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My Southern Food: A Celebration of the Flavors of the South
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My Southern Food: A Celebration of the Flavors of the South

by Devon O'Day, Bryan Curtis

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Every culture has its own unique flavor profile woven into the fabric of its history and traditions.

Deep in the South, food is the focal point of our memories,
the centerpiece of every occasion. What began as a humble means of nourishment has evolved into a cultural art form embraced throughout the country.

Born-and-bred Southern belle Devon O’Day


Every culture has its own unique flavor profile woven into the fabric of its history and traditions.

Deep in the South, food is the focal point of our memories,
the centerpiece of every occasion. What began as a humble means of nourishment has evolved into a cultural art form embraced throughout the country.

Born-and-bred Southern belle Devon O’Day reminisces her way through this rich collection of the region’s signature dishes—sweet potato casserole, cornbread, country ham, and gumbo.

From Sunday dinner to Christmas morning brunch, My Southern Food chronicles the moments of life that happen around the dining room table, on the back porch, and any place you can balance a plate on your knees. This collection isn’t just a catalog of recipes; it’s an album of memories you’re sure to recognize.

The multi-talented Devon O’Day shares her rich Southern heritage in this collection of cherished regional cuisine. Raised in North
Louisiana and settled in Nashville, Devon knows her way around a country kitchen.
The recipes in My Southern Food reflect a lifetime of the places, people, and occasions that define Southern living.
Devon journeys through this compilation of recipes with stories and anecdotes that enrich the experience of recreating her most treasured meals. You don’t have to be a Southerner to enjoy this cuisine. The appeal of these satisfying flavors is rooted in their simplicity. At the foundation of these recipes,
you’ll find a spirited preparation of common foods. Immediately accessible to anyone longing for comfort, the meals in My
Southern Food
deliver a taste of something we’re all bound to savor.

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My Southern Food

A Celebration of the Flavors of the South

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2010 Suzonne P. Ford d/b/a Devon O'Day and Bryan Curtis
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4016-0000-6

Chapter One

Sweet Tea, Cornbread, and Fried Chicken Sunday Dinner and Other Family Gatherings

Sunday dinner is the special meal of every Southern week. It follows church. That's the way it's done. You don't miss church to prepare the meal. You cook ahead, and everyone pitches in to get the meal on the table. Everyone helps clean up. Then you take a nap, a long nap. Every holiday in the South is centered around the familiar. You don't try new recipes. You make the favorites that show up every year, made by the same person and served in the same bowl. Special occasions in the South aren't for branching out into new horizons. In the South, a special-occasion meal is to remind you of who you were and where you came from. It's that simple.

In the South, there is a delicacy known as "sweet tea."

It's not sweetened tea. It's not unsweetened tea that you add sugar to at the table. It's prepared by mixing the hot brew with the sugar until it's dissolved into a nice thick syrup, a sort of tea concentrate, and then the cold water is added and poured over ice in the glasses. Lemon and mint are added in some of the uptown places, but only to the glasses. Tea, sweet tea that is, is a very individual taste. Iced tea is always the beverage of choice in the South.

Southern Sweet Tea

Lemon slices or fresh mint leaves can be used as a garnish or flavor boost for special occasions. The amount of sugar can also be adjusted from sweet to syrup-like, coma-inducing sweet. This version is somewhere in the middle.

2 cups water 3 family-size tea bags or 6 regular-size tea bags 1 cup sugar About 2 cups cold water Lemon slices or fresh mint leaves for garnish

Bring the 2 cups water to a boil in a pot. Once boiling, add the tea bags and remove from the heat. Allow the tea bags to steep until the water is a dark red-amber color. While the tea is still hot, remove the tea bags and add the sugar, stirring until dissolved. Pour the tea syrup into a serving pitcher with the 2 cups cold water and stir. When blended, top the pitcher off with cold water until it is full. Pour over ice in glasses. Garnish with the lemon slices or mint.

