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4 Cookbooks To Use This Memorial Day

Now that we are about to officially declare summer is here, it’s also time to change our menus.  It’s somewhat challenging to come up with new ideas for creative dishes.  I prefer recipes that have few ingredients and can be prepared quickly with little fuss. 

I have always loved cookbooks.  They don’t necessarily have a plot but they are wildly entertaining to me.  I especially like the cookbooks that tell a story about the recipes.  My next door neighbor, Jamye Bramlett Waters, gave me a copy of her family’s cookbook entitled “We Eat Better Than Y’all Do.”  It is filled with photos and stories about their family, and the best recipes with wonderful titles like “Damn Good Chocolate Cake,” “Mike’s Fried Turkey,” and “Kitty’s Wacko Chicken in Foil.” 

“We Eat Better Than Y’all Do” cookbook. Photo courtesy of Bonnie Brown.

Then there’s “The Great College Coaches’ Cookbook” which was edited by the late Ron Borne with an introduction by Willie Morris.  Not only are there recipes from notable coaches, but each recipe comes with a brief bio of the featured coach.  My most used recipe from this cookbook is “Prime Rib a la Gibbs” which is, of course, Jake Gibbs’ recipe.  It is simple and delicious!  Ron also included a section of Armchair Coaches.  His personal recipes highlight his Louisiana background with “Shrimp and Sausage Jambalaya” and “Red Beans and Rice.”  
“The Great College Coaches Cookbook” Photo courtesy of Bonnie Brown.

I have also enjoyed a cookbook by Cynthia White entitled “Scentimentally Yours.”  “Cindy” is sister to the late Richard Popernik.  You may remember him as serving as University Police Chief. The cookbook includes several Polish dishes, a nod to their heritage.  Cindy writes that her mother provided the spelling for the Polish dishes and should the spellings not be correct, well who would know?  Not only does Cindy’s cookbook spotlight traditional family dishes but there’s also a simple 5-ingredient recipe by the late Pulitzer Prize winning author and syndicated columnist Art Buchwald entitled “Baked Potato Caviar.” 
“Scentimentally Yours” cookbook. Photo courtesy of Bonnie Brown.

These cookbooks are special because they bring everyone to the family table to share food prepared with love. 
One of my all-time favorite cookbooks is the “Bell’s Best” cookbook.  It’s a 768-page cookbook compiled by the Telephone Pioneers of America Mississippi Chapter No. 36 and was first printed in 1981.  It is a treasure trove of the best recipes, hence the name I suppose.   
“Bell’s Best” cookbook. Photo courtesy of Bonnie Brown.

I received my “Bell’s Best” as a gift from my husband’s aunt, Lottie Lester.  She was quite a southern lady with a repertoire of funny sayings.  For example, a heavy rainstorm was dubbed a “toad strangler.”  She was born and raised in south Mississippi but spent much of her adult life living with her husband George in Indiana.  Her southern accent was entertaining not only to her husband but to co-workers as well.  Uncle George told of people who used to call her on the phone just to hear her southern accent. 
If you only owned one cookbook, “Bell’s Best” would be the one to own.  It is chocked full of delicious recipes. Many are old favorites while others have just a slight alteration that makes the dish even better. 
Below is one of my go-to party foods.  It is effortless and delicious—and one that I’ve not seen anywhere else.  It came from Tokyo, Japan. 
Party Dip (Fruit)    
       8 oz. sour cream
       ¼ cup frozen orange juice
       ½ cup sugar
       1 tsp. cinnamon
       1 tsp. nutmeg
       1 tbsp. orange liqueur (I use orange extract)
Mix together well.  This is especially good with Mandarin oranges, apples, pears, pineapple, strawberries and bananas. 
Now that you’re inspired, find a spot to open up several cookbooks and decide what to prepare for the upcoming Memorial Day Weekend.  What better way to memorialize and honor the men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country while you surround yourself with family.  Who knows—maybe you all can share a few recipes. 

Bonnie Brown is a retired staff member of the University of Mississippi. She most recently served as Mentoring Coordinator for the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy.
For questions or comments, email hottytoddynews@gmail.com.

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