The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma's Table

The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma's Table

by Rick Bragg


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From the beloved, best-selling author of All Over but the Shoutin', a delectable, rollicking food memoir, cookbook, and loving tribute to a region, a vanishing history, a family, and, especially, to his mother. Including seventy-five mouthwatering Bragg family recipes for classic southern dishes passed down through generations.

Margaret Bragg does not own a single cookbook. She measures in "dabs" and "smidgens" and "tads" and "you know, hon, just some." She cannot be pinned down on how long to bake corn bread ("about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the mysteries of your oven"). Her notion of farm-to-table is a flatbed truck. But she can tell you the secrets to perfect mashed potatoes, corn pudding, redeye gravy, pinto beans and hambone, stewed cabbage, short ribs, chicken and dressing, biscuits and butter rolls. Many of her recipes, recorded here for the first time, pre-date the Civil War, handed down skillet by skillet, from one generation of Braggs to the next. In The Best Cook in the World, Rick Bragg finally preserves his heritage by telling the stories that framed his mother's cooking and education, from childhood into old age. Because good food always has a good story, and a recipe, writes Bragg, is a story like anything else.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400040414
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/24/2018
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 166,526
Product dimensions: 6.60(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Rick Bragg is the author of eight books, including the best-selling Ava’s Man and All Over but the Shoutin’. He is also a regular contributor to Garden & Gun magazine. He lives in Alabama.


New Orleans, Louisiana

Date of Birth:

July 26, 1959

Place of Birth:

Possum Trot, Alabama


Attended Jacksonville State University for six months in 1970; attended Harvard University, 1992-1993

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Excerpted from "The Best Cook in the World"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Rick Bragg.
Excerpted by permission of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Prologue It Takes a Lot of Rust to Wipe Away a General Electric 3

1 "'Them Shadows Get to Dancin'" 31

Butter Rolls

2 "Salt Is Good" 52

Cream Sausage Gravy, Buttered Grits with a Touch of Cheese, Sliced Tomato, the Perfect Fried Egg

3 A Man Who Knew Beans 71

Pinto Beans and Ham Bone, Creamed Onions, Buttered Boiled Potatoes, Carrot and Red Cabbage Slaw, Cornbread

4 Sweeter, After the Frost 93

Collard Greens, Baked Hog Jowl, Baked Sweet Potatoes

5 "A Chicken … Ain't Likely to Ketch On" 104

Chicken Roasted in Cider with Carrots, Turnips, and Onion, Chicken Gravy, Mashed Potatoes

6 The Fourth Bear 120

Cornmeal Porridge with Chicken and Watercress, Stewed Cabbage, Fried Apples

7 The Falling Cow 131

Beef Short Ribs, Potatoes, and Onions

8 "Hard Times, Come Around No More" 145

Sweet Potato Pie, Sweet Potato Cobbler

9 "A Ham Hock Don't Call for Help" 166

Pan-Boasted Pig's Feet (with Homemade Barbecue Sauce), Chunky Potato Salad

10 Cakes of Gold 177

Meat Loaf, Scalloped Potatoes, Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

11 Sis 187

Sis's Chicken and Dressing

12 The Second Ghost 208

Cracklin Cornbread

13 Bitter Weeds 227

Poke Salad

14 Still Hard Times for an Honest Man 243

Vegetable Soup in a Short Rib Base

15 The Pie That Never Was 260

Chocolate Pie, Toasted Coconut Pie, Buttermilk Pie

16 Ribs in the Dead of Night 271

Spareribs Stewed in Butter Beans

17 Clementine 281

Fried Chicken, Fried Chicken Gravy (Water Gravy), Fresh Green Beans with Golden Potatoes

18 Tomatoes Without Taste, Tomatoes Without End 298

Ham and Redeye Gravy over Fresh Diced Tomato

19 Didelphis Virginiana 312

Baked Possum and Sweet Potatoes

20 Stairway to Nowhere 322

Real Biscuits, with Sausage, Ham, Fatback, Fried Potatoes, Spanish Scrambled Eggs

21 People Who Cook 341

Buttermilk and Cornbread Patties

22 Blackberry Winter 347

Wild Plum Pie, Blackberry Cobbler

23 Till It Thunders 356

Turtle Soup

24 Offerings 371

Smothered Cubed Steak

25 Government Cheese 382

Cheese-and-Sausage Pie, Macaroni and Cheese, Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Pear Preserves or Muscadine Jelly

26 Sometimes the Pies Just Call Your Name 396

Pecan Pie

27 Red's 402

The Hamburger Steak with Brown Gravy, The Immaculate Cheeseburger

28 "When Momma Was All Right" 418

Tea Cakes

29 Monkey on a String 423

Barbecued Bag Bologna Sandwich Dressed with Shredded Purple Cabbage Slaw

30 Edna's Ark 438

Fried Fresh Crappie, Hush Puppies, Tartar Sauce

31 Staggering to Glory 445

Barbecued Pork Chops and Ham Slices, Deviled Eggs, Baked Beans with Thick-Cut Bacon, Jalapeño Cornbread

32 The Runaway 457

Roast Turkey

33 "Untimely Figs" 466

Ray Brock's Fig Preserves

34 Spring 477

Fresh Field Peas with Pork, Stewed Squash and Sweet Onions, Fried Okra, Sweet Corn, Fried Green Tomatoes

Epilogue: The Recipe that Never Was 486

Quick Fried Apple Pies

Acknowledgments 489

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The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma's Table 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
litpixie More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. Bragg gives us his family's history through stories and through recipes. Each chapter ends with at least one recipe, and interspersed with the directions for the recipes is his mother's voice. Some of the stories were so funny I would begin reading the story to whichever family member was close. Something though that I found interesting was learning about things I'd heard about, like pot likker and finding out that butter beans (something I've been searching for each spring for my garden) are large lima beans. With Best Cook, the little I've read of Edna Lewis and one Southern cookbook I want to plunge a little deeper into Southern cooking. In the next year I will have to add Micheal Twitty's book to my library and whatever else I can find. Plus, there are several recipes that I plan on trying in this book.