Makes 6 servings

Lemonade-Stand Lemonade

Lemonade is one of those great Southern-porch-on-a-hot-afternoon traditions. It was served around three in the afternoon on our porch, usually following the midday nap. It was the boost before heading back into the fields to plow cotton or soybeans.

I prefer my lemonade a bit more tart. Adjusting the sugar to lemon juice ratio is a personal preference based on experience and response from partakers.

1 1/2 cups sugar 1/2 cup boiling water 2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice, with some pulp 6 cups cold water Thin lemon slices for garnish Ice cubes Crushed ice

In a large bowl combine the sugar and boiling water until the sugar granules are dissolved. (This is the same procedure used for making sweet tea. Sandy granules at the bottom of a glass are yucky and just so "not Southern.") Add the lemon juice and cold water to the prettiest clear pitcher you have. Stir the hot sugar water into the lemon mixture until completely blended. Add the lemon slices to the pitcher and then the ice cubes for a pretty, frosty, refreshing presentation. Serve over the crushed ice.

Makes 4 servings

Broccoli, Bacon, and Raisin Salad

Sweet, salty, smoky, and delicious, this salad will make even broccoli haters consider a bite. I first enjoyed a similar recipe at my friend Michael's restaurant, Monell's Southern Cooking, in Nashville, Tennessee. This is my attempt at re-creation.

1 bunch broccoli, chopped into bite-size florets 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion 1/2 cup chopped celery 1/2 cup grated carrots 1 pound bacon, fried, drained, and crumbled 1/2 cup chopped walnuts 1/2 cup raisins 3/4 cup Miracle Whip 1/4 cup sugar 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon Cajun seasoning

In a large bowl combine all the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to marinate. Serve chilled.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

The custom of family members gathered around a table, enjoying the fruits of their labors, doesn't have to be a lost custom. It doesn't have to be just a Southern custom, although it is very ingrained in our culture. The choice to join together at a meal of homemade goodness is just that, a choice. And creating a new tradition of having meals as a family happens one meal at a time.

Aunt Brenda's Make-Ahead Seven-Layer Salad

This salad is so pretty when served in a large clear bowl, so the layers can shine through. My Aunt Brenda swears by Hellmann's mayonnaise. I like Miracle Whip. It's survival of the fittest, so whoever is the head matriarch of the table usually wins.

1 pound bacon 1 large head iceberg lettuce or 2 heads crisp romaine lettuce, chopped 1 large red Bermuda onion, chopped 1 (10-ounce) package frozen green peas, thawed 1 cup chopped green bell pepper 11/4 cups mayonnaise 10 ounces Cheddar cheese, shredded

Fry or broil the bacon, drain on paper towels, crumble, and set aside. In a large clear bowl, layer the lettuce, onion, peas, bell pepper, mayonnaise, and cheese. Top with the bacon crumbles. Cover with plastic wrap and chill.

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Crunchy-Edge Black-Skillet Cornbread

I always love hot cornbread slathered with butter. My dad loved it cold, crumbled in big chunks in a tall glass of cold buttermilk. From soup, to beans, to dressing on Thanksgiving, cornbread is the staple that the South depends on most-after bacon.

2 tablespoons bacon grease, vegetable oil, or shortening 2 cups yellow cornmeal 1 cup self-rising flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon sugar 1 large egg 2 cups milk

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Heat the bacon grease, oil, or shortening in a 9-inch cast-iron skillet on top of the stove. (the key to good cornbread is a hot skillet.) in a large bowl combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, egg, and milk until well mixed, and then beat vigorously for about 1 minute to add air to the mixture. Pour the mixture into the hot skillet. (the batter should sizzle as it is poured into the skillet.) bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown.

Makes 8 to 12 servings

PBR Bread

Interestingly enough, this recipe is adapted from one I found in a church cookbook some thirty years ago. PBR stands for Pabst Blue Ribbon beer-you can experiment with other beers, but the bread won't be as Southern as one made with PBR. The beer serves as yeast, and the coarse bread is best served warm with lots of butter. It makes a great accompaniment to soups and stews.

