For any cookbook collector who appreciates southern food, you are sure to want to add SAVORING SAVANNAH to your collection.
Subtitled “Feasts from the Low Country,” this innovative cookbook from Ten Speed Press features not one but five southern chefs, along with a foreword by Nathalie Dupree, whose name you surely recognize, and an introduction by Martha Giddens Nesbit.
Nathalie is a James Beard award-winning cookbook author and is also considered the founder of the “New Southern Cooking” movement, while Marthat Giddens Nesbit teaches cooking classes at Armstrong Atlantic State University. She also writes a monthly food feature for SAVANNAH magazine.
SAVORING SAVANNAH is a bit of a different twist in cookbooks; it features five chefs whose styles cover not only traditional Savannah cooking, but new southern cuisine – and everything in between.
Let’s start with the chefs themselves:
Elizabeth Terry of Elizabeth on 37th is the winner of numerous culinary awards among them the James Beard Best Chef, Southeast, Award.
Bernard Mc Donough, who looks like he could be at home with a fishing pole or behind the wheel of a racing car, is the executive chef at the Ford Plantation, the historic home of Henry Ford, which is now described as an exclusive second-home community. Mc Donough says his food focuses on the purveyor: “My menus,” he explains, “are dictated by what’s in season, what’s fresh, and what is available to me…”
George Spriggs is co-owner (with George Jackson) and chef of North Beach Grill and of the upscale Georges’ of Tybee, both on Tybee Island, which is located just east of Savannah.
Susan Mason is a famous low country caterer who, after 15 years, is the most in-demand caterer in Savannah. The biggest challenge, she admits, is – in Savannah – the heat. “It’s not easy,” she confesses, “to keep 1,500 crab cakes cold for a dinner that is being served in a picnic area fifty miles north of the home city…”
Some of her secrets include using only the best ingredients. She says she doesn’t cut corners, she always uses the highest quality cut of meat, the best produce, and the freshest seafood. Susan also knows the presentation is important, and is known for her elegant style.
Joe Kendall is a caterer and owner of Chef Joe Randall’s Cooking School.
Included are photographs and capsule biographies of the chefs, which I found to be most interesting. I always wonder just what it is that makes people (myself included) so fascinated with food and its preparation. For instance, Elizabeth Terry reveals that food has long been her passion. “I’ve always enjoyed poring over old manuscripts of recipes by Southern home cooks,” she says. It’s a passion I can relate to—and when I can’t find ‘manuscript cookbooks” I look for filled recipe boxes. Elizabeth Terry also says “The southern home cook’s practice of keeping a small kitchen garden where indigenous herbs and vegetables are cultivated so they can be immediately accessible, is an integral feature of Elizabeth’s on 37th… “
Elizabeth’s on 37th, as you may have surmised, is a renovated Victorian mansion turned restaurant in the heart of Savannah.
Another featured chef, George sprigs, is the co-owner, with George Jackson, and chef of North Beach grill and the upscale Georges’ of Tybee. George Spriggs related that he was enthralled with the preparation of meals on his grandparents’ farm in Florence, South Carolina, where dinner was always an event rather than a meal.
Such are the chefs that make up SAVORING SAVANNAH, a city I have always wanted to visit. Savannah is Georgia’s oldest city, known for its beauty, charm and hospitality.
SAVORING SAVANNAH is almost (not quite) as good as going (An an aside, I have always thought that the ideal vacation would be going from city to city, discovering their best restaurants and historical sites.
SAVORING SAVANNAH contains a wealth of recipes, featuring both the old south and the new.
Also included are bits taken from old southern cookbooks, such as Harriet Ross Colquitt’s THE SAVANNAH COOKBOOK, published in 1933.
You are sure to be tantalized with recipes such as Pan-Seared Halibut with Jasmine Rice…Sweet Potato Brioche…Southern Fried Catfish Fillets…Blackberry Cake with Seven Minute Frosting…Pickled Shrimp…Potato and Corn Salad with Buttermilk Dressing…or Stuffed Sirloin of Beef with Wild Mushroom Sauce! Yum! Discover these and many others for yourself.
The beautiful food illustrations and dynamic black and white photographs of famous Savannah landmarks (such as the lighthouse at Tybee Island!) are the work of photographer Daemon Baizan.
SAVORING SAVANNAH from Ten Speed Press was originally published (and reviewed by me for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange) in 2002, so it’s quite possible that some of these chefs and caterers are working elsewhere a decade later – but this doesn’t detract in the least from the book as it was originally published. It’s a wonderful addition to your collection of southern cookbooks.
You can find this cookbook on Amazon.com for $11.00 (new) or $2.30 for a pre-owned copy. Alibris.com has copies starting at $2.95.
Review by Sandra Lee Smith