I like to cook. I like to eat. I like to entertain. And I’ve been known to scribble a line or two. Or two million. That’s why it seemed like a no-brainer that I should write a cookbook. So I did!
On May 2, 2017, St. Martins’ Press will publish THE BEACH HOUSE COOKBOOK By MARY KAY ANDREWS!
Here’s the concept:
You do not have to own a beach house to cook like you’re at the beach. You don’t actually even have to be at the beach. The recipe for beach house cooking, to me, is nothing more than easy, accessible, fresh, tasty dishes. Long on taste and enjoyment, short on stress or mess.
Seaside suppers have been a tradition for as long as I can remember. As a child growing up in St. Petersburg, Florida in the 1960s, my family of seven “summered” at a mom and pop cottage court called Ocee Villas right on the Gulf of Mexico. Our “villa” was a two bedroom, one-bath concrete block box with a kitchen equipped with little more than a stove, a sink and an apartment-sized fridge. There was no money to dine out, so my mother managed to work miracles in that tiny kitchen. Every night, the seven of us, sun burnt and ravenous from a day spent on the beach, would crowd around a rickety formica-topped table and feast on her home-cooked dinners; pot roasts and spaghetti, fried chicken, steaks grilled by my dad, and always, desserts. On weekends our numbers would swell as friends and relatives dropped in at dinner time. Those were some of the best summers of our lives.
After I married and we had children, Mr. MKA and I would rent modest coastal cottages in Florida and Georgia. Eventually, we came to buy and restore two beach cottages of our own, on Tybee Island, just outside Savannah. The first thing we did at The Breeze Inn and Ebbtide was demolish and install new kitchens.
And then we started to cook. Because we actually like to cook. Especially at the beach. Mr. MKA and our son Andy (aka Boomerang Boy) are dedicated fishermen who love to clean and cook their catch. We specialize in impromptu dinners, calling our Tybee neighbors at the drop of a hat (or a bushel of fresh-caught blue crabs) to join us around our big farmhouse table.
On a night when Tom and Andy return home with redfish or flounder, we’ll batter and fry those fillets and turn them into fish tacos with the addition of sweet and sour cole slaw. Or on a morning with a crowd of Andy’s friends gathered, I’ll task the guys with peeling and deveining shrimp for a shrimp and grits breakfast. Served with a side of fresh fruit salad, or maybe cinnamon roll bread pudding.
For those special winter weekends when the whole family is on hand, I prepare a hearty black bean soup or homemade mac n’ cheese, alongside a romaine, grapefruit and strawberry salad, topped off with apple crisp. And always, when grandchildren Molly and Griffin are in residence, there is baking; oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for ice cream sandwiches, carrot cake at Easter, and a family favorite, congo bars.
The Beach House Cookbook is filled with recipes for those kinds of dishes, and for those special occasions that have become our family traditions at the beach, and even staples after we return to our full-time home in Atlanta. Although many recipes were longtime family favorites, writing the book gave me the incentive to stretch my culinary wings and come up with lots of delicious new concepts. (Talking ’bout you, Frozen Key Lime Bars. And you, Mr. Beachy Ceviche. And my grandma’s Quick Pickles, aka Quickles) Not to mention the fact that after several decades of trying, I finally mastered the art of making biscuits from scratch. Let’s not talk about how many batches of biscuits I forced family and friends (and dogs) to taste test.
I would say that the majority of these recipes are as easy as pie. But pie, at least making a decent pie crust, is hard. Which is why, for the time being, I still cheat and use store-bought crust.
In fact, lots of the recipes in THE BEACH HOUSE COOKBOOK take advantage of kitchen hacks; like using pre-trimmed steamer bags of vegetables and jazzed-up pantry staples. Because to me, the whole point of being at the beach is to spend as much time as possible with loved ones, while still preparing meals everybody will rave over.
Working on the cookbook with a talented team consisting of photo stylist Elizabeth Demos, photographer Mary Britton Senseney and food stylist/recipe writer Ashley Strickland was a joy.
They took my recipes, tweaked them, propped them, shot them and made them look so gorgeous you’ll want to lick the page when you see the finished product. (Not that I’ve ever done anything like that).
They even photographed me–primped and polished, wearing THREE layers of Spanx in August, in Savannah, for the cover of the cookbook. See how I give and give, people?
In the end, I hope you’ll agree that all the hard work, Spanx (and the 15 extra pounds I gained) were worth the effort. And if not, well, at least I learned to bake biscuits.
I can’t wait to finally share THE BEACH HOUSE COOKBOOK with you in the spring. In the meantime, you can pre-order your copies now via all major online retailers. The buy links are next to the book shot on the home page of my website. Order your copies now and you’ll have them in plenty of time for Mother’s Day 2017.