Sunday, October 13, 2019

Blending Family Stories and Cooking and Fiction in Darlene's Redneck Recipes #Homestyle #Recipes

This week marks the end of a two-year project for me. I decided a while back that I would put together a recipe book for the younger girls in our Southern family that would reflect how their grandmothers and great-grandmothers cooked. I'm one of the last members of my family who grew up with these women and their food. That being said, I didn't want it to be just another cookbook.

I love writing humor and I knew I had the perfect character for it. Darlene Higginbottom. She made her first appearance in a 50's Southern comedy I wrote called "Laid to Rest." Actually, she was never supposed to be the main character but once she came on stage, I knew the story belonged to her and not Richie and Tommy Ray as I had planned. Darlene is an outspoken, ambitious, assertive country girl who believes you should dream big. Her dream is to become a movie star like her idol, Marilyn Monroe. I always thought of Darlene as looking like Marilyn, acting like Lucille Ball and talking like Madea. Darlene has always been one of my most popular characters. I've had more readers ask me about her than any other character I've written. 

Then I had to come up with a title. Darlene's Cookbook was meh. So I finally settled on Darlene's Redneck Recipes: Humor and Home Cooking. Darlene, who is from the '50s, talks about cast-iron skillets, cooking pies, picking poke sallet, etc. Plus she adds comments to the recipes every so often. Her comments and stories are all fictional, but they are based on things that I recall being told about or either doing growing up and as an adult. I also talked to my friends to see what they remembered about their mothers cooking and meals at the house. 

Regarding the recipes, my one stipulation was to use only recipes that required simple ingredients found in most kitchens. Nothing fancy or hard to make. Many of the recipes came from my recipe box and that's what I wanted for the book. Like looking through a recipe box with over 200 recipes. 

The cookbook contains my mother's chocolate pie recipe. It is the only recipe of hers that I have in her handwriting. She wrote "very good" at the end and circled it. That's true. That chocolate pie is awesome. Other recipes I had accumulated over the years were some from our patients at the medical clinic where I worked years ago. The patients used to make goodies for us at Christmas. Two of my favorites were Miss Jessie's sour cream pound cake, which was heavenly and Miss Amelia's pineapple filling that she put in little tart shells. They brought me their recipes, which I still have and included in the book. They have both been dead for many years, but their cooking lives on. Then there are the co-worker recipes like the one for a lemon pie that was written on a Post-It note.

In my quest for recipes and how women once cooked, I headed to a country beauty owned by an old friend of mine. On Fridays, she does all her "old ladies" hair for the weekend, especially church on Sunday. So I went out there on a Friday with notebook in hand and sat and talked with women who came in about cooking and what memories they had of their mothers and grandmothers in the kitchen. Plus I gathered more recipes. 

The women I grew up around cooked constantly. I had one aunt that practically lived in her kitchen. She was always in the kitchen cooking something. When we went to her house, we all sat at a big white and chrome table that was in the dining area of the kitchen. We never sat in the living room and I don't remember her ever being anywhere but in the kitchen puttering from the stove to the sink. 

She couldn't drive as was true of many of the farm-raised women who were my kin and ancestors. They lived on farms, milked cows, had chickens, hogs, and vegetable gardens.
They used what they had on hand when they started cooking a meal. They didn't have ready access to grocery stores and they didn't have the money for specialty items. So all their dishes were simple and homemade. I tried to stay true to that in this book

In Darlene's cookbook, I leave it up to the cook to add whatever additional spices, herbs or flavors they want to try. That's how new recipes are created, so be creative in the kitchen and enjoy some good food!

Here's an interior picture:

Darlene says her cookbook would make a terrific Christmas gift!!! So keep it in mind.

It is also available as an ebook:
The books aren't linked yet on the same page. 

And thanks so much to anyone who takes the time to leave a review! 

Wishing you a wonderful week! 


Reina M. Williams said...

Congratulations on completing this wonderful project! I'm excited to read and try the chocolate pie! And now I know what to get my dad's wife for Christmas. :) (Also, my mom had some of those same recipe cards with the grinder and vegetables picture in the corner. :) I love how you researched the book; it sounds fun to talk to people about their recipes. Best wishes with the new release!

Patricia Preston said...

Thank you, Reina. It was fun and I like writing Darlene's tales, which are all somewhat based on something that happened or that I heard about via my family. LOL.