grill 4 to 6 inches above low coals or over low flame and brush them with the soy sauce mixture. Cook for 5 minutes, turning as needed, or until the onions are tender. Remove from the heat and brush with more sauce right before serving.