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Kevin Mitchell and David S. Shields hope to entertain and stimulate readers with the book, “Taste The State: South Carolina’s Signature Foods, Recipes & Their Stories.” Selected as one of Forbes’ “Best New Cookbooks for Travelers” in 2021, it features 82 ingredients unique to the state, such as boiled peanuts, conch, iced and sweet tea, rice bread and tomato pie.
The table of content lists them in alphabetical order. I like reading the profiles for each one because of their rich history accompanied with some pictures and/or historical drawings—all with cultural influences from the Native Americans, Gullah Geechee and European settlers. Also, many of the ingredients you can still purchase at local supermarkets outside of South Carolina, aka The Palmetto State.
I find the variations of the dishes interesting, especially the sweet potato pie. A few bakers prepare it as a custard with a splash of sherry or brandy. Others create a deep-dish, sliced potato pie with a top crust. It reminds me not to be so rigid with recipes and to make them my own.
Something Mitchell and Shields encourage in this hardback.
As a matter of fact, they omit the temperatures and length of time in the oven or on the fire. I find the exclusions intimidating for a novice. Their reasoning: “Most recipes post-date the widespread adoption of the cook stove.” They left the instructions as they first appeared in print. Still, as an experienced home cook, I am looking forward to preparing the chocolate mayonnaise cake, smothered cabbage, chestnut dressing, and she-crab soup. Furthermore, I want “To Make Ginger Beer” found in the Ginger and Ginger Ale section.
Journey to the South
Mitchell—who is from Rahway, New Jersey—grew up helping his grandmother in the kitchen. She taught him the importance of cooking. Later, he earned two culinary arts degrees: one in occupational studies and the second in culinary arts management from the Culinary Institute of America. He also obtained a master’s degree in southern studies from the University of Mississippi.
In 2008, he became the first African American chef instructor at the Culinary Institute of Charleston in South Carolina and was named a 2020 South Carolina Chef Ambassador for his dedication to incorporate and promote locally grown ingredients.
He continues to teach aspiring chefs. In addition, he serves on the Slow Food USA board of directors. He calls North Charleston home.
Shields is a Carolina Distinguished Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of South Carolina. He serves as chairperson of the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation board, a nonprofit organization committed to the sustainable restoration and preservation of rice and other grains.
He keeps southern cuisine alive by lecturing and writing about it, including in his previous books, “The Culinarians: Lives and Careers from the First Age of American Fine Dining” and “Southern Provisions: The Creation and Revival of a Cuisine.” He also has two more publications by the University of Chicago Press. He is the recipient of the Southern Foodways Alliance’s 2016 Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame Award. Shields resides in Columbia, South Carolina, but is from Washington, DC.
“Taste the State” is a great resource for learning about foods and their origins. The authors present the information in a way that is easy to understand and brief. They supplement it with images. This culinary record provides everything you need to jumpstart your cooking experiments and to create your own food traditions. I highly recommend you add it to your collection.
“Taste the State: South Carolina’s Signature Foods, Recipes & Their Stories” is available on Amazon. Order up a copy today!
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