Southern Cooking

Edna Lewis

It all started with Edna Lewis's cookbook The Gift of Southern Cooking, which she wrote with Scott Peacock. Well, no, it really all started with my grandmother and my mother, two very proud southern women. I don't remember being indoctrinated, per se, with a love of southern cooking. It was just there. Spoonbread with ham. Corn fritters with maple syrup. Mint Juleps. Lady Baltimore cake. My mother was born in Baltimore, and more than that was, a Ford, and that was a proud heritage, albeit a somewhat infamous one (until you start reading about my ancestor, John T. Ford, owner of Ford's Theater where President Lincoln was shot). When I read Edna Lewis's cookbook I experience a wave of nostalgia that is so strong. Even though I grew up in Ohio I relate to this southern way of looking at food. And by that I mean the values of loving simple, earthy, natural food. It's not that my mother was a fantastic cook, but it was that she valued the cooking and serving of real food every evening at dinner. I'm not sure where I'm going with this, except to share the recipe for the cookies pictured below, and to point you to an article that Edna Lewis wrote about what "Southern" is. It's long, but worth it and you can read it here. And here is the cookie recipe...serve them up with iced tea or lemonade, and sit back and enjoy the rest of summer!


Miss Lewis mentions buttermilk cookies, which she pairs with ice-cold lemonade, but as far as we know, she never committed a recipe to paper. When we developed one, the big debate was about texture: Soft or crisp? What you see here is the cookie of your dreams, with a tender interior and the slightest bit of crispness around the edge.


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk


  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 3 tablespoons well-shaken buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  • Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter 2 large baking sheets.
  • Whisk together flour, zest, baking soda, and salt.
  • Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla. Mix in flour mixture and buttermilk alternately in batches at low speed, beginning and ending with flour mixture, until smooth.
  • Drop level tablespoons of dough about 1 1/2 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until cookies are puffed and edges are golden, 12 to 15 minutes per batch. Cool cookies on sheets 1 minute, then transfer cookies to racks.


  • Whisk together all glaze ingredients and brush onto tops of warm cookies.
  • Let stand until cookies are completely cooled and glaze is set.
COOKS' NOTE: Cookies are best the day they're made but can be frozen, wrapped well, up to 1 month.


annamaria said...

I know very little about Southern Cooking so thank you both for the recipe and the link. I would love to hear more of your story as well. Sounds very interesting.xx

Kathryn said...

Sweet post, I love memories. Although the Southern cooking you speak of was last seen in my deep south (I'm from Northern Alabama and North Florida) in my grandmother's kitchen back in the 70's. Unfortunately, the southern cooking my generation grew up on consisted of lots of canned food (and not the home canned version), sigh. Alas, I like the idea of going back to those old recipes and reviving them and retouching my good ole southern roots myself. Thanks for inspiring me!

Lari Washburn said...

Thanks to both of you. It's nice to know people still care about these things!

cynthia said...

Edna was an amazing person! I am originally from North Carolina and am very familiar with her story. I also grew up around my mom, aunts and grandmother cooking in the kitchen. Oh those smells!! I have some of their recipes but when I cook them they never taste the same! Just the thought of fried okra and collard greens makes my mouth water!! Thanks for reviving the memories!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...