Move aside, bourbon. Reed prefers scotch in her highball. Her essays defy Southern stereotypes page by page (no odes to whiskey here) and illustrate the lush, hot, menacing world of the Mississippi Delta. Her unique persona and voice rise above all the best attempts to compare her to other writers. She’s the perfect literary ambassador for the South, its idiosyncratic style of entertaining, and its memorable mannerisms ... Weaving disparate subject matter with humor, surprise, and playfulness defines Reed’s style ... This might be Reed’s guiding prompt for her essays: Take an interesting, often overlooked Southern subject, explore it with specific detail and research from multiple lenses, and write with a singing style ... Her humor, sensory detail, and deep concern for the place she loves resonate page after page.
There’s precious little here on the Appalachian hill country and North Carolina barely rates a mention. Still, covering New Orleans and Zydeco country is a tall order, and Reed does a masterful job of it ... Food and beverage are her specialties, and her essays on the topic are among the best. She reports on alligator cuisine (yes, it really does taste like chicken, apparently) and on the Delta’s somewhat unexpected culinary specialty, the hot tamale. I wouldn’t put Reed in the same caliber with the great Florence King (Southern Ladies and Gentlemen), but she’s witty, charming and observant, and she’s clearly good company.
Garden & Gun contributor Reed’s latest paean to southern culture is loving in the way of a parent indulging a capricious child. Yet the way she brings this same perspective to the greater human condition is shrewd and imaginative. One need not be of the South to appreciate her wisdom and wit, for Reed’s is an expressive and enthusiastic voice for humanity everywhere.
Reed’s collection of snappy columns from the Southern lifestyle magazine Garden & Gun makes for an inviting way to ease into summer reading, even for those who have never ventured below the Mason-Dixon line ... Most memorable, perhaps, are Reed’s stories about entertaining ... Reed is hilarious and charmingly irreverent, and her ability to capture an element of Southern life in a phrase ('God, Gators and Gumbo' for Louisiana) or to describe, in a short sentence or two, a funny, sweet memory of 40 years ago, are the marks of a true talent.
Reed makes for a knowing commentator on debutante balls, pecan pies, and the relative merits of Scotch versus bourbon. Still, the collection sometimes hangs together too loosely, as if an excuse to pull together Reed’s columns from her magazine. There’s nothing terrible in it, but the disquisitions on such things as whether women should carry flasks...and a playlist of Southern tunes...seem to be mostly filler. A mixed bag but useful for explaining the South to Yankees—and perhaps to some Southerners, too.