The Best Cook in the World: Tales from my Momma’s Table
© 2018 Rick Bragg
“Good stuff always has a story,” she said.
One of my New Years resolutions is to cook more, and that has unexpectedly introduced me to Rick Bragg, a storyteller much favored by the reading public down here. Bragg hails from Calhoun County, an area of the state rather different from my own – marked by the Appalachian foothills instead of wide-open cotton fields and belts of pine forest. The Best Cook in the World is his attempt to capture some of his mother’s culinary magic into book form, if nothing else so that her recipes won’t be lost with time. But, he ruminates at the beginning, there’s a story in every recipe, and so here he shares a few dozen recipes and prefaces each with a story that brings the dish to mind – whether it was the first recipe his grandmother ever learned (butter rolls), pie recipes from a neighborly feud, or turtle soup made most memorable when an old monster of the Coosa river was finally taken down. The recipes include southern staples that are still around – ham, black-eyed gravy – as well as more obscure ones, like a use for possum. Despite the amount of recipes here, though, it’s more a work of folklore and family stories than a pure cookbook, one as rich in humor as it is in taste. I’ll definitely be reading more of Bragg!