New South Table....The Beginning
My daddy and my uncle built the ranch style home in which I grew up. We lived there for the first 19 years of my life. I remember spending hours in my mama’s small kitchen when I was a little girl watching her prepare every meal. As I grew older, I began to take more notice of how and what she did to make her food taste so good. It was in that kitchen where I learned the basics every southern girl needs to know like how to peel a potato, dice an onion, sharpen a knife, make homemade biscuits, bake cakes, follow directions in a cookbook and most importantly, fry chicken! My mama gave me plenty of opportunities to learn, to make mistakes and to create my own recipes.
This is a picture of the kitchen inside the "house that built me", so to speak.
I grew to love cooking, so much so that during my teenage years, I became somewhat of the head chef in my household. You see, my mama was a great cook, but she simply did not enjoy it the way I did, so she was more than willing to pass the torch!
My favorite memories of being in the kitchen with my mama are related to the holidays. Every December, we always made a variety of “goodies” as she would call them. There were chocolate covered pretzels, peanut butter balls, almond joy balls, trail mix, blondies, fruit cake, chocolate covered peanut butter crackers, sausage balls and chocolate pecan clusters. Everything was stored in Christmas tins and we would help ourselves to these special treats throughout the two to three weeks leading up to Christmas. This was such an important time for me that I continued this tradition with my daughter. Each year we set aside a day to bake, listen to Christmas music, laugh and snack on our finished products! My mama, my niece and my sister-in-law often join in on the fun. For me, those are memories that will be cherished an entire lifetime.
Our Christmas tree circa 1977.
I cannot pinpoint when or where I first realized that cooking was such an integral part of who I am as a person. I guess over time, I just realized I was pretty good at creating my own recipes, developing different flavor profiles and trying new things. They say things get better with age and I believe I have developed my own sense of cooking style and techniques over the years.
Christmas mid 1970s.
My parents in the kitchen together - mid 1980s
I was in my late twenties when Sydney was born. By the time she was old enough to stand on a stool in the kitchen, I was teaching her how to bake cupcakes and cookies. When she was a pre-teen, she began to show quite a bit of interest in cooking. She would often ask me if she could bake something on her own. Remembering the “loose reigns” my mama had given me, I allowed Sydney the same opportunities to learn, create and grow her own cooking and baking skills. Today, a junior in college and possessing some pretty impressive culinary skills of her own, Sydney is a fundamental part of this blog and the entire New South Table endeavor. She provides a tremendous amount of research as well as recipe development and testing. She is a phenomenal baker and pastry chef in her own right. As a mother, this is pretty exciting because she is the main reason New South Table was born. Let me tell you more.
The very first cookbook I owned.
This became the first of many in my personal collection.
It all started with my love for cookbooks. I mean, I REALLY love cookbooks. I have an entire wall in my office dedicated to my cookbook collection. More specifically, I really love heirloom cookbooks with recipes that have a history behind them. I own quite a few of these in my collection and I am constantly on the lookout for them in used bookstores and antique malls, but the strangest thing is I do not have ANY cookbooks that belonged to my own grandmothers. You see, my Dad’s mother died when he was 6 years old. At the time of his mother’s death, his older sister became the primary cook in their household of 11 children. I have no idea what kind of cookbooks were used, if any at all. My maternal grandmother died when I was 8 years old. I know she was a great cook because my mama learned her skills from her and I also remember eating her vegetable soup which was delicious! However, I do not recall spending time with her in the kitchen and I have no idea what happened to her cookbooks. Perhaps the fact that I don’t have this bit of heritage from my own family drove me to collecting cookbooks in the first place.
When Sydney was 8 years old, I began to archive all of my favorite recipes and placing them inside a huge three ring binder. When I created a recipe, I would make a copy and file it in the binder for safe keeping. I wanted her to have her own copy of all the recipes I used the most. Over time, I realized that our three ring binder was not big enough and handwritten recipes were just not that easy to read. Between developing my own recipes as well as collecting recipes I had used over the years, my binder seemed to be getting smaller and smaller!
One year for Mother’s Day, Sydney took the binder and began typing each recipe and saving them in Word format onto a jump drive. The task was so enormous that I began to help. We quickly realized that it was a bigger job than either of us expected. A couple of years went by working periodically on this project and Sydney suggested that I start an online blog instead of using Word. I thought this was a great idea because I have always loved to share my recipes. As a matter of fact, I simply don't understand those who want to keep recipes a big secret....but that is another story for another day.
The blogging adventure seemed like a good idea, but I knew very little about food blogging. What I did know about food blogging came in the form of scouring the internet and realizing there was a ton of work involved in creating a great blog!
Because my professional background is in online education, I knew quite a bit about blogging platforms and online tools, but absolutely NOTHING about food blogging. I had a lot to learn, but I started the blog anyway. Sydney helped me decide on a name and I began the process of building the site. I did not share it publicly at that time because I had read enough food blogs that I knew I would need to brush up on food photography skills before I publicized it. A couple of my coworkers have been instrumental in helping me along this journey. I work with some amazing people who know a thing or two about website design and the blogging world.
Over the course of a year, I realized the blog site I was using was not going to be the best choice, so I purchased my own domain name and moved everything over to the new site. My vision? I wanted the finished product to be something Sydney could share with her future children. I also wanted to share my recipes with others. It needed to look well thought out, attractive and presentable.
I unveiled New South Table last fall. Since then, I have learned quite a bit about the blogging world. I have learned more about social media than I ever cared to know. I have spent many late nights refining my recipes and developing the site. I have met some pretty awesome food bloggers along the way and I continue to soak in as much knowledge from them as I possibly can.
I will be the first to admit that my website does not have all the bells and whistles that some of the more popular food blogs have. It is a work in progress. Having a great site takes time, a lot of work and patience….and I am in no hurry. While I do appreciate the labor of other bloggers and I highly respect those who are doing this for a living, I prefer that my site demonstrate my vision which means it is free of clutter and ads that are not representative of my cooking or southern heritage.
I want it to be simple.
Reflective of my southern upbringing.
Short stories and reflections of days gone by.
A reminder of good times spent with the ones I love.
Focus on the recipes and keep the stories relevant and to the point.
Most of all, I want the dishes to be delicious and the recipes easy to follow with ingredients that are commonly found in my neck of the woods.
I will likely publish my own cookbook in the near future. In the meantime, my vision for this blog is for it to be comparable to an heirloom…a treasured chronicle of recipes and a few short stories that are passed down to my daughter and shared with others from all walks of life.
Welcome to New South Table.