Photo by Lara Ferroni Even if you didn't grow up with it, there's something about Southern cooking that just seems right for Thanksgiving. Maybe it's the area's reputation for gracious hospitality. Maybe it's the time-tested recipes that go back, in some cases, all the way to Colonial times. Jean Anderson, author of A Love Affair with Southern Cooking, offers a third explanation: "The South is the original melting pot," she says. "Southern cooking is a mix of influences from all the different ethnic groups that mingled in this region -- the Spaniards who first settled in Florida, the French on the Gulf Coast, the British in Virginia and Georgia, the Scotch-Irish in Appalachia, numerous Native American tribes, and of course the Africans who cooked in the plantation kitchens." In her opinion, no other American cuisine can match this breadth and historical richness.
And Thanksgiving is, of course, all about paying homage to history. So, we asked Anderson to put together a holiday menu from her book. She chose recipes from across the Southern states -- pickled oysters typical of the Chesapeake Bay region, rich Low-Country peanut soup, silky chess pie from the Deep South. For the turkey, she voted for a streamlined standard already in our database, but offered ideas on how Southern cooks would give the dish their own distinctive imprint. All together, they make a unique Thanksgiving menu that's equal parts elegance and down-home comfort. Just like Southern cooking itself.
A Southern Thanksgiving for Six to Eight
Snap Beans with Mustard and Country Ham
(double recipe to serve 6 to 8)
(halve recipe to serve 6 to 8)
"Southerners who drink would serve cocktails before the meal -- usually 'bourbon and branch' (bourbon and water in a highball glass with ice)," says Anderson. "Martinis would also be a popular choice with the pickled oysters." With the main meal, she recommends a full-bodied red wine, but also mentions, "There's always iced tea, better known as 'the Southern house wine.'"
"At Thanksgiving," says Anderson , "often a Southern hostess will just cook the turkey and stuffing, and guests will bring numerous other dishes. The whole big spread will be laid out on a large sideboard or buffet." To decorate the dining table, she recommends a centerpiece of bright autumn leaves, and perhaps place tags made by tucking caligraphed cards into pine cones.
Cookbook author Jean Anderson lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She is the winner of five cookbook awards and is a member of the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame. For more about A Love Affair with Southern Cooking, browse inside the book or visit www.jeanandersoncooks.com.
Sarah Kagan has been with Epicurious.com for more than five years and has been the site's food editor for the past two years. She has worked as an editor at culinary publications for a total of nearly ten years. She has written for the Zagat guides and Food Arts magazine, among others, and has appeared as a television cooking expert on MSNBC and NY1. A self-taught cook, Kagan credits her mom, an accomplished home chef, for starting her along her career path. Kagan lives in Brooklyn with her boyfriend, Jason. In her free time, she loves to travel, garden, and entertain.
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