The Weight of a Good Book: a Meme!



Caryn stumbles through the door with her over-sized suitcase and a few other very heavy bags. She drops everything in the center of the room and looks around. It could be a hotel room in any place in America.


At least we’re not in Mississippi anymore, Toto.

She plops down beside her big suitcase and unzips it. Shoving the clothes aside, she reveals that the bottom of the suitcase is full of books. She takes them out one at a time: The Gourmet Cookbook, Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating, The New Basics Cookbook, The Essential Wok Cookbook and Simply Tuscan. She straightens the curled edge of one of the covers when Mr. R. appears at the door.

MR. R.

It looks like we’re in the same hotel this time. I’m just down the hall.

He looks at the stack of books on the floor.


Cookbooks? You’ve been lugging books across the country?

Caryn firmly places her hand on the stack.


I only brought a few. These are my favorites. I have over 60 of them.

MR. R.

Is there a bookshelf in that suitcase too?


Maybe. And still I have less luggage than you.

Mr. R. picks up the wok book and begins to flip through the pages.

MR. R.

I’m in the mood for Chinese tonight.

Caryn perks up and digs through the suitcase again. She pulls out a very large book with gorgeous, glossy photos titled Asian Flavors: The Beautiful Cookbook.


Great. Because I just got this one!

Mr. R. rolls his eyes and puts the book down.

MR. R.

We’re leaving in five minutes for a sort of mini-production meeting on the new set. You can come too.

Caryn smirks as he heads back to his room.


Why do I have to go?

She pulls one last book from under the clothes and examines the cover: When French Women Cook. A bookmark holds her place.


I guess I’ll need something to read then.

She tucks the book under her arm and sulks out.

This entry was designed as a response to a popular meme about cookbooks. I was tagged by New Orleans Cuisine and Culinary Fool, so I had to throw in my two cents. I’m ashamed to admit that I really have been known to travel with more than one cookbook in the suitcase.

Total Number of Cookbooks:

Over 60

Current Favorites (Most Meaningful):

The Gourmet Cookbook edited by Ruth Reichl

Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating by Ari Weinzweig

The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins

The Essential Wok Cookbook by Wendy Stephens and Zoe Harpham

Simply Tuscan by Pino Luongo

Newest to the Collection (Last One Bought):

Asian Flavors: The Beautiful Cookbook published by Harper Collins

I’m still reading (Last Food Book Read):

When French Women Cook by Madeleine Kamman

Other people that need to join the meme?

I think I’m the last person in the Land of Food Bloggers to complete this meme so I have a new suggestion! If you don’t have your own blog, use my comment section here to respond to the above 4 questions. I’d love to see what y’all read!


Market Street’s Shrimp & Grits!



The only car out tonight is a stretch limo racing down the still warm pavement. Odd sight considering the area.


Caryn and Mr. R. are positioned at their opposite ends of the car, a mound of luggage piled on the seats between them. Mr. R. peers out the window.

MR. R.

I’m hungry.

Caryn looks out her window, but the car is enveloped in utter darkness.


Shall we fetch some roadkill?

Mr. R. leans forward and rolls down the dividing window to speak to the driver.

MR. R.

Can you pull off at the next town to grab a quick bite?

The driver acknowledges the order but Caryn isn’t as willing to accept the change in plans.


We’ll be late for our flight.

MR. R.

Don’t worry. They’ll accommodate me. I’m in first class.

Caryn sinks back into her seat and mutters to herself.


I’m not.


The limo turns down a street bringing them into the center of an old, southern town. Beautifully preserved buildings lock in the secrets of their long history.

They approach a restaurant with big, glass windows that looks like the storefront of an old general store. A green sign in the window reads “Market Street Grocery and Grill.”


Mr. R. is considering his options when he sees the restaurant.

MR. R.

Stop here. This looks good.


Caryn and Mr. R. find themselves in the door of a classy, dimly-lit restaurant of polished wood. Dessert plates on the tables have been wiped clean, but the many happy DINERS show no signs of leaving just yet.

MR. R.

Ahh, civilization!

