Bon Appetit, Y'all
Recipes and Stories from Three Generations of Southern Cooking
Publication Date: May 6, 2008
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The daughter and granddaughter of consummate Southern cooks, Virginia Willis is also a classically trained French chef. These divergent influences come together splendidly in Bon Appétit, Y'all, a modern Southern chef's passionate and utterly appealing homage to her culinary roots. Espousing a simple-is-best philosophy, Virginia uses the finest ingredients, concentrates on sound French technique, and lets the food shine in a style she calls "refined Southern cuisine." More than 200 approachable and consistently delicious recipes are arranged by chapter into starters and nibbles; salads and slaws; eggs and dairy; meat, fowl, and fish main dishes; sides; biscuits and breads; soups and stews; desserts; and sauces and preserves. Collected here are stylishly updated Southern and French classics (New SouthernChicken and Dumplings, Boeuf Bourgignonne), rib-sticking, old-timey favorites (Meme's Fried Okra, Angel Biscuits), and perfectly executed comfort food (Mama's Apple Pie, Fried Catfish Fingers with Country Rémoulade). Nearly 100 photographs bring to life both Virginia's food and the bounty of her native Georgia. You'll also find a wealth of tips and techniques from a skilled and innovative teacher, and the stories of a Southern girl steeped to her core in the food, kitchen lore, and unconditional hospitality of her culinary forebears on both sides of the Atlantic. Bon Appétit, Y'all is Virginia's way of saying, "Welcome to my Southern kitchen. Pull up a chair." Once you have tasted her food, you'll want to stay a good long while.
Virginia Willis is a French-trained chef, television producer, food stylist, cooking teacher, and food writer. Formerly Martha Stewart Living's kitchen manager, she now makes her home in Atlanta, Georgia.
THE AUTHOR SCOOP
Tell me a story that other people might not know about you.
People generally think I am a Southern lady, but I turn into a big old redneck at Atlanta Braves games
Have any good pet stories?
Our pets usually all have food names – we've had Butterbean and Peanut. Our cats are Earl Grey, Biscuit, and Smokey. Our recent rescue is a dog named Cricket. I wanted to name her Cracker, but that's somewhat of a derogatory term in the South, so we decided against it. We also have 3 chickens and since it's kind of country to have chickens in town, we named them Patsy, Tammy, and Loretty for the country music singers. (It's important to say Loretty, not Loretta, just like Doo called Loretta in A Coal Miner's Daughter.
I'm from Georgia; Bourbon and water.
Do you have a scar anywhere on your body? How did you get it?
I have more than one – the most interesting one is on my temple. We were fishing in the Gulf and a friend caught a sea catfish. Their barbs are poisonous, so he tried to flip the fish off the hook instead of touching the fish. Well, he did – right into my head. Since it was a head wound, it bled profusely. We were out on a little island and we had to get back to the dock to take me to the hospital. It was all fine, but could have been very serious. Another inch and I would have lost my eye. The funniest part is the doctor, of course, cleaned the wound, but a year later I found myself scratching the scar and a little piece of catfish barb came out!
What was your first job?
Making pizza @ Pizza Pronto. I also had to deliver pizza for a short period of time. Then once, I delivered a pizza in a sketchy area and a man followed me. I got back to the car, my heart beating, and he came up to the car and said, "I was worried about you; you don't need to come here by yourself. Go back to your store and tell your boss you won't do it." And, I did.
IACP International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook Awards, American Category Finalist
"Magnificent color photos; detailed, helpful tips; and Willis's cheerful, trustworthy guidance makes this an original and welcome newcomer to a classic cookbook library."
"Bourbon Sweet Potatoes, Mama's Orange Glazed Cornish Game Hens, and Brown-Sugar Shortcakes are only a few of the appealing dishes to make you swoon."
—Ladies' Home Journal "Cookbooks We Love" feature
"Simple, great ingredients are the hallmark of this book, whose recipes display a great flair for techniques that are Southern and European. The food becomes timeless and borderless. . . . It's Southern, sure, but with a refreshing twist."
—Raleigh News & Observer
"Gorgeously photographed and filled with warm notes about recipes learned from her mother, grandparents, and friends, it seems designed as an ideal Mother's Day gift."
"The author of this wonderful book, Virginia Willis, has put together the food of her native Georgia and her classical French techniques to create this really pretty book. I love it. I love the photographs. I love the writing in it. It's really, really nice."
"A glorious celebration of food . . . Willis serves up great stories with her tasty dishes, and explains techniques with great clarity. The photography sizzles and the colors pop in one of the nicest cookbooks I've read in a long time (and the food is delicious)."
—Louisville Courier Journal
"The recipes can find a home in any cook's kitchen, especially if those cooks long for the rich, historical flavors of the South."
—San Francisco Chronicle
"The recipes all sound delicious but what makes these recipes shine are the stories of the people and places closest to Willis' heart."
"Virginia Willis is as warm and gracious a belle as you could ever hope to meet. These two qualities shine through brilliantly in her approach to food and cooking. In her writing and recipes, she reminds us again of the powerful and meaningful bond that good, honest food, carefully prepared and shared with those we love, can render. We are fortunate to be shown a place at her table."
—Scott Peacock, coauthor of The Gift of Southern Cooking
"Most Southern cookbooks, even the really good ones, usually feel and taste somewhat provincial, as though their cuisine can only exist below the Mason-Dixon line. Virginia Willis's cuisine is the opposite. Although her food is undeniably Southern, it comes across as international, universal even. Other than Patricia Wells and Marcella Hazan, I cannot think of another cook who has managed to pull this off."
—Alton Brown, host of Good Eats
"Southern hospitality with French flair: it's a winning combination. Virginia Willis bases this enticing book on her family's traditional Southern cooking, weaving in the classic French techniques she learned herself in France. Her recipes are precise and easy to follow, and her book distills the essence of her warm-hearted, welcoming style. 'Bon appétit, y'all' says it all!"
—Anne Willan, author of La Varenne Pratique
"When it comes to food, Virginia can perform miracles. She is a master of Southern cooking and she's an incredibly talented writer. This book has one sensational recipe after another, fascinating stories, and great science tips. Don't wait for the Super Bowl to make her award-winning Coca-Cola– Glazed Wings, wonderfully tender and sweet-hot. Talk about good!"
—Shirley o. Corriher, author of CookWise
"Virginia Willis is a proud daughter of the South who, by way of butter beans, okra, biscuits, and dumplings, honors her kith, her kin, her place."
—John T. Edge, director, Southern Foodways Alliance