By Wendell Brock
I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed of the fact that I don’t own a TV.
My brother, Wade, a peanut farmer in South Georgia, spends a lot of time in the front of the TV, and when he told me he was a fan of Vivian Howard, the North Carolina chef and host of the PBS series, “A Chef’s Life,” I knew I had a lot of catching up to do.
Howard’s first book is a smart place to start.
Clocking in at 576 pages, with 200 recipes organized by ingredients that define the region around her hometown of Deep Run, N.C., “Deep Run Roots” is a deliciously ambitious volume that doubles as biography and cookbook.
Opening with the sassy essay, “Don’t Your Dare Skip This Introduction!” Howard gives us a good feel for who she is – an Eastern Carolina farm girl who learned the restaurant industry in New York City, then went on to open Chef & the Farmer in Kinston, N.C., with her husband, Ben Knight, in 2004 – and how she loves to fix the corn, collards, figs, sausage and oysters of her particular wedge of the South.
Happily, Howard doesn’t simply fall back on the well-trod menu of Southern staples. Instead, she gives them her own twist.
Rather than plain-old pimento cheese, she folds the spread into grits, bakes it, and serves with corn chips. Fried green tomatoes? Yep, they’re here, with curried peach preserves and whipped feta. Sure wish I’d happened upon her Grape-Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Sausage and Muscadine-Braised Chicken Thighs before compiling last week’s food feature on muscadines.
But such are the breaks when you’re so tardy to the party, on a TV personality whose show has won Peabody, Emmy and James Beard awards, no less. My brother was correct. Just wait until I tell him his crush has a full chapter on peanuts.
MEET THE AUTHOR: Howard’s book tour arrives in Atlanta next week. She’s driving in on a food truck, stopping at A Capella Books (208 Haralson Ave. N.E., Atlanta) on Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. and Whole Foods Avalon (2800 Old Milton Parkway, Alpharetta) on Oct. 26 at 5 p.m. Both events are $50 and include a signed copy of the book and a fresh-cooked meal.
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