Steel magnolias Vivian Howard, Ashleigh Bryant Phillips, and Ashley M. Jones are tuned to the frequency of our times as well as the echoes of Southern storytellers who’ve come before them. No matter their forms, they’re charting our past and our progress.
THE COOK’S COOK
Chef Vivian Howard has spent the last decade of her life telling food stories from her small empire of farm-to-table restaurants in Eastern North Carolina. Her PBS shows A Chef’s Life and more recently Somewhere South defined the idea of seasonal and cultural influence on the foodways of our region. She’s humble, and thoughtful, and concerned about our newly necessary return to cooking for ourselves. But her latest cookbook, This Will Make It Taste Good, doesn’t dumb it down. Instead, each chapter is organized around one of her secret “flavor hero” recipes—sauces and condiments that can be batched and used in a myriad of ways to take simple, straightforward food into the stratosphere. From pickled tomatoes to caramelized onions, sweet to savory, this is a new way to think about cooking. In her introduction, Howard says, “I realized my mission isn’t to protect you from time in your kitchen; it’s to help you make the most of it.”
This Will Make It Taste Good by Vivian Howard, $35
THE WILD CHILD
There’s a supercharged undercurrent to the stories in Ashleigh Bryant Phillips’s debut collection. You sense it in the hard lesson or volatile disaster that’s barely avoided, the roadside-attraction Southern landscape we know but maybe have stopped seeing fully. These are stories of long-gone mothers and little brothers, Walmart parking lot epiphanies, the pet python that strikes again. They’re stories informed as much by Flannery O’Connor’s sense of justice and weirdness as Phillips’s own razor-sharp, right-now perspective on the world we walk through every day.
Sleepovers by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips, $16
Birmingham, Alabama, poet Ashley M. Jones strikes her matches against that city’s rich civil rights history, bringing new light to old shadows in this long conversation this country is having about race. In her collection Magic City Gospel, she offers haikus on the fire hoses faced down by students in The Children’s Crusade and meditations on the real people behind the museum artifacts. The choruses of Sam Cooke and Tina Turner offer solace and warning, ways to see what’s come before in order to see what’s going on now. Look for her new collection Reparations, Now! this fall.
Magic City Gospel by Ashley M. Jones, $14
Find these authors at M. Judson Booksellers, 130 S Main St, Ste 200A, Greenville. (864) 603-2412, mjudsonbooks.com