Rebecca Lang is one of those gals whom you instantly know upon meeting that she’ll be a great friend. We met in Charleston for Southern Living’s Taste of Charleston and hit it off! Both of us grew up in agrarian, small Georgia towns and have umpteen dozens mutual friends, including her next door neighbor and another fellow Georgian, Gena Knox.
Whether Rebecca and Kevin are hosting me in Athens for garden club, a wonderful dinner with friends or having fun working on Southern Living projects, I know my time with this gal will be a blast. I think one of my favorite things about Rebecca is that she, like me, is an old soul – we love our grandmothers, classic Southern culture and of course, great food! Her new book is amazing and you simply feel as if you’re in her kitchen with each page.
Akin to a baker's dozen, my Farmer's Dozen is a quantity of a dozen or so questions - a series of questions with fellow designers, authors, tastemakers, friends and Southerners alike.
THE FARMER'S DOZEN: REBECCA LANG
1. How do you think growing up on a farm influenced your style?
I grew up in the town of McRae, GA and our farm is outside Jacksonville, GA. It’s about a 25 minute drive from home. My dad farmed when I was very young and I remember him having to head out to the farm at a moment’s notice late at night when a call came in that a cow was out. Very few people on the planet work harder than farmers and I’ve seen that first hand.
My style in nearly every aspect of life is one of approachability and appreciation. With each spoonful in the kitchen and every thread of fabric throughout my home, I’m aware and thankful that a farmer worked hard to make it a reality.
2. If you were a color, what would you be and why?
I would be orange. It’s warm, bright, and almost always unforgettable.
3. What are some of your favorite heirlooms? What do you love about them? How have you incorporated them into your decor?
I have so many heirlooms from both of my grandmothers. I consider it the least I can do to cherish them until the time that I pass them down to my own children. All my favorite heirlooms stay near my kitchen. My grandmother Sa’s everyday and silver plate are in my buffet. I have my grandmother Tom’s cast iron skillet that I wouldn’t trade for a million dollars. I have her china, her silver, and most importantly, I have her table. It was the same table she grew up around and now my children do the same. With eight leaves, 10 chairs and plenty of room for more, it’s my most precious possession.
4. What's your favorite room in your home?
My kitchen, hands down. It’s where I go to relax and also where I go to work. Between my two children, my husband, and my sweet King Charles spaniel all coming in and out, it’s a very lively place to be. It’s not a large kitchen, but it’s just the perfect size for cooking comfortably without running from station to station.
5. Favorite scent?
Gardenia. It’s the epitome of Southern hospitality bundled up in a bright white bloom.
6. Tell me about how you came to work with Southern Living. What do you love about what you do?
It’s funny to look back on it now, but even in college, I said I wanted to work for Southern Living. After graduating from culinary school, I got a job as an assistant food editor with Oxmoor House and fell deeply in love with all things Southern Living. My grandmother Sa had every copy of Southern Living Annual Recipes in her den and the magazine was always around. It’s always been the Bible of the South and an institution. Now, as an author and a contributing editor, I’m grateful that I get to talk to readers, interact with them at events, and hear about how Southern Living came into their lives.
7. You keep so busy with writing and cooking and Southern Living-ing. How do you like to relax when you get the down time?
Weekends are for spending the most time possible with my children, enjoying good wine, and take-out. If I’ve cooked all week, which I usually do, I close up the stove on weekends, chill the wine, and enjoy the peeps.
8. You have seen some amazing gardens across The South. Are there any in particular that really stood out to you? What did you love about them?
I like a garden I can get lost in. Middleton Place in Charleston, SC takes my breath away. I’ve never seen another garden like it. It’s enormous, has the glorious salt air of the marsh, and every inch is historical.
9. What's your favorite pattern?
I like classic, simple, and clean looks for patterns. I never want the pattern to take away from the food. My china is Lenox Solitaire and my silver is Reed & Barton Tara. I loved them when we got married 11 years ago and still do today.
10. What's your favorite garden flavor? How do you incorporate it into your favorite dishes?
Thyme goes with nearly everything and is so pretty. I grow it in several places around my small yard and usually have at least four varieties. I adore lemon thyme and use it for everything from garnishing cakes to dressing up boiled shrimp.
11. What do you call your grandmother? Share a story about her... Maybe tell us about something you've inherited from her.
Both my grandmothers went by untraditional names. My paternal grandmother’s name was Sarah and we called her “Sa.” My maternal grandmother’s last name was Thomas, so she often went by Tom Tom, Ms. Tom, or just Tom. She was the happiest person I’ve ever known and was so incredibly grateful to be alive. I never once heard her say a bad word about anyone. She died at the age of 100 and cooked up until the last few months of her life.
