Sunday, December 06, 2009


Last summer, while passing through Chapel Hill, NC, we stopped at Crook's Corner restaurant (operated by Bill Smith). It was the depth of summer and the air was hotter "than your mama's stove." We had our dog, Kody, with us and we were dying to try out their two signature dishes: the tomato/watermelon salad and the shrimp and grits. We had read about each recipe in that month's Southern Living.

We needed to figure out how we both could eat and take care of Kody who was not allowed in the restaurant. To accomplish this required a creative strategy. I asked for a table for two by the window and asked that our orders come in series, not at the same time, but one immediately after the other. Our plan was to each have dinner in succession with the other sitting outside the window with the dog. We flipped a coin as to who would go first and I won!

My wife sat just outside the window with our dog and I received my order of the two famous dishes. The dinner was fabulous though I was sure to eat without undue dawdling. As soon as I was finished, we swapped places and my wife enjoyed her meal (and the air-conditioning). Our dog survived fine with cold water brought by the waiters to fill his water bowl and the affection of customers leaving the restaurant who diverted his attention away from the blazing heat.

The staff seemed touched by our efforts to enjoy their food and recommended the proprietor's cookbook to us. It included the recipes we had just enjoyed.

Needless to say, Bill Smith's cookbook is now front and center in my massive collection of books on Southern cooking. The recipe for Ham for a Crowd is an essential part of my repertoire. Easy and the perfect dish to serve for guests.

Thanks, Bill. Your book along with Moreton Neal's rememberance of Bill Neal sit near the door. If the house catches fire, I save my wife, my dog and those two cookbooks!

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