Ask anyone who’s met them, and you’ll hear, “I just love the Lee brothers. Those boys are so sweet!” They are at the populist forefront of this new southern food movement that we find ourselves in; with people like Linton Hopkins, Hugh Acheson, and Sean Brock earning all of the critical accolades. Because of all of these folks, our southern food tradition is alive and growing.
5:30 to 6:30 pm Thursday March 28, the Lee brothers will be hanging out and signing cookbooks in the bar at the Greensboro location. Books will be available for purchase. No admission charge. Tweet it up: Meet me in the bar Thursday, March 28 with the Lee Brothers.
Speaking the same language
Let us draw a parallel for you. Food is language. Latin can be studied and understood, and Latin is key to understanding lots of other languages, but there are no new words. It’s a classical language, but it’s not alive.
Well, there are folks who want you to believe southern food is a carved-in-marble type of work, where there are platonic ideals of what southern classics should be: Chicken and Dumplings is “x” and Fried Chicken is “y.”
The beauty of the Lee brothers — and this new wave of Southern cooks — is that it’s not just about recreating classics, it’s about reinventing things, coming up with new combinations of southern staples. The new “Charleston Kitchen” cookbook by the Lee brothers gets to the heart of this new southern foods movement.
Telling a good story
The first book came out in 2006 to critical acclaim. Our CEO, Dennis Quaintance, recommended the book right away. It was this immense compendium of updated recipes of southern classics: Catfish Muddle, Devilled Ham, Fried Chicken, and Collard Greens.
This coincided with a time in 2007 when we were casting about here at Lucky 32 for a new identity for the restaurant. We needed inspiration. We knew we were rooted in the North Carolina piedmont, but we didn’t know we were going to be a southern kitchen.
With food, you have to figure out what language you’re speaking when you create dishes. Agree on the lexicon, and use the vegetables, traditions and touchstones within that lexicon, and the menu will tell a story.
The Lee brothers helped us tell that story, by showing the world how inspiring their own story was.
They started out selling boiled peanuts by mail order to homesick southerners (as they realized they were) from New York City. Matt and Ted Lee went on to write about wine and travel for Martha Stewart Living and Travel + Leisure, before publishing their doorstop of a first book, which went on to win the James Beard award for cookbook of the year, as well as the Julia Child award from the IACP, in 2007.
Charleston Kitchen is the self-proclaimed “book the Lee Brothers intended to write in the first place.”
The first book was more of an overview of contemporary takes on southern traditions. The second book was a lighter, fresher approach to southern ingredients. This third book is more about the comfort food surrounding the brothers, as they grew up in Charleston. They reference the legacies of Charleston, talking about Clementine Paddleford and Edna Lewis and the legendary Charleston Receipts book, which strikes close to my heart.
It really is sort of recapturing their youth in book form. Seafood, like Shad Roe (fish egg) Low-Country Gumbo, She-Crab soup, and a Venison Dish with Mulberries that I look forward to creating for our dinner here.
Cheesecakes, Grapefruit Chess Pie, the cornbread pudding I look forward to making, peach upside down skillet cake sounds yummy, I’m also gonna make the sorghum marshmallows.
We’ve been looking forward to this new book of theirs for a while, so that we can invite the boys back to see the restaurant that they helped inspire, and to introduce them to a new legion of folks who love what we do.
Won’t you stop by next Thursday? Join us in the bar.
More about the Lee brothers.
Siblings Matt and Ted grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. When they left to attend colleges in the Northeast, they so missed the foods of their hometown that they founded The Lee Bros. Boiled Peanuts Catalogue, a mail-order catalogue for southern pantry staples like stone-ground grits, fig preserves, and, of course, boiled peanuts. When an editor of a travel magazine asked them to write a story about road-tripping their home state in search of great food, they embarked on a second career as food and travel journalists. They currently are contributing editors at Travel + Leisure and frequently write food stories for Bon Appetit, The New York Times, Fine Cooking and Food & Wine, among other publications.
Ted lives with his wife, the artist E.V. Day, in Brooklyn, NY; Matt, his wife Gia, and their two sons live in Charleston, SC.
Posted March 2013