Thursday, April 14, 2011

Why I Love Martha Foose

There are many reasons I love Martha Foose. First off, one of my early feature stories for Delta Magazine was a profile on Martha and her then restaurant and bakery, Mockingbird, in Greenwood. At the time she had a baby boy named Joe (who's now grown into a young man of 8 years) and was getting her initial taste for managing professional life with motherhood. She served me a pimento cheese with unsweet tea on Donald's (her husband) perfected sourdough bread and shared with me that it was his bread, not his charm, that first won her heart during their courtship in Oxford, Mississippi.

Donald would soon become a dear friend of my father (who is well 30 years Donald's senior) and the two became somewhat staple figures of the local farmer's market. I'd call home from Nashville and find that Daddy and Donald had been drinking Scotch on the patio at the Alluvian, or that he and my brother Preston had killed a hog the weekend before. After my parents moved to Jackson, I think they missed the Foose/Bender family more than neighbors they'd known for years.

Martha is a character. She can tell you a backroad dirty joke with one hand and feed you French cuisine from fine china with the other. She loves a good band and a good party. She could choose to live in NYC or LA and be the toast of the town, but she cherishes her Mississippi roots and elects to stay here in her native land. These are reasons why I love Martha Foose. These are reasons based on a short friendship I had with her in the Delta, and one that has continued to grow through our interviews for the Arts Hour radio show.

But there are other reasons I love Martha Foose. Reasons that I most likely share with anyone who ever thumbed through, or cooked from, her first cookbook, Screen Doors and Sweet Tea. She is a storyteller. She captures the places, personalities and peculiar ways of the Delta in a conversational style that makes you feel like you are listening to an old friend. But then, man oh man, she pairs those stories with recipes and ingredients that get even the most seasoned cook excited to bring down the cast-iron skillet or light the grill. (I am no baker, but I can only imagine what her desserts do for the sweets and treats type.)

Martha is running the road ragged touring her new book, A Southerly Course: Recipes and Stories from Close to Home, and the party is following close behind. And I don't mean to say that Martha has an entourage of rockers sipping Budweiser at the back of the bookstore (or does she?). What I mean to say is that as soon as you pick up A Southerly Course there is going to be a party quickly to follow: at your house, in your backyard, with family, with friends, with neighbors and strangers who follow their noses into your kitchen and into your life.

So thank you, Martha. I'm your biggest fan in Fondren. Maybe in all of Jackson.

And your Peanut Chicken recipe won me some strong praise at my deck party last night. Just another reason I love Martha Foose.

Tune to MPB Radio Sunday, May 8 at 3 p.m. to hear Martha and I jive about food, music, family and all things Mississippi.

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