Friday, May 22, 2009

One of My All-Time Favorites

Today's Old Cookbook Review should be effortless for me because I'm telling you about one of my all-time favorites! It's My Mother's Southern Kitchen-Recipes and Reminiscence by James Villas, and his mother, Martha Pearl Villas. James Villas is well-known as the food editor of Town and Country magazine for over two decades. He has also written nine cookbooks and his work has appeared in Gourmet, Bon Appetit and other national publications. His mother is a home cook from Charlotte, North Carolina, and Villas freely admits that he "learned cooking from his Mama's knee". This book is a trip through James' childhood and is full of humorous bits and pieces of his family history as it relates to food and cooking. This is the kind of cookbook that once I've started reading it, I have a hard time putting it down!

As I read through this book, actually skimmed it this time because I've already read it twice in the last several years, I'm reminded of the opinions on cooking that I grew up around (and mind you, these opinions are based solely on taste and not medical fact!) For instance, when speaking about one of Martha Pearl's culinary commandments, she says, "You know why these are so good? Because they're fried in bacon fat. I'll have you know my mama lived to be ninety-two and she fried everything in either bacon fat or lard." Of coarse, it doesn't say, but "mama" probably worked like a horse, too! It's just one example of what makes this book so enjoyable to read; the recipes are just a wonderful bonus.

Villa's mother is very involved in civic organizations and her church, and all have been blessed, along with family and friends, by her passion for cooking. Her grandchildren are also a focal point of her life, so the cookie and dessert sections include many family favorites. It comes as no surprise, that the book includes family photos, as well. The little back stories about where the recipes came from and what she prepared them for make the book very readable. It's like a kitchen table chat with Martha Pearl and her famous son. Throughout the book there are little blue squares with "Martha Pearl says:" in them; these were my favorite parts of the book, full of cooking tips and Martha's wit and wisdom! This book was published in 1994 by Macmillan and its ISBN is 0-688-17174-5.

P. 31 Artichoke and Almond Dip

One 6-ounce jar artichoke hearts
3/4 C Hellman's Mayo
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 C grated Parmesan cheese
Black pepper to taste
1/2 C slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain artichoke hearts, place in mixing bowl, and mash well with a heavy fork. Add the mayo, lemon juice, cheese and pepper and continue mashing and mixing till the mixture is well blended. Transfer the mixture to an ovenproof crock, top with the almonds, and bake till bubbly, about 20 min. Serve with toasted rounds or crackers. 6-8 servings.

It was a pleasure meeting a local reader, Sarah Myer, and her husband, Hank, yesterday! I will enjoy reading the vintage cookbooks that she passed on to me this week, and plan to review the OSU cookbook from the 1920's next Friday-don't miss it!

Also, I will be participating in Grocerycartchallenge's recipe swap, Food on Friday, Friday Feasts, Foodie Friday, and Frugal Friday


  1. I love artichokes and I eat almonds every day. I would of never thought of putting them together but it sounds great.

  2. sounds delicious! Happy Foodie Friday! Have a great weekend ~ Susan

  3. Mmmm, I like the sound of almonds! I've never had this before. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I have My Mother's Southern Desserts cookbook.... it's great! I'll have to give this recipe a try... sounds delish!

  5. This is something I will try. I love dips. I love artichoke and almonds also. So this should be awesome.

    Thanks for sharing with us over at Ann Kroeker's Food on Fridays.

  6. Nice that you met a local reader. I like this recipe but not sure my hips can take it while I am dieting this month:) There is always next month which is really next week to try this out:) Thanks for sharing.

  7. nummy, we are making this for my daughter's wedding...well, my sis has the honor this is so wonderful!!!!

  8. My daughter would love this! Thanks.