Blogger’s cookbook blends simple recipes and family stories
By Jennifer Kornegay
You’ll find no fancy food-photo-styling tricks or odd ingredients in the food Prattville native Stacey Little has been cooking and sharing for years through his popular blog, Southern Bite. Little believes that “three-course gourmet meals and perfect-looking food are intimidating, and things don’t have to be perfect to be really good.” He carried that philosophy into his cookbook The Southern Bite, a compilation of the recipes, tips and stories on his blog.
It’s a response to the way some food blogs and social media can make the average home cook feel about their efforts, a feeling Little wants to help others overcome. “I think the main thing I’m doing with the blog and the cookbook is giving people confidence. And with a good recipe and confidence, I’m convinced anybody can make anything,” he says.
The success of the blog and book proves that home-cooks appreciate his no-nonsense, anti-Martha Stewart approach. But they also like Little’s stories. Throughout the blog and the book he has interwoven family stories because his relatives are major sources of his recipes are the inspiration behind his cooking. “The stories are just my way to relate to food, and including them gave my blog readers a connection to me. I think people are looking for that,” he says.
While Little has had a “day job” as the marketing manager for Legacy Partners in Environmental Education for 10 years (and is still there), he was doing restaurant reviews for The Montgomery Advertiser on the side. When he stopped writing for the newspaper in 2008, he created a blog to continue dispensing advice on where to eat. “Then one day, I included some recipes,” he says. “That was the most popular post I’d ever done.”
After that, Southern Bite became a recipe site, a community for folks who love comfort food with Southern flavors. Little quickly realized what his readers wanted. “They were looking for home-cooked meals for their families that were easy to prepare. With the hustle everyone’s running in today, it can be a real challenge to make dinner and eat it together. I don’t have any formal culinary training. Most everything I know, I learned from growing up cooking in my family’s kitchen.”
And so, he began pulling from his family’s recipe collection, sometimes tweaking dishes to make them simpler. “It was important to share and develop recipes that used ingredients people probably already had on hand,” he says.
That something extra
But it’s not just about the food; it’s an extra element that Little offers that’s made Southern Bite so popular: encouragement. “The blog and cookbook have given me the opportunity to share my life experiences and to encourage people,” he says. “I love that part of it.”
The Southern Bite cookbook wasn’t really part of Little’s plan. “One day, an editor at a publishing house sent me an email saying they wanted to do a book,” he says. “I didn’t believe them at first, so I googled the name, and they were legit.” He included favorites from the blog, as well as new recipes and even some reader-submitted recipes. And when it came time to put it together, he bucked the system and did the food styling for the photo shoot himself. “I wanted it to be the real food,” he says. “I wanted the food in the book to look like what the people who make the recipes end up with.”
Little’s blog audience is now bigger than ever, and the book is boasting stellar sales, so much so that a follow-up might be in the works.
Check out Little’s blog at southernbite.com and get yourself a copy of the cookbook. It’s available on the blog, at bookstores everywhere and online from Amazon.com. Watch the blog for news of upcoming book signings.
A quick flip through The Southern Bite cookbook left me with a difficult choice: what to make and write about. I wanted to make and eat it all, but I narrowed it down to two main dishes, the Garlic Roasted Chicken and Sour Cream Chicken Enchilada Pie. The prep for both was quick and easy, and none of the ingredients required an internet search or trip to a specialty store.
The roasted chicken is a one-dish wonder and will leave your entire house smelling yum (if butter melting over garlic is a yum scent to you). But you just can’t beat the enchilada pie. It will more than satisfy your Mexican food craving (and you do crave Mexican food all the time, right? Is that just me?). Plus, it only takes about 15 minutes to put together. Try not to eat it all a suppertime. It’s even better the next day, reheated for lunch. – J.K.