I was blessed to inherit a magnificent dining room table from Tom. This sacred piece of furniture has been the pillar of my family long before I was born. Tom grew up eating her meals at the very same table. After my great grandparents raised eleven children around that table, some TLC was needed by the time it arrived with me. I refinished the oak to be darker and recovered the chair bottoms.
12. What's the last meal you made at home? Who did you share it with?
The last meal I made was my chicken and rice casserole for supper last night. Unless something unusual ruffles our schedule, the four of us always sit together as a family to eat. Gathering around the table daily is one of the most important aspects of family.
13. I am always telling my clients that coffee tables are like mini representations of our lives. So what's on your coffee table?
My coffee table looked much differently before my baby girl was mobile and got into the groove of rearranging everything at her eye level. The table had my favorite gardening and architectural books with a terrarium nearly bursting with a silver lace fern. For at least another year, you’ll find it empty of all things but princess crowns and Lego’s.
*Recipe from Southern Living Around the Southern Table by Rebecca Lang (Oxmoor House, October 2012)
Bacon-Covered Roasted Turkey
This recipe gives you triple insurance against the dreaded dry bird: You brine the
turkey, rub butter under and over its skin, and lay bacon on top. Choose a fresh
turkey—and read the label to make sure it hasn’t been injected with a saline or
flavor solution—to ensure a juicy and perfectly seasoned holiday centerpiece.
2 cups medium-flake kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal)
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
3 Tbsp. black peppercorns
1 Tbsp. mustard seeds
1 (12-lb.) whole fresh turkey
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
1⁄2 tsp. table salt
1⁄2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
6 bacon slices (not thick cut)
Garnishes: roasted carrots, fresh bay leaves
1. Combine first 4 ingredients and 2 qt. water in a saucepan, and cook over
medium heat 5 minutes or until salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat.
Divide liquid between 2 large (10- to 12-cup) bowls; add 4 cups ice cubes to
each bowl and enough cold water to make 10 cups of brine in each bowl. Stir
until ice melts and both mixtures are completely cool (about 5 minutes).
2. Remove giblets and neck from turkey, and reserve for another use, if
desired. Place turkey in an 18-qt. food-grade plastic container or stockpot.
Pour brine into cavity and over turkey, covering turkey completely. Place in
refrigerator. Cover and chill 24 hours, turning turkey once halfway through.
3. Combine butter and next 4 ingredients in a small bowl.
4. Preheat oven to 350°. Remove turkey from brine, discarding brine. Rinse
turkey well, including cavity.
5. Starting at neck, carefully loosen and lift skin from breast and drumsticks
using your fingers. (Do not totally detach skin.) Rub 3⁄4 cup butter mixture
under skin; carefully replace skin. Tie ends of legs together with string; tuck
wing tips under. Place turkey, breast side up, on a lightly greased rack in a
roasting pan; rub remaining butter mixture over skin.
6. Roast turkey at 350° for 1 hour and 45 minutes, basting with pan juices
every 20 minutes during last 45 minutes of cooking. Remove from oven, and
lay bacon slices, crosswise, over breast and drumsticks.
7. Return turkey to oven; roast 45 minutes to 1 hour or until a meat thermometer
inserted in thickest portion of thigh registers 170°, basting every 15 minutes.
Let stand 30 minutes before carving. Garnish, if desired.
Makes: 8 servings
Hands-on Time: 50 min. Total Time: 4 hr., plus 1 day for brining
Rebecca Lang is a food writer, cooking instructor, and a ninth-generation Southerner. Born and raised in South Georgia, she is author of Around the Southern Table, Quick-Fix Southern, Mary Mac’s Tea Room, and Southern Entertaining for a New Generation.
She and her cooking have been featured in more than 50 nationally televised Southern Living food segments and in publications such as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Houston Chronicle, and Glamour and Fitness magazines.
A former assistant food editor at Oxmoor House, she earned a journalism degree from the University of Georgia and a culinary arts degree from Johnson & Wales University, and apprenticed with Southern cooking legend Nathalie Dupree.
She serves as a contributing editor for Southern Living magazine and MyRecipes.com, teaches cooking classes across America, and writes a blog at www.rebeccalangcooks.com that has been featured on the James Beard Foundation Blog, Delights and Prejudices, and noted in Food News Journal’s Best of the Blogs.
She resides in Athens, Georgia, with her husband, Kevin; their children, Camden and Adair; and their snuggly Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Miss Bea.
photo credit:Jennifer Davick