Kudzu. That quintessential Southern vine that seems to envelop everything in its path and can’t be deterred. Much like this indefatigable creeper, Southern culture seems to have ingratiated itself into every aspect of our daily lives. Nowhere is that presence more apparent than in the kitchen. Long have Southerners appreciated and embraced the joys and memorable times that accompany good food and good friends.
Almost five years ago, Keetha DePriest Mosley [formerly Reed] (Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern, More Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern) enjoyed her freelance catering jobs, while working in public relations for her hometown hospital and writing a food/entertaining/growing up life column for the Clarion-Ledger newspaper. She didn’t need Julia Child to be her inspiration for a cooking/essay book, instead it was the favorable responses from her newspaper readers that encouraged her to write
The wonderful, visual title…where did it come from, Keetha?
“I don’t rightly remember how I came up with the title. I wrote down a bunch of words, southern words. I knew I wanted the title to be immediately identifiable as being southern. Kudzu is such a strange thing and specific to the Deep South (I believe) and I like alliteration. So it just worked!”
Here’s an example of kudzu from Keetha’s blog post, Don’t stand still.
Now, by reading the book’s description, you’ll understand how perfectly kudzu applies to culinary dishes and times that wrap around one’s heart:
A charming mix of tips and ideas for entertaining and gifts of food, coupled with rich tales of growing up in the small-town South. This lively book reads like a kitchen conversation with an old friend.
It’s homey and loving as both professional and book buyer reviews agree:
“More than a cookbook, [Culinary Kudzu] is a delightful collection of essays with seasonal themes, each one accompanied by a recipe or two…Reed takes readers on nostalgic trips…this book is a winner,” Today in Mississippi
“Culinary Kudzu is a fantastic find. As I read, I was reminded of my own childhood growing up in the south. Reed’s recollections were entertaining, her tips useful, and recipes fantastic. Whether you were reared on such southern foods and stories or just interested in exploring samplings from the region, Culinary Kudzu leaves a satisfying taste. I can’t wait for Reed to serve up seconds,” says Laura in Oxford, Mississippi
Laura in Oxford, Mississippi only had to wait two years for More Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern.
“Keetha DePriest Reed’s second book, More Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern, is as warm and light as a buttermilk biscuit and refreshingly sweet as your grandmama’s iced tea with a sprig of mint…Keetha skillfully and tenderly looks to her past while driving forward to provide the same sense of wonderment and security for her son.” Delta Magazine
Keetha shares her life moments in a conversational tone that jogs the reader’s own memories from everything to catching lightening bugs on a hot summer night, sitting around a Thanksgiving table and listening to relatives tell their stories, and how Fall — though brief in the Deep South — is her favorite season as it well may be yours. And, while she writes without pretense, the author writes with a confidence that comes from honesty and caring. It’s no wonder that the following observations made me smile:
“This book is as sweet as a Smith County watermelon on the 4th of July; as fresh as spring water; as tender as the first greens in winter. Keetha is way too young to be so knowing and so good at what she’s doing. More Culinary Kudzu has terrific recipes combined with wise, finely crafted essays…” says Judy Tucker, writer and playwright.
Ah, regarding the 4th of July, take a look at what Keetha posted on July 5, 2010, as Oh, Yeah:
Summer in a glass.”
Notice, no cooking required! In fact during summer in the Delta — from April though mid-October — the key is to avoid kitchen “heat” as much as possible. Mother Nature helps with this by providing an abundance of home/state grown fruits and vegetables always ripe for a variety of salads and other cold dishes. Of course exceptions are made and on Sunday, July 11, 2010, the author posted the recipe for Tomato Tart and even confessed:
“Up until I made this tart, I didn’t like tomatoes, not even a little bit. Not on a burger or sandwich or salad. Now, though…”
If you read The Divining Wand’s Guest Keetha DePriest Mosley on Creating Time, you’ll remember the author’s feelings:
“It’s funny about living in a small town, and loving it so much, because when I was younger, I knew Manhattan is where I would live. I would have a sophisticated job and buy flowers from the little carts on the way home. I’d live in a loft and go to art galleries and whatever else it was sophisticated people did. I was going to be fabulous.
I realized – in time – that I could be fabulous right here in Mississippi but finding time, or, rather, making time to do what I really wanted to do was a challenge.”
Keetha DePriest Mosley is making her life fabulous as she turns her sights from writing about real life to pure fictional storytelling. Working now on her first novel — set in the Delta –, she’s on target to finish writing it by the end of the year. Then, she says, “all I have to do is revise, edit, get an agent, and get it published.”
And when that happens, the novel is certain to be fabulous and heartfelt. Yet for now, there are Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern, and More Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern, both to be enjoyed!
Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s The Education of Bet in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Lauren Baratz-Logsted and The Education of Bet. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to possibly claim your book.
The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Keetha DePriest Mosley’s Culinary Kudzu and one copy of More Culinary Kudzu in a random drawing to two separate individuals who comment only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Friday, July 23, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Monday’s post. If you enter, please return Monday to possibly claim your book.