The HOST, a very tall man with dark hair, walks up and greets them. Friendly but showing no signs of recognition of his famed guest.


May I help you?


Can we see a menu?

He hands them a menu and the two pour over it with discerning eyes. The lengthy list of delectable selections is a virtual buffet of southern classics, spiced up nicely by some signature recipes.


Shrimp and grits! Yes!

Mr. R. turns on the charm to the host.

MR. R.

Would it be possible to get some food packaged to go?


We’re not staying?

Mr. R. feigns annoyance.

MR. R.

I thought you were concerned about missing the flight.

Caryn turns to the host.


Table for two please.

As they are shown to a table, Caryn mutters to herself.


The plane will wait.

Market Street Grocery and Grill

121 5th Street South

Columbus, MS 39705

662-245-1086 ph.

Market Street is a culinary gem in the heart of downtown Columbus. If you’re in the area, you must stop by! If it’s too far, Chef Opal was kind of enough to provide a taste:

Market Street’s Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp Sauce:

3 cups shrimp stock

2 cups heavy cream

3 Tb. fresh basil – chiffonade

1/2 cup white wine

TT salt and pepper (white)

TT any seasonings, personal choice

1/4 cup roux, blonde. (or until thickened)

Reduce stock by 1/4. Then, add cream, basil, wine and seasoning. Heat to simmer then add roux. Whisk until it coats back of spoon.


4 cups yellow grits (works best but Quaker grits will do.)

**enough water to prepare grits according to package directions

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped

1 cup cheddar cheese (or any creamy cheese)

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

TT salt and pepper

Add grits to boiling water**, whisking.

Add cream, peppers and seasoning until thick.

Add cheese, stir until melted.

10 per plate – sauteed shrimp. 21/25 count works best. Peeled and deveined.


Works best in large pasta bowl.

Grits in middle (cakes, scoops or slightly runny.)

Sauce on top and around.

Place shrimp around and on top of grits.

Garnish with green onions and chopped bacon.

Chef Opal’s recipe is an estimate based on her cooking in quantity for the restautant. Adjust portions as necessary, especially with the grits.

Soups Vegetarian

Spicy Vegetarian Chili!



Rain pours down in thick sheets over the expanse of the set now covered in blue tarp. Straggling crew members scramble to get the last pieces of equipment under cover.


Caryn jumps, knocking an empty can to the floor with a loud clang.


Caryn chases the can over to the couch where Mr. R. sits like a sopping wet puppy with a towel draped over his shoulders.

MR. R.

They think they’re going to resume shooting today? Ha!

Caryn tosses the can in the trash. She stirs a spoon through a simmering pot of spicy chili. The multi-colored beans seem to be the only color in the trailer turned monochromatic from the pelting rain.


This is ready. It’ll warm you up.

MR. R.

They should send us home.

Caryn prepares a bowl of chili, complete with a dollop of sour cream and snipped fresh chives. Mr. R. wraps his hands around the warm bowl.

POUNDING THUNDER shakes the trailer. Caryn backs against the wall. Mr. R. seems undisturbed, concentrating on the hot chili.

She quickly regains composure and collects the other cans from the counter. Mr. R. takes a break from his lunch to look out the window.

MR. R.

The storm is just getting started.

He looks over to his chef who is trying to remain cheerful amidst the gloom of the afternoon.


Caryn, you should take the limo back to your room.

She looks up from her work.


That’s very kind, but I’m okay.

He holds her gaze, not accepting her answer.


I have to clean up and–

MR. R.

Leave it! Just go. There’s no reason for both of us to be miserable here.

She pauses to examine her unfinished work. Slowly, she collects her things and heads to the door.


Call me if you need anything?

He nods and returns to his chili. Caryn slips out, leaving her boss to brood alone in the mess she left behind.

Chipotle-Infused Vegetarian Chili

The chipotle peppers lend so much of their flavor to this quick chili, you’ll think it simmered all day long.

1 TB. olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

1 green pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. oregano

2-3 canned chipotle peppers, chopped

2 15-oz. cans black beans, drained

1 15-oz. can kidney beans, drained

1 15-oz. can pinto beans, drained

1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes

1 can tomato paste

3 cans water

1. Heat oil in large, heavy dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and green pepper and saute until transulent and tender.

