Cookbook review: Cook up fun ‘any ole dadgum day’

‘Come On Over! Southern Delicious For Every Day and Every Occasion’ by Elizabeth Heiskell (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30)

Living in lockdown challenged all of us to find ways to entertain ourselves when our 2020 calendars suddenly became empty. Some of us were better equipped to deal with it than others.

Growing up in a tiny farm town in the Mississippi Delta taught Elizabeth Heiskell that “if you are waiting for Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve to celebrate, you will be one bored and lonely soul the rest of the time.”

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The caterer-turned- “Today Show” personality shows us how to make “any ole dadgum day” feel special in “Come On Over! Southern Delicious For Every Day and Every Occasion” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30).

While her previous bestselling books — “What Can I Bring?” and “The Southern Living Party Cookbook” — center around potlucks and menus with table-setting tips, her latest offering leans toward the more laid-back dishes she cooks on the farm she shares with her husband and three daughters near Oxford, Mississippi.

The Weekdays chapter begins with the recipe her daughters call the Good Chicken: chicken breasts simmered in a slow cooker with a couple of prepared seasoning packets, bottled banana pepper rings and chicken broth. Recipes for Party Days are “like your little black dress...they fit every occasion:“ Lemon Sparklers (lemon sorbet, limoncello and prosecco), Tacky Tacky Meatballs (store-bought cocktail meatballs simmered in grape jelly and chili sauce), and three-ingredient Chocolate Pots de Creme made in a blender.

Then come chapters for School Days, Beach Days, Diet Days, Cheat Days and more. I can attest that her marinated Seaside Shrimp embellished with fresh okra and other colorful veggies has been instrumental in easing me out of self-isolation.

The laugh out loud moments she drops along the way — like the one about the peach-shaped water tower that “looks like a giant blushing heinie,” or the meatloaf sandwich her mom discovered decomposing in her linen cabinet before a bridge club gathering — are further reminders that it’s way past time to chill out, let loose, and enjoy life again.

“After all, life is short,” writes Heiskell. “I truly believe that every day should be savored.”

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