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The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma's Table

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  2,549 ratings  ·  419 reviews
From the beloved, best-selling author of All Over but the Shoutin', a delectable, rollicking food memoir, cookbook, and loving tribute to a region, a vanishing history, a family, and, especially, to his mother. Including seventy-four mouthwatering Bragg family recipes for classic southern dishes passed down through generations.

Margaret Bragg does not own a single cookbook.
Hardcover, 512 pages
Published April 24th 2018 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Average rating 4.08  · 
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Start your review of The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma's Table
”It's funny how it's the little things in life that mean the most
Not where you live, what you drive or the price tag on your clothes
There's no dollar sign on a piece of mind this I've come to know
So if you agree have a drink with me
Raise you glasses for a toast
To a little bit of chicken fried

“And cold beer on a Friday night
A pair of jeans that fit just right
And the radio up
I like to see the sunrise
See the love in my woman's eyes
Feel the touch of a precious child
And know a mother's love”

Diane Barnes
May 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I don't know when I have ever enjoyed a book more. Just sheer pleasure every time I opened the covers. I read this one as my "bedtime book" for a couple of weeks and looked forward to the hour or so spent with Rick Bragg's people, as he likes to call them.

Of course, it was a no-brainer that I would love it. It combines memoir with food and recipes, Rick Bragg's wonderful prose and humor, great people, past and present, and family pictures. His family is a large cussin', fightin', drinkin', God-f
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was an absolute delight. Rick Bragg writes lovingly about his mother and her southern cooking and shares amazing stories about his wackadoo family.

I listened to this book on audio, read by Bragg himself, and I highly recommend it. He has a charming narration and I found the book positively soothing. This was the first Bragg book I've read, but I loved it so much I've already requested his other works from the library.

Highly recommended for readers who like foodie memoirs or tales of so
Mar 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful book. The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma's Table was a loving tribute, not only to his mother Margaret, but to his grandmother Ava, and related in the warm, all-embracing and endearing way that only Rick Bragg can accomplish in describing all of the rich and colorful heritage of his family passed on for generations; perhaps the first farm to table harvest in the heart of Appalachia, some recipes even predating the Civil War. You just have to understand a dab, a pinc ...more
Brown Girl Reading
Jun 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of food lit
Finished this with some difficulty because it was too long. I'd recommend that it be read over a short period of time. If it would have been 200 pages shorter it would have had more power. That being said it was an interesting read mixing family stories and simple classic southern recipes. ...more
This book is more than just a memoir, more than a cookbook. It is about a family who have shared their secrets to feeding a lot of people on a nickle, who have passed down traditions along with their cooking, who took care of one another (even if they didn't like each other much sometimes), and who even shared a precious cast iron skillet at one time or another.

Wanting to preserve the amazing dishes, Rick Bragg decides to try to get it all down on paper before it's lost. This is not an easy task
Aug 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cookbooks
An Author and a Sister to Bragg About

What a fun read. While Rick Bragg shared his mother’s recipes, he also had many stories to tell, not just stories about his mother, but about other people as well. Some were laugh out loud funny, but so were the recipes, not that they were not real recipes, but you won’t catch me making any of them. In other words, she was not the best cook in the world or even the county where she lived, well, maybe she was, as some people love country cooking. Maybe it shou
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have put off writing a review of this book, because I have found it hard to find the right words. To say I loved it just does not portray the feelings I have for this memory of family and food. Except for a few regional differences, these are the recipes of my North Carolina family, and these are their experiences. Every photographs, with so many appearing to be made in those old carnival photo booths, touched my heart.

