Home Baker Serves Up Family Jewels

printed in The Clarion Ledger – Jackson, Mississippi

This time last year I was cranking up a long-winded baking chat with Sheree Rose Kelley. Her husband Alton, CEO of Belle Meade Plantation in Nashville, is a friend from days at Ole Miss with energy to outshine any super hero. A few years ago, he introduced me to his wife Sheree who has super hero powers of her own.

I locked into her girl next door beauty and was taken with her enthusiastic and surprised manner. She is as open to new information as if awarded a lump of gold. I am grateful for that character trait as I was eventually in the business of making recommendations for her dream project, a legacy of compiled recipe riches from her Pulaski, Tennessee roots and subsequent Nashville wings.

For some time she had discussed the venture, a dream that she promised her Grandmommie she would one day curate. Last fall provided the dedicated timing for her first cookbook collection. We contacted Nautilus Publishing and discussed with Neil White the smorgasbord of possible contents and finally settled on the topic of Breads & Spreads. She was off on the culinary adventure of a lifetime.

Though I’ve never worked in a restaurant kitchen, I can imagine that procurement, mise en place and work schedule are much the same as with cookbook creation. Many a day, I was up early testing the most recently retrieved memory by way of Sheree’s beloveds.

Loaf pans, baking sheets, muffin tins, whisks, and mixers lined the counters throwing shadows in an endless production of her familial treasures. Dining tales and receipts flowed from Sheree’s memory securing a heart warming and snug circle of family, neighbors and small town revelry.

Our almost daily exchange began with her reserve of recipes and sentiments about their origins. I reciprocated with recipe-testing and questions to clarify for the home cook who takes Breads & Spreads into their cookbook library as an ultimate resource.

And that is how the family jewels are documented. A gorgeous plus is how this volume became enhanced with photography by Michael Gomez and food styling by Amanda Alberto. Certainly, one should note husband Alton for his solicitous on spot support and Sheree herself for preparing every single entry for a glamor shot.

So she did it. Sheree chronicled the family treasure trove – a promise kept and a generational challenge extended. Whether it be an historic kitchen nest egg to draw out discussion of how it was done or a prompt for the proper meal with yummy bread stuffs to round out the table, generations will favor the southern candor and heart that fill this cookbook. A luxury too is the swiss binding which unlocks the insoluble: how to flatten an open cookbook without breaking its spine.

Breads & Spreads is a superb value to dream through or read in detail with classic and modern categories that life has taught you to love: breads, biscuits, appetizers, cornbreads, rolls, specialties, spreads and gravies to cover it all.

My personal favorite are Grandma Rose’s Hoe Cakes – whip them up and feel your eyes roll back in delight – a stellar way to pipe in the Honey Butter or Country Ham Spread. Sheree says that Aunt Chennie’s Hushpuppies might be her choice as they remind her of the good time fish fry in Pulaski.

You know what you’re hungry for and more than likely it has something to do with bread, even better if it touches that childhood memory, so much tastier if you made it yourself. As a gift for you and your people, Sheree Rose Kelley’s Breads & Spreads has the deeply southern instructions on how to begin.

Renewing the memories of years lived in Mississippi and Tennessee while nurturing the blog Ms Cook’s Table http://www.mscookstable.com, Roben Mounger freelances about small farmers and seasonal eating. Breads & Spreads is the second cookbook that she has mentored.

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