NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Scott Jones is on a mission to popularize the down-home cooking enjoyed by millions of Americans living in the southern United States.
The former Hollywood development executive for Paramount and Disney, who is now the food editor for Southern Living magazine, said his love of food led him to quit his job on the West Coast and return to the South.
“The pull of food was stronger than that of the motion picture business,” he explained. “Now I want to show what real people are cooking in real kitchens and speak to the food of the region.”
“1001 Ways to Cook Southern”, which was compiled by the magazine, includes breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes, as well as desserts and side dishes.
Jones spoke to Reuters about the new book and what makes southern cooking so appealing.
Q: What is it about southern cooking that has made it so popular in the United States?
A: “There are a number of things that have influenced southern cooking and its popularity. It has a lot to do with the ingredients, with the land, the history and the culture. There are a lot of cool things going on in food right now, and I think people are taking notice. Southern food also is local food and it shows sustainability, which people like.”
Q: Could you explain how Southern food shows sustainability?
A: “In the South, there are a lot of small farmers who have a culture of selling produce by the roadside, for example. Many farmers have been farming organically forever. Although most are too small to be certified as organic, they are as organic and natural as any big farm. They are good stewards of the land in the South.”
Q: What are some ingredients typical of Southern food?
A: “I would say there are some heavy hitters — butter milk, pecans, corn-based products such as grits, pork products, rice and, of course, bourbon. It’s hard to pinpoint as things are developing with time. If you look at the overall statistics, there is amazing diversity in the South. It’s the big gumbo pot. Different ethnic communities are bringing their own culture and ingredients and mixing it up with the classics. For example, you may have catfish from an area with an Asian community, which reflects different flavor profiles and diversity.”
Q: Does one need to be a skilled chef to prepare these recipes?
A: “No, absolutely not. Our magazine reaches 16 million people and has become a trusted source, a hallmark for those looking for southern recipes. Many of the recipes come from readers, many of them in home kitchens in regular towns. The recipes reflect that. Anyone can have success.”
Grilled Chicken with White Barbecue Sauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
10 chicken thighs
White Barbecue sauce
1. Combine first seven ingredients. Rinse chicken and pat dry. Rub mixture evenly over chicken. Place chicken in a zip-top plastic freezer bag. Seal and chill 4 hours. Remove chicken from bag. Discard bag.
2. Preheat grill to 350-400 degrees. Grill chicken covered with grill lid, 8 to 10 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 170 degrees. Serve with White Barbecue Sauce.