Jean Anderson has written numerous cookbooks, but this might just be my favorite. From a Southern Oven: The Savories, The Sweets is a book full of baked things. Lord knows Southerners love some baked things almost as much as they love fried things.
What I love about From a Southern Oven is the stories that accompany each and every recipe. A great collector of old comb-bound community recipe books; Anderson has gleaned many recipes from this study of local foodways. One must remember that food is not just sustenance but a history and Anderson uses this history to illuminate each recipe. Here a few examples:
Lafayette Gingerbread is actually Mary Washington’s gingerbread. In 1784 when the Marquis de Lafayette visited America he visited Washington’s mother. She gave him a mint julep and a slice of gingerbread. From then on it was called Lafayette Gingerbread.
Confederate Corn and Chicken Pie came from a small cookbook by the North Carolina Federation of Home Demonstration Clubs. An old Alabama favorite of the mother of Mr. J. W. Roberts of Barbour County, Alabama, who fought in the War Between the States, returned to the Old Roberts Plantation and lived to a ripe old age.
Chesapeake Deviled Crab ponders the question; does every cook have a favorite recipe for deviled crab, perhaps a cherished family one handed down the generations?
Osgood Pie is a little known pie said to have come from Arkansas and named for one of the Osgood’s or perhaps it is a contraction of Oh So Good.
And on and on…
This recipe is from a Virginia church cookbook from 125 years ago. It is a casserole of Guinea squash or…
Eggplant Gratin1 medium eggplant1 large egg3/4 cups half-and-half1/2 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper1/8 teaspoon ground hot red pepper1 cup coarsely grated sharp Cheddar cheese1 cup moderately fine soda cracker crumbs tossed with 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spritz 5-cup au gratin pan or shallow casserole with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.2. Peel eggplant, cut in 1/2 to 3/4 inch dice, and place in ungreased 2-quart casserole that has a tight fitting lid. Add enough boiling water to cover the eggplant, put a lid on the casserole, slide into the middle oven shelf and bake about 20 minutes until the eggplant is tender. Drain very well.3. Whisk egg until frothy in medium-sized bowl. Whisk in half-and-half, slat, black pepper, and cayenne. Fold in drained eggplant and half of cheese. Transfer to au gratin pan, spreading to edge, and top with remaining cheese. Sprinkle Topping evenly over all.4. Bake uncovered in upper third of oven 20 to 25 minutes until center is set and crumbs are nicely browned.5. Serve oven-hot as an accompaniment to roast beef, lamb, veal, or pork. Good, too, with roast turkey or chicken.
From a Southern Oven is filled with delightful anecdotes as well as tasty recipes wrenched from a rich past. Even if you don’t own a Southern oven or even a microwave, this book is a great read.