A Time to Cook: Dishes from My Southern Sideboard

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Welcome to the world of Sideboard. In a city hurting for a homey restaurant with great food, the arrival of Sideboard in the Danville Hotel building is cause for a sigh of relief and even a squeal of delight. That does not mean she spends every hour in the kitchen, though she does spend much of her time there. On the Embarcadero in San Francisco, she wanders the Ferry Plaza farmers market on Saturdays, hunting for the finest regionally grown produce. A pressed sandwich melds walnut-basil pesto and Belfiore mozzarella, a product made in west Berkeley.

Tangy shrimp ceviche is piled on miniature tostadas and drizzled with an avocado-mango salsa and Mexican sour cream. There is evidence of care and a watchful eye in almost every dish at Sideboard.

That softshell crab is battered lightly and pan-fried to a shattering texture. Fries, served with a blue cheese dipping sauce, are crisp outside, tender and fluffy inside. Not every menu item fares quite as well, however.

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A salad of baby lettuces with a runny take on green goddess dressing, bacon, and hard-boiled egg came to our table unevenly dressed. Some leaves were barely coated, others drenched. A jumble of fresh spaghettini was crushed under the weight of its grilled chicken, broccoli rabe, mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, and roasted garlic.

A Time to Cook: Dishes From My Southern Sideboard

Such missteps are infrequent, and the allure of a meal here more than makes up for them. In a charming design coup, the flatware and the plates, with the exception of the soup and pasta bowls, are mismatched antique china. In the wrong hands, such a touch would seem lazy. Diners order at the counter, are given a placard printed with such food names as pomegranate and brussels sprouts, and then choose their own table.

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The Andrews were unsure at first whether diners would feel comfortable with such laid-back service. Contact: Hartz Ave. Hours: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. Alcohol: Wine and beer. Sign up to get our e-newsletter and receive exclusive invites to special events, parties, and happenings. Shortly after his birth, his mother moved to Ireland, where she abandoned him. Then he was abandoned by his father and a great-aunt, his guardian, who sent him to school in France.

He lived in New Orleans for nearly a decade. In his time there, Hearn was little known, and even now he is little known for his writing about New Orleans, except by local cultural devotees. However, more books have been written about him than any former resident of New Orleans except Louis Armstrong.

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Hearn died in It was anonymously printed in but its authorship by Hearn is generally accepted. In his brief but intriguing introduction, Hearn tells us that Creole cookery partakes of the nature of its birthplace — New Orleans — blending the characteristics of the American, French, Spanish, Italian, West Indian and Mexican, Native Americans, African Americans and others in the melting pot near the mouth of the Mississippi. Food is rarely mentioned in fiction because writers of fiction are more concerned with the human condition than soups and sauces.

How careless they had been of food then, what prodigal waste! Rolls, corn muffins, biscuit and waffles, dripping butter, all at one meal. Ham at one end of the table and fried chicken at the other, collards swimming richly in pot liquor iridescent with grease, snap beans in mountains on brightly flowered porcelain, fried squash, stewed okra, carrots in cream sauce thick enough to cut.

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And three desserts, so everyone might have his choice, chocolate layer cake, vanilla blanc mange and pound cake topped with sweet whipped cream. The memory of those savory meals had the power to bring tears to her eyes as death and war had failed to do, the power to turn her ever-gnawing stomach from rumbling emptiness to nausea. This could be a meal in any upper-class antebellum home including those in the Delta. From another era, Faulkner includes a description of a Thanksgiving meal in Sartoris.

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There are four kinds of food in books: Food that is served by an author to characters who are not expected to taste it; food that is served by an author to characters in order to show who they are; food that an author cooks for characters in order to eat it with them; and, last and most recent , food that an author cooks for characters but actually serves to the reader. Faulkner falls squarely in the second category:. Then we have Delta Wedding. Welty also knew the importance of food as a significant element of human character, and in Delta Wedding , people are eating all the time.

It is after all a wedding. Mary Hamilton was a teenager in Arkansas in the early s when she met and married Frank Hamilton, an Englishman who was manager of a lumber camp charged with clearing the forests of the Delta. This remarkable memoir owes its existence to Helen Dick Davis who with her husband Reuben Davis wrote two works of fiction set in the early Delta, Butcher Bird and Shim She met the elderly Mary Hamilton in and encouraged her to set down her recollections of life in the Mississippi Delta backwoods during the latter part of the 19th century.

Davis copy-edited it and approved its publication before her death in Mary Hamilton may not have had an education but she was a capable writer. She came into the area east of the Sunflower River in Camp life was always either a feast or a famine. That week Frank killed a bear that weighed pounds dressed.

I cooked bear meat every way I could think of, and we sent the neighboring Minkus camp some. Those men were the bravest, biggest-hearted men, and from those common work-men came some of our richest citizens in the Delta. They took advantage of the cheap lands, took care of their money, and fought their way through a wilderness to make this country what it is today, the garden spot of the South.

The Delta had two historic publications: Delta Review Winter -v. But in Delta Magazine —present , not only is food a predominant theme, but yes, they put out a cookbook. After Polk died in , Clarence H. Poe from Raleigh, NC took over as editor in and in , he and three partners purchased the publication, taking it from a newspaper to a magazine with 36, subscribers by The magazine soared to a circulation high of 1.

From the pages of Progressive Farmer rose the largest and most successful regional publication in history. In , the management, led by Emory Cunningham and the editors of Progressive Farmer launched Southern Living magazine fashioned after the lifestyle and home life section in the magazine.

A Time to Cook: Dishes from My Southern Sideboard

The Progressive Farmer had extended its appeal among suburban housewives, and that segment of its circulation received the new magazine, Southern Living to establish its distribution and advertising rate base. Southern food was, is, and always will be a predominant theme in Southern Living. Craig Claiborne is a giant in the field of food writing.

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Claiborne was the first to mention tamales as one of the few street foods in the Delta, and the stature of his authority had a great deal to do with establishing the quality as well as the significance of Southern foods across the nation. He created food journalism, and his sheer adventurism still informs our attitude towards food and cooking. The fact that he is from Sunflower County is simply mind-boggling.

When it boils down to it, though, Claiborne might best be described as the right man in the right place at the right time. His hiring as the first male food editor of a major newspaper came about as the result of crass opportunism if not as is hinted chicanery. Craig Claiborne knew that Turner Catledge, the managing editor of the Times , just happened to be an old Mississippi boy, who just happened to have gone to Mississippi State.

Claiborne spent a year and a half at State , was tapped by Pi Kappa Alpha, but he hated it.