Note: This edition of The Southern and Southwestern Cookbook has been updated to include Metric equivalents.
Over the whole southern part of our country, a sort of glamor hangs like the perfume of the flowers that scent the summer nights. Here Nature has been most prodigal with her treasure, and from this prodigality a tradition of fine cooking has been born—two traditions, in fact, for the Mississippi River flows as a natural boundary between the foods we think of as typically “Southern,” heritage from old plantation days, and the highly seasoned, colorful foods that our Southwest shares with the land across the Rio Grande.
Both traditions were born in a time when the labor supply was as plentiful as the foodstuffs that came from the bountiful earth. The African-American Mammies of the old South and the patient Indian and Mexican cooks on the Spanish ranchos devoted their whole lives to their cooking, and there were many hands always at their service to make the foods they produced unmatchably delectable. Later, when the spacious days of plantation and rancho life were no more, the inheritors of their great traditions still prized their ability to set a memorable table with the bounty of the land.
Today, the cooking of our South and Southwest is a grand melange of culinary art stemming from all the many peoples who have come to live there—the English, French and Huguenots, Spanish, and the Indians who were there first, and from whom all the rest first learned to use the strange native foods—the corn and sweet potatoes and squash, the wonderful fruits, and all the harvest of the seas.