If you like Southern food interspersed with stories about the family folks who cook them, you’re in luck. Betsy Bramlett’s popular cookbook “We Eat Better Than Y’all Do” is currently available on Chattanooga area book store shelves in a new and improved version with more recipes, pictures and now captions.
“I was invited to a wedding last year and thought I’d give a cookbook as a present, but I didn’t have any left myself, so I started calling around town to just buy one. Everybody was sold out,” she said. “That’s when I knew I needed to get back to work.”
Instead of just reprinting her cookbook, Ms. Bramlett sought out “kith and kin” to add more southern recipes and photographs as well as get permission to identify faces and provide family histories to make more sense of the foods and the memories that go along with them.
“This time, instead of being threatened with my life or inheritance, my relatives were actually glad to help, because they began wondering who these people were in the pictures and the stories behind them and the recipes.”
“We Eat Better Than Y’all Do” runs the gamut…from heirloom recipes to tried and true ones…from family and friends stretching out through Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, New York, New Jersey and beyond.
“It’s got recipes like Nannie’s homemade mayonnaise, Mimi’s Slippery Sam Cake, Holy Chicken and 1000 Island dressing…something for everybody in all cooking categories,” she said, adding that some of the recipes - like Thad’s version of fruit cake - are just for laughs.
“The biggest category is desserts, and it’s a wonder we aren’t all as big as barns.”
One of her favorite tales and photographs involves cousin Eustace Winn, a McCallie School graduate who later earned his degree from the University of Mississippi.
“It’s like a chapter straight out of ‘Charlotte’s Webb’,” she said, and it’s appropriately told and pictured in the pork section of the book.
In short, Eustace rescued a runt pig out of an animal trap and took it to college with him. You’ll have to read about and see the snapshots of “Virgil” and Eustace in the cookbook to find out what happened to his porcine pal.
You’ll see many pictures and references to “Auntie Ann,” who considered Betsy one of her own children.
“To Auntie Ann, life was truly a banquet as in the statement made by the character “Mame” in Patrick Dennis’s acclaimed book, movie and Broadway show. Actually, my aunt met Patrick in-between husbands, and he said if he’d met her before writing the book the character would have been called ‘Auntie Ann’ instead. They went on many escapades. I had my share with her too, and I’m just happy that I lived to tell the story.”
Ms. Bramlett was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta. She graduated from Ole Miss with a degree in journalism and moved to Chattanooga to take a job at the Chattanooga News-Free Press. From there, she went into news broadcasting with WTVC-TV and now has her own company Betsy Bramlett Communications.
“We Eat Better Than Y’all Do” can be purchased at the Tennessee Aquarium, Sweetly Southern, Winder Benders, Olde Towne Books, Rock Point Books, Twiggs and Kingwood Pharmacy. For more information, contact the author at BBramlett@aol.com or give her a call at 624-4257.
Eustace with his pig, Virgil. Click to enlarge.