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Screen Doors and Sweet Tea

Martha Hall Foose’s “Screen Doors and Sweet Tea” is a lovely look at Southern culture and its cuisine. Many of the recipes are linked to Mississippi and Louisiana, but most are common across the South (okra, fried chicken, cheese straws, pot likker greens, cornbread). Each recipe is prefaced by a short story about its origins, full of reminiscences and funny stories. There are also helpful notes along the margins regarding possible variations and alternate ingredients.

The appetizer section “Mailbox Happy Hour” includes some lovely cool summer drink ideas (McCarty Pottery Juleps, Mailbox Cocktail, Milk Punch, Cantaloupe Daiquiris) along with nonalcoholic counterparts (Blackberry Limeade, Cherry-Vanilla Cream Soda) and munchies (Roasted Pecans, Buttermilk Bacon Pralines, Yazoo Cheese Straws, Sold My Soul to the Devil-ed Eggs). In addition to old-time favorites like pimiento cheese, you’ll also find ethnic-inspired gems like the Apricot Rice Salad and Tabbouleh that are directly linked to Lebanese and Syrian immigration to the South.

There are also several variations on gumbo, various chicken dishes (fried, chicken pot pie, chicken and dumplings), pork (chops, glazed ham, Chinese Grocery Pork), beef (Country-Fried Steak, Midnight Brisket, Chile Lime Skirt Steak), and seafood, rounded out with tasty vegetable sides. Breads and rolls merit a chapter, and desserts include Sweet Tea Pie, Banana Pudding, Dewberry Dumplings, cobbler, fudge squares, and several cakes.

The recipes themselves are easy to follow and clearly laid out. There are numerous gorgeous photographs of finished recipes, but no nutritional info. This is a lovely addition to any cookbook collection, particularly those who enjoy collecting regional cookbooks, and the recipes will take you back to a simpler, more genteel era.