3 cups self-rising flour 5 tablespoons sugar 1/8 teaspoon salt 1 (12-ounce) can Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, at room temperature (this is important!) 4 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan. Sift together the flour, sugar, and salt at least 3 times. Stir in the beer, making a dough/batter, and pour into the prepared pan. bake for 40 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Carefully pour the melted butter across the top of the loaf, return the bread to the oven, and bake for 15 minutes.

Makes 8 servings

Mrs. Girlinghouse's Master Mix for Biscuits

My home economics teacher, Mrs. Girlinghouse, amazed me when she taught us all how to prepare this master mix. It made everything easy. She explained that sifting added air and created light fluffiness to anything baked with the master mix. We resifted after storing the mix, before making a recipe. We used it for biscuits, cookie dough, dumplings, and other recipes. I felt like she'd introduced me to the holy grail of Southern cooking!

9 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 cup baking powder 1 tablespoon salt 2 teaspoons cream of tartar 1/4 cup sugar 2 cups butter-flavored shortening (regular shortening works, of course, but this is a taste preference)

In a large bowl sift the flour, baking powder, salt, cream of tartar, and sugar together at least 3 times. Cut in the shortening with a pastry cutter until the texture is grainy. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 months, or indefinitely in the freezer. Use for any recipes in which you would normally use bisquick: biscuits, pancakes, waffles, dumplings, and so on.

Makes 3 quarts

Pancake/Waffle Batter

1 cup master mix (see above) 1/2 cup milk 1 large egg

Combine the ingredients in a large bowl.

Makes 4 to 6 pancakes or waffles


1 cup master mix (see above) 1/4 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Combine the ingredients in a large bowl. Roll out on a floured surface and cut to the desired size. Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

Makes 6 biscuits

Cathead Cheese Biscuits

These are called "cathead" because they puff up to the size of a little cat's head. They aren't rolled and cut like biscuit-cutter biscuits.


2 cups master mix (page 8) or Bisquick 1/2 cup cold milk 3/4 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese


4 tablespoons butter, melted 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

To make the biscuits, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl combine the master mix, milk, and cheese. Drop by large spoonfuls somewhat uniform in size on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes on a rack in the center of the oven. Remove from the oven and switch the temperature to broil.

To make the glaze, combine all the glaze ingredients in a small bowl. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the glaze. Return the biscuits to the oven and allow the tops to get crispy under the broiler. This will only take about 2 minutes. Do not leave the biscuits unattended, as they can easily burn. Serve hot with butter.

Makes 10 to 12 biscuits

North Louisiana Dutch-Oven Fried Chicken

My mother taught me how to fry chicken in a big, black cast-iron skillet without a lid. That's the way my grandma did it. The grease pops out and you'd get an occasional blister when the molten fat made contact with your skin. It wasn't until I'd left home and Mom consulted with some of the cafeteria workers at South Alexandria Primary School, where she was a teacher, that she learned to use a covered Dutch oven to seal in the juices and fry tender, perfect chicken-no pops, no burns. They also told her to remember the basics: brown on the outside, reduce heat, and cook through.

1 (2- to 3-pound) whole fryer, cut in pieces Shortening or vegetable oil, to fill a cast-iron Dutch oven half full (about 3 cups) 2 cups all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons salt, divided 2 teaspoons pepper, divided

Rinse the chicken pieces and set aside. Heat the shortening or oil in the Dutch oven on high heat or to about 365 degrees. In a large bowl or brown paper bag, combine the flour, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and 1 teaspoon of the pepper. Use the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and remaining 1 teaspoon pepper to cover each piece of chicken before dredging in flour or shaking to coat in a brown paper bag. (Note: Additional salt and pepper, or dry Cajun seasoning, can be used on chicken pieces prior to flouring if a more savory chicken is desired.) Make sure each piece of chicken is completely covered in flour. Test the oil to make sure it is hot enough by dropping a pinch of flour in the skillet. If the flour begins to sizzle, the temperature is right. Gently add all the chicken to the Dutch oven and clamp the lid on, reducing the heat to medium-high, which should look like a gentle rolling boil. Check the chicken after about 15 minutes, bringing the bottom pieces to the top, rotating the top pieces to the bottom. At about 25 minutes remove the lid, increase the heat, and turn each piece until it becomes a dark golden brown and the juices run clear. remove each piece with tongs or a large fork and place on a large plate covered with paper towels or brown paper to soak up any excess oil, before moving to a serving platter.