I cried over turtle stews as I recalled my uncle once a year firing up the
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My favorite author. The only one I buy while they are still warm from the presses and keep to read again. I love this guy's family. The author tells about his grandmother and mother, who make old-fashioned southern cooking. These are not health conscious recipes. As a matter of fact, grease and fat factor heavily into most of the recipes. Each chapter tells a story pertaining to his favorite foods and then at the end of the chapter are the recipes. It is worth reading the entire recipe, as he wr ...more
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I lightly read this book and gave it four stars then ordered the audio. I finished listening yesterday just before arriving at a yearly camping trip at Gold Lake, CA. My friend met me at my car and I said I just finished the best book and burst into tears. I then said "it's a cook book" at which point we both laughed. I cannot remember ever being so moved by a cook book; I laughed and cried. So far I have made the creamed onions, slaw and short ribs and will make them all again. ...more
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
“But since that day in her cold kitchen, I knew I had to convince her to let me write it all down, to capture not just the legend but the soul of her cooking for the generations to come, and translate into the twenty-first century the recipes that exist only in her mind, before we all just blow away like the dust in that red field.”

Rick Bragg’s momma did not own a cookbook or a measuring cup or a mixer. But she did outlive 20-something ovens and never parted with her cast iron skillet, even thou
Susan Kendrick
May 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I don’t think this is a five star for everyone, but it is for me. It’s awfully long and a funny sort of hybrid cookbook and memoir. But I love the way that Rick Bragg writes, and if he wants to take his time and write a big fat book of memories and recipes, I’m ok with that.

It doesn’t hurt that I’m from Alabama and feel a connection to the land and the tradition he describes, though perhaps his people would call me “rich folks”, being from the fancy big city of Birmingham and all.

But I can’t h
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have said it before and I will say it again - I love a good, slow Southern accent and Rick Bragg could narrate the phone book and keep me glued to his every word. Suffice to say, I was very, very happy listening to this. As an added bonus, he's a great writer :) ...more
Julie Davis
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Rereading for an upcoming Shelfwear podcast episode where I will be a guest.


I loved this book which is much more memoir than recipe collection. There is plenty of personality, old customs, and living through hard times in Rick Bragg's family tree. I am not one who likes stories of dysfunctional families and I appreciate that the dysfunctions are smoothed out or merely hinted at because the emphasis is on how the recipe came into the family or how someone learned to cook. By wrapping the
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this as an advanced readers copy from NetGalley and it’s my first book by Rick Bragg. I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more had I already read a couple of his earlier books and been familiar with his family. The first half of the book moved around in time and left me uncertain if I was reading about Ava or Margaret since he didn’t use their names. And for that reason the second half of the book was far more enjoyable - I finally knew who I was reading about and I am in awe of the ...more
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cookbooks, memoir
I put all other books aside to read anything by Rick Bragg. I like to read cookbooks and I like Rick Bragg so I enjoyed every bit of it. He is a great storyteller and writes sentences that make me laugh out loud. I like how he treats his mother. She talks, gardens and cooks like my great-granny did except mine made hogsheads cheese (ugh)- but thankfully, no possum.

I checked this out from the library but intend to get the audio book because I love to hear him read his books.

Julie  Durnell
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
A true testament to his mother and the era she lived; written lovingly with great humor and respect.
There are only two faults with this book.
1. You will gain 10 pounds reading it (and may need cholesterol meds just from reading the words "bacon fat" and "butter" so often).
2. He didn't include the recipe for crabapple jelly, which is perhaps the best thing my grandmother ever made and which I've not a clue how she did it. I've probably bought a hundred jars of crabapple jelly over the years, and not one of them tastes likes hers. Based on everything else I saw in this book, I bet Margaret Bra
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
OMG, to ME, this is the best book in the world. I'm currently listening to the audio version, read by the author, and am on chapter 32. I have never had quite this experience with a book before, where I look forward to my daily 32-mile-each-way commute, just so I can keep listening!

This book is 95% hilarious family stories from long bygone eras, and 5% recipes (which you may or may not want to ever make). This book is: Genealogist meets Storyteller meets Hillbilly.

