WHO: Rick Bragg
WHAT: THE BEST COOK IN THE WORLD:
Tales from My Momma’s Table
WHEN: Published by Knopf April 25, 2018
WHY: “Affectionate, funny, and beautifully written.
“Heartfelt, often hilarious stories from an Alabama kitchen, a place from which issue wondrous remembrances and wondrous foods alike. Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Bragg matches the tales he assembled about his father in The Prince of Frogtown with an equally rough-and-tumble collection of folk wisdom served up courtesy of his mother.
“There’s an aching nostalgia throughout, not just for years gone, but also for a way of life that seems to have faded away, a Southernism of which ‘our food may be the best part left.’ It’s a food that African-Americans call ‘soul food’ because it transcends bodily pain and torment and, Bragg writes, offers ‘a richness for a people without riches.’
“Over the course of this long narrative, the author’s mother turns over the stage to other relatives, and webs of stories are spun, to say nothing of well-observed notes on old-fashioned Southern foodways: raccoon is stinky, snapping turtle is sometimes eaten, ‘but that, too, is complicated,’ and tomatoes are to be cherished if you can find one that tastes like a tomato, to say nothing of a chicken that tastes like a chicken. Bragg’s mother is a worthy guide throughout, unyielding in her judgment: ‘Use brown eggs when you can get ‘em,’ she warns. ‘They’re more like real eggs.’
“In this inauthentic world, there’s nothing like some comfort food: greens, grits with just a little hint of cheese, fried chicken, and black-eyed peas—not to mention ham and redeye gravy, government cheese, fried bologna sandwiches, and fried okra.”
–KIRKUS, a starred review
“Bragg’s prose evokes the sights, sounds, and smells of a rural Alabama kitchen and transforms apparent poverty into soul-satisfying plenty.”
in a starred review for BOOKLIST
“This entertaining memoir is a testament that cooking and food still bind culture together.”
–PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, a starred review
For Bragg, food stories go hand in hand, and his mother is not only chief cook, she is also the chief storyteller.”
in a starred review for LIBRARY JOURNAL
FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE BOOK:
Since she was eleven years old, even if all she had to work with was neck bones, peppergrass, or poke salad, she put good food on a plate. She cooked for dead-broke uncles, hungover brothers, shade-tree mechanics, faith healers, dice shooters, hairdressers, pipe fitters, crop dusters, high-steel walkers, and well diggers. She cooked for ironworkers, Avon ladies, highway patrolmen, sweatshop seamstresses, fortune-tellers, coal haulers, dirt-track daredevils, and dime-store girls. She cooked for lost souls stumbling home from Aunt Hattie’s beer joint, and for singing cowboys on the AM radio. She cooked, in her first eighty years, more than seventy thousand meals, as basic as hot buttered biscuits with pear preserves or muscadine jelly, as exotic as tender braised beef tripe in white milk gravy, in kitchens where the only ventilation was the banging of the screen door. She cooked for people she’d just as soon have poisoned, and for the loves of her life.
Knopf. With 37 illustrations. 487 pages. $28.95
To interview the author, contact:
Erinn Hartman | 212-572-2345 | email@example.com