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Sylvia's Family Soul Food Cookbook: From Hemingway, South Carolina, To Harlem

Sylvia's Family Soul Food Cookbook: From Hemingway, South Carolina, To Harlem

by Sylvia Woods, Melissa Clark, Melissa Clark (With)
Sylvia's Family Soul Food Cookbook begins as Sylvia recalls her childhood, when she lived with both her mother and her grandmother -- the town's only midwives. The entire community of Hemingway, South Carolina, shared responsibilities, helped raise all of the children, and worked side by side together every day in the bean fields. Perhaps most important, the


Sylvia's Family Soul Food Cookbook begins as Sylvia recalls her childhood, when she lived with both her mother and her grandmother -- the town's only midwives. The entire community of Hemingway, South Carolina, shared responsibilities, helped raise all of the children, and worked side by side together every day in the bean fields. Perhaps most important, the community shared its food and recipes. When Sylvia set out to write this cookbook, she decided to hold a cook-off back home in Hemingway at Jeremiah Church. Family and friends of all ages shared their favorite dishes as well as their spirit and love for one another. The recipes offered at the cook-off were then compiled to create this incredible collection, along with many of Sylvia's and the Woods family's own recipes.

Here are the kinds of recipes you'd find if you visited the Woods family's home. Sylvia's daughter Bedelia is well known for her Barbecued Beef Short Ribs, which are as sassy and spicy as Bedelia herself. Kenneth, Sylvia's youngest son, has loved to fish ever since he was a child, spending his summers by the fishing hole in Hemingway. Now Kenneth's son, DeSean, enjoys fishing, too. Kenneth's Honey Lemon Tilefish, DeSean's favorite, is just one of Kenneth's special recipes presented here.

And there are many, many other wonderful dishes, too. In this remarkable cookbook, Sylvia has gathered more than 125 soul food classics, including mouthwatering recipes for okra, collard greens, Southern-style pound cakes, hearty meat and seafood stews and casseroles, salads, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and more. These recipes are straight from the heart of the Woods community of family and friends. Now Sylvia gives them to you to share with your loved ones. Bring them into your home and experience a little bit of Hemingway's soul.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
I'm no fool! On the day I was scheduled to interview Sylvia Woods in the early afternoon, I made sure that I could "Take the A Train" to 125th Street in New York City's Harlem with plenty of time left to enjoy lunch at Sylvia's, Sylvia and Herbert Woods's world-famous restaurant. And I didn't go alone: My husband and a friend tagged along to make sure that they got to share in my soul-food picnic. On a rainy Friday afternoon, the restaurant was packed, and we had to wait for a table. But once we sat down, what a lunch we had — ribs, fried chicken, smothered pork chops, greens, okra gumbo, mashed potatoes, cowpeas and rice, cornbread, lemonade and iced tea, and my most favorite down-home dessert: coconut cake, along with peach cobbler, layer cake, and, at Sylvia's urging, a big take-home piece of her justly famous carrot cake. I was more than full when I sat down to talk with Sylvia and Herbert Woods about their dream of a restaurant and their newest cookbook, Sylvia's Family Soul Food Cookbook: From Hemingway, South Carolina, To Harlem.

I don't remember when I last met such truly wonderful people as the Woodses. They met in the bean fields of Hemingway when she was 11 and he was 12 years old (they are now 72 and 74, respectively), and they still look at each other as if love bloomed yesterday. I use a quote from the book that says it all: "If you want to see love in action, you have only to watch Sylvia and Herbert Woods together. They're love personified. It kind of renews your faith in love, because when you're around them there's an aura that reachesoutand blesses everyone in their presence." They are both so proud of what they have accomplished together, and Herbert is particularly thrilled with Sylvia's success. Their warmth absolutely enfolds you.

