Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Food: Recipes, cookbook reviews, food notes, and restaurant reviews. Unless otherwise noted, I have personally tried each recipe that gets its own page, but not necessarily recipes listed as part of a cookbook review.

Mimsy Review: Soul Food Cook Book

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, February 14, 1998

Review of the Soul Food Cook Book, with a recipe for Peanut Butter Bacon Bread.

AuthorBob Jeffries
PublisherThe Bobbs-Merrill Company
Length116 pages
Book Rating8

Ah, soul food! Fried chicken, chicken pie, biscuits, grits, and greens. If Salvadore Dali really did eat this stuff, it explains quite a bit about his art. Author Bob Jeffries is—or was, in 1969—the cook at Daly’s in New York City. This is a thin book without fluff. No pictures and very little talk. Jeffries’ own introduction is a short page four paragraphs long. An anonymous foreword takes another two pages talking about Bob and the restaurant and who shows up there. If you went to Daly’s Dandelion in the sixties you could expect to see Salvador Dali, David Merrick, John V. Lindsay (who are those two?) and a pre-Murder Angela Lansbury.

After that, it’s just food. There are few repeated recipes here; few recipes repeated almost verbatim with an ingredient changed here or there. The chapter on soups has one ham & bean soup, one chowder, one cream of corn. In the Gardens are but one cabbage & bacon side. And so on throughout.

Soups. “Soul food soups,” he says, “do not come in dainty little bowls at the beginning of the meal—they are the meal.” The highlights from my perspective are the Potato-Corn Chowder, the Chicken & Oyster Gumbo, and the Cream of Salmon. Out of ten recipes, six use pig in some form. This is a good thing. All of them have meat. There are no vegetarian soups and for all practical purposes no vegetarian recipes here. If the recipe doesn’t call for meat straight up, it calls for lard or bacon drippings.

Fish. When frying fish, Jeffries recommends using a thermometer to get the oil at exactly the right temperature. Too cool, and it soaks into the fish. Too hot, and the fish is raw inside. “A little loving care” is “well worth the effort” in making soul food. Red Snapper, Baked Mackerel, a bit of Salmon, and “Fish’n Rice’n Devil Sauce”, among others, round out this chapter.

Chicken and Other Fowl. Chicken is not the only “soul bird”. “Down home it was simply a matter of what bird was caught.” Besides various fried birds, there is Chicken & Dumplings, Chicken Pies, Roast Turkey, and Roast Duck with Greenling Sauce. The Chicken & Dumplings is an incredibly rich down-home dish with ham, butter, milk, and cream in various places

Pork. As if the rest of the recipes don’t hold down a lot of hog, Jeffries gives a chapter devoted solely to the pig. Some red-eye gravy, spare-ribs, pig’s feet, chit’lins, pig’s tails, hog’s heads, if it’s on the pig, he cooks it. The most spectacular dish here (a “soul food spectacular” in fact) is the Roast Baby Pig. Traditionally a wedding dish, it would make a marvelous change of pace on Thanksgiving.

Other Meats. “You will not find possum at your supermarket.” You won’t generally find squirrel either, although you can find rabbit if you look hard enough. I find rabbit to be a fine Easter Sunday dish, although you want to hide it from the kids. Shin-bone is a secret to a “rich, thick, tasty gravy” because of their high marrow content. The rabbit gets fried, and fried and baked in this chapter.

Barbecue. If you’re from North of the border (the border between North and South, that is), you probably think that barbecue is a sauce, or what you do with the sauce. Not so, says Jeffries. “It is simply a method of cooking over wood smoke so that the smoke penetrates and flavors what you are cooking.” One good barbecue sauce and four meats (ribs, chicken, pork, and steak—I’m not including the hot dog) make for a short but sweet chapter. Both sauces come with tomatoes. Sorry, North Carolina.

Truck Garden Fare. The basic theory of pot likker: if boiling vegetables saps the vitamins from the vegetables into the water, well, just eat the water as well! Sop it up in corn bread, biscuits, or corn pone. Collard greens, smothered cabbage (smothered in bacon drippings), and corn fritters. And not only does he have Fried Green Tomatoes, but he has Fried Green Apple Rings as well. Here, he does indeed provide multiple ways of doing the same thing: Fried tomatoes are so important that we must have fried green ones, creole fried ones, and just plain fried-in-bacon ones. Also, turnips, eggplants, okra, and candied cashaw and candied carrots.

Grits, Sweet Potatoes, Rice, Beans, and Such. Grits appeared on his boyhood table as often as potatoes in the rest of the country. “Grits as they should be cooked” does not involve instant grits. Once cooked, they can be fried or sweetened or eaten as they are. Jambalay, Red Rice, Limpin’ Suzan, and Hoppin’ John. “Believe you me”, it makes a meal worth coming home for! Sweet potatoes, new potatoes, and just plain whole potatoes go into a number of dishes, and of course no such chapter could be complete with Black-Eyed Peas.

Biscuits, Cornbread, and Such. “If you have ever had hot-from-the-oven buttermilk biscuits spread with soft butter and dripping with dark molasses along with thick slices of fried, home-cured bacon and steamy hot fresh-made coffee, then you know about soul.” If that doesn’t make you head for the kitchen, have someone check your pulse. Besides biscuits, this chapter includes equally great hush puppies, cracklin’ bread, and peanut butter cracklin’ bread (see below). If you want to recreate the Roscoe’s experience, take some of Bob’s incredibly rich waffles and combine them into a meal with his fried chicken. It just don’t get any better this side of a coronary.

Sweet Soul. Upside down cake made with peaches, oranges, and rum. Yet another never-fail pastry. Every cookbook has one, you have to wonder why some people have trouble with pie crusts. There must be more never-fail recipes than failure-prone ones. This one works as well as any other. The banana-rum cream pie is exquisite. I haven’t had the nerve to try the “Chocolate Bourbon Pie with Sky-High Meringue”. There is a molasses pie you could live off on for a month, apple-raisin pies (one of my favorites, he uses small crusts to make ‘personal’ versions), the famed Dewberry Dubie famed from the restaurant… Southern-fried cookies, deep-fried and sugar-dusted…

Preserves. Starts right off with BATF-unapproved “Moonshine Peaches” that requires a quart of illegally-prepared grain alcohol. A cranberry relish, watermelon rind pickles, homemade chili sauce, and summer mincemeat round out a chapter of recipes that I will probably never use (except possibly for the homemade chili). Watermelon rind pickles?

The bottom line is, this is a short and to the point book. If you are looking for good stereotypical southern food—and you can find this long out of print book—this is the best book I’ve seen on the subject.

Peanut Butter Bacon Bread

  • ⅔ cup peanut butter,
  • 2 tblsp butter,
  • ⅓ cup sugar,
  • 2 well-beaten eggs,
  • 2¼ cups flour,
  • ¼ tsp salt,
  • 4 tsp baking powder,
  • pinch baking soda,
  • 1¼ cups milk,
  • ¾ cup chopped peanuts,
  • ½ cup crumbled crisp-cooked bacon.
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease and flour a bread loaf pan.
  3. Cream peanut butter, butter, and sugar.
  4. Add eggs, beat until light.
  5. Sift flour with salt, baking powder, and soda.
  6. Add alternately with milk to butter-sugar mixture.
  7. Fold in peanuts and bacon and pour into loaf pan.
  8. Bake 1 hour.
  9. Cool slightly before removing from pan.
  10. Slice and serve with tart jelly or jam.

Soul Food Cook Book

Bob Jeffries

My cost: $3.33

Recommendation: Recommended

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