Eat Drink Delta: A Hungry Traveler's Journey through the Soul of the South


The Mississippi Delta is a complicated and fascinating place. Part travel guide, part cookbook, and part photo essay, Eat Drink Delta by veteran food journalist Susan Puckett (with photographs by Delta resident Langdon Clay) reveals a region shaped by slavery, civil rights, amazing wealth, abject deprivation, the Civil War, a flood of biblical proportions, and—above all—an overarching urge to get down and party with a full table and an open bar.

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The Mississippi Delta is a complicated and fascinating place. Part travel guide, part cookbook, and part photo essay, Eat Drink Delta by veteran food journalist Susan Puckett (with photographs by Delta resident Langdon Clay) reveals a region shaped by slavery, civil rights, amazing wealth, abject deprivation, the Civil War, a flood of biblical proportions, and—above all—an overarching urge to get down and party with a full table and an open bar.

There’s more to Delta dining than southern standards. Puckett uncovers the stories behind convenience stores where dill pickles marinate in Kool-Aid and diners where tabouli appears on plates with fried chicken. She celebrates the region’s hot tamale makers who follow the time-honored techniques that inspired many a blues lyric. And she introduces us to a new crop of Delta chefs who brine chicken in sweet tea and top stone-ground Mississippi grits with local pond-raised prawns and tomato confit. The guide also provides a taste of events such as Belzoni’s World Catfish Festival and Tunica’s Wild Game Cook-Off and offers dozens of tested recipes, including the Memphis barbecue pizza beloved by Elvis and a lemon ice-box pie inspired by Tennessee Williams.

To William Faulkner’s suggestion, “To understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi,” Susan Puckett adds this advice: Go to the Delta with an open mind and an empty stomach. Make your way southward in a journey measured in meals, not miles.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Finally! A book devoted entirely to the foodways of Mississippi’s delta—cradle of the civil rights movement, birthplace of the blues, and a confounding culinary region where stuffed grape leaves cozy up to barbecue, tamales to fried green tomatoes, and kibbeh to lemon icebox pie. In Eat Drink Delta Mississippi native Susan Puckett makes sense of it all—town by town, kitchen by kitchen, dish by dish—in an engaging travelogue that takes the reader to family-run roadhouses, seasonal tea rooms, postmodern bistros, and out-of-the- way juke joints. In her sojourns, Puckett charmed the best recipes out of the region’s cooks, making this not only the best insider’s guide to the area but a superb delta cookbook as well—you’ll need one copy for the car and one for the kitchen!”—Matt Lee and Ted Lee, authors of The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern: Knockout Dishes with Down-Home Flavor

“A travelogue, a guide to Delta dining, and a cookbook, Susan Puckett’s Eat Drink Delta uses foodways as a window to the region’s culture. It will appeal to anyone who wants to better understand the Delta, whether from an armchair or a car.”—Dr. Luther Brown, director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University

"Eat Drink Delta eloquently tells the story of the deepest south of the Deep South, the land where black and white can have sharp contrasts, and yet many of the food traditions are blended into a rich, smooth mélange, much like the soil itself. Puckett immerses the reader in a tale that shares how the dark, fertile soil of the Delta nurtures crops as well as American food and culture. The land that produced King Cotton also produced the King of Rock and Roll. And the land that produced catfish and BBQ now produces kibbee and Chinese collard greens. Puckett’s artful storytelling creates a vivid scene—not mere guidebook information—revealing a true culinary journey through one of the largely unknown areas of the country."—Virginia Willis, author of Bon Appetit, Y'all: Recipes and Stories from Three Generations of Southern Cooking

"[Eat Drink Delta] works as a fun, flip-through read, with enough incentives to propel you into the kitchen to try one of the recipes that represent the diversity and character of the Delta."—Sherry Lucas, Clarion-Ledger

"This stomach-stretching tour of the Mississippi Delta by a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution food editor takes readers inside a region that boasts 'the most Southern food on earth'. . . . The volume's gritty, photojournalistic imagery is a welcome departure from the glossy, santized views we've come to expect from our guidebooks. The book profiles over 100 largely un-touristed eating establishments in mouthwatering detail. It makes for a perfect road trip companion—or transportive bedtime reading."—Elizabeth Gunnison, Wall Street Journal

"Jackson native Susan Puckett takes Southern foodies on a gastronomic journey through the Delta. . . . Taking 18 years of experience as a food editor, Puckett whips up a great read about tried-and-true Southern favories in this guidebook of old and new Delta hot spots."—Mississippi Magazine

"It's a book that, if used properly, will wind up tattered and dog-eared in your glove compartment. . . . Together these two Deltaphiles [Susan Puckett and Langdon Clay] have created a keeper of a book—one that inspires exploration both in the kitchen and on the road." —Keith Pandolfi, Saveur

"For anyone making a trip to a region that’s been called the most Southern place on earth, Eat Drink Delta is indispensible. It belongs in every Mississippi-bound automobile, right next to the GPS. Just be sure to grab plenty of paper napkins, too. You’ll need them to catch all that tamale juice dripping down your face."—Wendell Brock, Paste Magazine

Library Journal
"Touring the Delta is as much a head trip as a road trip," writes Puckett (former food editor, Atlanta Journal-Constitution; A Cook's Tour of Mississippi). Her newest cookbook will send armchair travelers on a vivid tour of the Mississippi Delta, introducing them to its history, geography, culture, and cuisine along the way. Thirteen chapters organized by region (e.g., Memphis, Clarksdale, Como) profile numerous businesses (mostly eating and drinking venues), like The Warehouse, a former feed-and-seed store that serves Sweet Tea-Brined Chicken. VERDICT Painstakingly researched and thoughtfully executed, this excellent book is highly recommended for regional collections.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820344256
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication date: 1/25/2013
  • Pages: 296
  • Sales rank: 680,719
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 7.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Puckett is a native of Jackson, Mississippi, and a graduate of the University of Mississippi. She was the food editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for eighteen years and has written for many national food and culture magazines. She is an author of six previous books, including A Cook’s Tour of Mississippi and The 5:30 Challenge Cookbook. Puckett lives in Atlanta.
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Table of Contents

Eating and Drinking Venues by Chapter ix

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction 1

1 Memphis: Gateway to the Delta 13

2 Tunica and Environs: Las Vegas of the South 65

3 Clarksdale: Cradle of the Blues, Crossroads of Cultures 77

4 Como: Hill Town with a Delta Rhythm 101

5 Tallahatchie County: Wild and Mysterious 109

6 Cleveland and Environs: Home of the Fighting Okra 119

7 Greenville: Athens of the Delta 151

8 Leland: Imagination Flows along Deer Creek 171

9 Sunflower County: Homegrown Legends 181

10 Greenwood and Environs: From Cotton Capital of the World to Home of the High-Tech Range 203

11 Humphreys County: The Catfish Capital 225

12 Yazoo City: Half Hills and Half Delta 233

13 Vicksburg: Red Carpet City of the South 243

Epilogue 273

Resources 275

About the Recipes 279

Selected Reading 281

Photo Credits 285

Index of Restaurants and Places of Note 287

Index of Recipes 291

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