“Dames Who Read” organizer Judith Hines gathered a hungry group of Dames around a table laden with Southern comfort food for February’s culinary book club event. The book: The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma’s Table by Rick Bragg. The venue: Ina Mae’s Tavern, one of Chicago’s newest hot spots by acclaimed chef, Brian Jupiter, who brings his southern roots to the menu.
The group dined on cheddar biscuits, Cajun mac-n-cheese, beans, pork chops, deviled eggs, fried okra, sweet potato hash, and fried apple pies as they dished about the book.
In the book, author Rick Bragg introduces his mother, Margaret Bragg, who 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. Many of her recipes pre-date the Civil War, handed down skillet by skillet, from one generation of Braggs to the next. In this New York Times bestseller, 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.