Although Sylvia and Herbert are the heart and soul of the restaurant, all of their children and grandchildren are involved in some aspect of running the restaurant itself, the Woods's catering business, or their new line of canned and bottled food products that have been introduced in stores all across America. As Sylvia said to me, "Our kids will continue our work after we are gone. They have helped us so much, and we know that their pleasure is in keeping the restaurant alive. It truly is most amazing. All kinds of people from all over the world come here and sit down together for a meal. The world could take a lesson from our tables, and maybe people would learn to live together in peace and harmony — just like they eat together in peace and harmony at Sylvia's." As I looked around, I saw that what she said was true: black, brown, white, tan, almond — all shades and shapes and sizes were sitting at lunch, totally embracing the experience, seemingly without a care on their shoulders.

I asked Sylvia and Herbert if young people came to them for advice about opening a restaurant in what some might consider a less than desirable location in a poor urban community. "Oh, yes, all the time," answered Sylvia. "I tell them that, for us, it was so, so hard. We had borrowed money from my mama, and all we wanted to do was to pay back the loan and live decently from our work at the restaurant. It was long, long hours for very little money for a long time. But, I am here to tell you that it was never as hard as picking cotton." I had no problem believing her!

It was clear that Sylvia and Herbert valued each other and their children equally. "With my mama, the children always came first. And we were always first to tell her how much we loved her," said Sylvia. "And, with our children and grandchildren, it has been the same." I had no doubt that this was true as some of their children and grandchildren stopped by our table with a pat, a smile, and to inquire if we needed anything.

I asked Sylvia and Herbert how much time they now spend at the restaurant since they have hit what for many are the retirement years. "Oh, we got home 'bout eleven last night but most days we're here from just before noon to about nine o'clock. People come to see us as well as eat at the restaurant, and we like to be here. Besides, what else would we do? This has been our life for 35 years."

I asked if there were favorite recipes in Sylvia's Family Soul Food Cookbook. "No way," answered Sylvia. "Every recipe comes from someone I love, and each one represents the kind of food we have eaten all our lives. It is the kind of food my mama would make on Sundays. These are all recipes that I know better than anything, and they are the kind of recipes that young people should cherish for the history that they carry with them."

"Well, then," I ventured, "if we can't share a favorite recipe from Sylvia's Family Soul Food Cookbook with our readers, how about a word about what you would like them to take away from using the cookbook?" "That's easy," answered Sylvia and Herbert together. "When they cook from this book, they should know that every recipe comes from the heart and soul of our family. Most of them were made by the best cook in the world, Sylvia's mama. And remember, a recipe isn't just a thing: It creates something that will nourish both your body and your soul." What more could I offer? I took my doggie bag and went out into the workaday world feeling as though I had been touched by angels. And, you know what? I'm not so sure that I hadn't been.

Judith Choate

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When Sylvia and Herbert Woods bought a small Harlem luncheonette in l962, they never dreamed that it would become famous as the premier soul food restaurant in New York City. Their four children and many friends and relatives all contributed to this accomplishment, and Sylvia's latest book (after Sylvia's Soul Food) is as much a testament to them as it is to the Southern food she serves. A friendly introduction describes Sylvia's early life in Hemingway, S.C., emphasizing hard work, spirituality, devotion to family and cooking according to the seasons. Seventy photographs illustrate the stories she tells, creating the atmosphere of a family album. All her famous dishes are here — from Bedelia's Oven-Fried Chicken, Holiday Chitlins and Bert's Catfish Stew to Candy Yams Souffl , Frances's Old-fashioned Collard Greens, Hush Puppies and Creamy Banana Pudding. Soups, main courses of all kinds, sides ("the heart of soul food"), breadstuffs and lavish desserts are all deeply flavorful; Chicken Soup, for instance, is loaded with vegetables, black pepper and hot sauce.
Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
People Magazine
In this restaurant cookbook, every reference to the famous establishment is followed by "TM" (for trademark). Clearly, Sylvia's Restaurant in Harlem, along with her Atlanta branch and her line of soul food products, is serious business. But hers is also an inspiring American success story, as hard work (and a healthy dash of hot sauce) propels Woods from rural poverty to celebrity-chef status. Woods tells the story of her extended and close-knit family and shares such fiery recipes as her Chopped Barbecued Pork and Herbert's "Hot As You Like It" Fried Corn, perfected by her husband of 55 years.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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7.50(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.97(d)

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Read an Excerpt

The Absolute Best Southern Fried Chicken

Makes 4 servings

My mother, Julia, made some of the best fried chicken in all of South Carolina. She had her secrets to making it crunchy on the outside but keeping it tender on the inside. First of all, she would always shake the chicken in the coating, never dredge it. Then she cooked the chicken in a deep layer of oil in a black iron pan.

