Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cooking the Books Review

Screen Doors and Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales from a Southern Cook by Martha Hall Foose (NY: Clarkson Potter, 2008)

I got this book as a Christmas gift in 2008 (Thanks Mom!) and used it this year in planning a Southern feast for Christmas eve.  From it I made sweet tea ("tastes like Snapple, but sweeter," according to my niece), and sweet potato biscuits (excellent flavor, I should have baked them a bit longer as they were a bit too potato-y in the middle).

Like all Clarkson Potter books I have seen this book is filled with beautiful photos and has a nice feel to it. While it is full of delicious sounding recipes the real strength is the stories. Nearly every recipe has an introductory story about where it came from and several include sidebars putting the food into a larger culinary context. The ingredients are clearly listed, often including both a weight and a measure ("8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (2 cups)"); the directions are in the order you need to do them and don't include extra info you don't need while you are cooking; the extra info you might want, like variations and substitutions, are listed as "notes" at the side of each recipe.

I liked the Monday Red Beans and Rice (p.86); the Cornbread Crusted White Chili (p.88) wasn't a big hit. In the category of "to make" I feel like Buttermilk Bacon Pralines (p.16), Blue Cheese Pecan Bread (p. 180), and Pimento Cheese (p. 47) are all things that would be good additions to my future. My sister was intrigued by Inside-out Sweet Potatoes (p. 167).

This book was the 2009 winner of the James Beard Award for American Cooking and the 2009 winner of the Southern Independent Booksellers Award. Even if you have no intention of cooking from it (which would be a shame), this book is worth reading for the stories.

This post is my first one for Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads.


  1. This sounds like a great cookbook! I love books that have photos and background information/stories about the recipes... the cover is very inviting, too!

  2. I love the title and the cover of this cookbook. Sounds like there's some yummy recipes!

    Joy's Book Blog

  3. I grew up in the South. Pimento cheese is a favorite of mine but can't find many people to enjoy it with me. Red beans and rice is wonderful. Never had sweet tea until I was in my early twenties. Funny, a lot of the Southern foods I eat now I did not eat often when I lived in the south. Now, Hoppin' John (or actually just black eyed peas in any version)on New Year's Day is mandatory for good luck all year.

  4. I have wanted to get a copy of this book for a while now. Everyone raves about it! I agree that Clarkson Potter knows how to put together a beautiful cookbook.

  5. We lived on Red Beans and Rice during my children's young years. I must check this book out. I'm intrigued with the White Chili, too.

    Here's my Weekend Cooking post.

  6. A Southern Christmas Eve sounds delightful; thanks for sharing this book, I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for it.

  7. Funny - I posted about southern cooking today, too - black-eyed peas for good luck on New Year's Day!

    We used to live in New Orleans, so Monday Red Beans and Rice are a favorite staple at our house!


    Book By Book

  8. Related to southern food, my friend Adrian pointed me to a great post on collard greens at


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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