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The Taste of Country Cooking

4.42  ·  Rating details ·  1,247 ratings  ·  102 reviews
In recipes and reminiscences equally delicious, Edna Lewis celebrates the uniquely American country cooking she grew up with some fifty years ago in a small Virginia Piedmont farming community that had been settled by freed slaves. With menus for the four seasons, she shares the ways her family prepared and enjoyed food, savoring the delights of each special time of year:

Hardcover, 30th Anniversary Edition, 304 pages
Published August 1st 2006 by Knopf (first published 1976)
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My husband walked by the other night and asked what I was reading. “Oh, just a cookbook” I answered. “What for?” he said with raised eyebrows and added, “When was the last time you cooked something from a cookbook?” He had a point. “Well, this one’s really interesting. I’ve always wanted to know how to butcher a hog”. That sent him on his way shaking his head.

To tell the truth, my husband was right. I read lots of cooking magazines and cookbooks and yet make very little beyond the usual meals I
mark monday
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
A unique experience! So much more than a cookbook, The Taste of Country Cooking is a sweetly contemplative and often elegiac travelogue through Lewis' life as a girl in Freetown, Virginia, a farming community founded by freedmen including the author's grandfather. It is hard to do justice to the moving quality of the writing, which manages to be both matter-of-fact (the post-butchering preparation of a hog carcass is described quite clearly) and lyrical (portraits of her mother cooking, the smel ...more
Carol Bakker
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is Little House in the Big Woods for adults. Edna Lewis writes through the seasons, demonstrating how to make scrumptious food without the newest, oldest, or next best kitchen appliance. Honestly, she made meringue made with a fork!

Look at the cover photo. That winsome smile compels me, that face makes me want to name Edna Lewis my friend.

I haven't cooked from this book yet. Lard, a common ingredient, is something I swore off a few years back. (But who knows? How many formerly reviled foo
Karen Witzler
Nov 17, 2011 rated it liked it
I knew this place and these flavors well; maybe not the homemade wines and the salsify, but these dishes and seasonal ways of being were still alive during my Deep South childhood in the "60's. Gravy? You don't know gravy until you've had ham and cream ... ...more
Feb 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An already cherished gift from a great friend - reads like a novel, the best, most comforting novel you can imagine. I would read every menu aloud just to hear the words - blackberries and cream, ham biscuits, watermelon rind pickles, Tyler Pie, a thermos of hot coffee...I am going to find Freetown, Virginia and have a memorial picnic for Edna Lewis one day, I swear
Jan 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a really wonderful book. Edna Lewis grew up in Freetown, a town that was founded by emancipated slaves. I believe she's first- or second-generation free person. She talks fondly about the farm her family ran, and about her time with family members, friends, and neighbors. She writes fantastically.[return][return]The book is organized by the season. Don't be scared off by the fact that a lot of the sweets call for lard. One can substitute Crisco or similar shortening if lard is not availa ...more
Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition
Oh my goodness, I just opened this cookbook and I think I will enjoy reading it cover to cover - even make some of the recipes for our quiet 4th of July BBQ at home...

This is the best way, if extremely worky, to make the best tasting food.

This is a story about a farming community that worked together to raise the kids and tend the fields, animals and gardens used to make the food for each family and the entire community.

Sounds like a wonderful utopian existence, except that it is really a lot of
Mark J.
Sep 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A combination of charming memoir, practical technique and delicious sounding recipes sprinkled with a good serving of vanishing skills. If only we worked hard enough these days to eat the meals she describes!
I am rating this more as a reading book than a cookbook. No doubt it's a fine cookbook; however, my interest in it was to read about the wonderful Edna Lewis' memories of her Virginia childhood and life in a small town. That said, her fried chicken, corn pudding, and biscuit recipes can't be beat. Just note that the friend chicken is supposed to be a special thing. Make that one too often, and you'll need to put a cardiologist on speed-dial.

Lewis was born in 1916, so her memories are of the sim
Oh, my, my, just lovely. Like dessert, this book is perfect for reading in bed and dropping imaginary everyday-cake-crumbs on the sheets. A lovely story about eating locally and sustainably before it was made trendy by Whole Foods. I had severe family jealousy for a bit (although my family always ate quite well, too - in a small rural town, we often ate canned jams from local blackberries & the like).

