Sara Foster, owner of Foster's Market, gourmet takeout shops and cafes in Chapel Hill and Durham, has returned to her Tennessee roots with her fourth cookbook, "Sara Foster's Southern Kitchen."
Foster, 58, grew up in Jackson, Tenn., about halfway between Memphis and Nashville. She dropped out of college and pursued a career in food, eventually ending up in New York as a chef for Martha Stewart's catering company.
In the late 1980s, she and her husband, Peter Sellers, moved to North Carolina and opened the Durham store in 1990 in a former lawn mower repair shop.
She opened the Chapel Hill location eight years later.
Foster sat down recently to chat about her new book, myths about Southern food and her Granny Foster's recipe collection.
Q: Have you always wanted to do a Southern cookbook?
Yes, absolutely. I've always been influenced by Southern cooking obviously because I grew up in the South. Having moved back to North Carolina, [I have been] reintroduced to all those things I love about Southern food.
For me, it's really ingredient-driven. The things I love about Southern food are things like the field peas and okra and heirloom tomatoes.
So I really wanted to do this book. It's kind of a combination of a lot of different things; my version of Southern ... and a lot of my family recipes, which are more traditional Southern, like my grandmother's fried chicken, my father's dill pickles.
For me, it's the most personal cookbook that I've written.
Q: What else were you trying to accomplish with this book?
I also wanted to let people know that the South isn't just about fried chicken.
As much as we all love it and eat it occasionally, it's not the way my generation and your generation of Southerners eat anymore. I think that's kind of a myth for people who don't live here.
Q: Where did the idea for the book come from?
The idea really came when my sister gave me my grandmother's collection of recipes, which is this little notebook where she had all these handwritten recipes on the back of canceled checks and brown grocery bags where she had just torn it off and written things.
When I moved back to North Carolina, I would call my sister and go: "Can you give me Granny Foster's recipe for blah-blah-blah? Can you give me Granny Foster's recipe?"
Finally, she was like: "Here, it's yours."
It was all these great recipes. I'm still going to do something with it. There's a lot of them in here but not nearly all of them.
My favorite chapter that I think reflects her the most are the pickle recipes.
She and my grandfather had a farm. So, of course, they had a huge vegetable garden. They spent most of the summer canning and freezing things for the winter. That was their way of life.
I was reading all these great pickle and relish and jam recipes. I got into that whole canning thing, testing and doing recipes for this book. It was really fun to explore that. I had done it with her when I was growing up but that was years ago.
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