Foodies across the Southeast gathered in Greensboro, N.C. Sept.26-28 at the O.Henry Hotel to taste, talk, and mingle with eight cookbook authors, whose books are part of the popular UNC Press “Savor the South” series.
Sweet Potatoes, Okra, Bourbon, Pecans, Biscuits, Buttermilk, Tomatoes, Pickles and Preserves, Peaches, and Southern Holidays were the stars of the three-day gathering along with the eight talented writers behind these books which celebrate the tradition of Southern food.
Cookbook author and chef, Virginia Willis, is the expert behind the ‘Okra” cookbook in the series. She told the crowd of over 100 attendees at the event’s “Bluegrass, Bourbon, and Bacchanal” dinner that people really love okra or hate it. “There’s not really a middle ground with this Southern plant,” she remarked. For her book, Willis had to come up with 50 okra recipes which at first seemed like a huge challenge. “I said 50. Seriously, y’all. How many ways are there to fry okra?” she laughed.
Willis found, developed, and tested 50 ways to prepare okra. One recipe is Limpin’ Susan, which is the culinary wife of Hoppin’ John, and made of okra, rice and bacon. Green Valley Grill Executive Chef Leigh Hasling featured the vegetable during the second course of Saturday’s dinner by serving Crispy Pancetta Wrapped Shrimp with rhubarbecue sauce over Limpin’ Susan.
Foodies attending this Southern weekend treat needed to come to the table with a big appetite. The entire event was one culinary adventure after another featuring the different authors, and their areas of culinary expertise.
On Saturday afternoon, recipes from each of the 10 books were created for tastings, and it was also the time for the authors to chat with event participants, sign cookbooks, and share food memories.
It was the first time that all the UNC Press “Savor the South” authors were together under one roof, and if you saw an author’s table empty then you could easily find her grabbing a bite from another colleague’s table.
“This has been a great event for all of us to come together with other people who also love food as much as we do. I’m so happy to be part of this inaugural event,” commented Pickles and Preserves cookbook author, Andrea Weigl.
Nancy King Quaintance, of Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants & Hotels in Greensboro, N.C, is one to credit for getting the “Savor the South” event off the ground. She, along with well-known food author Ronni Lundy, and Our State Magazine, hosted the weekend festivities.
“I’ve wanted to do a weekend centered around the South’s love of food at the O.Henry Hotel for some time now,” commented Quaintance at the Tasting Extravaganza and Book Signing event on Saturday afternoon. “People love food. It’s a big part of travel. It’s a huge part of the Southern culture. Our goal was to come up with a way to celebrate it.” Being a Southern boutique steeped with tradition, the O.Henry was a natural fit to host the event in Greensboro.
Quaintance sees this event as the first of many for her hotels. “More cookbooks are going to be released in the series so I know we will do this again,” she said confidently while watching guests make tomato sandwiches featured in Miriam Rubin’s “Tomatoes” cookbook in the series, and grab an orange-coconut bourbon ball as featured in the cookbook “Bourbon” by Kathleen Purvis.
From sweet potato fried pies to the ultimate biscuit sandwich, the event is being called by organizers as a success in every bite. The event ended on Sunday morning with a Southern buffet breakfast, featuring biscuits, of course.
The “Savor the South” cookbook series will eventually comprise of 24 books. April McGreger’s “Sweet Potatoes” and Debbie Moose’s “Southern Holidays” were released this month just in time for the “Savor the South” event.
The next cookbook in the “Savor the South” series to be released will be “Shrimp” by Executive Chef Jay Pierce of Lucky 32’s Southern Kitchen’s restaurants in Greensboro and Cary, N.C. The release date for the 11th book is Spring 2015.
For more information on how to purchase the “Savor the South” cookbooks, visit UNC Press.