I got this from the library, but I will definitely be looking for a used copy at the next books
May 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Mary
Shelves: cookbooks
This book was such a joy to read. If you like to cook, if you like to garden, if you're Southern, if history of the way we eat and cultivate food interests you - definitely read this book. It is a lovely (and lovingly crafted) book about the process of food and cooking and the reasons certain foods were eaten. ...more
Lauren Rauk
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A great cookbook and historical account. The recipes are more interesting because of the stories about farming and community. Good tips and mouth-watering ideas.
May 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book is a true gift. Edna Lewis was a genius and a communist in the 50s to boot. I plan on reading all her other books and reading all the interviews I can find. For anyone interested in food this is a must. I would also rec to anyone interested in farming, which I am personally not interested in doing in the slightest but feels necessary to know about if u eat food! This book is very romantic and romanticized, and I think that was a very intentional choice. Edna Lewis is an icon!!
What a beautifully evocative story of home and childhood and every best memory of the rewards of dedication and hard work. Then there are the recipes, each within its particular season. Can't wait to dig in! ...more
Jan 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
I think it would be nearly impossible to recreate many of the recipes in here, nevertheless this gave me so much joy.
Diana Cramer
If this book were a person, you would describe it as gentle and sweet. And so it is. This book nudges somewhat toward memoir. It's probably best looked at as not-just-a-cookbook, but a nostalgic celebration of a lost time and place - and a great insight into the life of the African-American community, just themselves, not dependant on interaction with whites to "move the story forward." So it also turned out to be a pleasant little book to read during Black History Month. ...more
Dec 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Single-handedly the most informative and interesting cookbook I’ve read all year. Southern cooking, especially African American foodways, have such a poor reputation with many white northerners and this book completely eradicated that notion in my mind. I’m excited to own this book soon and be able to easily access both the recipes but also the stories and wisdom of the author.
This was such an interesting cookbook. There is so much history behind the recipes and the meals. I like how the book was broken into seasons, then into meals. It was interesting to see how much food was served at each meal. I did find some recipes I'm hoping to try. If you're looking for healthy, this is not the cookbook for you! But it's still a good read. ...more
Oct 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Edna Lewis was cooking seasonally before it was trendy to do so - it was simply the way she and her family lived on their family farm. Her recipes flow from season by season, using ingredients we think of as "gourmet" today - sorrel, fresh thyme, fish roe. A true farmhouse cookbook, Miss Lewis's stories and anecdotes are a joy to read. ...more
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I don't normally list cookbooks on Goodreads, but this one is perfect for reading curled up in bed - full of enticing recipes, it also reads as a memoir of Edna Lewis's childhood and an ode to the food ad customs of Freetown, a farming community of freed slaves in VA. ...more
Sandra The Old Woman in a Van
I own an original 1978 version of this classic cookbook. It is one of the very first cookbooks I bought - back in my first year of college. I went to the U of Chicago where the affiliated Seminary School had an infamous basement bookstore. It rambled though basement nooks and crannies and was the best place to get lost during a cold winter day between classes. The Seminary Coop still exists, but is now in an English Basement storefront not too far from the original.

Once a year they held a cookb
Belton Davis
Jan 15, 2022 rated it really liked it
This is a wonderful book with great recipes, but the best part is the narrative her her growing up in rural Virginia in Freetown, a burg started by her grandfather and others after they were freed at the end of the Civil War. The year-long account of life on the farm and the significant events in their lives provides an eye-witness view of freed slaves and their legacy. As much a historical tract as a cookbook, this charming volume also reminds my own immigrant grandmother's way of life, albeit ...more
May 26, 2022 rated it it was amazing
I don't normally read cookbooks. After a few years as a short-order cook in a small restaurant I don't really cook much anymore. (a talented spouse and classically-trained chef son pretty much put an end to that) But I read this cookbook from cover to cover. It's just that good.

Ms. Lewis was once hailed as the Queen of Country Cooking and ran a very successful restaurant in New York City. I've eaten some of her recipes (I refer you to the last paragraph) and they are tasty.

But that's not why I l
Lee Dawna
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis is truly a taste of history. This reads as a biography of sorts, and many months after reading this gift I still close my eyes and see a young Edna running through fields, her mother dropping cucumbers into the barrel on their front porch while the smell of dinner wafts out to her toiling family. I see their Sunday dresses and linen covered tables filled with holiday fare. And most of all, when I make a tri-meat stock, I say a silent thank you to the wo ...more
Cody Bruce
Jan 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
An early contender for my favorite book of 2021, this work is so much more than a cookbook. It is also a Polaroid of a distinct Southern subculture that is at once familiar and distant to a white country bumpkin of Oklahoma stock. Edna Lewis' captivating descriptions of freedman settlement Freetown, VA takes me back to the foods of my own grandmother and the cherished stories of the old-timers. As a work, it rivals and supplements the Foxfire tomes for grasping the soul of the South. The recipes ...more
Mar 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Lewis describes a year in the life of cultivating and eating food during her childhood in Freetown, Virginia, a community settled by freed slaves (her grandfather was one of the original founders). There are vegetables I am not familiar with (mainly salsify, an carrot-like root vegetable that takes a year to cultivate), meats not commonly eaten by a lot of people any more (game birds, organ meats), and the book assumes a level of cooking knowledge I don’t have, but I was just reading it for fun ...more
Aug 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I don't usually read a cookbook cover to cover, but this one I did! Nor do I put them on Goodreads but this book deserves to be read and rated. What a lovely book! Her stories of growing up on a farm in Virginia are just wonderful. Not an easy life, but her childhood sounded very happy and full of delicious food. Even her description of the ingredients is delicious and every time the word biscuit was typed my mouth watered.

The book is divided up by seasons and the food cooked and eaten was very
Catherine Woodman
Nov 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
One of my cookbook groups is doing this cookbook this month (which is great that it is during American Thanksgiving, because the whole book is crammed full of old time Southern recipes that work perfectly for that holiday).
It is a blast from the past, being published in 1976 originally. I was a freshman in college a year later and there were fairly limited choices when it came to cookbooks in those days (I was a vegetarian at the time, and it was dismal in that arena). Edna Lewis is the first au
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
All you need to know about this cookbook are two things. First, it was edited by Judith Jones, who discovered Julia Child. And more importantly, Edna Lewis and her cookbook should be remembered not only for the recipes but for imparting a sense of the culture that went along with it. She was born in Freetown, Virginia, a community established by her grandfather and other freed slaves after emancipation in 1865 and the cookbook details events celebrated by this community that remains largely forg ...more
Jessica Brazeal
Dec 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: food, own
I had long wanted this book and every time I tried to buy it it was either sold out or unavailable. My mom surprised me with it for Christmas and I really loved reading through all the recipes and history of this food. Edna Lewis grew up in Freetown, Virginia, a settlement her grandfather established after he was freed from slavery. This book is both a cookbook and a history lesson on the origins of so much southern, country cooking. As I read, the smells of the food we had so often at my grand ...more
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