Long before I began veganizing Southern family classics for my upcoming cookbook, author Ann Jackson was busy doing the dirty work of converting a few traditional country recipes into vegetarian versions. Her book, Cookin' Southern: Vegetarian Style, was published in 2000 (when I was still in college!) by the Book Publishing Company at the Farm in Summertown, Tennessee. It's not vegan, but many of the recipes are naturally egg and dairy-free. The ones that are not are pretty easily veganizable.
When my buddy Rick at the Book Publishing Company noticed a copy of Jackson's book on the shelf, he thought of me (ahhh!) and promptly sent a copy for review. Not only is Jackson's book filled with delicious old-time soul food favorites, it's peppered with cute little poems (like her homage to dirty dishes) and narrative about growing up in the South.
I literally got chills when I read her introductory tribute to Southern life. In it, she boils down life in the South to "kitchens in the summer and tomato sandwiches; slapping mosquitos and swatting flies; watermelon, okra, and boiled peanuts; gumbo, corn dodger, and bobwhites"). Bobwhites, in case you didn't know, are birds whose call sounds like they're sayin' the name "Bob White."
Anyway, I was thrilled to explore this volume, and I've gotten so lost in reading it over the past few weeks that it's taken me awhile to actually cook from it. I finally got around to making this Tofu Chicken-Fried Steak:
It's marinated in sesame oil and coated with flour, nooch, and sesame seeds. Somehow, those little seeds actually make this stuff taste like fried chicken! So flavorful. Of course, it's more than a little fattening, but Jackson makes little attempt to healthify Southern dishes. I'm okay with that. My book will focus more on reducing the fat in typically-saturated Southern dishes. But I respect that Jackson doesn't hold back. She cooks the way our Southern grandmas cook, and that means keeping traditional foodways alive. I'm all for that.
On the side, I made Jackson's "Roast Beef" Gravy over Brown Rice:
The gravy actually tastes nothing like roast beef, but it's delicious nonetheless. Simply red wine, onions, and soy margarine. That's it. Honestly, anything can be made delicious with a little red wine. I used my favorite — Yellowtail Shiraz.
And because I'm partial to my greens over anyone else's (except my Granny's, of course), I cooked up some of my own recipe for Mess O' Greens with Turnips:
Here's the whole plate for a little better perspective:
That food has soul. Yes, indeed. Thanks Ann Jackson for pioneering the way for Southern herbivores!