Memories From Home

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 2, 2007

Linda Weiss grew up in Nanafalia just a few miles west of Sweet Water on Alabama Highway 10. It was in Marengo County that she gained an appreciation for the labor of love that many in the South simply call &8220;cooking.&8221; She remembers fondly days spent with her mother and grandmother in the kitchen, cooking up something special for that day&8217;s meal.

Weiss did not begin her career as a connoisseur of Southern cooking, however. She worked in the corporate real estate business for 20 years before retiring.

She began a second career when she attended Le Cordon Bleu of Paris, where she learned traditional French cooking styles and techniques. Since that time, she has become a culinary educator. She now lives in Greenville, S.C. and has been teaching cooking classes for more than five years.

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In addition to teaching the art of good cooking, Weiss has contributed to numerous publications including The Art of Fine Living, Greenville Talk, South Carolina Homes&Gardens Magazine and Recipe Corner.

Her most recent work has been on her newest cookbook, entitled Memories from Home, Cooking with Family&Friends. The book has over 300 recipes that she has collected and created over the years. Some of the recipes are collected from her mother, grandmother and friends in both Alabama and South Carolina.

One of the unique elements of the book is that it features little stories and vignettes to go with the recipes. For Weiss, the stories behind the recipes are just as important as the recipes themselves.

When she first came up with the concept for the book, she knew that she wanted to include the stories along with the recipes.

Weiss also said that there is something distinctive about cooking in the South.

She said her son once told her that he remembers sitting down to eat each meal like it was a celebration, and she uses this as her own personal philosophy.

When she was cooking at Le Cordon Bleu, the dishes were always formal and focused on classical French elements. She later worked for their catering program, which provided her with a good cross section of different kinds of cooking styles.

When asked what her favorite meal to cook was, she instantly said fried chicken.

She works at her local Williams&Sonoma store twice a month and they provide demonstrations on how to cook seasonal foods. One thing that she tries to impart on her culinary students is the important skill of menu planning.

For Weiss, the process of creating and collecting recipes is often an emotional one. She recalls the process of coming up with the recipe for Sarah&8217;s Soup in Memories from Home:

It was like going home. Along with the soup, I made some cornbread with white cornmeal, not yellow, and had a feast by the fire. I was warm inside and out. I guess what I had really found was a homecoming in that wonderful bowl of soup. Thank goodness.&8221;

(for the recipe, see right column)

Weiss said that she feels she made the right decision by putting the stories of the recipes in the book. &8220;People love to hear where things came from, and I was able to do that,&8221; she said.

For now, Weiss continues to work on her recipes and expand her budding career as a cookbook author. But she said she will always enjoy reminiscing about her past and running into people from Marengo County.

Kelli Hilyer is a staff writer of The Demopolis Times. She can be reached by e-mail at