Here’s what I took to WBRC Fox 6 Good Day Alabama this month: a book about food from a local favorite, a global cookbook that does good and a book on mindfulness for Mental Health Awareness Month.
From the Pit to the Plate: The Story of Bob Sykes Bar-B-Q by Niki Sepsas
Bob Sykes Bar-B-Q has been a tasty, family-owned tradition since 1957, known for its award-winning, flame-cooked, smoky pork. In this new book, available at the Bessemer restaurant, the long history of this beloved eatery is shared by Van Sykes, a second-generation pit master and the owner of the restaurant founded by his parents, Bob and Maxine.
Bob Sykes Bar-B-Q is much more than a beloved family business. It’s a restaurant that honors a storied Southern culinary tradition of food and fire. Bob Sykes Bar-B-Q also is a fixture in the greater Birmingham area and even beyond—bringing diverse crowds of diners from here at home, and all over the country, to Bessemer every day of the week except Sunday; employing scores of folks in the community (some for 30, 40 or even 50 years); and making a difference where we live with the annual Bob Sykes BBQ & Blues Festival, which benefits a different community-focused nonprofit each year. I wrote all about it here in a story for Alabama NewsCenter.
Van’s description of what he does is straightforward: “God gives us everything we need to barbecue,” he says. “We don’t need any help with anything else. We have wood. We have a pig. We have smoke. We have ash. We have earth. A brick pit is refractory, it’s earth because the original pit was a pit in the ground. So, all those things are just God-given things. Really, we just have to stay out of the way of it and let it happen.”
With Ukraine on my mind, I came across a Ukrainian cookbook by chef Olia Hercules. Hercules was born in Ukraine and lived in Cyprus for several years before moving to London and becoming a chef. This cookbook has been called a “gorgeous love letter to the food of her homeland.”
There are more than 100 recipes in her book. They can give you a solid introduction to Eastern European cuisine if that’s what you need. If you’re already familiar, these recipes will offer modern takes on traditional favorites. But there’s more to this book than chef’s favorite foods from home. It’s beautiful and informative, sure, but it’s also a deeply personal cookbook, full of Hercules’s loving stories about her culinary upbringing and family traditions.
As a show of support for Ukraine, Open Road Media is pledging a portion of the proceeds from Mamushka will go to Convoy of Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to helping refugees. Just go here.
Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn
This is a one-size-fits-all mindfulness handbook (in paperback, hardcover, audio and Kindle) that will teach you the concepts of meditation and get you started with simple exercises and short, contained chapters that invite you to tune in whenever you want. The author peppers these chapters with entertaining personal stories and says this book is intended to provide “brief and easy access to the essence of mindfulness.” This is not a new book; it was written in 1994 and has remained a bestseller and classic since then. But with rising anxiety levels, especially among young people, and to recognize Mental Health Awareness Month, this little book is a great way to begin a more mindful way of life.
Mental Health Awareness Month was originally established in 1949 by the Mental Health America organization and is recognized during the month of May. It was created to educate the public about mental illness, raise awareness surrounding research and treatments, reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and celebrate recovery from mental illness.
I link to Amazon to show you exactly what book I’m talking about, but I love to shop locally at Church Street Coffee and Books, The Alabama Booksmith, Little Professor Book Center, and I often visit my local library.