Guest Author - Donna Ledbetter
The best thing about the MidAtlantic region is its connection to America’s North and South. Anyone one even vaguely familiar with American history is sure to know about the struggles our nation faced in the midst of the Civil War. Some say the war was about slavery. Others say it was about state’s rights and independence. Whatever side you lean toward, there’s no denying that the rifts between North and South had a lasting impact upon this nation.
Fortunately, the ties that bind us have been stronger than the ties that divide. And now we’re able to enjoy the best that both the North and South have to offer. One way to do that is through exploring regional cuisine. The MidAtlantic South has a wonderful offering of foods because of its enviable location near the Atlantic Ocean. The Southern Living collection of cookbooks is by far the very best collection of regional recipes available today.
The Southern Living cookbook collection consists of two books, The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook and The All New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook. Both books feature time-tested southern classics you would expect like Pineapple Upside cake, Buttermilk Biscuits, Spicy Hot Black-Eyed Peas. Yet the All-New Southern Living Cookbook also includes new favorites with sophisticated twist. The Smothered Enchiladas and Tuscan Pork Chops are now two easy staples in my home.
Both books provide clear instructions, vivid graphics, and highlighted directions pointing out key steps in the meal assembly process. One advantage of the All-New Southern Living Cookbook over the older edition is that at the bottom of each recipe it includes nutritional information and per serving fat and calorie counts. If you’re already a fan of southern cuisine or if you grew up in a traditional southern home, you know high fat offerings are usually par for the course. The All-New cookbook demonstrates, however, that good southern cooking can be both delicious and low fat/low calorie at the same time.
The All-New cookbook also includes special recipe sections devoted solely to vegetarian main dishes (no platefuls of side dishes for our vegetarian friends and family here), healthy favorites, and food from the grill. The book is really a testament to how southern cooking has developed as a major cuisine and its adaptation to fit the health and dietary demands of today’s consumers.
Though not offered together as a set, the Southern Living cookbook duo featured here should definitely be purchased together. The original Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook provides handy conversion and substitution charts in the rear of the book that I have found especially helpful through the years, especially when trying to prepare food for guests in pinch. No buttermilk? Try yogurt instead. I’ve used it in a cake recipe and it came out tasting just fine.
The original Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook also has cooking and preparation tips the All-New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook doesn’t have. To its credit, though, the All-New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook does have a nifty section on kitchen basics that explains everything from choosing a knife to setting a table for dinner. When I’m really cooking at my peak, I oscillate between both books, using recipes, tips, and entertaining wisdom to help me prepare my meals.
For the best in Southern MidAtlantic regional cooking, the Southern Living cookbook series is your best bet.