Makes 4 servings

Pat's Pot Roast

My mother is a master at roasts. She would put a roast on to cook before we left for church, and by the time we got home, the entire house was the most delicious-smelling place on earth. We'd run to change out of our church clothes and get the table set just in time for that roast to come out of the oven. The same practice was used for pork roasts and venison roasts too. The only time we'd have a problem was if the preacher got longwinded or if too many people ended up at the altar needing prayer. My dad was a deacon, and sometimes this took forever. The only thing that took precedence over a good Sunday meal in the South was Jesus.

1 (3- to 4-pound) lean chuck roast (this works with pork roast as well) 2 teaspoons seasoning salt, plus additional for sprinkling (I like Uncle Leon's for a spicy kick, but Lawry's and Tony Chachere's are also good) 1 teaspoon pepper, plus additional for sprinkling 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 3 tablespoons olive oil 2 medium onions, chopped 2 stalks celery, peeled and cut in large chunks 4 cups water, divided 6 large carrots, peeled and cut in thirds 6 large potatoes, peeled and cut in large chunks 4 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash and pat dry the roast, and rub with the seasoning salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Coat the entire roast in flour. In a large roaster or Dutch oven, sear the roast over high heat in the oil until browned on all sides. Make sure any flour on the sides of the pot is scraped off and browned as you do this. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the onions around the roast. Sauté until the onions begin to change color. Layer the celery over the roast, and pour in 3 cups of the water. Cover tightly and roast in the oven for 1 hour. Open the roaster and layer the carrots and potatoes on top. Sprinkle with additional seasoning salt and pepper, and dot with butter. Do not stir. Cover and roast for 1 more hour or until the vegetables and roast are tender. Transfer the roast to a large serving platter and spoon the vegetables around it. Or serve the vegetables in a large serving dish and the roast on a carving plate. Add the remaining 1 cup water to the meat juices and stir over medium-high heat on top of the stove until well blended to make a gravy. Scrape any browned flour from the sides and bottom to give the natural gravy plenty of body. When hot, transfer to a gravy boat and serve quickly while the meat and vegetables are still hot.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Grillin' Chops

6 (1-inch-thick) pork chops 1/2 cup olive oil 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon lemon pepper 4 ounces Worcestershire sauce

Wash the pork chops well, dry, and set aside. Combine the oil, garlic, salt, and lemon pepper to create a marinade. Pour over the chops in a shallow baking dish and coat the pork chops well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Remove the chops from the marinade and set the marinade aside. Grill the pork chops over medium coals for 25 to 30 minutes, or until no pink remains, turning several times. Add the Worcestershire sauce to the reserved marinade and baste during the last 10 minutes of cooking. (These chops are also delicious done in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until all the pink is gone, turning once and basting throughout cooking. A browning bag keeps the chops tender.) Makes 6 servings


Excerpted from My Southern Food by DEVON O'DAY Copyright © 2010 by Suzonne P. Ford d/b/a Devon O'Day and Bryan Curtis. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.


Meet the Author

Devon O'Day is the producer of the number one country music morning show in America and is the host of the syndicated Country Hitmakers, which is heard in 130 markets. A successful songwriter, O'Day wrote the number one song by George Strait, "The Big One." She is the spokesperson for the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association, and speaks about animal rescue to corporations and organizations around the country. She is a graduate of Northeast Louisiana University and lives with her horses, dogs, and cats just outside Nashville.

Bryan Curtis is an author and the president of Dance Floor Books. He is the author/coauthor and editor of more than 25 books, including My South, My Southern Food, Classic Wisdom for the Good Life, Classic Wisdom for the Professional Life, and the popular GentleManners series.

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