Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.
Matthew Register’s first cookbook “Southern Smoke: Barbecue, Traditions, and Treasured Recipes Reimagined for Today” came out in May 2019 on the same day as books from both Sam Jones and Ed Randolph. While Sam Jones’ told the story of his family’s barbecue legacy (with some recipes) and Randolph’s book featured profiles on various pitmasters and barbecue personalities (with recipes), Southern Smoke is more of a traditional cookbook heavy on the recipes from a few specific regions of the South. And its not all about just barbecue.
Matthew Register’s barbecue star has been on the rise since this book was published last year, between features in Southern Living and Garden & Gun magazines as well as stops on the food festival circuit at Charleston Wine + Food as well as Atlanta Food & Wine. As for the Southern Smoke barbecue restaurant itself, it has been on my list for years to visit but between the fact that Garland is 3.5 hours away and the store is only open on Thursdays and Fridays (due to their catering business), so far a visit there has yet to come to fruition.
The first quarter of the book is dedicated to barbecue, starting off with the basics of smoking as well as traditional North Carolina barbecue and slaws (both eastern and Lexington). Nothing earth shattering there if you’ve read other barbecue books or have done any smoking yourself. From there, Register continues with non-barbecue North Carolina dishes such as collard chowder as well as several seafood dishes like Lenoir County fish stew and fried Spanish mackerel harp, reflecting his hometown of Garland’s position not far from the Atlantic Ocean beaches of NC. Register introduces each dish and his personal history with it and in many cases is able to provide some history on it.
Then, what really sets the book apart from the usual barbecue cookbook is the subsequent chapters featuring recipes from the Low Country of South Carolina and Georgia as well as from Memphis and the Mississippi Delta. I don’t expect you would find recipes in other barbecue books for dishes such as Country Captain Chicken, James Island shrimp pie, delta tamales, or Kool Aid pickles.
Register finishes the book with a chapter on baking, as well as some supper menus (like “Low Country Boil” or “Surf and Turf Carolina Style”), a list of recommended pantry items, and a list of barbecue and southern cookbooks that Register recommends.
I’ll likely never attempt most of the recipes in “Southern Smoke” but its a wonderfully put together reference book that I’m happy to have sit on my shelf alongside some of my favorite barbecue history and recipe books.