The year of the South

With Nov. 6th one day away, our family has entered the final stages of electoral obsession.  Everyone in the family except the 6-year-old has their own electoral map, prompting dinner trash-talk like "Do you really think North Carolina's in play?" and "I can't believe you gave him Florida!"  There is ongoing contention as to whether the Eastern Seaboard or the Midwest is ultimately more important.

But when it comes to cookbooks, one region of the U.S. has it hands down as usual, and that's the South.  Every year, there are new Southern cookbooks; maybe moreso as the years have gone by and folks have made their peace with lard. And those who haven't gone gluten-free seem to love their carbs--biscuits! pies! grits!--more than ever.

This year the trend was especially noticeable. I count four noteworthy Southern books that are still on my shelf this season, and I know there's been at least a dozen.

One sure sign that a cookbook category has reached a turning point is specialization. For example, you don't just get a new Italian cookbook. You get a rustic Italian book, or a panini book, or a gelato book.  You don't just get a book on cakes--you get a book on vintage cakes or cupcakes or cake pops.

That's been happening with a vengeance in the Southern sector.  This year we have Southern sides, Southern with a twist, Southern baked goods, Southern ways with pork...and I happen to know there's a Southern slow cooker in the works.

But perhaps the most notable one of all doesn't try to specialize at all.  At  over 700 pages, richly illustrated and spaciously designed,  Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking is as ambitious as its title.  I haven't started my own testing on it yet, but I'll be watching closely to see it can begin to slake the seemingly limitless national hunger for all food Southern.

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