Three years after setting off to explore, research, and grapple with this deeply Southern dish, I can finally say it’s here. Grits: A Cultural and Culinary Journey Through the South (St. Martin’s Press) took me on a long journey across gravelly roads, out in to corn fields, standing alongside millers, and eating lots and lots of grits, in search of stories about my new (reclaimed, really) homeland.
It's official! A Colander, Cake Stand, and My Grandfather's Iron Skillet is out in the world... Well, almost. I heard from a few folks that pre-orders through Amazon have been delayed until later this summer. I wish I had a good answer for why that happened but according to the publisher, the books have reached the warehouse and should be released out into the world soon. So... progress! For now, I hope you'll keep your eye out for it locally!
One of the best parts of this project, as I've said, has been collaborating with so many talented folks—and one of my favorites was our photographer, Danielle Atkins. Over the course of a few days last fall, Danielle and I, along with our editor Matthew Teague, took over the Food Sheriff studios here in Nashville and shot about 20+ dishes in less than 48 hours. (If you aren't familiar with the Food Sheriff, Jesse Goldstein, go learn more about him... incredibly talented, super kind, and genuine, in every sense of the word. Plus his studio is crazy: fully equipped and outfitted by KitchenAid, making it the ultimate cooking zone for projects like this. It's functional, efficient, and somehow utterly relaxing. Seriously, if I could cook in one kitchen for the rest of my life, this would be the one.) The shoot was a whirlwind and Danielle was a machine—in spite of a tight timeline, she cranked out shot after stunning shot.
Danielle and I have worked together on projects for Nashville Lifestyles, like this lovely entertaining spread with chef Josh Habiger. But shooting Colander was a whole new experience for me. To begin, Danielle arrived fully stocked with groceries, color-coded recipes, and crates and crates of props, like dishware, serving platters, utensils, linens... essentially her own personal semi-mobile prop shop. We had talked through the schedule a few days in advance but as soon as we got to the studio, it was on. Between prep work, cooking, lighting, selecting dishware, set ups, and backdrops, the two shoot days flew by as we cooked our way through the recipes. There were some hits, misses, and a few frantic emails to the chefs about measurements and instructions, but we pushed through and cooked and shot more than three-quarters of the book.
Beyond the cooking and stellar photo sessions, we also got a few assists from chefs who contributed dishes for the book, including chef Dale Levitski who came in and quickly whipped up a Dutch baby, which might just be one of the easiest, yet most impressive recipes in the book, and pastry chef Rebekah Turshen from City House, who provided an absolutely stunning coconut cake and some biscuits. I'll leave you with this tempting shot, which prominently features the cake stand mentioned in the title of the book—a treasure that Rebekah received as a gift from Tom Lazzaroli of Lazzaroli Pasta, who'd been holding onto it for years before he uncovered it and gave it to her. You can sometimes spot it sitting at the bar at City House these days. I hope you'll keep an eye out for the full story in the book!
Oh, hey! It's been awhile! How've you been?
Me? Pretty great, actually. I'm not sure if I mentioned it but I'm about to release my third (!?) book on July 15! A Colander, Cake Stand, and My Grandfather's Iron Skillet is a collection of essays and recipes that were contributed by chefs from all over the country, and celebrate each chef's favorite cooking tool. (I got to edit the project!) Yes, there are skillets, but also wooden spoons, cheese grinders, Microplanes, KitchenAid mixers, copper bowls, and, of course, one really beautiful knife.
As for the recipes, they range from the technically complicated to the blissfully simple. My favorite part is that the chefs went out of their way to get personal with their stories and recipes. Some of the dishes have been passed down through family; others are a perfect representation of what you'll find when you walk into their restaurants. It makes for a really strong collection that has both challenged and inspired me.
If it comes as a surprise that I suddenly have a book coming out, I'll be honest that I'm a little surprised by the news myself! The work on this project flew by, mostly because of all the awesome people I got to collaborate with along the way, so it's crazy to think that it's suddenly about to be released out into the world. Thank you, Spring House Press (my publisher), for making it all go so smoothly, and also to photographer Danielle Atkins who helped us produce a really gorgeous book.
To preorder your copy, hit up Amazon -- or keep an eye on the site and I'll let you know once I have copies to sell!
I also want to thank all of the contributors ... and the publicists, agents, assistants, and handlers who helped me gather materials. Here's a quick glance at all the names you'll see in the book:
Jody Adams; Jonathan Benno; Sean Brasel; Stuart Brioza; Joanne Chang; Natalie Chanin; Zach Espinosa; Ford Fry; Kevin Gillespie; David Guas; Timothy Hollingsworth; Linton Hopkins; Chris Kimball; Nicole Krasinski; Dale Levitski; Margot McCormack; Steve McHugh; Kyle Mendenhall; Rob Newton; Ken Oringer; Seth Raynor; Slade Rushing; Steven Satterfield; Jonathon Sawyer; Michael Scelfo; Sarah Schafer; Jeremy Sewall; Alon Shaya; Chris Shepherd; Bruce Sherman; Rebekah Turshen; Norman Van Aken; Robert Wiedmaier; Anne Willan; Virginia Willis; Tandy Wilson; Andrew Zimmern.
A very sneak peek at some of the dishes. Enjoy and can't wait to share this project with you!