Are you ready to read about another southern cookbook? SQUARE TABLE is a lovely hidden-spiral bound cookbook that was compiled by Yoknapatawpha Arts Council in 2005, but was a regional winner of the coveted Tabasco Community Cookbook award in 2006. (with the hidden spiral binding the book will lie perfectly flat or can easily be propped up in the kitchen).
Well, I will be first to admit I had never before heard of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council (YAC). The YAC is a non-profit agency for the city and county with the mission of promoting the arts to all people in the region. YAC enriches the community by providing opportunities to participate in artistic and cultural activities.
But where does the word Yoknapatawapha come from? I turned to Google for some answers:
Yoknapatawpha County is a fictional county created by the American author William Faulkner, based upon and inspired by Lafayette County, Mississippi, and its county seat of Oxford, Mississippi.
Faulkner would often refer to Yoknapatawpha County as “my apocryphal county.” From Sartoris, onwards, Faulkner would set all but three of his novels in the county (Pylon, The Wild Palms, and A Fable were set elsewhere).
Faulkner added a map of Yoknapatawpha County at the end of Absalom, Absalom!
Yoknapatawpha County is located in northwestern Mississippi and its seat is the town of Jefferson. This fictional county is bounded on the north by the Tallahatchie River and on the south by the Yoknapatawpha River and has an area of 2,400 miles (6,200 km). Most of the eastern half (as well as a small part of the southwest corner) of the county is pine hill country.
The word Yoknapatawpha is pronounced “Yok’na pa TAW pha”). It is derived from two Chickasaw words—Yocona and petopha, meaning “split land.” Faulkner claimed to a University of Virginia audience that the compound means “water flows slow through flat land.”
Yoknapatawpha was the original name for the actual Yocona River, a tributary of the Tallahatchie which runs through the southern part of Lafayette County, of which Oxford is the seat.
So now we know where the word comes from—and have famed author William Faulkner to thank for its creation. And now you may want learn a bit about the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council which was founded in 1975.
Cookbook author and columnist John T. Edge provided a lovely introduction “Welcome to the Neighborhood” in which he notes that “Works of the sort you hold in your hands are generally called community cookbooks, the idea being that they are products of people living in the same locality who share common interests—those interests being some sort of charity or arts endeavor or other selfless work. The aim of these books is to raise dollars and to render the raising of said dollars painless…”
John T. Edge, you may know, is a cookbook author/food historian whose works include TRUCK FOOD, published by Workman Publishing in 2011, DONUTS, An American Passion, (2004) HAMBURGERS & FRIES, AN AMERICAN STORY, (2003), FRIED CHICKEN, AN AMERICAN STORY, (2002), APPLE PIE, AN AMERICAN STORY, (2002), and A GRACIOUS PLENTY, RECIPES AND RECOLECTIONS FROM THE AMERICAN SOUTH, (2000). Edge is also the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. (He also writes for a number of food magazines and I believe I have seen him on the Food Network on various occasions.
All this being said, Mr. Edge wrote the introduction to SQUARE TABLE, in which he writes, “The organization—in this case the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council—gets funds, but it must also give of itself. And it must give with such gusto that parting with thirty-odd dollars is of no account.
The customary analgesic offered contributors to the cause is a cache of recipes, some good stories, a few pretty pictures. And SQUARE TABLE delivers the drugs of choice. No doubt about that. The art alone is worth the fare. But don’t just this book by a thumb-through, even if you’re swooning by page thirty-seven. Save a space for SQUARE TABLE on your kitchen shelf. Dog-ear the pages, edit the recipes to suit your palate. Make the book your own…”
He persuades that “a year may pass before you come to truly appreciate the effort. By then your repertoire will include smothered doves and marmalade sweet potatoes, not to mention cream cheese jalapeno venison rolls and cornbread salad….”
He also comments, with regard to the non-recipe entries in SQUARE TABLE, that by then you will have lingered over Larry Brown’s chicken stew essay, and John Grisham’s Ode to Brunswick stew…You will read what William Faulkner had to say about trout and chicken, and you will have reveled in his description of the “thin plume of supper smoke windless above the chimney” from GO DOWN, MOSES.
Indeed, the selection of Faulkner food quotes will prove so compelling that you may wonder why the editors left out that passage from THE HAMLET wherein he describes a sweet potato as a ‘moist blast of spring’s liquorish corruption’…” (For those of us who “read cookbooks like other people read novels” – SQUARE TABLE is right up our alley.)
