Southern Supper Book Club: “Big Lies in a Small Town”

Southern Supper Book Club: “Big Lies in a Small Town”

It’s National Book Lover’s Day and my book club party planner is here! Host a Southern-style book club supper with “Big Lies In A Small Town” by Diane Chamberlain and these recipes from my cookbooks.

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I must admit, I was captivated by this book from the first sentence. After all the main character’s first name is Morgan.

Her surname is Christopher (name of my middle son) and her boyfriend’s name is Trey (name of oldest son). There’s a Jon in there somewhere, I’m sure!

The extra pull is that the novel is set in my adopted state of North Carolina jumping back and forth from the early forties and to the present. But it is the writing that really captures the reader. You feel like the characters are your peers. You find yourself dancing in a time warp while you are cheering for the heroine(s).

This is my next pick for our Super Supper Book Club. Gather your readers, give them the title and dole out the recipes for what will be a roller coaster discussion and meal.

Morgan Christopher’s life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit; she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women’s Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold―until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

I already cooked up some questions for your Super Supper Book Club gathering…

  • After a year, you get your hands on a cell phone for the first time. Who do you call? 
  • Was it brave or crazy for Jesse’s family to aid Anna?
  • Does Morgan ever come to accept that alcohol is a problem for her, or does she simply comply with her parole requirements?

My Southern inspiration for this Super Supper Book Club menu is Jesse’s family’s Sunday dinner. I take the liberty of substituting Anna’s least favorite vegetable (collard greens) with my delicious recipe for Swiss chard. I exchange corn on with cob for creamed corn. In place of stewed tomatoes liberated from the family’s root cellar, I substitute slow roasted cherry tomatoes.

The author didn’t mention a dessert, but I bet the farm, there was strawberry shortcake somewhere, sometime on Sundays. My swaps are allowed, because all these recipes are rooted in my love of the South. Lest there be controversary during the discussion, keep those paintbrushes close to allow everyone to express themselves.

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Super Supper Book Club Menu: “Big Lies in a Small Town” by Diane Chamberlain

Fried Chicken Basket

Sunday Best Dishes, page 71

Creamy Smashed Parmesan Potatoes

Sunday Best Dishes, page 280

Braised Rainbow Chard

Canvas and Cuisine, page 124

Old-Fashioned Cream Corn

Fresh Traditions, page 208

Slow Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Fresh Traditions, page 205

Photo by <a href="">Hello I'm Nik</a> on Unsplash

Southern-Style Strawberry Shortcake

Canvas and Cuisine, page 331

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Summertime and the Cornbread Is Easy

Summertime and the Cornbread Is Easy

It’s summer travelin’ season. What I love about family road trips are the stops at the local restaurants. Sure, there are all the standard fast food fair to choose from, but what if you plot your trip so that you visit a couple of the back road diners? One of my dear friends did this last summer. She and her daughter traveled from South Florida to New Orleans, and visited restaurants that are off the beaten path as they drove. The idea is to make the drive your trip. It’s not about how you arrive… it’s about where you drive.

Those of you with young children, need not think about this version of a summer vacation until they are much older! However us retired folk, with the time to spend with a family member or two (even if it’s just a couple of close friends), may be interested in using vacation to see all the local shops and outdoor venues – and using these to inform our dining experiences!

This recipe is one that is inspired by a trip we took a couple of years ago. Four good pals and I drove from the mountains of North Carolina to the big city of Atlanta. We stopped at a local mom and pop diner for a late breakfast. Cornbread and soft-swirled cinnamon butter were on the menu. We ordered it to go, with hash and poached eggs. It was delish!

It’s a perfect make-ahead dish for your next overnight camping trip. If you like, you can spice it up with the addition of diced jalapeno pepper, a handful of cheddar cheese, and a dash of chili powder in the batter. Scallions, cooked bacon and molasses are equally FUN additions. However, you spike your cornbread, don’t you dare forget to slather it with this decadent cinnamon flavored butter!

Whatever your travel plans are for this summer… remember to be safe, create memories and stop to smell the bacon!

Corn Bread with Texas Roadhouse Cinnamon Butter
Servings: 6 to 8
30 minute cuisine

For cornbread:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled to room temperature (1/2 stick)

For butter:
2 sticks butter, room temperature
¼ cup honey
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400 °. Spray an 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking pan with vegetable oil spray.
Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
Whisk together the buttermilk and eggs in a separate bowl. Stir in the butter. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake until the cornbread is golden on the top, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Place the softened butter, honey, confectioners’ sugar and ground cinnamon into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Transfer the butter to a small bowl.

While the cornbread is still warm, slather the top with cinnamon butter. Serve wedges of cornbread with additional butter on the side.