- Written by Kent Whitaker
A Hometown Taste of America, One State at a Time
The State Hometown Cookbook Series is a collection of cookbooks that are the perfect addition to any home cook’s library and also appeal to the armchair traveler. There are currently five finished editions in the series, Georgia Hometown Cookbook, Louisiana Hometown Cookbook, Mississippi Hometown Cookbook, South Carolina Hometown Cookbook, Tennessee Hometown Cookbook, Texas Hometown Cookbook, and the West Virginia Hometown Cookbook . Each book is a collection of tried and true recipes that preserve the regional food traditions of the state. You’ll find recipes for dishes that families have enjoyed over and over again.
More than just great food! Authors Sheila Simmons and Kent Whitaker pay particular attention to the way the recipes are presented to ensure that each one is easy-to-follow with instructions that are clear and concise. Don’t expect a lot of difficult, gourmet recipes that require a special trip to the grocery store. The Hometown Cookbook Series focuses on good ol’ home cooking and recipes that can be made “right from your pantry.”
In addition to the recipes, each book features interesting sidebars about fun food-related festivals throughout the state plus entertaining pictures of the festivals and other sights in the state. The Hometown Cookbook Series is a particular favorite of that special kind of cookbook collector who enjoys reading their cookbooks like novels.
More than just cookbooks, the Hometown Cookbook Series is preserving your recipes for the next generation of hometown cooks.
A Little Q&A with co-authors Sheila Simmons and Kent Whitaker
Why did you decide to write the State Hometown Cookbook Series?
KW - While working with my co-author, Sheila Simmons, on my other cookbooks we realized that we both love talking to people and collecting recipes from small-town America as well as chefs in larger cities. I think this series is a natural extension of our enjoying what we do while also trying to preserve some of the recipes, dishes and hometown feelings of our childhood.
SS - I love to cook, but even more than that, I love to collect recipes. No matter where I go, the subject always seems to turn to recipes and I always get a really great recipe from whomever I'm talking to. This love of collecting recipes, my 20 years experience in the publishing profession, along with a conversation with long-time friend and well-known cookbook author, Kent Whitaker, resulted in the FIRST book in the Hometown Cookbook Series, Tennessee Hometown Cookbook, and the series has grown from there.
Do you have a favorite recipe in the series?
SS - That would be like asking if I have a favorite child! They are all my favorites. If I had to give you a list that I felt defines the series, I would choose ...Jack Black Barbecued Ribs from Tennessee because you have to love that Tennessee barbecue, MoonPie Vanilla Pudding because it is super-easy and the MoonPie was born in Tennessee, 4 Ingredient Butterscotch Cake because it represents our desire to include recipes that are easy to make and use ingredients you already have in your pantry, Easy Cinnamon Coffee Cake from Georgia is one of my all-time favorite recipes, Cast-Iron Skillet Cheese Potatoes is a recipe Kent discovered from Georgia and as soon as I read it, I knew I would love it – and I do!
KW - Just about all cake and pie recipes are my favorites! I love talking to people about their favorite desserts. Can't you remember the smell of a fresh-baked cake in your grandmother or mom's kitchen?
Why write a hometown cookbook? Is that different from a general cookbook?
SS - Our State Hometown Cookbook Series carries that name because it is our goal to preserve the recipes that have been made over and over again throughout the years and present them to a new generation of cooks. Sure, you will find short-cut recipes that take advantage of new ingredients and new cooking equipment, but you will also discover that our recipes never skimp on taste.
KW - With the hometown cookbooks we try to capture a variety of recipes, celebrations and festivals that offer a fresh taste of hometowns across the United States. We wanted to do a cookbook that offered more than just recipes. We want readers to feel as if they were coming home for a visit.
Is this your first cookbook?
KW - No, thankfully, I have been blessed to author several other books. My Smoke in the Mountains Cookbook and Checkered Flag Cooking were published by Quail Ridge Press (Brandon, Mississippi). I also have two children’s books—Why are the Mountains Smoky? (Overmountain Press) and Big Mo’s Tennis Ball Hunt (Great American Publishers) which is about my dog, Moses, who travels the country with me promoting ALPO® Chop House Originals Ribeye-Flavored dog food.
SS - Yes. I have been a cookbook publisher and editor for 20 years, but this is the first time I have authored a cookbook. When Kent and I worked out the details for the State Hometown Cookbook Series, I knew this was just the product I had been waiting for. It’s fun to be on the other side of a book for a change.
Do you plan to do more cookbooks?
SS - Oh, Yes. We have completed Tennessee Hometown Cookbook, Georgia Hometown Cookbook, and Texas Hometown Cookbook. Alaska Hometown Cookbook and Louisiana Hometown Cookbook are both already in production with Mississippi following closely behind.
KW - I can't imagine stopping! I love food, people and talking to people about food. My cookbooks are the way I can combine all the ingredients of the things I love to do. Sheila and I will be writing Hometown cookbooks for more and more states.
Do your cookbooks have more than just recipes?
KW - Much more! Each book contains a fun slice of life across the state.
SS - It does. Over the years, so many people tell us, “I take my cookbooks to bed and read them like novels.” For this reason, we wanted to include, in addition to really great recipes, extra information that would be fun and enjoyable to read. Each book has many, many fun festivals throughout the state and throughout the year so we decided to include the ones that were food-related in sidebars throughout the book. Readers will be treated with the date, location and information about each festival as well as contact information to find out more about the event.
How did you decide which festivals to include in the book? Are all the state’s festivals included?
SS- We chose to concentrate on food-related festivals which seemed a natural fit for a cookbook. Many of the festivals are ones we have attended, but we also extensively researched all areas of the state for more obscure festivals that should be included. While we knew we wanted to include the festivals, we didn’t bargain on how much fun it would be to talk to the people about their inclusion in the book. It is a fun process to speak to good, hometown people people and hear their enthusiasm for their particular event. We find everyone to be extremely helpful in providing the information we need and their excitement about our book is contagious.
Thanks! Both the Simmons family and the Whitaker family wish to thank all of our readers as well as everyone that has helped us with recipes and more.