This grab bag of a book is part history, part restaurant guide, part cookbook--all extolling the virtues of ""the most distinctive regional cuisine in this food-rich and food-conscious nation."" Egerton--Georgia-born, Kentucky-bred, and now living in Tennessee--has written five previous books on Southern issues prior to turning his attention to gastronomy. He is a writer by nature, thus this book is not your typical gaggle of recipes. Rather, it is a personal, anecdotal introduction to Southern cuisine, meant more for browsing than for perspiring over at a hot stove. Since Egerton aims to create more than a cookbook, he must be judged by a higher standard. The obvious question, then, is this: Is Southern food, like the South itself, losing its identity in ""the smothering embrace of modern American culture""? Unfortunately, Egerton cops out. The best he can venture is to quote Faulkner when he writes that the food ""endures."" However, will it continue to endure? In the meantime, those interested can dip in here to create watermelon pickle, red-eye gravy, she-crab soup, jambalaya, and genuine key-lime pie, pausing between recipes for a few witty words from Southern writers ranging from George Washington Carver to Roy Blount, Jr. Pot luck, Southern-style.