Synopses & Reviews
Though our roots are in the Colonial South, we Crackers are essentially just another American fusion culture, and our table and our stories are constantly expanding -- nearly as fast as our waistlines. We aren't ashamed of either, and we're always delighted with the prospect of company: someone to feed and make laugh, to listen to our hundred thousand stories of food and family and our long American past.
Crackers, rednecks, hillbillies, and country boys have long been the brunt of many jokes, yet this old Southern culture is a rich and vibrant part of Amer-ican history. In The Cracker Kitchen, Janis Owens traces the root of the word Cracker back to its origins in Shakespeare's Elizabethan England -- when it meant braggart or big shot -- through its proliferation in America, where it became a derogatory term to describe poor and working-class Southerners. This compelling anthropological exploration peels back the historic misconceptions connected with the word to reveal a breed of proud, fiercely independent Americans with a deep love of their families, their country, their stories, and, most important, their food.
With 150 recipes from over twenty different seasonal menus, The Cracker Kitchen offers a full year's worth of eating and rejoicing: from spring's Easter Dinner -- which includes recipes for Easter Ham, Green Bean Bundles, and, of course, Cracklin' Cornbread -- to summer's Fish Frys, fall's Tailgate Parties, and winter's In Celebration of Soul, honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.
Recounted in Owens's delightful and hilarious voice, the family legends accompanying each of these menus leap off the page. We meet Uncle Kelly, the Prince of the Funny Funeral Story, who has family and friends howling with laughter at otherwise solemn occasions. We spend a morning with Janis and her friends at a Christmas Cookie Brunch as they bake delectable gifts for everyone on their holiday lists. And Janis's own father donates his famous fundamentalist biscuit recipe; truly a foretaste of glory divine.
The Cracker Kitchen is a charming, irresistible celebration of family, storytelling, and good old-fashioned eating sure to appeal to anyone with an appreciation of Americana.
"Owens (My Brother Michael), who proudly calls herself a 'Florida Cracker,' turns a derogatory term into a loving, humorous label for her people, at the same time inviting non-crackers to hear from and be fed by them as they usually cannot. Like an afternoon on a Southern porch, this book is filled with family stories and local legends delivered between mouthfuls of down-home cooking. Owens groups the recipes into 20 seasonal menus, including impress-your-rivals spring baby shower desserts, cold potato soup and fried catfish for summer, hearty fall tailgating fare and stick-to-the-ribs winter meals. She prefaces each menu and most recipes with lengthy, hilarious descriptions of the food and its cracker history, from the field peas her sister loves so much she refused to date anyone who didn't eat them to the stewed squirrels of her dad's childhood and her grandmother's chocolate gravy. Few of the recipes are very challenging if one commits to using all the butter or bacon drippings called for, but Owens does give shortcuts for 'lazy Crackers,' as well as some lighter recipes for diet-minded 'Metro Crackers.' But though some of the dishes may get onto the tables of crackers who didn't grow up eating proper ham with red-eye gravy, or even onto some non-cracker tables, this book is even better to curl up with and read cover to cover, meeting Owens's friends and family and basking in her comical, evocative storytelling." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
More than 150 recipes plus family remembrances and cultural history make up this irresistible salute to Cracker heritage. Owens's cookbook is a love letter written to celebrate the poor white people of the American South . . . it is a joy to read and a pleasure to turn to--Pat Conroy. 25 b&w photos.
About the Author
Janis Owens is the author of three previous novels and a regional cookbook. The only daughter of a Pentecostal preacher turned insurance salesman, she inherited her love of storytelling from her parents. She lives in Newberry, Florida.