This weekend, Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart won the James Beard Award for American Cooking with their behemoth Mastering The Art of Southern Cooking. Not only is it a cookbook, but it makes a great DIY project. Just add four rather sturdy legs and you have a lovely martini table ( or should we say mint julep table?) to sit beside your settee. It has been said that about 300 pages was cut from the manuscript which now stands at over 700 pages.
There are those that have taken offense with the "Mastering The Art" title, and while it might cause one to think of the legendary Julia Child, there are nearly a thousand books featuring those words in the title, so you need to get over it. Dupree worked for two years when Graubart signed on to assist and then the pair worked another four years to bring the book to fruition. In the midst if the process they published Southern Biscuits in 2011. In researching Mastering The Art of Southern Cooking, they had already amassed 35 biscuit recipes!
Needless to say, there is not much of anything left out. There are some things in the cookbook that don't really strike me as totally "Southern" like Yorkshire Pudding Popovers, but then there is Okra Pilau. There are lots of grits, plenty of pork and enough desserts to send you into a coma. When we wanted to pull out a recipe, we felt the same kind of overwhelmed that Dupree felt in the early stages of research. What to do?? Well this is an old, new Southern favorite.
3 (16 ounce) cans black-eyed peas, drained1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper1/2 cup finely chopped red pepper3/4 cup finely chopped hot peppers3/4 cup finely chopped onion1/4 cup drained, chopped pimento1 garlic cloves, chopped1/3 cup red wine vinegar2/3 cup olive oil1 tablespoon Dijon mustardSaltHot sauceIn a large mixing bowl, combine peas, bell peppers, hot peppers, onion, pimento and garlic.In a separate bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil and mustard and pour over the bean mixture; mix well. Season to taste with salt and hot sauce.With a wooden spoon or potato masher, mash the bean mixture slightly. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Drain the caviar well before serving.
If you want to totally immerse someone in Southern cooking, this book is the best place to start. Congratulations on the James Beard Award.