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Become a member of the banana-pudding republic

The South may be defined in geographical terms, but you'd never know it judging from the quantity of fried chicken and pimento cheese that have migrated beyond its borders. We've now reached a point in which the concept of Southern food has become cliché.

Leave it to the Southern Foodways Alliance--the organization dedicated to the study of delicious things with a drawl--to floor us anew with Southern cooking via its first cookbook. Edited by banana-pudding diplomats John T. Edge and Sara Roahen, the spiral-bound tome looks as though it came straight from church or the Junior League.

The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook begins, appropriately enough, with pimento cheese. But between the more obvious entries (fried chicken, grits), there are a series of instructions that tell more global stories: Refried black-eyed peas flecked with chorizo from chef Eddie Hernandez are a nod to both his Southern locale and his Mexican descent (click here to download the recipe).

The gumbo z'herbes recipe comes from Creole authority Leah Chase, who made it countless times to sustain people in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. And recipes for fried catfish and oyster stew make the perils Gulf fisherman now face particularly relevant.

All together, the book makes sense of this age of Southern fascination: The region values its food not only for the taste, but also for the stories behind it. And here, such tales--along with pimento cheese--are captured for Yankees and posterity alike.

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