Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Little Local Cookbook Raisin' the Bar on Old Nashville Eats

Posted By on Wed, Feb 10, 2010 at 12:38 PM

click to enlarge The Southern Foodways Alliance gave John Egerton this lifetime achievement award in 2003. His cookbook "The New Lovin' Spoonfuls" is a gem.
  • The Southern Foodways Alliance gave John Egerton this lifetime achievement award in 2003. His cookbook "The New Lovin' Spoonfuls" is a gem.

Long before Gabby's, the restaurant in that little place on Humphreys Street was a much-loved meat-and-three called Hap Townes. It was so good -- really old-time food, made fresh every day. Hap himself was a treasure, too, with his deferential manner and geniality.

Back then, meat-and-three cuisine wasn't as firmly set in stone as it can be now, and different places had different quirky offerings. At Hap's, that included stewed raisins.

Strange as the dish sounds, they were legendary, and you can find recipes for Hap's stewed raisins on the Internet, including this one, as related by music writer Chet Flippo.

Hap Townes' Stewed Raisin recipe is also captured for posterity in a little book of recipes collected and published by the great Nashville writer and historian of Southern culture and food, John Egerton.

Egerton's book, called The New Lovin' Spoonfuls is a compilation of three family cookbooks put together over the years. The recipes represent the kind of precious knowledge you wish you'd take the time to collect and compile.

The first section has fabulous '60s favorites like spiced tea mix and hot curried fruit, plus family favorites and recipes from friends; sprinkled throughout are old-time family recipes like his Kentucky relatives' spoonbread, yeast rolls and cornbread dressing; and specialties of friends like W.O. Smith's Bean Soup, Jim Leeson's Bread Pudding and Will Campbell's Stuffed Peppers. At the book's center is a reproduced feature John wrote in 1982 for the New York Times on country ham and beaten biscuits.

Maybe it's that John lived two blocks from where I grew up, but it seems to me that New Lovin' Spoonfuls captures 40 years of what I ate, too. To order a copy, write Spoonfuls, 4014 Copeland Drive, Nashville, TN 37215.

To read more about Hap Townes, see Egerton's interview with him, conducted for the Nashville Oral History project and the Southern Foodways Alliance (Click the link to read it.).

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