May 21, 2013

Words of Wisdom from Julia Reed

One of the absolute highlights of my recent attendance at the Southern Food Writing Conference was getting the chance to hear Julia Reed speak. A published author plus contributing editor at Vogue and Newsweek, Reed is one of my favorite southern writers, but she was even better in real life!

Her southern grand dame persona was warm and inviting...Reed's rubbed elbows with the likes of politicos, fashionistas, and the Washington D.C. & New York elite but she doesn't seem to care about any of that. Anybody who can make offhand remarks about Anna Wintour's spelling mistakes and then go right into a debate with herself about Pickapeppa sauce vs. pepper jelly as a topping for cream cheese and crackers is alright by me.

Not that she needs my approval, mind you ;)

I wanted to share some of the wisdom I gleaned from her talk. You'll like it.

1. The way to the hearts of the staunchest folks is always through the stomach
We already knew this of course. Reed shared stories of how she impressed the socks off her Washington D.C. & NY colleagues by serving southern food in the 90's. She talked about how this was a time when the popular cocktail party fare was something like an under-cooked snow pea. Her cocktail party staple? Sister Schubert's rolls and a big ol' bowl (her words) of jumbo lump crab meat with mayonnaise.

Her advice? Cook basic, honest food that people will like.

2. Southern Junior League Cookbooks are ALWAYS better than Northern Ones
Again, not much of a surprise. Reed's evidence for this is the fact that Northern Jr. League Cookbooks usually have titles such as "Posh Pantry" and "Cook's Cabinet" while the far superior Southern versions are called things like "Come on In!" and "Talk about Good" (I actually have that last one!).

3. True Southerners know the importance of Funeral Food
Absolutely we do. Reed told the tragic story of how her grandparents were killed in a car accident when she was a teen. She followed up with how her momma's last words to her as she ran out the door were "go clean out the refrigerator." They knew the casseroles and Jell-o salads would start pouring in and sure enough, they were right.

Reed also made sure to point out that the amount and quality of food that is brought to a funeral is directly proportional to how well the person was liked. She said "if you die and nobody brings food, it's a sign that you weren't very nice."

Her final bit of valuable advice?

Homemade is best, store-bought is better than nothing, but NEVER take funeral food with a price tag still on it!

Her new book But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria!: Adventures in Eating, Drinking, and Making Merry is available in stores now.