Matt and Ted Lee

Matt Lee and Ted Lee talk about their beloved grandmother…

Lee Gran

Elizabeth Maxwell, our late grandmother, had a profound influence on our cooking, though you’ll have to banish any images of an aproned Southern Grandmother laboring all day at the stove, stirring her collards and hushing her puppies. Gran, as we called her, was a thoroughly modern Yankee, wearer of short skirts and seeker of good conversation and great tastes, liberated by canned soup, public buses and the premature death of her husband to entertain with abandon in Manhattan in the 1970s, and then in Charleston, South Carolina in the ’80s and ’90s.

As a single woman of limited means, pragmatism ruled, in her kitchen and in her cookbook collection. A typical dish was her flank steak (a recipe we adapted for Simple Fresh Southern-wonderfully simple to execute, and with stellar results. Her source cookbooks were not numerous, but they were very well-worn, and supported by a fat sheaf of recipe clippings.

Lee Bros

While organizing our own cookbook collection recently for entry into our EYB account, we came across a blue pamphlet that was Gran’s early form of EYB, a “Recipe Finder,” tabbed with different categories-soups, appetizers, fish, etc. (Diet was crossed out!) In her distinctive art-deco print, she wrote her favorite recipes, the source and the page number. If she was searching for a chicken dish, she flipped to the “poultry & game” tab, where the top entry was “broiled chicken with tarragon butter, The Gourmet C.B., p. 298.” Flipping through her Recipe Finder today paints an instant portrait of her taste–the specific cookbooks that excited her then, as well as the individual dishes in those books that she found irresistible. What we were intrigued to discover is that her culinary interests crossed borders even before her move down South: there were more than a few entries citing The New York Times Cookbook and June Platt’s New England Cookbook, but also plenty from “The Memphis Cookbook” and “Southern Living: Our Best Recipes!”


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