Cookbook Club

How We Cooked Southern Food Across the USA (and Beyond)

March 31, 2017

For the month of March, our Cookbook Club read and cooked its way through Vivian Howard’s Deep Run Roots.

It got thousands of Food52ers from all across the country (and even around the world!) cooking Southern recipes, taking photos, and sharing input on the recipes with their fellow club members—some of whom admitted that they wouldn’t have picked up this book had the club not voted to cover it. Luckily, most were pleasantly surprised to discover that they liked the book more than expected, and enjoyed the exposure to a new-to-them cuisine. Here’s what a few of them had to say about the book:

Rutabaga and Black-Eyed Pea Samosas, Turnip Run-Ups in Parmesan Pot Liquor with Ricotta Cornmeal Dumplings, and Avocado and Tomato with Broken-Egg Dressing Photo by Amelia Gunn
Photo by Sheila Scully
Photo by Joy Huang

Christyn Gasbarro Langseder (Warwick, New York): I love this book so much! Wouldn’t have thought I would, but her recipes will make regular appearances on my table.

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Anne-Marie Normandeau (New Milford, Connecticut): I borrowed the book from the library. Now, I want to own the book. Because it takes me places I would never go on my own. Grits? Okra? They will not be part of [my] regular rotation, but how much fun to bring down the wall of misconception.

Jenny Kathy (Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, Canada): This was such a beautiful book to read. Felt like sitting with a friend and sharing cooking tips.

Elizabeth Baer (Lenox, Massachusetts): I totally appreciate the photos of the recipes made and any relevant comments/questions. Such posts have motivated me to try recipes that I had originally put on my "B-list" (or even "C-list") and that we adored.

Blueberry-Rosemary Breakfast Pudding and Whole Trout with Apple Mustard and Charred Cabbage Slaw Photo by Sandra Weicht, Laura O. Ratliff

Coming in at over 550 pages, this is not a small cookbook. The large size is one of the things Lauren Bentley (Portland, Oregon) found appealing, saying, “I feel like I could look through this book for ages and still discover new things.” If you've picked up a copy and aren't sure where to start, some of the group's favorites are listed here.

Many members expressed how excited they’ll be to return to Deep Run Roots in the summertime when many of the featured ingredients are in season. During a chat with the group last week on Facebook, Howard was happy to hear that members planned to keep cooking through it, saying:

I actually think "DRR" shines brightest in the summer. Don't miss the country ham wrapped peaches, and the watermelon braised pork, or the day at the beach pork picnic, or just the salsa from that recipe, or the watermelon sorbet with a rose float, and all the sweet corn stuff, and the squash casserole pudding, and the whole tomato chapter...

Healthy Soup and Chocolate Orange Beet Cake Photo by Shauna Alverez, Katie Baillargeon

During the Facebook chat, Vivian Howard answered a number of questions* from the group. (We learned she has the same thing for dinner every Monday night!) Here are a few of our favorites:

Melanie Bahr Stout (Dallas, Texas): I have some leftover blueberry BBQ sauce (love!) how do you suggest I use it as a shrub in a cocktail?

Vivian Howard: The Blue Q makes a great shrub. I would combine about 2 ounces Blue Q with gin or vodka and seltzer. Serve that over ice. Some St. Germaine would add a nice note, too.

Adam Hill (Tallahassee, Florida): Hi Vivian! Thanks for being honest in your recipes for how long it really takes to caramelize onions. What's your favorite lazy dish to cook at home?

Vivian Howard: Hmmm. It's kind of embarrassing, but I bake salmon every Monday night with lemons. Sometimes I smear fermented black bean paste on top before it goes in the oven if I'm feeling less lazy. I generally serve it with gingered cabbage like the gingered collards in the book and brown rice.

Mallory L. N. Johnson (Sacramento, California): Hi Vivian, What cookbooks inspired you while writing Deep Run Roots? Did any particular food writers influence you and your approach to your first cookbook?

Vivian Howard: I was most inspired by Edna Lewis' Taste of Country Cooking. But just before I started working on the book, I swore off cookbooks of any kind. I was afraid I might second guess what I was doing based on other people's work.

*If you'd like to read all of her answers, join the Cookbook Club, and then check them out here.

We'll let one of our club members, Mary Catherine Tee (Portland, Maine) sum up what this month has meant to many of us:

Vivian, if you read this, thank you so much for your lovely cookbook. The stories and recipes are all wonderful. And thank you for shedding light on our corner of the South with so much talent, grace, emotion, and love. Because it takes a lot of love and heart to do what you’re doing.

Ready to join in our Cookbook Club (and/or our Baking Club)?

Head here to learn about our upcoming books and how to participate:

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

I like esoteric facts about vegetables. Author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook, Cooking with Scraps.