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The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-Be Southerners

by Matt Lee and Ted Lee

The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

It all started with the boiled peanuts. Brothers Matt and Ted Lee, fresh out of college and working in Manhattan, felt homesick for the humble food of their Charleston, South Carolina youth. Unable to find but one boiled peanut on the whole island of Manhattan, the brothers Lee utilized what they would come to understand as the essence of Southern cuisine—a spirited resourcefulness—to make their own. With a 50-pound bag of raw peanuts procured from a Bronx wholesale market and the stovetop of their tiny kitchen, they started their own mail-order business sending their signature peanuts and Southern pantry staples like fig preserves, watermelon rind pickles and stone-ground grits to expatriate Southerners all over America and across the globe. In The Lee Bros. Cookbook, their first, Matt and Ted share the recipes and insights they’ve gleaned from their extensive travels through every cranny of the South while searching for foods for the catalogue. The book demystifies the cuisine of Dixie for outsiders (no, y’all, Southern cooking isn’t all about lard) while serving up Southern standards with a fresh twist for insiders.

The tone of the book resonates with Southern hospitality; it’s as if Matt and Ted have poured you a mint julep and invited you onto their porch for a colorful lesson in local lore (then schooled you on how to mix that drink). Each recipe is accompanied by notes on the origins of the dish and anecdotes about the people who lovingly produce and consume it. Their regional scope brings them from the she-crab soup of Charleston to the shrimp burgers of coastal Georgia and the scuppernong preserves of northern Florida. Certain iconic dishes like fried chicken, cheese grits, fried okra, collards and red velvet cake are approached classically (what they call the “rustic touch”), while others are dressed up in fancy new duds (the “downtown touch”), such as the ambrosia salad with avocado and the Saigon hoppin’ john with lemongrass. With mouthwatering pictures and a wide selection of quick, mid-week recipes, The Lee Bros. Cookbook will have you fixin’ to get a Southern spread on your table in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.

Reviewed by Rachel Levin

(Updated: 06/18/10 SG)

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