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Book Review: Modern Hospitality, Simple Recipes with Southern Charm by Whitney Miller

Reviewed by Karen Miles

I'm not an avid viewer of cooking shows, but I so wish I'd seen season one of Master Chef, where Whitney Miller made her claim to fame by taking the crown. Actually, I wish Whitney were my neighbor.

Miller draws on her traditional Southern roots, having grown up in Poplarville, Mississippi, where she spent most of her free time in the kitchen with her mother and grandmothers. In Modern Hospitality, her first cookbook, she updates recipes from four generations of her family. The authentic ingredients and recipes worth keeping are a jumping off point, but the dishes are anything but old fashioned.

I love everything about this book. The photos are delightful (think vintage florals and cut glass), and the text is fun and inspiring ("I kick off my flip-flops, put on my heels, and pick up my stemmed glass of 'Southern wine,' aka sweet tea."). Scattered throughout the pages are gracious little tips for entertaining, which is the undercurrent of the book.

But the strength of the book, as it should be, is Miller's fresh and creative recipes. If Southern food brings to mind ingredients like grits and catfish, you're right. But Miller's grits are fashioned into breakfast cakes that serve as a base for eggs, bacon, and cheese, and her catfish is blackened with seasonings and served on a salad with cornbread croutons and roasted corn. And what does Miller bring to tailgates at the local high school where her dad coaches? Cranberry Chipotle BBQ Chicken with Potato Salad.

One hundred and seventy pages, this hardbound book covers Breakfasts, Party Starters, Soups, Salads and Sandwiches, Sides and Grains, Elegant Entrées, Desserts, and Beverages. (I can attest that the Tangerine Tea is a winner, and I can't wait to try the Pineapple Coolada this summer.) A final chapter of "Whitney's Essentials" includes a few recipes that she "just can't do without," including a Sun-Dried Tomato and Cranberry Ketchup recipe.

I have no reservations suggesting that y'all go out and buy this book! In the meantime, here are a few recipes to try: Collard Green Dip, made from fresh collard greens and artichoke hearts; Crab Cakes with Sweet and Spicy Coleslaw (the slaw is seasoned with sweet jalapeno and pecan vinaigrette); and Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwiches, complete with a spicy rub.

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