“CORN” by Tema Flanagan
It’s no secret that corn comes in many delicious forms, including cornmeal, hominy, popcorn and of course, hard liquor. In “Corn,” Chapel Hill native Tema Flanagan leaves no kernel unpopped as she explores some of the grain’s lesser-known history and uses.
Now a farmer at The Farm at Windy Hill in Alabama, Tema is well-acquainted with the versatile stalk and shares seasonally sublime recipes that enable readers to maximize flavor and potential.
The book fluidly makes its way around the dinner table, using corn in a salad on one page, a traditional Mexican dish on another, and closing, as any good Southern meal should, with handcrafted cocktails.
Just as interesting as the recipes is Tema’s introduction, which focuses on corn’s evolution over the last few centuries. First domesticated by Native Americans who relied on it as a vital food source, corn became popular throughout the East Coast and eventually it became synonymous with the South’s poorer populations before making a comeback in recent years.
Rather than by course or season, “Corn” is organized by form, from on the cob to dried and ground, encouraging readers to look back at the grain’s past to appreciate its many present-day uses.
“FRUIT” by Nancie McDermott
For many of us, the thought of cooking with fruit is likely to stir up memories of freshly baked apple pies, cranberry jelly served at Thanksgiving and perhaps the occasional pineapple upside-down cake in the summer. Nancie McDermott’s “Fruit” is here to change that.
A North Carolina native and prolific cooking author and teacher, Nancie turns her attention to reinterpreting the region’s indigenous fruits, such as strawberries and mayhaws, as well as non- native fruits often found in Southern kitchens, like figs and peaches. “Southern fruits matter,” she says, “both as mementoes of the gardening and gathering of culinary seasons past, and as worthy edible treasures for the present and future South.”
Each fruit is introduced with an anecdote from Nancie, who fondly recalls roadside stops for syrupy peaches and scrapes with thorny wild blackberry bushes. These hassles, of course, faded quickly in anticipation of the pie or cobbler they would make.
Desserts definitely get the spotlight in this book, with recipes that include traditional meringue pie infused with scuppernong grapes and a cheesecake filled with persimmon puree. However, side dishes, entrees and canned preserves also make appearances, including savory spiced muscadines and watermelon rind pickles, prompting readers to think outside the box (or should we say bushel?)