When Jennifer Nettles looks back at this past year, it's no secret that the multifaceted artist will be counting her blessings. In addition to celebrating Sugarland's return to the country music scene and earning acclaim for their sixth studio album, the Georgia native will be rejoicing in the release of her debut cookbook, Sweet, Savory & Simple.
Talking exclusively to PopCulture.com ahead of the holiday season, Nettles is inviting fans and food lovers into her southern heritage with a beautiful collection of delicious recipes enjoyed by her family, accented with childhood stories and co-written by her mother, Carla Temple.
"Timing wise it worked well," Nettles said with a smile. "The holidays are a time where we're all gathered around and we're all making memories, and that's what really, in general, inspired me to do this cookbook with my mama."
Despite Nettles' mother "basically [being] the author and curator" of their first collaborative cookbook, the country artist says it is a sheer delight to be sharing these recipes with not just food lovers, but her fans as well.
"To get to see these recipes and to get to have something that's easy and simple, and something to possibly connect them if they like my music, maybe it feels like a connection then, to feel connected around the table too," she said.
Revealing that her mom picked out the recipes for Sweet, Savory & Simple, Nettles says there's a "whole theme as you read the book" based on her family and each of their favorites, which they coin the "Greatest Hits" tradition.
"It was fun and such a treat to get to work with her in the sense that she's very creative and has been my whole life, so it was fun for me to get to see her put all these things that she loves together, in one little book," Nettles said. "[And] you know, she loves the saying, 'the apple does not fall far from the tree' with me and this woman."
While Nettles reveals it was her mother's "first excited inspiration and idea," what really inspired the Grammy-winning artist for her culinary debut was the food itself.
"Food, much like music, is a memory maker," she said. "When we go to places, we have things that are soundtracks… there is music that is a soundtrack to our lives, so when we hear a certain song, it's transported. It takes us back to a different place and time in our lives."
With a warm earnestness in her voice, Nettles most cleverly shares that food does the exact same thing.
"If you have something that your grandmother made that you haven't had in a long time, just like me… just like a hoecake," she laughs infectiously. "I use that [example] a lot when I'm talking about the cookbook because it's one of the things I remember my great-grandmother making."
Adding that "food is a legacy," Nettles says something as simple as the beloved Johnny hoecakes transports her back to being a little girl and being in the kitchen right there with her great-grandmother.
"It's a legacy and it is a part of how we make memories within our culture," she said.
As for a memory that takes Nettles back, she says there are hundreds, but one that sticks out is "Seth's chicken," which is her brother's favorite meal.
"It's kind of like a chicken fricassee," she said. "My mom used to make it all the time for him when I was a little girl. It was literally a greatest hit on the menu, [and] at least once a week I would imagine, he loved it so much. So, that takes me back and makes me think about him."
Nettles adds one holiday staple that serves as a warm memory for her is all the apple pies her great-grandmother also used to make.
"Those are great memories for me," she said. "That, and my great bake, the Johnny hoecakes, beet on the tomato salad and the chicken salad… those are both big favorites for sure of mine."
When reflecting on her cookbook just in time for the holidays, the one meal Nettles recommends fans to dive into to add a little authentic southern flair to their table this year is her family's scalloped potato casserole.
"It's delicious [and] you could do it with pork chops, you could do it with chicken. I would make my own little adjustments, I would do it with bacon, and I would serve it for a brunch… and then I would also make my grandmother's Johnny hoecake, and we could tear it off and eat it like a biscuit and dip it in the syrup," Nettles laughs. "That would be the route to go on. All the carbs… all of them!"0comments
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