Edge admits he is getting carried away—and hungry, so he adds that by way of this book, the people of Oxford swing wide their doors and invite you to take a seat at their collective table. These are the artworks they craft, the stories they tell, the dishes they cook—and this is how the members of Yoknapatawpha Arts Council see themselves.
The food illustrations in SQUARE TABLE are sure to make your mouth water – and it’s a tossup which you should begin reading first – the recipes? Have a couple of packages of little yellow post-its handy to mark your favorite pages—or the wealth of short historical comments interspersed throughout the cookbook. The photography, by Langdon Clay, is exquisite . I love Julia Reed’s story about her mother’s “V.D. Dinner” (the VD not an abbreviation for a venereal disease but for “Visiting Dignitaries” who her parents entertained frequently as Julia was growing up. (My own “VD” dinner for many years, the meal I could fall back on with short notice, was a Beef Burgundy over rice or noodles).
There is also a wonderful story by Larry Brown, titled “LB’s Chicken Stew”- I’ve made some hearty large pots of chili in my day, but nothing to compare with Larry’s Chicken Stew and you’ll love his story. Then there is John Grisham’s (yes, THAT John Grisham) essay “Brunswick Stew from Indiana Jones”
As for the recipes – oh, boy, are you in for a treat! In Appetizers you will find Black Bean Salsa (can’t wait to make this one) and a Five Fruit Salsa, a Roasted Red Pepper Dip and Spicy Spinach Artichoke Dip; there is a recipe for Mushrooms in Burgundy that I am looking forward to making, as well as a Stuffed Mushrooms (stuffed with artichoke hearts) and a Chutney Cheesecake; a Tex-Mex Cranberry Salsa and Crispy Asian Chicken Wings, Shrimp in Mustard Sauce and Jamaican Shrimp Spread, Mango Shrimp, and Pickled Shrimp, Tempura Shrimp with Soy-Lime Dipping Sauce and Party Smoked Salmon, Crab Cakes and Lella’s Pimiento Cheese – plus plenty of other appetizers to whet your appetite.
Under the chapter dedicated to SOUPS you will find Black Bean Soup (made with canned black beans but the cookbook committee also provides directions for converting dried black beans to use in this recipe); there is Tomato Bisque, Creamy Artichoke Soup and Pumpkin Curry Soup, Mushroom Bisque and Butchie’s Favorite Chili—I am looking forward to making the latter recipe. In my family we all have a favorite recipe for making chili but I have never tried one that calls for celery but that sounds interesting enough to try.
There is a Roasted Eggplant Soup you may want to try when you have a glut of eggplant in your garden, Baked Potato Soup and Brie soup; you will surely want to make Seafood Gumbo and Crab and Corn Bisque. There is a French Onion Soup recipe that is such a departure from my own recipe that I’ve GOT to make it. And Do read Lisa Howorth essay about her Grandmothers’ Soups.
Under SALADS, you will find an authentic recipe for Caesar Salad (which isn’t authentic unless you have anchovy fillets in it), Crunchy Apple Walnut Salad or Horseradish Salad, Red Potato Salad or Shout Hallelujah Potato Salad, Fresh Baby Tomato Salad and Asparagus Bundles, Mandarin Chicken Salad or Creole Crabmeat Salad, Lemon Caper Vinaigrette (which I am REALLY looking forward to making—I have been keeping capers on hand ever since discovering how good they are sprinkled on a white fish that you have cooking in the oven or the broiler.
There is a chapter titled PASTA & GRAINS which I think is a little unusual in a community cookbook—but I look forward to trying a recipe for Shrimp Spaghetti and Pasta A La Vodka, the Yocona River Inn’s recipe for Roasted Marinara Sauce and Angel Hair Flan, Cajun Shrimp and Pasta, and Sauteed Rice and Vegetables and Cheese Grits.
I love seafood and so will you; try Baked Shrimp or Marinated Shrimp, Shrimp Creole for a Crowd or Shrimp Scampi, Shrimp and Grits or Jambalaya, Jack’s Catfish or Catfish Cakes. Also in FISH & SEAFOOD you will find four salmon recipes—Walnut Crusted Salmon, Salmon in Dill Pepperoncini Sauce, or try Pan Roasted Salmon with Maple Glaze, a feature of the Yocona River Inn – or for a simple meal with few ingredients, try Grilled Salmon Fillets. (I was given a beautiful large fillet of salmon by my Oregon friends a few days ago—the Mister and his son had gone salmon fishing and caught two big salmons. I am leaning heavily toward the Pan Roasted Salmon with Maple glaze—but the Walnut-Crusted Salmon sounds delish too!)