2. Add garlic and saute for one minute. Add cumin, oregano and chipotle peppers and saute 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.

3. Add beans, tomatoes, paste and water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes, or until thickened.

Serves 8.


Hot Coffee and a Turkey Baster!



The trailer is empty and refreshingly quiet. Caryn thumbs through a magazine with one hand and stirs the contents of a pot with another. Lazy afternoon in Mississippi.

The door swings open with no warning and in walks Lauren, wearing a thick tweed jacket over her lacy camisole. In the heat of a summer in Mississippi.

She slides a Starbucks coffee cup down the counter toward Caryn.


Can you reheat this?

Caryn looks at the cup.


Reheat it?


Yes, microwave it or something. I made a PA look for a Starbucks on his way back from a run to Memphis.

She snaps open her cell phone like a pro and starts clicking away at the keys.


But by the time he got back my latte was cold already. Just zap it.

She holds the phone up to her ear.


Hello? HELLO?!

She steps outside. Caryn rolls her eyes and slips the coffee into the old and smelly microwave. She returns to the magazine. Lauren screams at someone on the phone.

After a moment, Caryn flips the magazine closed and checks the contents of her pot. Lauren returns, cell phone still in hand.


Where’s my coffee?

Coffee? Caryn whips her head to the microwave. COFFEE!! The cup is bubbling over into a frothy mess.

But Lauren’s cell phone goes into a SPASM of vibrations at the same time. She steps out and resumes yelling.

Caryn yanks the microwave door open. Only about a third of the coffee is still in the cup. The rest is pooling into a sticky puddle around the floor of the microwave.

Caryn springs into action. She rips open a drawer and clangs through the utensils. Nothing. Another drawer, more clanging. Nothing. She stands up and looks toward the door. Lauren is still on the call.

One more drawer. More rifling. SUCCESS. Caryn pulls out a long, plastic turkey baster. Well, it’ll have to do.

She grabs the cup and begins sucking the coffee up into the baster. Back in the cup, check the door, repeat.


An incensed Lauren fumes at whoever is on the phone. She looks to the door for her coffee.


The baster is working well, simulating a froth with the bubbles. In no time, most of the coffee is back in the cup. But it’s still a little low.

Caryn thinks fast. Water from the sink tops it off and back into the sloppy microwave it goes. Ten seconds.

Lauren stomps back in. Caryn grabs the magazine.



Caryn looks up just as the microwave BLEEPS at the women.


Oh! Here.

She hands the coffee cup to Lauren who wastes no time in getting her fix.


Ahhh. That’s good coffee.

She takes another gulp on her way out the door.


I’m gonna have to send another PA back to that same Starbucks.

Caryn wipes the sweat from her forehead.

But no time to rest. A SIZZLING sound erupts from behind her. The pot she was stirring has followed suit and bubbles over into a sticky mess on the stove.

There are actually corners of Mississippi that haven’t been inhabited by the ubiquitous Starbucks. However, there is probably a location near you.


Near Miss: Gingered Peach Cobbler!



The production is in full swing. The CREW hustles around, setting up the next shot. The Director chats with Mr. R. and Miss A. in the middle of the set. Caryn watches the action from a distance.

ANGLE ON a GRIP walking toward Caryn with a long, metal pole directed straight for the back of her head.



Caryn doesn’t budge. The grip doesn’t see her.



The tip of the pole is inches from Caryn’s skull when…


…reaches out toward her. She is violently pulled to the side, nearly falling over.

The grip passes with the pole. He scowls at her as he yells again.



Caryn is stunned to see the grip speaking to her. A man whispers to her in a familiar voice.

MR. R. (O.S.)

Points means to get out of his way.

She looks over to discover that her employer also seems to be playing the role of her hero.


Oh gosh, sorry.

He smiles at her as a parent to a child.

MR. R.

Just try to act like you know what you’re doing here. You’re supposed to be my assistant, remember?


