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Potluck, Postscripts and Potpourri

By: Jean Gay Mussleman
Reviewed by: Sherry Kughn
Mindbridge Press, 2009
$32, Hardcover

Those who love the South will enjoy the cookbook memoir Potluck, Postscripts & Potpourri by Jean Gay Mussleman of the Oakland community near Florence. Mussleman interjects a down-home wholesomeness when tying personal stories to time-honored Southern recipes. In the process, she preserves stories of her growing-up years in the 1930s to present times. She writes stories behind many near-forgotten customs that older generations witnessed as children, such as watching their mothers cut up raw chicken, throwing barn parties for neighbors, listening to elderly relatives, honoring their ancestral homes, and celebrating all holidays with food and family.

Mussleman and her husband David are deeply embedded in their rural community: he served the Florence area as a veterinarian, and she worked as a social worker, city council woman, and business owner. In 1986, she started Eldercare Services after failing to find quality home health care for her elderly father. During all of the Musslemans’ decades-long marriage, they have raised children, helped neighbors, and served their church. Their focus on traditional Southern food is typical of their heydays, especially since they lived in a community abounding in home-grown vegetables and farm animals. The cookbook could stand on its own with only the recipes, but the stories, songs, letters, and sepia-colored photographs add richness to the reading of the book that even non-cooks will enjoy.

The book has two indexes, one for family stories and another for recipes by category. Some stories intrigue with titles such as “The Meringue that Tattled,” “Old Dogs and New Pickles,” and “The Mystery of the Dented Spoons.” The category index has recipes with individualized names such as Martha Daniel’s Jambalaya, Miss Kathy’s Chicken ’n Dumplins, Jim Price Chicken Stew, and Janet’s Oven-Fried Pecan Chicken. There are recipes with place names such as Kentucky Burgoo, a soup made of pork beef and chicken; Flower Garden Cake, an angel-food cake with pineapple, lemons, and garnishes of mint and cherries; and Italian Strata, an interesting dish with pepperoni, bread, and olives. Some recipes must be at least read because of their titles, such as Dolly Parton Soup, Sorry Cookies, and Okra Hors D’oeuvres.

Folks such as the Musslemans prove that two people working together can accomplish much more than any individual. They are “natural resources” who raise families, serve others, and feed multitudes. The Musslemans’ book stands as a testimony to their accomplishment. Nov 2009

Anniston author Sherry Kughn has three inspiration trade paperbacks by Lambert Book House in Florence on the market, the latest of which is God’s Bouquet for Empty Nesters.

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