by Sybil PrattNovember, 1998
James Villas was too busy licking the icing bowl to sit at his mother's feet, but he sure learned to appreciate her fine southern ways in the kitchen. In My Mother's Southern Desserts: More Than 200 Treasured Family Recipes for Holidays and Everyday Celebrations, written with his mother, Martha Pearl Villas, he pays tribute to a legendary aspect of our southern culinary heritage. Martha Pearl has been making a staggering array of sweet masterpieces for over 60 years and, as most Southern ladies of her generation, she takes great pride in her dessert preparations for Thanksgiving-- Mecklenburg County Persimmon Pudding, Christmas-- Hootie's Eggnog Walnut Pie, birthdays-- Paw Paw's Birthday Caramel Cake with Caramel Icing, and for other major holidays and events. But Martha Pearl is among the rare and devoted few who still observe Father's Day, Kentucky Derby Day, Election Day, graduations, funerals, and more with a special treat. In chatty, helpful sidebars, James explains the origins and significance of each tempting recipe: the Boozy Mud Pie Martha serves for Valentine's Day comes from her Georgia forebears, Confederate Peach Cobbler, a superb example of a Southern staple, is gratefully gobbled up at Labor Day picnics, and The One and Only Authentic Southern Strawberry Shortcake, served warm, the biscuits broken apart, is a sacred part of every July 4th party. The affection that James feels for his mother and that his mother puts into all her divine desserts makes this book as satisfying as the confections you can produce from it.