Yes, sorry. I, um, just wanted to let you know that the cobbler is ready.

Mr. R. chuckles.

MR. R.

Thanks. I’ll be done soon.

She stares at a spot on her tennis shoe.


Okay. Sorry.

He laughs again. Caryn steals a glance around at the crew that has suddenly fallen silent. The whole set is now waiting for them, watching Mr. R. and Caryn intently. She squirms under the stares, but he doesn’t seem to care.

MR. R.

What kind of cobbler is it?

Caryn catches Lauren’s disapproving eye.


Um, peach. Ginger peach.

MR. R.

Ah! From a Georgia girl, of course.

Mr. R. straightens his costume.


Try to be more careful, Caryn.

He gently pats her shoulder and then saunters back to set. The Director immediately starts yelling instructions to his crew in anticipation of the shot. Lauren redirects her focus to the monitor before her.

And Caryn sneaks away, relieved to be out of the spotlight.

Gingered Peach Cobbler

It ain’t the prettiest cobbler, but the ginger jazzes up this Southern classic. The pastry crust is thicker than a pie crust which makes it more suitable for a cobbler. Use ready-made pie dough in a pinch.

1 cup sugar

2 TB. cornstarch

10 ripe medium peaches, peeled and sliced

2 TB. lemon juice

1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger


3 cups flour

3/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup ice water

1 egg white

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

2 TB. sugar

1. To make dough: Combine flour, salt and shortening in food processor until even. Add butter in pieces, pulsating until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Slowly add just enough ice water for dough to stick together (not necessary to use the whole 1/2 cup). Knead dough a few times and divide into two portions, one slightly larger. Wrap in plastic wrap and flatten slightly. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 13×9-inch pan.

3. Mix sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Add peaches, lemon juice and ginger. Toss to coat and set aside for 15 minutes.

4. Roll out larger portion of dough to a 15×12-inch rectangle, no thicker than 1/4″ inch. Place dough in prepared pan, wrapping dough up the sides of the pan. Pour peach mixture on top of dough. Trim dough just above peaches.

5. Roll out remaining dough into a rectangle about 1/4″ thick. Cut into 1/4″-1/2″ strips and arrange in a lattice pattern over peaches (diagonally is easiest). Squeeze edges of strips with bottom dough to seal. Mix cinnamon and sugar together. Brush strips with egg white and sprinkle with cinnamon mixture.

6. Bake about 45 minutes until bubbly and crust is golden. Serve warm.

Serves 8-12.


Civil Wars, Red Beans and Rice!



Mr. R. enters in a tattered uniform of the Confederate Army and a deep layer of makeup. His dense, dark hair is slicked back neatly, but there are fake cuts and scrapes across his broad forehead. Caryn stifles a laugh from the stove.


(in her thickest Southern accent)

Is the wah over?

MR. R.

No, just breaking for lunch, Miss Scarlett.

Caryn takes the lid off a large pot on the stove. She scoops a heavy ladle of thick, red beans into the bowl. Mr. R. picks a piece of andouille sausage from the pot.


If your army ate this well, y’all might have won.

She adds a spoonful of buttered rice to the beans and hands it to the soldier. He plops down on the couch to eat.


Who ever heard of a Civil War comedy anyway?

He is barely on his second spoonful when the door opens and Lauren walks in. She is dressed down in an attempt to fit in with the crew, but her $400 jeans somehow miss the mark.


I swear our caterers make the worst coffee on the planet.

She slams her cup on the table and pulls a Diet Coke from the fridge, just as the door opens again and Miss A. makes the reunion complete. She is the worst dressed of all in a pink, corseted hoop-dress. Obnoxious curls bob from her whole head.


The AC is out in my trailer. Mind if I crash in here?

No one responds, but she wasn’t really asking. Caryn steps nimbly aside as Miss A. helps herself to a bowl of the beans.


You don’t have much room in that corset to eat.


I know. Loosen it for me, will you?

Lauren sighs and makes half an effort to untie the strings. Mr. R. continues to eat, trying not to spill on his costume. Caryn pretends to clean around the stove.

