The Good Life
with a Southern Drawl

Woman Of Style: Julia Reed’s South

By Amy Bailey — April 12, 2017

To say I was excited to sit down with this Southern icon would be an understatement. After attending a luncheon at the Huntsville Museum of Art, I had the opportunity to sit and chat with writer and author Julia Reed. She was humorous, eloquent, and charming – the embodiment of a true Southern woman. For years Julia has brought to life the sophistication, idiosyncrasies, and beauty of the South, she continues to do so in her new book Julia Reed’s South: Spirited Entertaining and High Style Fun All Year Long, full of great stories and breathtaking photos. From Oysters and Wine to a Mississippi Sand Bar Picnic to Tomatopalooza, the recipes are not intimidating while the photos capture the spirit and charm of the South.

What inspires you about waking up each morning? My dog begging to be taken out. He’s a hungry beagle. Wish I had something more inspiring to say, but really my dog and deadlines are why I get out of bed.

juliareedsouthWhat inspired your latest book? After all my essays, I had never really done a cookbook and wanted to do one. Being a wordsmith and having so many photographer and artists friends, I thought how great it would be to showcase these places that I love, to go on a road trip and be in this places I love with my friends. Photos of food – that’s not very fun, I wanted show how the food was a part of these places and parties.

What is your favorite place in the world? I love Madrid, if you haven’t been, it should be on your list. I also love London and its food scene. And I love my home, the Mississippi Delta. I am actually building my own home there now, nothing big just a nice retreat of my own.

I come from Mississippi. You had to make your own fun and make your own food.

What advice would you give to women going through life’s trials and tribulations? Do not take yourself too seriously. I think in the South, we have in spades the ability to laugh at ourselves. We’ve all made mistakes, I laugh at myself by writing about the things I’ve done. Nobody’s that cool, laugh at yourself and reveal enough of yourself to be human.

What is unique about being a Southerner? I do think we are able to laugh at ourselves. We also know that if it tastes good, it is good – there’s not so much pretentiousness in the things we do. I like the South’s relaxed nature, that “Come on in!” mentality. In New York I would invite friends over put on a big pot of gumbo and run pick up Popeye’s – it doesn’t have to be fancy it just needs to be fun and warm and welcoming. I’ve brought out the silver tray and put Popeye’s fried chicken on it and had the best parties. In the book I write about how we made an entire dinner out of tomatoes – just enjoying the simplicity of fresh grown food around a table with friends is something Southerners do so well.

What is your favorite memory? When I was a kid my mother used to sing me to sleep not with Rock-A-Bye Baby or nursery rhymes, but with “In The Cool, Cool Of The Evening.

In the cool, cool, cool of the evenin’,
tell ’em I’ll be there.
In the cool, cool, cool of the evenin’,
better save a chair.
When the party’s gettin’ a glow on,
singin’ fills the air.
In the shank of the night,
when the doins’ are right,
well you can tell ’em I’ll be there.

It is all about this woman going to parties, and I just imagined these big parties with delicious food and people dancing and laughing and I thought, “That’s what I want to grow up and do.”

What advice would you give to women in their 20s? Do something that really makes you happy. No time is really wasted, because we can always grow and learn from it. But the older I get, I realize that having a full life is no regretting the things you wish you had done and not neglecting the people you love. You think you have time, but time is short, so just go for it. Don’t be afraid to jump off the fence, don’t miss an opportunity. Focus on what makes you happy and stick to it.