Clocking in at 564 pages, Vivian Howard’s new (and first) cookbook, Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South, is by far the largest cookbook I own that is not a compilation. Vivian, friend and collaborator on our Friends of the Café fundraiser dinner, has created a modern American classic book of recipes. Almost equal parts storybook and cookbook, Deep Run Roots shows us that there is not one single definition of “Southern” cooking; each region has its own unique contributions and food histories.
The cookbook has 25 chapters, each focusing on a single ingredient. Every chapter includes between 5 – 10 traditional recipes for its ingredient, followed by more modern or adventurous alternatives. There is something to be found for cooks of every skill level, and some of the dishes that appear challenging are remarkably easy to pull off. Each chapter also has a “Wisdom” page or section, where Vivian shares a little extra background on each ingredient, including her personal experiences, tips, and tricks. She also offers personal stories or memories, relating the ingredient to her own life.
Like her award-winning television series, “A Chef’s Life,” this book celebrates regional culinary traditions, family, and community. When Vivian returned to her North Carolina home over a decade ago to open her restaurant, Chef and the Farmer, she decided that rather than chase food trends, she would be much more challenged and gratified by learning how to cook using the same ingredients her neighbors used—the same ingredients that have been used by generations of families in her community. This cookbook reflects her resourcefulness, her willingness to partner with local purveyors, and her sheer creativity.
In the book’s introduction, titled, “Don’t You Dare Skip This Introduction!” Vivian explains that the book’s ingredients are characters who shape her life. “Eastern North Carolina is my Tuscany, my Szechuan, my Provence,” Vivian writes. “This is a Southern cookbook, but not one that treats the South like a homogenous region where everybody eats the same kind of fried chicken, ribs, shrimp and grits, collard greens, or gumbo. Instead, I interpret Southern cooking the way we’ve long understood French, Italian, and Chinese food: as a complex cuisine with abundant variations shaped by terrain, climate, and people.” This cookbook is massive and yet intimate. It is personal but has something for every palate.
We encourage you to pick up your copy of this cookbook in time for the holidays, as there are an incredible number of recipes that are perfectly suited to your seasonal meals.