Recipes as a Cultural Profile

By Anna Dantoni.

For three decades Southern Living magazine has annually published a cookbook composed of all the recipes that the appeared in the monthly issues of the magazine over the previous 12 months. The recipes are organized chronologically by month but the book also includes special sections devoted to other categories of cookery. For instance, the newest one, Southern Living Annual Recipes 2009, includes a whole section on comfort-food recipes that require only five ingredients. Additionally, the editors make the statement that “yogurt might just be the perfect food.” What a comment on the times in which we live. A few years ago the test kitchen might have said the same thing about cornbread or fried chicken.

The history of food is a mirror held up to the cultures that hunt, cook, share and are nourished by that food. What the latest Southern Living compendium illustrates is that over the past year we ate out less and cooked more at home concentrating on uncomplicated recipes that use few ingredients. We entertained family and friends at home with movies or game night. We’ve been concerned about saving money and stretching a food dollar but also eating in a more healthy way – smaller portions, fresh ingredients and substitutions of ingredients (yogurt for sour cream, fresh herbs instead of salt) based on dietary restrictions (diabetes is on the rise) and general health issues because America is becoming an obese nation and health care costs are rising.

However, what this cookbook also demonstrates in a comforting and inspiring way is that we’ve been eating well and creatively, using time and money-saving technologies, growing some of our own fruits and vegetables and frequenting farmers’ markets all over the nation. The 850 recipes is the Southern Living annual depict us as a nation of diverse people who love to cook and who made the very best of some very bad times. And we did it in the kitchen.

From the book here’s a great big sandwich from New Orleans to keep in mind for your Super Bowl party (February 7). It feeds eight and can be made a day ahead.

Make-Ahead Muffaletta Party Sandwich
1 cup jarred mixed pickled vegetables, rinsed and finely chopped
¼ cup sliced pimiento-stuffed Spanish olives
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 (20-ounce) round Italian bread loaf
1/3 pound sliced salami
1/3 pound sliced provolone cheese
1/3 pound sliced pepperoni

Stir together the first 4 ingredients. Cut round break loaf in half horizontally; scoop out bottom, leaving a ½-inch-thick shell. Spoon half the olive mixture into bread shell. Layer with salami, cheese, pepperoni and remaining olive mixture. Cover with bread top. Wrap loaf tightly with plastic wrap and chill 8-24 hours. Cut loaf into wedges.

(Southern Living 2009 Annual Recipes, Scott James Executive Editor. Oxmoor House publishers. Hardcover, $34.95)

1 thought on “Recipes as a Cultural Profile”

  1. It’s great to see Flavors and More growing! Congratulations and best wishes for good times and great food in 2010.
    I was interested in the Muffaletta Party Sandwich, and I’m hoping that Anna can let me know whether the salami, provolone and pepperoni should be 1 pound each or if the amount is optional according to taste. It sounds perfect for a gathering I’m hosting in a couple of weeks. Thanks so much.

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