Friday, June 15, 2007

QQF File: Norma Jean's Spoonbread

Sometimes you need to take a fresh look at your own neighborhood to see some of the amazing stories and people who are your neighbors. For me, I have recently learned about the talents of Norma Jean Darden, an ex Wilhemina model who owns Spoonbread Too, a restaurant of Southern cooking on the Upper Upper West Side. The story goes that a Vogue editor suggested she write a cookbook of recipes from her childhood. It was first published in 1979 and reissued in a 25th anniversary edition:

"This 25th Anniversary Edition of SPOONBREAD AND STRAWBERRY WINE, is much more than another cook-book of Southern cuisine. It is a tribute to a one-of-a-kind family, told through soul-satisfying memories and recipes; a classic collection of home cooking, remedies and reminiscences. The inspiration for this book evolved from a family history project by sisters Norma Jean and Carole in the late 1970s. After extensive travel they had uncovered rare photographs and forgotten rituals of their family's rich African American heritage, which they used to embellish the recipes. With warmth and animation the sisters introduce the pioneers who inspired this book and their lives."

From the RAWSistaz review.

Norma then opened Aunt Mamie's on 110th Street, and later Aunt Maude's on Lexington. She helped me with a recent party, and her food was quite, quite fantastic. I'm going to get the cookbook now, which has seriously rave user reviews on Amazon, and see if I can bring some of her dishes to life myself.


Kathleen Maher said...

From the samples I tasted--or more aptly the samples I ate in excess for any single guest--the "Spoonbread" food entirely changed my preconceptions of Southern cooking. I hadn't expected it would continue to tantalize me several days later. From descriptions that were either completely wrong or which I mistakenly remembered that way, I had thought Southern cooking meant heavy, difficult-to-digest food. My experience with what I'm assuming came from Norma Jean Darden's fare was the opposite: so delicious I need only close my eyes to imagine savoring again all those delectable flavors.