Dupree, who lives in Charleston, S.C., with husband Jack Bass, is pleased with the current countrywide craze for Southern foods but targets stereotypes to correct.
“When visitors come to Charleston, they want fried chicken,” she says. “They think that we eat fried chicken every day. It was never that way. Actually we have more seafood in Charleston.”
While all eyes are on pork, chicken, barbecue and other meaty entrees, Dupree points out that vegetable cookery has always been the South’s true strength: “We are essentially agrarian in the South. We had our own gardens and grew vegetables. Now we might have cooked them a long time, but we ate the liquid, too.” Her recipe for A Mess of Greens and “Pot Likker” suggests adding pieces of cornbread or potatoes to sop up the broth. Nutrition note: Potassium and iron, B vitamins as well as vitamin A and vitamin K leach out of the greens into the cooking liquid.
Dupree says many of today’s young chefs tell her they grew up watching her “New Southern Cooking” series on PBS. She applauds them for paying special attention to the vegetable plates and side dishes on their menus. Farm Burger sells kale chips. Miller Union presents parsnip puree. JCT Kitchen serves varieties of greens and peas that change with the season.
“People forget that meat is a condiment,” Dupree says. “Thomas Jefferson said meat is a condiment not an aliment — maybe that’s why he lived such a long time.”
“Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” devotes three pages to frying chicken, but Dupree admits she rarely fries foods. “I only fry about two to three times per year. I don’t want to wash my hair. And you need to cover the stove with aluminum foil. It’s messy.”