If you’re in a contemplative mood, there’s an outrageously evocative piece by the late Edna Lewis in the new Southern-themed Gourmet. Lewis passed away almost two years ago, but the essay, a quiet, incantatory hymn to Southern cooking called “What Is Southern?,” was recently rediscovered and passed along to the magazine. (It’s not online, but Gourmet has posted a package of links about Lewis, including a profile and a short biographical film.) The essay has the poised, measured merits of Lewis’s best work. Here’s a sampling:

Southern is an evening of turtle soup. We would find a turtle, having been washed out of the stream in a thunderstorm, crawling toward the house, so we would pick it up, keep it for a few days, then clean and cut it up. There would be great excitement if it contained eggs, which we would add to the stew. After cooking the turtle slowly for hours, we would strain the broth, season it well, add good sherry, chop up some of the meat, and make dumplings to add to the soup with the eggs.

For more of the same, look up Lewis’s The Taste of Country Cooking, a book-length tone poem to the beauty of traditional black rural Southern cooking.

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