Monday, January 30, 2023

TBR Tarot Reads - Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns, and Other Southern Specialties

At the end of 2022 Wendy over at Literary Feline posted about these fantastic TBR Tarot Cards she had picked up on Etsy and that sounded too good to resist so I immediately ordered my own set.  So when I'm not feeling strongly about what to read next I pull out my cards and pick a book based on the prompt.  Here is a book the fates chose for me recently.

Prompt:  Choose a book which has a dedication to "Mum"

Blurb: Julia Reed spends a lot of time thinking about ham biscuits. And cornbread and casseroles and the surprisingly modern ease of donning a hostess gown for one’s own party. In Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns and Other Southern Specialties Julia Reed collects her thoughts on good cooking and the lessons of gracious entertaining that pass from one woman to another, and takes the reader on a lively and very personal tour of the culinary—and social—South.
 In essays on everything from pork chops to the perfect picnic Julia Reed revels in the simple good qualities that make the Southern table the best possible place to pull up a chair. She expounds on: the Southerner’s relentless penchant for using gelatin; why most things taste better with homemade mayonnaise; the necessity of a holiday milk punch (and, possibly, a Santa hat); how best to “cook for compliments” (at least one squash casserole and Lee Bailey’s barbequed veal are key). She provides recipes for some of the region’s best-loved dishes (cheese straws, red velvet cake, breakfast shrimp), along with her own variations on the classics, including Fried Oysters Rockefeller Salad and Creole Crab Soup. She also elaborates on worthwhile information every hostess would do well to learn: the icebreaking qualities of a Ramos gin fizz and a hot crabmeat canapĂ©, for example; the “wow factor” intrinsic in a platter of devilled eggs or a giant silver punchbowl filled with scoops of homemade ice cream. There is guidance on everything from the best possible way to “eat” your luck on New Year’s Day to composing a menu in honor of someone you love. Grace and hilarity under gastronomic pressure suffuse these essays, along with remembrances of her gastronomic heroes including Richard Olney, Mary Cantwell, and M.F.K. Fisher. Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns and Other Southern Specialties is another great book about the South from Julia Reed, a writer who makes her experiences in—and out of—the kitchen a joy to read.

My Thoughts:  Technically the dedication is "To My Mother" but I call it close enough.  This was the only book I had on my shelves (without digging deep into the stacks) that was dedicated to just the mother.  I had several that were dedicated to both parents or multiple generations or entire families but only one dedicated to just the author's mother.

This was a fun book of essays about eating in the Junior League world in the South with some forays into dinner parties in D.C. and Manhattan.  There's amazing descriptions of food and ingredients and dinner parties as well as yummy sounding recipes of varying degrees of difficulties.  

This is a quick read though best read in small doses.  While Reed's stories are entertaining read in large doses it can be a bit much and come off a bit pretentious.  

If you have a connection to the South or a love of Southern food this is a fun read to dip into.


  1. It sure sounds interesting. I'm going to start to pay more attention to the dedications now.

  2. Fun idea! I rarely read or remember dedications. I do love my Southern food so this sounds very interesting.

  3. I'd think Mother on Mom are interchangeable! What fun the book tarot cards are.