- Associated Press - Sunday, March 16, 2014

PRATTVILLE, Ala. (AP) - He’s the hugely popular blogger at “Southern Bite.” And now, Stacey Little of Prattville is a cookbook author. His book, “Southern Bite: 150 Irresistible Dishes from 4 Generations of My Family’s Kitchen” will hit the shelves Tuesday.

The book is a tribute to traditional Southern cooking - the kind he learned as a child in the kitchen with his mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, all “classic Southern cooks,” he said. But it is also an effort to preserve those family traditions that, if not written down, might vanish. Little and his wife, Heather, have a young son, Jack, who already has developed a yearning to be in the kitchen with Dad. The book, Little said, contains something of a culinary legacy for Jack and others of his generation.

“My son never got the opportunity to meet my great-grandmother, but I tell him every time he eats some of her food, he knows her,” Little said. “That connection with family is such an important part of food in my life, and being able to morph from blog to cookbook, I’m able to share it with even more people.”

Little didn’t set out to write a cookbook. He was happy enough to share his recipes and thoughts with his online audience at http://southernbite.com. He had no idea that one of his fans was an editor with Thomas Nelson, a division of HarperCollins Publishing. Little, who has written the blog since 2009, got an email from the editor basically asking, “Hey, would you like to write a cookbook?”

He jumped at the chance.

Little, 32, started his blog as an outlet for his restaurant reviews. One night, a party guest asked for a recipe. Since Little already had the blog, he opted to simply post the recipe there. Soon after, he added more, and the recipe section quickly became the blog’s most visited.

“People were interested in the quick and easy recipes, made with things they already had in the pantry, and it just kind of grew,” said Little, an Auburn Montgomery grad who has a full-time job in marketing for Legacy Partner in Environmental Education. “One of the best parts was when people would talk about how, ‘This recipe reminds me so much of my grandmother.’ I always tell people that is the ultimate compliment for me. If there’s some recipe, some way that my food connects you to the people that came before you, that is the ultimate satisfaction for me.”

He was able to bounce ideas for the cookbook off Birmingham-based cookbook author and food blogger Christy Jordan (of “Southern Plate” fame), who met Little in the food blogging world and soon became a close friends and a mutual fan. Jordan wrote the foreword to “Southern Bite.”

These recipes are close to Little’s heart and have their place in his personal history. A favorite recipe is from his grandfather. Now suffering from Parkinson’s disease and debilitating depression, he isn’t able to get around the kitchen like he once did.

“Growing up, there wasn’t a family event that didn’t have my grandfather’s lemon icebox pie,” Little said. “As he’s gotten older and as his disease has gotten worse, those pies started disappearing. Nobody knew how to make those pies - that was something he did. There was never an interest in learning how to make them because he made them. That’s what he did, and it was really important for me to capture it. It’s here now. It will live in these pages long after he’s gone.”

In the book, food is presented as authentically and accessibly as possible. That meant including recipes using ingredients most folks already have on hand - and though he emphasizes using fresh ingredients, he is not averse to including frozen or canned items.

He also wanted the food to look beautiful, but also to be recognizable. Rather than assign a photographer to Little’s book, the publisher allowed him to select local photographer Kim Box, who shot all the photos at her Prattville home, mostly outside, presented simply and in natural light.

“If people who are not necessarily home cooks can re-create something from this book, and it looks like the picture in this book, there’s a feeling of accomplishment,” Little said. “They’re more willing to try another recipe if it worked out well for them. There are no fancy tricks. It’s just really what it is.”

“Food is important in everyone’s life, but especially Southerners. In the book I write that we celebrate everything with food and whether it’s a death or a birth or an anniversary, it’s not long until you have a knock on the door and the casserole-carrying folks are at your door to bring dinner for whatever reason, and I think that’s especially unique to the South.”

Though there is a Southern food trend going on nationwide, Little doesn’t think everyone quite gets what that term really means.

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