In Dixieland, he'll take his stand. He is Robert St. John, chef/owner of two fine restaurants in Mississippi, author of a syndicated food column and a very funny man, and his stand is that the problem with a lot of Southern cooking is the ever present can of cream of mushroom soup. So adamant is he on this point that he made it the subtitle of his new cookbook, Deep South Staples: How to Survive in a Southern Kitchen Without a Can of Cream of Mushroom Soup. He was originally moved to write this book when he discovered that there are many Southerners who can prepare hip, trendy dishes but can't fry chicken or make creamed corn, not to mention that true Southern basic, biscuits. To rectify this sorry state, St. John gathered this group of recipes for the comforting, heritage foods of our grandmothers, added a dash of his restaurant know-how adjusted for home cooks, and updated where necessary. Sandwiched among the hush puppies, corn fritters, buttermilk chicken, fried okra and banana pudding, are samplings of his food essays that ponder the possum predicament, funeral food, sweet tea, chitlins and more. But first, turn to page 241 and make his sensational cream of mushroom soup substitute; now you'll have a true taste of Mr. St. John's South.

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