It's a record of times and pl
Jun 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bragg is a delicious mix of Twain, Steinbeck, Faulkner, and Robert Frost. I especially love when he writes about his big southern family that frequently reminds me of my own grandparents and great aunts and uncles who grew up in the South. They brought many of the southern traditions and recipes with them when they all made their way to California during the Depression. Some of our best times together were spent gathered around the table, eating, poking fun at one another, and laughing ourselves ...more
Mar 31, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Rick Bragg relates family stories as he shares some of his mother's recipes. His mother, like most Southern cooks of that generation, did not follow recipes. She cooked by eyeballing things and getting the ratio correct based on practice. The family stories needed editing. They failed to draw me in, partly because of excess verbiage and lack of action verbs. Most recipes can be found in other Southern regional cookbooks. In the electronic advance copy, the recipe's conclusion often bumps into te ...more
Sue Em
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Storytelling at its greatest. Each chapter limns the hardscrabble lives of his kin in Alabama through love and food with stories and recipes. A chapter or two each night was a perfect cap to my day. For lovers of Southern writing and Southern food.
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I don’t think Weight Watchers is going to be endorsing Rick Bragg’s cookbook/memoir any time soon. You won’t find skim milk, egg whites, or fat-free anything in this cookbook. But what you will find is fresh food made the way my grandmothers used to cook.
When I first opened the book, I flipped through and was a little disappointed. I know how to fry okra and make cornbread. But there are a lot of recipes I’ve never heard of (butter rolls, cheese and sausage pie) and interesting variations on st
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I saw this on goodreads and instantly checked out the book and audio from my library, I was immediately smitten! As a native Californian southern cooking is like going to a foreign country, I will say the food is not my style, ever, but I loved hearing about his family history through food, stories and recipes. I adored the slow southern cadence, his momma's spunk and really getting a firm toe hold in the warm red dirt. It's a book about gentler times, the hardscrabble life and family, loved eve ...more
This collection of family tales and recipes is so fondly and vividly written that I felt like I was back at my Memaw’s, sitting on the counter sneaking bits of sugar cookie dough. Being from the south myself, these stories felt familiar, as did many of the recipes. The very mention of red eye gravy had me fiercely missing my grandpa. Bragg is a truly gifted storyteller; thoughtful and damned funny, too. This memoir is a big ol’ hug.

Meeting Bragg at last year’s Southern Festival of Books was a pl
Martha Avans
Mar 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-reading
Thanks to Netgalley for letting me read this early.
This was the first Rick Bragg book I've read. And I can't wait to read more. Loved the inside look into this family by memories and recipes. Loved all the recipes, because I know they are family, shared over the years, just like some of my favorite recipes.
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Dear Mr. Bragg,
You made me cry during a story about hamburgers. You made laugh during a story about a beloved pet who gets run over by a truck when the occupants are late to an important fried chicken dinner. You made me hungry. I am left missing my grandparents and wanting desperately to make some cubed steak for dinner. Thank you for these stories.

As other reviewers have mentioned, there are a few places where I felt some careful editing may have made this a better book overall. Yet, I didn
Oct 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the sweetest, tenderest, most endearing memoirs I have ever read from a boy to his mother, his grandmother and grandfather, and all the cooks in his life. I love Rick Bragg and the praise for his books (he has won a Pulitzer) is well deserved. But you MUST listen to him narrate the book or you will miss the whole point. At first you will say to yourself, I can't listen to ten minutes of this slow, southern drawl. Then after ten minutes you will say, I never want to stop listening! ...more
Peggy Wright
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even though this is a book filled with his mother's recipes, I did not see it as a cookbook, but a memoir and family history filled with cultural stories about life in the south and how poor people survived as they center their lives around food. Bragg's rich language feels like he is talking directly to you, not writing words on a page. Even though this is a long book, I could not wait to pick it up and experience the great love and reverence he has for the southern culture and environment and ...more
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I only allowed myself to read one chapter at a time because I did not want the book to come to an end. Bragg makes me want to devour foods that I would never want to try. How does he manage to make pig's feet sound delicious? I love that he writes about regular people in an unpretentious way. He doesn't turn the people in his books into Southern caricatures; he appreciates them for who they are. ...more
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Rick Bragg is the Pulitzer Prize winning writer of best-selling and critically acclaimed books on the people of the foothills of the Appalachians, All Over but the Shoutin, Ava's Man, and The Prince of Frogtown.

Bragg, a native of Calhoun County, Alabama, calls these books the proudest examples of his writing life, what historians and critics have described as heart-breaking anthems of people usual

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