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Book Club Party by Guest Blogger Jennifer Mitchell

to kill a mockingbird book club party :: the gift of southern cooking

I am thrilled to have my first guest blogger, Jennifer Mitchell of Design Hole.

I’m so happy to be guest blogging for Kim. I write about interior design and this gives me a chance to write about my second love – throwing dinner parties for friends. Did I mention that I love to cook? I do.

My favorite dinner party is the one I throw every January, when it’s my turn to play hostess for my book club. In our book club, the hostess chooses the book. And, while we all always enjoy the associated discussion, for us the evening is really all about the food.

I like to plan the menu around the location or theme of the book. Sometimes it presents a bit of a challenge, but it also makes it more fun. Here is one of my favorite book club ideas.

To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Most people read this book in high school. But it’s amazing how much more you take away from it as an adult. This Southern Gothic novel was drawn largely from Lee’s childhood memories. Her life-long friend, Truman Capote, makes an appearance as Dill.  I also recommend Mockingbird, an excellent biography of Lee written by Charles Shields.

A southern novel calls for southern food. My favorite cookbook for authentic recipes is The Gift of Southern Cooking, by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock. This is the real deal, with an excellent Lane cake recipe. I have my own recipe for fried chicken (which I have my southern born grandmother to thank for). The cake is a particularly good choice because it’s mentioned in the book as a secret recipe, and can be made several days in advance.


  • Toast cups with shrimp salad
  • Fried chicken
  • Steamed asparagus
  • Biscuits
  • Lane cake

Jennifer Mitchell’s Fried Chicken

Throw your diet out the door – at least for one night. This recipe takes time, but don’t skip steps. Trust me, it’s worth it. Thanks go to my grandmother, who grew up in Bessemer, Alabama.


  • One 3-pound (1 1/2 Kilo) chicken, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1 quart/ liter buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 pounds (3/4 kilo) lard
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

Step by step instructions

  1. Brine the chicken (this tenderizes the meat and is essential) by soaking the pieces in a large bowl of water (about 2 quarts or liters) mixed with kosher salt for eight hours, or overnight. Drain and rinse out the bow. Return the chicken to the bowl and cover it with the buttermilk for another eight hours. Drain the chicken.
  2. To prepare for frying, mix the flour with the salt and pepper in a bowl.  Heat the lard in a skillet (I use a well-seasoned cast iron one) to a temperature of 350 F (175 C). The temperature is really important.
  3. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture and fry it for about 10 minutes on each side. Start with the skin side down, fry in batches – skimming the browned bit in between.
  4. Drain in a single layer on crumpled paper towels, or wire racks. Do not layer until you’re ready to serve, or the chicken will steam itself and lose its crispness.
  5. Keep it warm in a low oven, until ready to serve. It’s good at room temperature, too.

>>> Sourcing:
Buy online: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee at Amazon – price: $11.16 USD
Buy online: Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields at Amazon- price: $10.50 USD
Buy online: The Gift of Southern Cooking: Recipes and Revelations from Two Great American Cooks by Edna Lewis at Amazon – price: $19.77 USD
Guest Blogger: Jennifer Mitchell [Design Hole]

  • Bailey Barash
    May 11, 2008 at 19:06

    Hello –
    I am a filmmaker in Atlanta. I read your latest blog with the mention of Edna Lewis and “A Gift of Southern Cooking”.

    I just wanted to let you know I produced a 21 minute documentary about Miss Edna Lewis and its viewable in its entirety on Internet at a Gourmet Magazine website:


    and at a Georgia Public Broadcasting website:


    My documentary is called Fried Chicken and Sweet Potato Pie.

    My website, http://bbarash.com/bb_friedchicken.htm has more information about the film and the story of Miss Lewis.

    Bailey Barash