Little Miss Cornbread: Our Journey to Southern-Style Vegan and Gluten-Free Cuisine & Sort-of-True Short Stories takes the notion of the traditional cookbook and turns it on its head!
It didn’t happen overnight. Little Miss Cornbread: Our Journey to Southern-Style Vegan and Gluten-Free Cuisine & Sort-of-True Short Stories, published by Turtle Lake Press, took about 20 years to percolate and come to life. Sisters Amylou Wilson of Fayetteville, Ark., and Susie Jane Wilson of San Francisco, took their time creating this “hybrid” book. The paperback book, priced at $15, may be purchased in bookstores or online.
In addition to vegan (dairy-free, meat-free) & gluten-free recipes created by Susie Jane, each traditional version is included. “Sort-of-true” Southern short stories set in long-ago times break up the recipe sections. The stories, told from a young girl’s point of view, take place in the late 1960s in North Louisiana.
Susie Jane, who authors the littlemisscornbread.com blog, draws inspiration from the food and flavors of her upbringing in Ferriday, La., with Granny Wilson, her mama, and the aunts. Next stop was Arkansas and Fayetteville, where she lived several years and graduated from high school. She headed off to New Orleans and later found herself a longtime resident of San Francisco, a city she calls home now.
“I was the youngest child and the younger of the two females in our family,” Susie Jane writes in her introduction to the book. “The girls were taught how to cook and clean the house. … I was put in charge of breads, rice, and potatoes from early on. Because of this, cornbread was my realm. It was the first recipe that I modified in my adult life by replacing buttermilk with soy milk and concocting a blend of gluten-free flours to give it just the right texture and feel of traditional cornbread.” She goes on to explain that as the years progressed, she became deeply fascinated with participating in a food culture that challenges our perceptions of cuisine.
So where does Amylou come in? She wrote the three “sort-of-true” short stories, told from the point-of-view of Lee Catherine, a little girl growing up in 1960s Ferriday, La. It’s not a town known for much, but some folks might recognize it as the birthplace of a couple of first cousins who continue to rock the world in their own special ways — rock and roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis and famous evangelist Jimmy Swaggart. (“Bless their hearts,” Amylou said.)
“Our upbringing came about during a time of upheaval in the nation – with Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, and the war in Vietnam,” Amylou said. “In our little town, and across the big muddy Mississippi in Natchez, life tried desperately to go on as usual. However, schools integrated, private schools sprang up to split the races even further, the Klan was alive and well, racism and sexism stood side-by-side with supposed ‘good manners.’ Southern cooking was just about all that didn’t seem tainted, at least in my young mind. Good food, books, and dogs gave me solace. Our parents read a lot. That meant the children mimicked their habits and did the same. Eat, read, grow vegetables, hunt, clean, cook and be merry. Life just went on.”
“These are very Southern recipes, something often missing in the vegetarian section of most restaurant menus,” said Marck L. Beggs, poet and professor. “The Wilson sisters are fine storytellers, bringing their own enthusiastic and charming tales into these recipes.”
Ginny Masullo, author of Eating Healthy in the Fast Lane, said, “Susie’s adaptations of her family’s and southern roots’ recipes is a perfect guidebook for traveling from traditional to vegetarian to vegan. As someone who is primarily a vegetarian, the use of this cookbook gave me new ideas about vegan cooking.”
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