Exploring food is about being completely open to whatever comes your way. I am always surprised by how many people don’t talk about the food in their lives. Diets, quick and easy recipes, the next food trend, you name it, but when it comes to that fundamental bond that one has with food, well good luck. Most find this idea filed under sentiment and place it in the forward paragraph of a cookbook along with thanks to the editors and love for the family. The other day I found myself thumbing through the pages of Natalie Chanin’s new book, Alabama Studio Style and found Foodimentary treasure.
Natalie Chanin’s clothing has been celebrated in fashion circles for years. She spearheaded what was to be the new Southern Chic movement. Simplicity in design rooted in a truly honest Southern point of view. Taking the art of hand sewn quilting techniques and raising it up to an art form, her dresses and outfits appeared effortless, meticulously constructed and most of all always humble.
Humility indeed. In her forward she states:
“Style. Some people are born with it; others cultivate it; and for many of us, it is a slow process growing into who we are. This growing can take a day, a year, a lifetime, or generations.”
What I have found in this book is not a color by number style book or how-to book, but much more. Chanin is conveying a true point of view. The South that she lives in and experiences every day, a life where the past, present, and future are driven by her intense desire to be true to her roots in every way.
“I have come to realize that I was surrounded by art growing up: the art of making something from nothing. Seeds planted in the ground became gourmet family meals. Feed sacks and scraps of fabric became dresses and beautiful quilts that are prized today but back then were considered nothing more than simple, everyday objects … the core to my vernacular and my community.”
The book is filled with beautiful examples of just this; simple ways to make things your own. Hand sewn napkins, table cloths, aprins,you name it. Technique is key. Create honest things.
Now imagine this approach to simple Southern cooking. Interspersed between projects are some of the best examples of heirloom recipes, canning, and preserving tips I have experienced in years. From deviled eggs, to guidance on a “pickling party,” she makes her experience as a Southern cook as dignified and inspirational as the finest chef.
One recipe that stood out to me was her “Cornsticks with Greens & Pot Likker.” The moment I opened the page I was immediately transported to my grandmother’s house; the smell of collards and faint sweetness of baking cornbread being cooked in a decades-old cast iron bake pan. That true Southern experience reborn, exemplifying an honest meal for an honest life, Alabama Studio Style is a Foodimentary treasure indeed. Mrs. Chanin, you make me proud to call myself a Southerner.

Foodimentary Fact: the term “Pot Likker” refers to the liquid the collards are served in and used as a sauce at the table.•