The Everyday Special
By Jan Risher | Photography courtesy of Angie Mosier
Elizabeth Heiskell encourages her cookbook readers to celebrate each day — including those football weekends — and offers unique Southern recipes to complement tailgating events.
A quick conversation with Elizabeth Heiskell is all the proof one needs to know that in her world, every day is indeed a party. Her new cookbook, “Come on Over: Southern Delicious for Every Day,” oozes charm and captures her festive spirit.
“The whole premise of this book is to encourage people to celebrate every day,” Heiskell says. “Why not celebrate every day? Even a Wednesday should be celebrated.”
Heiskell has divided her new cookbook’s recipes into nine sections of food for themed days — weekdays, party days, Delta days, summer days, beach days, game days, school days, diet days, and cheat days.
Born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, Heiskell started her culinary journey at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. She then worked her way to lead culinary instructor at the Viking Cooking School in Greenwood, Miss., at the headquarters of the Viking Range Corporation.
In 2011, she moved from the Delta to Oxford, Miss., where she manages her catering company. In addition, she and her husband, Luke, run Woodson Ridge Farm with a little help from their three girls. Heiskell says during the worst of the pandemic and quarantine, she and her husband took the catering company back to its roots.
“We changed our focus very quickly. We went to back to what we did when we started: a meal delivery service,” Heiskell says. “We delivered to Memphis and Oxford two days a week and continued to do that until the world opened back up. These days, we are as busy as we’ve ever been”
This fall, Heiskell says she and her team are excited about celebrating events large and small, Mississippi style.
“On game days in Oxford, we do it to a whole different level,” Heiskell says. “However, I believe every football game should be celebrated, not just the ones in the Grove. Around here, whether we are tailgating for football, baseball or anything else, it’s definitely an art.”
Heiskell offers six tips for improving your next tailgating experience:
1. Make sure the food is easy to hold. “You’re going to have a drink in one hand and need to be able to reach something else with the other,” she said, recommending the PB&J chicken wings featured in “Come on Over!” “You need to be able to walk through the grove and enjoy your food and drinks.”
2. A bit of practical advice: “You have to also remember, you’re not at home,” she says. “You don’t have your kitchen. Have to make sure it can sit out for hours.”
3. For a newbie tailgater, she recommends creating a nacho bar. “Nacho bars are fun and super quick,” she says. “In fact, you can purchase most of the items to include at the grocery.” She calls those “purchase-and-put-out nachos.” Then, include those cute little paper boats for everyone to use. Buy the chips, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, shredded rotisserie chicken, grated cheese, black olives, jalapeno peppers, cilantro and more. Heiskell says suggests using an array of cute bowls to display the variety.
4. For early games, Heiskell recommends doing a biscuit bar to help get your crown in tip-top game day form. “Once you’ve got the biscuits, creating the biscuit bar is similar to the nacho bar — purchase and put out,” she says. She recommends adding spiral-sliced ham, jezebel sauce, chicken tenders, bacon, sliced tomatoes, sausage patties, preserves, jams, jellies, honey, strawberry butter, — and the list goes on and on.
5. Though some do, Heiskell says you don’t have to hang a chandelier to make your game day tailgating memorable. “Pick out a fun, vibrant tablecloth. Get some cute bamboo disposable plates,” she says. “The bottom line is people just want to be together — especially after the last few years. People are grateful to be invited. The atmosphere and energy are amazing.”
6. Create a special cocktail. “We make up special cocktails in batches — like a punch — and serve them from a dispenser,” Heiskell says. “Just make sure you note that it’s for adults only.”
7. Do a specialty recipe from the opposing team. “We always have pork barbecue when Arkansas comes to town,” she says. “For Alabama, we cover the table in peanuts.”
All in all, Heiskell hopes her new cookbook will remind people that every day is worth putting in some extra effort to enjoy with others.
“There are a hell of a lot more Mondays in a year than New Year’s Eves,” she says. “What are you waiting for? Pull out your favorite linen napkins, good china or fun glassware. Those special pieces can bring such joy.”