Culinary historian Michael W. Twitty refers to rice as “The queen of the south.” He uses his extensive knowledge of Gullah culture and West African countries to explain its versatility and rich history. This adds authenticity about its journey and how rice was originally prepared, giving readers a reliable resource. “Rice connects me to every other person, southern and global, who is nourished by rice's traditions and customs,” Twitty says.
In his latest contribution, “Rice: A Savor the South Cookbook,” Twitty features 51 recipes and their significance. Surprisingly, several come from family and friends—what an honor for them. You shouldn’t have any problems finding most ingredients at local grocery stores. However, I have never heard of sweet potato leaves, nor have I ever cooked with them. Twitty lists substitutions when appropriate.
He also provides an anecdote about historical differences like baking rice pudding in a pie crust instead of a pot. Intriguing. Nevertheless, I want more recipes from this quick read. More stories. Furthermore, I prefer to see images in this hardcover. There are none.
Still, each section sounds interesting: The Basics, Deep Origins, Taste Transitions, Diverse Approaches, Southern Classics, and Breads and Desserts. They consist of dishes I look forward to preparing even though I’m not a big fan of the starch. For example, I plan to make the Groundnut Stew My Way, Haitian Red Beans and Rice, Meyer Lemon Rice with Candid Garlic, crab fried rice, and Savannah Rice Waffles. Now, doesn’t that sound good?
Twitty grew up in the District of Columbia and learned how to cook at an early age by watching his mother and grandmother. His skills evolved from watching cooking shows and in 2011, he created Afroculinaria, a blog where he explores culinary traditions of Africa, African America and the African diaspora. He also authored the James Beard Award-winning book, “The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South.”
His love for rice is evident throughout this book. It gives cooks insights about the grain and the impact it has on southern culture. It connects us worldwide through the meals and stories passed on from generations. Twitty does a great job at both. “Rice” is the 25th and concluding volume in the University of North Carolina Press' Savor the South Cookbook series. What a great ending. “All hail the queen!”
To pick up your copy, “Rice” is available on Amazon.
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