CHARLESTON TO PHNOM PENH: A Cook’s Journal

Posted in John's Current Blog on November 18, 2022

November 18, 2022: My book is being shipped! And the University of South Carolina Press is offering a great deal!

Here are some of the advance praise starting with the Foreword by Jessica B. Harris:

You are about to make a friend.

Meet John Martin Taylor, also known as Hoppin’ John, also known as Bubba to a very select few among whom I number myself. In these pages he invites you to sit with him for a while. If you do, I can guarantee that he will dazzle you with his erudition, astonish you with knowledge garnered in his travels and delight you with his sense of humor that will have you at times laughing out loud.

This book, a collection of essays, articles, snippets from books published and unpublished, recipes, musings, and more is the work of a lifetime. In its pages you will meet his family and friends and the people who have influenced him: from his grandmother to food historian Karen Hess. You will discover the real origin of Charleston, SC Huguenot tourte and unravel the food history of the field pea and rice dish that gave the author his sobriquet. You will do all of this and you will also travel… Oh how you’ll travel!

Taylor has lived an astonishingly peripatetic life moving from Baton Rouge of his birth to South Carolina that would claim him and beyond to New York, Paris, and Genoa to name but a few of the spots, before returning to Charleston where he roosted for thirteen years and established a legendary culinary bookshop that catered to chefs in search of inspiration, fledgling food scholars, and anyone interested in going a bit deeper into the world of food.

He later added a cooking school and became one of the country’s first purveyors of stone ground grits, one of the founding saints of the fresh, regional, and local movement, and a voice to be reckoned with in world of southern food. Following his marriage to Mikel, he’s taken off on another series of world adventures living in Washington DC., Eastern Europe, and most recently Asia, currently Cambodia.

Somewhere along the line, we met. I no longer remember the year or the circumstances, just that we rapidly became friends and co-conspirators. We’re both fiercely opinionated and thank goodness agree on the difficult questions that most matter. We’ve had enough adventures together to provide a companion piece to this volume; however, most of those are mercifully unrecounted. The tales that are told are an exuberant love letter to a life well-lived: a life that is savored daily –one seasoned with thought, simmered with humor, and served up with JOY. That’s your new friend and my Bubba.

Jessica B Harris,PhD

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And here are some other endorsements:

“After flipping through a few pages, you will see why John Martin Taylor is one of my biggest heroes. His contribution to Southern food is unmatched. Keep flipping through these pages and you’ll see why.”

- Sean Brock, author of cookbooks Heritage and SOUTH, and featured chef on the Netflix Chef’s Table series

“How lucky we are to have John Martin Taylor’s collected works! These essays are filled with exuberance, wit, and erudition, at turns poignant and funny. Charleston to Phnom Penh captures a life rich in food, friendship, and art. Equal parts scholarship, memoir, travelogue, culinary companion, and language lesson, this is truly a book to savor.”

- Darra Goldstein, food historian and founding editor of Gastronomica 

“What a pleasure, what a treasure–John Taylor’s culinary musings all pulled together in one fascinating volume. I especially loved the beginning chapters with such hauntingly delicious memories of his early years, in the South and many other parts of the world. In a word: Delightful!”

- Nancy Jenkins, food historian and journalist, author of Virgin Territory

 “I have known John Taylor since we met in Paris 40 years ago. His friendship was the key to an amazingly rich new world. Not only is he a wonderful cook, someone who cooks with his soul, with all his life history, but he’s a passionate scholar of everything we ingest. This truly marvelous book encapsulates all this and more. It’s a declaration of love to life.”

- Jean-Sébastien Stehli, associate managing editor of Madame Figaro

“I had the good fortune to meet the inimitable John Martin Taylor at his Charleston bookshop years ago while I was a young newspaper food writer full of questions and his grand epicurean journey had already begun. This Lowcountry man who was born in Louisiana has been on the move all his life, and now, finally, we can find out where he’s been. And meet his grandmother who showed him how to dry green summer apples on a window screen and learn the secret to his mother-in-law’s chocolate chip cookies. And see how to make pesto like they do in Genoa and understand why he doesn’t want to make wedding cakes anymore, no matter how good of friends you are. (It has something to do with summer heat, a broken air conditioner, and vodka.) This bright, witty, globe-trotting epicure has just shared it all, and we better pull up a chair and listen.”

- Anne Byrn, author of American Cake, The Cake Mix Doctor, and Between the Layers newsletter on Substack

“John Martin Taylor embodies himself in landscapes and absorbs water, air, earth and spirit. This project, bridging his journeys southeast of America and Asia, with stops in Italy, Romania, China and the Caribbean in between exposes a culinary dialogue of an artist with his art we are privileged to be a part of. This collection is magical.”

- Michael W. Twitty, author of The Cooking Gene and Koshersoul

“John Martin Taylor, or “Hoppin’ John,” has done it again. His laser-like vision brings to life decades of insightful and scholarly work encompassing his vast knowledge of culinary history and classic European cooking. His Southern voice enchants us with vivid memories from long ago — dancing the Shag; preparing minestrone outside Genoa; and to-the-minute details of Lowcountry shrimp and grits. In Charleston to Phnom Penh: A Cook’s Journal, he shares the lifetime of a man who has enjoyed life to the fullest. His brilliance edits out the mediocre, focusing instead on the beauty of a dish like Peaches Aswim in Rose Petals, 2008, a recipe from the sister-in-law of my mentor Richard Olney. John, like Richard, is an artist who, in lieu of painting, makes his mark with some of the greatest food writing and editing from the 20th century.”

- Frank Stitt, chef and owner of Highlands Bar and Grill, Bottega, and Chez Fonfon

“A legendary writer and cook, John M. Taylor is one of the finest culinary and historical treasures of his generation. Two of my first cookbooks, The New Southern Cook and Hoppin’ John’s Lowcountry Cooking, are still some of my favorites and quite worn with use. Anyone can cook Southern if they follow along with this master of the craft!”

- Tank Jackson, hog farmer and owner of Holy City Hogs

“I LOVE this book! John Taylor is what I would call a natural cook -We go back almost 50 years and I’ve never known him to cook without dancing at the same time! Our band – The B52s – used to go over to his little house in Athens, Georgia, on a hot summer afternoon where he could always be found playing music and making cornbread – we’d all dance around the table and wait for the gold to come out of the oven!

This book – rich in recipes, culinary history, travel, and general joie de vivre – Will leave you hungry and will have you dancing around the kitchen table hungry for more!

-Kate Pierson, longtime friend of “JT,” founding member of the B-52s

 

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