Other fish entrees include Pecan Crunch Grouper*, Fillets with Parmesan Sauce and Paneed Redfish, Crawfish Fettuccini and Crawfish Delicacy. (*I began cooking with grouper when we lived in Florida. It isn’t available here in California so if you want to try making Pecan Crunch Grouper—and can’t get it, I suggest a white fish such as halibut as a substitute.
For poultry recipes, you may want to try Teriyaki Cornish Hens (I stock up on Cornish hens when they are on sale). Or Tuscan Chicken, Chicken Curry, or Marinated Chicken Breasts. There is a Cranberry Chutney Chicken that sounds delish as well as an authentic Country Captain Chicken, Homemade Chicken Pie, Chicken in Puff Pastry – and even Chicken Enchiladas!
For meat lovers, there is Chargrilled Beef Tenderloin, or Beef Fillets with Blue Cheese-Portobello Sauce, Sabbath Brisket, and Missy’s Pot Roast. If you are feeling ambitious try making Beef Bourguignonne which could easily become your favorite entrée for company. Other meat recipes include Tamale Pie or Smoked Ham, Grilled Pork Tenderloin and Southern Pork Roast.
And if you are looking for something new and different in the way of vegetables, try SQUARE TABLE’s Asparagus Stir-Fry or Zesty Carrot Casserole, Red Cabbage Casserole, Butternut Squash Casserole or Spaghetti Squash Parmesan. You may also want to try Marmalade Sweet Potatoes or Spinach Wild Rice. A good one to try when tomatoes begin ripening on the vine would be Tomato Pie or Italian Tomato Tart as served by The Flaky Bakery. Two I have marked with Post-it notes are Roasted Tomatoes and Green Tomato Casserole.
Under Breakfast & Breads look for Heirloom Tomato, Leek And Cheese Tart, or French Toast Souffle, Tomato Bread Pudding or Bundt Bread. There are also easy recipes for making Buttermilk Biscuits and Sweet Potato Biscuits, Cheese Biscuits and Hushpuppies—along with a variety of other recipes.
For Desserts you have a nice choice of recipes from which to choose –from the decadent Bourbon Chocolate Cake that boasts of ganache chocolate frosting to Le Gateau Au Chocolat cake made with some rum, or Carrot Cake, Harold’s Coconut Cake or Red Velvet Cake, all southern favorites.
For a change of pace, you may want to make Dinner Party Apple pie or Blackberry Cobbler or Caramel Cobbler. There is a recipe for Upside-Down Apple Pecan Pie, as well as White Chocolate Mousse with Strawberries, just to name a few and whet your appetite.
Cookie recipes are probably my favorite and SQUARE TABLE offers a nice variety – from Chocolate Toffee Cookies to Snickers Surprise, Rosemary Orange Shortbread and Rosemary Pepper Sugar Cookies, your choice of Raspberry Brownies or The Ultimate Ganache Brownies OR Kahlua Brownies. You can make Almond Cookie Brittle or Cranberry Date Bars…and before you reach the end of this book you will find some pages of Children Celebrations – surely, something for everybody.
To order “SQUARE TABLE from FAVORITE RECIPES PRESS/THE COOKBOOK MARKETPLACE, the cost is $35.00.
From now until January 31, 2012, the Favorite Recipes Press Cookbook Marketplace is offering a 50% discount on the cookbooks of your choice, just for Sandychatter readers. You must enter the code SCHAT-HOL at checkout. The books ship from Nashville, UPS ground.
The Favorite Recipes Press Marketplace is a great source for finding many of your favorite community cookbooks (southern and otherwise). They have nearly 300 titles from which to choose and color illustrations of the covers. You can get a catalog by writing to the Cookbook Marketplace at 2451 Atrium Way, Nashville, TN 37214 OR call them toll free at 1-800-269-6839. This discount offer is good to Sandychatter readers ONLY until January 31, 2012 – so this may be a perfect opportunity to obtain some of your most coveted cookbook titles.
Happy Cooking – and Happy Cookbook Collecting!