“The Best Cook in the World: Tales From My Momma’s Table” should be required reading for anyone who loves Southern food or a Southern cook.
What can I say about Rick Bragg’s incredible storytelling abilities that hasn’t already been said: that he’s able to transport you to Depression-era Alabama kitchen in a single sentence? That his Pulitzer-winning writing is so powerful, your tears of sorrow will turn to tears of laughter before you reach the end of the page? That he’s one of, if not the, greatest living Southern author?
All of those things and more are true.
His newest book is a bit of a departure for Bragg, albeit not a big one. Though noted for his enthralling columns and articles, Bragg is at his best when writing about his family.
All Over But the Shoutin,’ his celebrated debut memoir, was not only a haunting window into the lives of the often overlooked people of the rural South, but a deeply moving love letter to his mother.
The Best Cook in the World: Tales From My Momma’s Table, is a love letter, as well, this time devoted to Bragg’s love of food and those who make it well.
Through recipes passed down from generation to generation, Bragg tells the story of his people: his unrefined great-grandfather, whose recipe for butter rolls is at least 150 years old; his grandmother, who thought meringue was a wonderful way to ruin a perfectly good pie; his grandfather, whose love of good collards was surpassed only by his love of good corn liquor; and his mother, who dug her ancient nine-inch iron skillet from the ash of her burned down house in 1993. She’d have to season a new one to get it to cook right, and that could very well take the rest of her life.
The Best Cook in the World features 74 family recipes, including baked hog jowl, stewed cabbage and fried apple pies. You can find a copy in your favorite bookstore or online, and I highly recommend that you do.
Bragg’s storytelling is as rich as his grandmother’s chocolate pie—you’ll savor every bite.