Q: It has been almost 20 years since you pioneered
the New Southern Cooking movement. Can you share
A: It’s taking the foods of the region, cooking them
in more updated ways and adding some of the new
foods that are now easily grown here, such as zucchini.
Q: What one dish is considered the belle of the South?
A: Grits are historically a Southern specialty. I was
having some people for dinner just recently, and one
of the guests called to say he was going to be late. I
thought, ‘Oh God, I’ve got to have something to keep
people from eating their fingers until he shows up,’
so I pulled a cheese grit soufflé out of the freezer and
microwaved it. It was perfect.
Q: In Southern Memories you suggest adding a touch
of grace when entertaining. What does this mean?
A: You must remember that your guest is the
important person, not you.
Q: Many consider you to be the maven of
entertaining tricks. Could you share a couple
of fail-safe party ideas?
A: My Thanksgiving trick is my favorite. In order to
have an empty sink and dishwasher when the first
guest walks in, fill a cooler that’s been placed outside
or a spare bathroom’s bathtub with hot, soapy water
and use it to soak all the last-minute pots and pans.
Also, if you’re afraid someone will put your good
china, silver and crystal in the dishwasher when you
aren’t looking, then just hide the dishwasher soap.
Q: Southerners take their barbecue very seriously,
fiercely defending their secret sauces. What defines
good Southern barbecue?
A: Oh, this is such a controversial issue. North
Carolina is famous for its vinegar barbecue sauce
and South Carolina for those made with mustard.
Just don’t forget that Southerners barbecue only
pork—unless you’re with someone who thinks that
Texas is part of the South.
Q: What Southern ingredients best represent the region?
A: Pork, Vidalia onions, corn, grits, peas, English
butter beans [baby limas], pecans, peaches, seafood
and, of course, bourbon!