Monday, July 18, 2011

Made in Mississippi: Martha Hall Foose

Martha at at Pluto Plantation, her family farm south of Greenwood, Mississippi

Besides being ground zero for pie and sausage and casseroles, this kitchen also inspires much of the warmth and wit that permeate Foose’s two cookbooks: the James Beard Foundation Cookbook Award–winning Screen Doors and Sweet Tea and the newly released A Southerly Course. Foose wrote chunks of them here, in her family’s circa-1914 ancestral home, sitting at the Formica table in the corner and staring out the window. It’s that connection to place that make culinary types swoon. Jonathan Gold, the Pulitzer Prize–winning food critic, has listed her cookbooks among those from the South that he loves best. Her food and tales of everyday Delta life have resonated with home cooks, too.

One of her latest gig was as a food stylist for The Help, the movie version of the best-selling novel. To recreate a Mississippi table of the 1960s, Foose made camera-friendly aspics, a gingerbread house, 580 pieces of rumaki, Peking duck, and a masterful clove-studded glazed ham. 

The 2,100-acre family farm is the kind of lonely place where approaching guests are identified by the sound of their trucks. The farm, much of which is now a wildlife refuge, is situated near the tiny town of Tchula and the Yazoo River. The property’s name is a mystery, but Foose notes that Pluto is a god of the underworld: “If you can imagine living out here in 1889 before there were any levees—maybe that’s the reason.”

Copy and images from Garden and Gun.

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