Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Southern Belly: The Ultimate Food Lover's Companion to the South

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Southern Belly: The Ultimate Food Lover's Companion to the South (revised edition, Algonquin, 2007)

Well, I finally finished this book after more than a year, but I assure you that I have not let it sit untouched over all that time. This was a wedding gift from our friends CB and Elizabeth, and it proved immediately useful; we took our epic honeymoon road trip six weeks after we got married and made it a point to stop into one of the restaurants spotlighted here, Southern Kitchen in the town of New Market, Virginia, on the way back.

John Edge's delightful book is, I'm certain, going to continue to prove very useful for years to come. It's one part guidebook to fiercely independent and unique restaurants across the south and one part social history, with little sections spotlighting everything from Brunswick stew to Krystal to Duke's mayonnaise.

There's a lot of room for quibbling in a book like this, which is part of the fun. For every inclusion that I approve ("Wintzell's in Mobile, Alabama! Damn right!"), there are omissions that are baffling. A book like this can't be comprehensive, but nor could it conceivably pretend to be. It's the story of some places across a great region, and as fun and sparklingly-written as it is, it can only be bettered by the many revised editions that readers craft themselves. I wonder when we can visit all these communities in coastal North Carolina, Marie? Terrific fun and highly recommended.

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