Attention Country Music fans and recipe-collectors! I'm excited to bring you this interview with Tanner Latham about his new cookbook Country Music's Greatest Eats: Showstopping Recipes & Riffs from Country's Biggest Stars. For this book, Latham collaborated with Southern Living, CMT, and 30 of Country Music's biggest stars, like Miranda Lambert, Zac Brown Band, Wynonna Judd, and Hank Williams, Jr.
Not only does this cookbook include 75 recipes from your favorite country artists, it's also full of their personal family stories, recipes that were handed down through generations, memories of eating on the road, and meals eaten in their very own kitchens.
Tanner Latham spent 10 years as the Travel Editor for Southern Living Magazine, during which time he traveled all over the South to uncover its best destinations for Southern culture, food, and characters. He is also the host of Authentic South, a storytelling podcast that explores Southern culture through food, art, travel, music, the land and the fascinating characters who define the region. Needless to say, Latham knows the ins and outs of the South, which makes him the perfect person for this cookbook!
For a sneak-peak at all the fun and exciting elements of Country Music's Greatest Eats, and an exclusive recipe by Holly Williams, continue reading for an interview with Tanner Latham himself.
1. When you first started the process of putting together this cookbook, who were the first Country Music Stars to come to mind?
This project began as a collaboration among Southern Living, CMT and Oxmoor House Books months before I was invited to join. By the time I got to the party, some of the artists had already been confirmed. But the thinking was that we wanted a diverse mix of voices that represent multiple facets of the country music scene. So, that’s why when you flip through the cookbook, you find legends alongside some of the hottest, up-and-coming artists. I admit that I had a wish list, though. I grew up loving the Oak Ridge Boys, and I’ve more recently taken a shine to Holly Williams and the Zac Brown Band. Check, check, and check.
2. The recipes in this book are from some of Country Music’s greatest artists. What was it like reaching out to all of them and hearing their stories?
These interviews were some of the easiest I’ve ever done in my career. Why? Because everybody loves to talk about food and family. I could hear the happiness in their voices as soon as I asked them why they offered up these recipes for the book. Think about your own favorite dishes growing up and the memories that they conjure. That’s what happened over and over again with these artists.
3. Many recipes are passed from generation to generation. Are there any recipes in the book that were created by the artists themselves?
Several, actually. I was wonderfully surprised that many of these artists are not only really good cooks, but they also develop their own recipes. I’m thinking of CMT host Katie Cook, who makes a Vegan Massaman Curry with Tofu (p. 52), because she has loved Indian food since she was a little girl. Or Amy Grant’s Pot Roast (p. 136), which she says is always a hit at her church’s pot luck dinners.
4. If you could choose a favorite recipe from the book, what would you choose and why?
Forgive me for cheating, but I’m gonna give you two. The first is Holly Williams’ Tomato, Goat Cheese, and Arugula Frittata (p.229), and I love it, because it’s so in line with the healthy way my fiancé and I are trying to eat these days. The second is Grace’s Favorite Broccoli-Rice Casserole (p. 166) from Wynonna Judd because the meaning behind it. (Grace is Wynonna’s daughter.) The famous singer grew up making the recipe with her mother and grandmother. As we talked about it, Wynonna said, “When I buy the ingredients to make that casserole, it’s a memory that goes back 49 years for me. It’s not just a casserole. It’s what draws my daughter to me in the kitchen.”
5. Because the artists tell some of their favorite stories about family, friends, and recipes, do you think the readers will feel like they know these Country Stars better?
Absolutely. That encapsulates the point of this cookbook. And hopefully, that’s why it will be so appealing to fans of country music and Southern food. We connect with ourselves and each other through kindred stories about food, family and home. And I think readers will be happily surprised at how familiar these artists’ stories sound. They perform before thousands now, but they pretty much all fell in love with food as curious children sampling goodies in their parents’ and grandparents’ kitchens.
6. Were you able to enjoy these recipes with the artists or witness any jam sessions?
I really wish I had. That would have been amazing! I mean, how cool would it have been to be grilling Serrano Pepper Burgers (p. 113) out on tour with Brian and Tyler of Florida Georgia Line? Or to have shadowed Craig Morgan (p. 190) on an elk hunt in Montana? Because most of the research was done last summer during the height of the tour season, however, I was lucky just to snag these stars on the phone. Everyone’s schedules were so crazy! Some people called me from tour buses rolling through the middle of nowhere or from their dressing rooms backstage before shows. That actually gave me a good sense of what life on the road is like for these guys. And, without fail, almost everyone talked about how these recipes reminded them of home and that making them helped them return to some form of normalcy.
Tomato, Goat Cheese, and Arugula Frittata (Holly Williams)
Makes: 6 servings Hands-on time: 35 min. Total time: 1 hour, 5 min.
6 large eggs 1/2 cup heavy cream 1/2 cup milk Sea salt Cracked black pepper 1 (4 oz.) package crumbled goat cheese 1 clove garlic, minced 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved 4 cups coarsely chopped arugula Garnishes: arugula leaves, extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 375°. Whisk together eggs, cream, and milk in a large bowl. Season as desired with sea salt and cracked pepper. Stir in goat cheese.
- Cook garlic in hot oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat 1 minute or until lightly browned. Add tomatoes, and cook 3 minutes or until softened. Add arugula, and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes or until wilted. Pour egg mixture over arugula mixture, and cook 5 minutes or until mixture begins to set.
- Bake at 375° for 15 to 20 minutes or until the frittata is set and golden brown. Remove frittata from the oven, and let stand 5 minutes before serving.