Marian Cooper Cairns: A New Take On Classic Baby Boomers Recipes
by Pam Sissons
Who says you can’t go home again? With the release of her first cookbook, Southern Living Heirloom Recipe Cookbook, writer and food stylist Marian Cooper Cairns has produced a heart-and-tummy-warming trip down memory lane.
Her cookbook is based on a unique format that seamlessly blends old and new – the best recipes and foods that baby boomers remember, updated to make them easy to prepare and just as delicious! The idea for this cookbook came out of an article Cairns wrote for Southern Living Magazine about her Mom for Mother’s Day two years ago. Readers really identified with the memories, wanted to hear more, and she was happy to oblige!
During our interview, Cairns’ love for the history, the tradition, and the experience of cooking and sharing foods is clear, along with her take on how important food is to the fabric of the family experience. Her talents as a food stylist represent just one component of this talented lady’s repertoire!
Why this type of cookbook, and why now? Cairns explains that the Southern Living readers have begun to return to the more traditional flavors from their past. “Southern food trends continue to change and grow, but the great food of the past is still appreciated. Sometimes you just don’t mess with the classics!” Cairns’ hope is that readers will take a break in their busy lives to slow down, spend some time cooking and gathering together to eat, and take time to savor what is really important over a home cooked meal.
There are a couple of appealing things about this cookbook on a completely visceral, unabashedly baby-boomer level! First are the images throughout the book; the older photos from the 50’s and 60’s are so familiar it’s like coming home. They are cleverly and artfully woven amid contemporary images and include everything from the June Cleaver sort of bullet-bra look of the 50’s, to the 1960’s flower-child era and some 70’s throwbacks. They all share one common denominator that is the foundation of what Cairns considers the most important part of food and cooking – they all surround a gathering together to share a meal for any number of reasons or occasions.
Yet another break-away from the norm is the wonderful essays Cairns has included from contributing writers and staff of Southern Living. They are warm and simple reflections on what it means to be from the South and how important hospitality, good manners and family are. I loved “Fifteen Ways To Charm Her” (page 214), a humorous and contemporary look at old-fashioned, timeless values (#10 was my favorite)!
What is Cairn’s personal favorite? A recipe that was and is a “standard special occasion recipe” in her family and a classic in the making – Shrimp Destin. Cairns says, “This is a comparatively new recipe from the 1980’s! It can be served with pasta, rice, or even as an appetizer.”
On the busy landscape of new cookbooks that fight for prominence in every way imaginable, the Southern Living Heirloom Recipe Cookbook makes a clear break from the pack. Easy to read, great photos, one-of-a-kind essays, fun “Tasty Trivia” notes, and Cairn’s own presence throughout gives this book a Southern charm and tone as warm as she herself is.
Her story and path to cookbook author is unique! Her mother was a food editor at Southern Living, and after her death in 2002, Cairns realized that the seed had been planted. She went to work for Southern Living, and she now holds the same position there that her mother did for 10 years! Needless to say, she brings a fresh perspective to this collection of classic recipes, opening each section with her own reflections on how these foods are part of her own history and memories from when she was young.
The Southern Living Heirloom Recipe Cookbook is a keeper…a great gift for a newly married couple, a wonderful anniversary or holiday gift, and last but not least…this would be the perfect surprise to give that nice baby boomer couple with the newly empty nest!