Fried chicken was a dish that she made for holidays, and oftentimes for Sunday dinner. She also fried up a batch before sending the children anywhere by train, since fried chicken makes the most delicious sandwiches imaginable. She would put the chicken between two slices of white bread, which were covered with mayonnaise. The longer the chicken sandwiches sat, the better they tasted, since the crumblings from the chicken skin and the mayonnaise would soak into the soft white bread. My son, Kenneth, would sometimes just eat the bread by itself before eating the chicken, since it tasted so good. The sandwiches were packed into a shoebox with some fruit and maybe a piece of cake or pie. You were supposed to wait until lunchtime to eat the chicken sandwiches, but none of the kids could ever wait that long. Kenny tells the story like this:

"I can remember those chicken sandwiches that my grandmother would pack for me to take on the train back to New York. It was a long train trip, maybe thirteen hours, and Grandma would make sure to pack me plenty of food. I could hardly wait to get on the train and eat those sandwiches because the aroma would just come out of the box and grab my attention. And my stomach would start rumbling and my mouth would start watering.Grandma would be waving good-bye, tears in her eyes, and I wouldn't really be paying attention. Almost before the train pulled off, I would have torn open the box and have wrapped my mouth around a fried chicken sandwich. Boy they were great!"

One 3 1/2-pound chicken, cut into eighths
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4teaspoon paprika
1 cup vegetable oil

1. Rinse the chicken and pat dry. In a small bowl, combine the salt, 1 teaspoon of the black pepper, and the garlic powder. Sprinkle over the chicken. Let stand at least 20 minutes or, even better, overnight in the refrigerator.

2. Place the flour, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and paprika into a plastic bag. Add the seasoned chicken and shake until each piece is covered with the flour.

3. In a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat until it bubbles when a little flour is sprinkled in. Add the chicken pieces and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 7 to 10 minutes or until the chicken is nicely browned on the bottom. Turn and cook on the other side for 7 to 10 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from the skillet and drain on paper towels before serving.

Black-Eyed Pea Salad

Makes 4 to 5 servings

Black-eyed peas have always been a part of our history and an important ingredient in soul food. In fact, when someone asks me what soul food is, I always name black-eyed peas first, along with collard greens, fried chicken, and barbecue.

Black-eyed peas originated in Asia and made their way to the West Indies and throughout the South, where they flourished in the warm fields.

When I was growing up, we ate black-eyed peas mostly in the winter. We always bought them dried, since they didn't grow plentifully in our fields as field peas and cow peas did. But every now and then, we'd find some black-eyed peas growing up the cornstalks with the other beans (sometimes the seeds get mixed together). Then we'd eat them fresh. This recipe is meant for the dried kind of pea, although these days it's easier to buy them already cooked in cans or frozen. Get them any way you like, but definitely make this spicy salad next time you need something to serve at a picnic or for a buffet. There's nothing better.

1 1/2 cups cooked or canned black-eyed peas
3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4cup vegetable oil
1/4cup sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

1. In a large bowl, combine the blackeyed peas, green pepper, celery, and both onions.

2. In a small bowl, combine the oil, sugar, vinegar, garlic, salt, black pepper, and hot sauce. Pour the dressing over the beans. Toss. Let stand overnight for the flavors to meld.

Meet the Author

Sylvia Woods, born in Hemingway, South Carolina, started the world-famous Sylvia's Restaurant in 1963 and opened a second restaurant in Atlanta in 1997. She owned a line of canned and bottled food products that is sold in supermarkets across the country.

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