A prime example of the influence of cooking in a Southern family, this cookbook is a collection of the recipes held near and dear to the family of author James Villas—specifically, his mother Martha Pearl, whom he dubs the “keeper of the Southern cooking flame.” Where many other cookbooks in our collection boast elaborate twists on signature Southern dishes—wonderful in their own right—this cookbook is the very essence of a personal kitchen experience shared between a mother and her beloved family. In fact, it’s the most local commercialized cookbook we looked at by far (and in this case, I use the word commercialized only to describe its professional level of publishing in comparison to the spiral-bound church cookbooks we worked with for our smaller data set). Containing very homey recipes such as “Paw Paw’s Eggs and Cheese,” “Margaret’s Ham and Cheese Soufflé,” and “Thanksgiving Cranberry Salad,” while also providing descriptions before each and every recipe explaining its significance in Martha Pearl’s life, this cookbook is definitely indicative of the more intimate side of cooking in the South.
Villas, James, and Martha P. Villas. My Mother’s Southern Kitchen: Recipes and Reminiscences. William Morrow Cookbooks, 1999.