Sunday, January 15, 2012

Southern Comfort Food: 'Every Recipe Has A Story'

(Reprinted from today's Times and News-Star)

Remember when the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books took off? You couldn’t swing a cat in a waiting room or an airport lounge or your own den without hitting at least one person reading those things.

And they weren’t even “scratch ’n’ sniff.”

Yet as they are, filled with inspiration and thoughty thoughts, they are still very good books. (I have “Chicken Soup for the Baseball Soul” and, if memory serves, “Chicken Soup for the Person Who Enjoys Dead Chicken’s Soul.”)

Comforting words and comforting food. I like both. Which is a prime reason I like “Southern Living” magazine.

You need “bad” stories in the newspaper. It’s part of the purpose. Information to help you. What part of town do I need to steer clear of or what are the problems so we can make improvements or who died and what’s the deal on my taxes. And on like that.

But Southern Living is almost always a seat in the shade. Good stuff, and from my part of the world.

Plus recipes!

So imagine my surprise when I get the January issue and come to page 102 and see a picture of a lady stirring with a wooden spoon at her stove and smiling. “There’s the winner of the Carolyn Flournoy Look-A-Like Contest,” I thought.

The caption explained why I’d thought that. It WAS Mrs. Carolyn. My Mrs. Carolyn. Our Mrs. Carolyn.

Cooking columnist and food editor for The Times for 30 years, Mrs. Carolyn passed away suddenly in April of 2003, leaving thousands of friends and fans – and recipes – in her cheer-spreading wake. Her raspy voice would fill the newsroom back then, like the scent of cinnamon rolls fills a whole house, and you’d feel better immediately.

“I hear Mrs. Carolyn. Mrs. Carolyn’s here!…”

In this month’s Southern Living highlighting “50 Southern Comfort Foods,” Kate Nicholson, Mrs. Carolyn’s daughter and the magazine’s former food editor, shares a few thoughts about her mom -- and, a few of her mom’s comfort food recipes. (Hello, Ratatouille!)

“Someday, I plan to pay tribute to her in a cookbook of all her best recipes and the stories behind them,” Nicholson writes. “In the meantime, here are a few sentimental (and delicious) favorites. In my mind, all of these qualify as comfort foods. They bring her back to life. And what’s more comforting than that?”

Along with anecdotes and her mom’s cooking savvy, Nicholson shares recipes for Winter Blackberry Cobbler, Ham Salad, Lucky Black-eyed Peas, Roast Chicken and Roquefort Noodles. (Mrs. Carolyn used egg noodles, not fettuccine, in the Roquefort recipe because Kate’s dad hated fighting the long, thin pasta. “I don’t give a darn what they eat in Italy,” he said. “I want something I can get to my mouth without fighting it!”

Beside me as I type are some of Mrs. Carolyn’s most requested recipes from the newspaper way back then: Flournoy Pimento Cheese. A Version of Red Lobster’s Cheese Biscuits. Carrott Souffle From Picadilly (yes!). Flournoy Corn Bread Dressing. It’s an impressive lineup from an impressive lady. And what I wrote in the paper eight years ago is still true.

“Her warmth was genuine, her intellect was without ego. Her goodness she spooned out in equal shares to everyone.

“She brought dishes to the office often. Eating her cooking was good for your stomach.

“But knowing Mrs. Carolyn, that was good for your soul.”