SAVANNAH SEASONS/FOOD AND STORIES FROM ELIZABETH ON 37TH, by Elizabeth Terry

There is often a kind of synchronicity to my type of writing. I’ll write a cookbook review and then stumble across something closely related—like writing about blue ribbon recipes and then coming across half a dozen more books of the same genre.

I had posted SAVORING SAVANNAH in which one of the featured chefs was Elizabeth Terry, owner  of Elizabeth’s on 37th—and while looking through some of my southern cookbooks discovered I had SAVANNAH SEASONS/Food and Stories from Elizabeth on 37th.

Published in 1996 by Doubleday, SAVANNAH SEASONS features a foreword by famed southern author Pat Conroy. Writes Conroy, “When Elizabeth on 37th opened in Savannah in 1981, I was lucky enough to be one of the first among my friends in Atlanta to eat there. For years I had listened to disturbing rumors that the best restaurant in Atlanta was located in the home of Elizabeth Terry, and I could not figure out a way to wangle an invitation to her dinner table. Like most of the great Southern cooks of this century, Elizabeth worked her magic in the privacy of her own fragrant kitchen, where stocks simmered on the stove top and fresh herbs were grown on windowsills…then Elizabeth and her Harvard-trained lawyer husband, Michael, set their collective sights on opening a restaurant in the achingly lovely port of Savannah…”

Conroy reflects that the decision to move to the coast for a change of view and lifestyle also altered the history of food in the American Southeast. He observes that “Since Elizabeth Terry and her family arrived in Savannah, the whole city has eaten better and her sterling example has stimulated the kitchens of rival chefs and the palates of diners throughout the region….”

Conroy also writes, “Elizabeth Terry is a self-taught cook who carries an aura of authority and capability that makes you believe this is a woman who would develop expertise in any field she sought to enter. Once you walk through her well-ordered kitchen, you imagine that she would make a terrific astronaut or neurosurgeon…”  He says that Elizabeth possesses some second sight when it comes to organization and the way meals are put together. That farmers who come to her back door are on a first-name basis as they bring her the fruits and vegetables  picked that same day. That nothing about Elizabeth Terry and her restaurant is overdone or over-sauced. That he has been a devotee of Elizabeth on 37th for over sixteen years (and this was written sixteen years ago—but I checked Google for current information about the restaurant and it’s still going strong.)

Conroy observes that Elizabeth on 37th is a family affair. Michael Terry has always chosen the wine list; the Terrys ‘ daughters Alexis and Celeste grew up living in the restaurant  (And Alexis is a co-author of  SAVANNAH SEASONS).

Conroy reveals that one of the many pleasures he takes in writing novels is that it affords him great opportunities to praise whatever he loves  and ridicule those he doesn’t. In his novel “Beach Music”, the main character, Jack McCall, a cookbook writer and restaurant critic, is drawn straight from the dining room of Elizabeth on 37th.

Following Conroy’s foreword is Elizabeth’s Introduction and an in-depth look at the author/cook/chef. Throughout, there are stories written by Elizabeth that add to the interest of the recipes and her family—and recipes? There is something for everyone, whether you are a southerner or not—but what’s not to love about southern food?

Soups such as Warm Country Tomato and Red Pepper Soup, Cream of Cauliflower Soup, Chilled Cream of Fennel or Asparagus, Rich Crab Bisque or Corn Chowder with Vegetables—this is just a sampling of what you will find in Savannah Seasons. There is a lengthy list of salads and salad dressings, one more mouth-watering than the last, vegetables and fruit relishes ranging from Baked Potato Sundae to Pear Pecan Chutney, Corn Relish  or Eggplant Relish, to pickled onions with cranberries (and I love to make relishes! I can hardly wait to start working my way through this chapter!)

There is a list of Fish entrees that reads like who’s who in fish and seafood—an entire section just for seafood and an entire chapter dedicated to poultry—imagine, if you can, Pecan Crusted Chicken Breasts, Chicken and Black-Eyed Pea Salad, Chicken Potpie or  even Simple Roasted Chicken. Meats include Exotic Pork Tenderloin Kabobs, Honey-Roasted Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Pecans and Apricots, or Spiced Beef Tenderloin. There is a chapter dedicated to Sauces and Marinades (not something you find in most cookbooks) and my eye was immediately drawn to Cider Pomegranate Marinade (My son and I just picked fifty-something pounds of pomegranates from the tree belonging to a friend of his—I can hardly wait to try this recipe!) but I also want to try Red Pepper Sauced and Lime Mustard Glaze, Pecan Pesto and Garlic Sesame Butter!

Desserts and Breads include Sweet Nutmeg Whole Wheat Crust, Caramel Pecan Crust, Dark chocolate Sauce, Bourbon Butterscotch Sauce and Strawberries with thick Chocolate dipping Sauce…but you will want to try your hand at making Rich Dense Chocolate Pecan Torte—or one of the many other desserts/cakes/pies offered in Savannah Seasons. This is a huge cookbook with much to offer. If you could only choose one southern cookbook, this one should be given serious consideration.

The beauty of telling you about a cookbook that has been in circulation for a while is that you can often get a copy for very little. Amazon.com has SAVANNAH SEASONS new for about $15, and pre-owned starting at one cent. (plus $3.99 for shipping and handling – but where else would you get a book like this for $4.00?). Alibris.com has copies starting at 99c.

I have never been to Savannah (but I have a granddaughter named Savannah) – I attended a wedding in Atlanta years ago but never had the opportunity to visit Savannah—if you can’t actually visit a city, this has to be the next best thing to being there. SAVANNAH SEASONS – yum!

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

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