Read this cookbook: “The Farmhouse Chef: Recipes & Stories from My Carolina Farm” by Jamie DeMent (University of North Carolina Press, $35)
By Wendell Brock
Jamie DeMent grew up an only child and grandchild in rural North Carolina, where her family ran a farm-supply store.
After seeing the world a bit and working for a congressman in Washington, D.C. — she was once quoted as saying she “led a very prissy existence, in very high heels and very short skirts” — she met a man who had owned a farm outside Hillsborough, N.C.
Today at Coon Rock Farm, DeMent and her partner, Richard Holcomb, grow produce and livestock to serve at their Durham, N.C., restaurant, Piedmont, and to sell via their online farmers market, Bella Bean Organics.
And yet, refreshingly, DeMent is not a chef.
She’s a farm cook with a deep sense of place and an abiding connection to the bounty that comes from the idyllic Eno River landscape she calls home.
Thus, her first cookbook is a family-style affair, with more than 150 recipes inspired by her father, mother and grandmothers: simple, honest food that makes quick use of the cows, hogs, chickens, turkeys and heirloom vegetables cultivated right outside her farmhouse door.
She even tells the story of their first dairy cow, Eudora Welty, and Eudora’s “much-anticipated firstborn,” who arrived on a cold Christmas Day. The calf was an ornery cuss. They brought her in by the fire, gave her a bottle and named her Harper Lee. (Just think about that for a moment.)
From Southern literature to Cretan Lamb Kebabs, it’s impossible not to warm to DeMent’s stories and recipes, which range from familiar regional classics to contemporary creations.
I’m quite intrigued by Berry Compote with Ricotta and Toasted Peanuts; Potato Dumplings with Spring Roots; and Chicken and Butterbean Pot Pie. How comforting.
If you’re already thinking of fall dishes, you might consider DeMent’s Pear and Bacon Salad, Roasted Chicken Thighs with Sweet Potatoes and Apples, Trout Pecandine or Beef and Blue Cheese Pie. She even makes an Apple Old Fashioned.
I’ll drink to that.
Wendell Brock is an Atlanta food and culture writer, frequent AJC contributor and winner of a 2016 James Beard Foundation Award for journalism. Follow him on Twitter (@MrBrock) and Instagram (@WendellDavidBrock).