Mrs. Wilkes' Boardinghouse Cookbook: Recipes and Recollections from Her Savannah Tableby Sema Wilkes
In 1943, a young and determined Sema Wilkes took over a nondescript turn-of-the-century boardinghouse on a sun-dappled brick street in historic downtown Savannah. Her goal was modest: to make a living by offering comfortable lodging and Southern home cooking served family style in the downstairs dining room. Mrs. Wilkes' reputation was strong and business was brisk from the beginning, but it was the coverage in Esquire and the New York Times, and even a profile on David Brinkley's evening news that brought Southern-food lovers from all over the world to her doorstep. Sema is now 95 years old, and four generations of Wilkeses help her keep the tables laden with platters of her legendary fried chicken, pork ribs, and biscuits, while friends and strangers pass bowls brimming with her sublime butterbeans, collard greens, mashed sweet potatoes, and banana pudding. The line snakes out the front door and down the street, where along with the locals and visitors, it's not uncommon to find Jimmy Carter or Roy Blount Jr. among other familiar faces waiting for their turn at Mrs. Wilkes' table. With over 300 recipes and culinary historian John T. Edge's colorful telling of Mrs. Wilkes' contribution to Savannah and Southern cuisine, this rich volume is a tribute to a way of cooking—and eating— that must not be forgotten.
• Recipient of Southern Living's Reader's Choice Award 2000.
• Mrs. Wilkes won the 1999 James Beard “America's Regional Classics” Award.
• Mrs. Wilkes' self-published recipe book, Famous Recipes, which became the foundation for MRS. WILKES' BOARDINGHOUSE COOKBOOK, has sold over 250,000 copies.
• Illustrated throughout with over 50 black-and-white photographs from Mrs. Wilkes' Boardinghouse and 25 color photos of her classic recipes.
From the Hardcover edition.
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From Mrs. Wilkes' Boardinghouse Cookbook
"If the Colonel made it so good, he'd be a general." I said that on the TODAY show and made Bryant Gumbel laugh.
Serves 4 to 6
1 (2 1/2-pound) fryer, cut up Salt and pepper 2 tablespoons evaporated milk 2 tablespoons water All-purpose flour Vegetable oil
Sprinkle the fryer with salt and pepper. Pour the milk and water over the fryer and marinate for about 10 minutes. Dip in a bowl of all-purpose flour. Shake off the excess flour. Heat oil to 300° and deep-fry (or heat oil to medium and panfry) the chicken. Make sure the chicken is covered with oil at all times. Fry until golden brown.
Note: This recipe can be used for pork chops.
Excerpted from Mrs. Wilkes' Boardinghouse Cookbook by Sema Wilkes. Copyright © 2001 by Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Meet the Author
SEMA WILKES was born in 1907 to Georgia farmers who grew tobacco, cured hams, smoked sausages, and otherwise worked hard to get by. As the oldest of four children, all orphaned, she learned to cook out of necessity. Married at 16, a mother at 21, relocated to Savannah in the name of the war effort at 35, Sema went to work at Mrs. Dixon’s Boardinghouse. Three years later, in 1943, she took over the boardinghouse and began building what would become her legacy. She lives in Savannah, Georgia, and still works at the boardinghouse every day.
From the Hardcover edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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My husband and i will never forget Mrs. Wilkes resturant. We stayed in Savannah and dined at Mrs. Wilkes resturant nine years ago on our 50th wedding anniversary and loved every minute of it. We've been back since with my sisters and brother-in-laws and have had a great time. Savannah is our favorite place to visit. Dorothy & Bud Zellers Dunnellon, Fl.
My family and I were in Savannah in 1999 and we ate at Mrs. Wilkes' Boarding House. It was some of the best food I've ever had. I bought her cookbook and she signed it for me. I will never forget how cordial she was. Her recipes are easy and always turn out well. This cookbook is a must-have.
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