Reviewed by April Jones
Bress ‘N’ Nyam: Gullah Geechee Recipes from a Sixth Generation Farmer begins with the potent quote from the author Matthew Raiford that, “the legacy begins in the soil.” So starts the beautiful journey into the stunning world of the low country, an area that encompasses parts of South Carolina and Georgia, intertwining cultures and food.
Stuffed full of heirloom recipes that focus on the ancestral lands and cultural landmarks of the South, this is a great book for a beginning cook or expert chef. Chef Matthew Raiford and Amy Paige Condon create a masterpiece that celebrates all of the history and culture of the South and bridging the North and South divide. In honor of the Gullah Geechee culture and tradition, a reader has a unique opportunity to delve into the family history of the author, whose family has deep roots in the South and originated from the Tikar people in Cameroon.
Divided into six chapters Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, Sweet, Spirits each section focuses on timehonored Southern ingredients like grits, low country rice, okra, mustard greens, muscadines and more. Gullah recipes for peas and rice, Reezy-Peezy, Buttermilk Griddle Cake with Muscadine Jelly are essential classics to be added to every home. As the author states, “Bress ‘n Nyam the Wind section is all about understanding our feathered and winged friends and ways to turn them into mouth-dropping yumminess! The Two-day Fried Chicken, Za’atar Roasted Chicken and Rose Petal Roasted Quail are my featured dishes in the book.”
Raiford’s family has a deep abiding relationship to the land and his family crafted the land using irrigation systems for their rice fields. That connection to the land adds depth and richness to this cookbook that invites the reader into the Gullah Geechee world. Entrees such as shrimp creole, Gullah fish stew is a simple one-pot meal of fish, vegetable broth and tomatoes and Rabbit Fricassee with Rice Grits will be a hit for any occasion. One of Georgia’s major crops is peanuts, and for generations, Georgians have been boiling their peanuts to enjoy them. Potlikker Goobers adds an interesting twist to the traditional boiled peanut recipe by adding the potlikker reserved from the Mess of Greens and adding the unique spice blend Berbere, which adds a hot, peppery tangy taste.
Raiford’s refined culinary career is showcased in this book, allowing the reader to recreate recipes that have an elegant refinement but with simple execution. That inspiration is showcased by recipes of the Dark Wing Duck with Almost Rum Orange Glaze. The author also spent extensive time in Germany while in the military, and that influence is shown in the recipes with strudel, and a recipe for naan which he experienced at a Turkish restaurant in Germany.
This book is the best that the South has to offer and a wonderful cultural context to see how food is truly the connector of us all. All of the recipes are easy to follow and give amazing context. This is the perfect gift to give to your favorite cook!
April Jones is the founder of the Pinehurst Farmers Market located in downtown Columbia, S.C. April advocates for her community as part of the food justice and food sovereignty movement. She is passionate about community, gardens, and farmer markets. She is a writer, photographer, blogger, YouTuber, recipe developer, book reviewer and more. Connect with April, https://m.facebook.com/ pinehurstfarmersmarket/ and https://www.linkedin. com/mwlite/in/april-jones-040705b