When the strings are slightly loosened, Lauren steps back to assess any damage to her nails. Miss A. takes her bowl to the door.


Well, I’m wrapped after the next shot. So I’ll see you at eight?

Unsure who she’s talking to, Lauren and Caryn look toward Mr. R. who nods quietly without looking up.


Good. I’m gonna go get my makeup touched up.

She leaves. Caryn resumes her pseudo-cleaning, but Lauren stares at Mr. R. a moment.


You know you’re in every shot for the remainder of the day.

Mr. R. sets his bowl aside.

MR. R.

Yeah, but I think we’ll finish a little early.

Lauren laughs icily and starts for the door too.


Wouldn’t count on it, Big Guy.

As soon as she’s gone, Mr. R. shakes his fingers through his hair, effectively messing up the design. He leans back on the couch with his eyes closed. Caryn wipes vigorously at a non-existent spot.

MR. R.

No, Caryn, the war rages on.

I have been looking forward to trying one of the recipes at New Orleans Cuisine and the Red Beans and Rice is a perfect example of Danno’s commitment to authentic cuisine from Louisiana. I substituted a meaty ham bone for the neck bones. The tender meat slowly fell off the bone as the beans simmered. For someone who spent a large portion of her life within shouting distance of Creole and Cajun Country, I couldn’t have been happier with this recipe!
Appetizers Vegetarian

California’s Finest: Guac!



Under one of the large, white tents, enough tables are set up for a few hundred people. CATERERS are busy setting up for lunch.

Caryn wanders around base camp, stretching her legs and looking around. She strolls up to the craft services table to investigate. A smorgasboard of snacks is spread out for all to partake. She grabs a little piece of chocolate.


Are you Mr. R.’s assistant?

Caryn turns around to be greeted by a prim, YOUNG WOMAN with a tight ponytail and stylish glasses.


Um, yeah. I’m Caryn.


I’m Amelia. I’m the director’s assistant.


Oh wow. That sounds like fun.

Amelia picks up a tortilla chip and cracks it into two pieces.


It’s okay. Your job sounds like more fun. How is it to work for him? He seems soooo cool.

Amelia dips the chip particle into a bowl of brownish guacamole and eats it.


Yeah, it’s okay, I guess.


You’re so lucky. He’s even hotter in person than on screen. And he’s so charming.

She stirs the water back into the guacamole and scoops another helping onto the other half of her chip. The CRAFT SERVICES MAN comes up and places another bowl of chips on the table.


How do you like the guacamole? I just made it fresh.

Caryn takes another glance at the gloppy mess.


It’s really good. Thanks.

Amelia’s cell phone starts buzzing away at the clip on her belt.


Oh! I gotta go. Caryn, come over to our trailer later. Some other assistants are gonna watch a movie.

Caryn smiles and nods enthusiastically. Amelia grabs another chip on her way, but Caryn opts for an apple.


A FedEx box with Caryn’s name on it leans against the trailer door. Caryn rips it open to find a box full of fresh California avocados.

She peeks inside the box looking for an explanation and finds a brief note scrawled on paper.

NOTE: “Thought you might miss California by now. Punky is happy but shedding orange fur all over my couch. Call us sometime. –Matt”

She flips over the note to discover a recipe in the same handwriting.

Matt’s Guacamole

in my opinion, the key is absolutely fresh ingredients and nothing

extraneous. the simpler the better. also i personally hate tomatoes in guacamole.

3 medium California Haas avocados

1/2 cup red onion

1 tbsp minced cilantro

1/2 tsp minced garlic

1 tbsp lime juice

1 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste

salt & pepper to taste

1. peel & pit avocados. mash the pulp in a bowl.

2. combine with remaining ingredients and adjust salt, pepper, and

cayenne to taste.

serve immediately with Frito’s(r) brand corn chips or cover & refrigerate.

(mark bittman claims that including the avocado pits in the dip helps prevent the guacamole from turning brown if it is prepared up to 4 hours in advance. i don’t know if this is actually true, but it is definitely true that leaving it out for awhile will allow the guacamole to turn a really disgusting shade).

– M

p.s. just kidding about the fritos.