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Table Talk: A favorite cookbook, a big birthday, a sad loss

Welcome back to Table Talk, where Daily Memphian food and dining editor Jennifer Biggs sends the latest food news (along with a dash of this and that) to your inbox every Wednesday.

When I talked to the women at the Junior League of Memphis last week for a story about their cookbook sale, I couldn’t find my copy of “Heart & Soul,” one of my favorite cookbooks.

I looked through that big stack of books in my den – yes, that big stack’s still there and yes, I’m going to tackle it soonish – but “Heart & Soul” didn’t turn up. I thought that maybe one of the girls grabbed it when we were going through the books.


But later I spied it on my kitchen bookshelves, where I’d put it a few months ago, along with the dozen or so cookbooks that I use and that mean the most to me.

The Junior League has about 750 copies of “Heart & Soul” and 250 of “A Sterling Collection” that have to go so they can make more room in the carriage house for Milla’s House, the Baptist grief support center that rents it.


The Junior League has a surplus of two of their best-selling old cookbooks, Heart & Soul and Sterling Collection that are being sold for $5. (Mark Weber/The Daily Memphian)

And they’re selling them for $5, so I’m stocking up and plan to have them on hand for hostess gifts (whenever those days return) and to hand out to people I really like. And because I really like you, I’m including a bonus recipe from “Heart & Soul” this week – hot onion soufflé, which will make a great accompaniment to the La Baguette spicy tomato soup I promised last week and am delivering today. Serve it with crackers and have a decadent little feast. 

If Louise Rooke has a secret to good health at 98, it’s doughnuts and pinot noir. But it’s more luck than anything, she said when she celebrated her birthday with her “late morning crew” at Gibson’s Donuts on Monday.


Rooke – known as Mrs. Louise – has been going to the East Memphis doughnut shop almost daily for the past 25 years or so, joining her group around the community table for a bit of companionship to start the day.


Louise Rooke celebrates her 98th birthday at Gibson's Donuts on Monday, Sept. 6, 2021.  (Mark Weber/The Daily Memphian)

(FYI, the early-morning crew has already cleared out by the time the late-morning shift comes in around 9:30 a.m., and it doesn’t stop there – an afternoon shift regular was at Rooke’s party because he knows her and now and again comes in during the morning.) 

It was a sweet and happy story that we could all use this week, because we had a sad one, too. Memphis lost one of its big boosters: Tommy Peters, who owned B.B. King’s Blues Club, Itta Bena, Lafayette’s Music Room and Moondance, died Sept. 5 in Orlando.

Peters was a finance guy who ended up in the restaurant business when he was asked to find the money to start B.B. King’s. He didn’t care for the general manager, so he took it over and a new career was launched.


Tommy Peters (left) with B.B. King. Peters, 66, died Sept. 5 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo courtesy of the Peters family) 

Kevin Kane, president and CEO of Memphis Tourism, said the club was the turning point in the Beale Street revitalization.

“It gave Beale Street the legitimacy of being the home of the blues because the king of the blues had a home there,” he said.

I asked you last week and I’ll do it again: Please get your COVID-19 vaccine. Peters’ family said his cause of death was kidney failure, but he also had COVID. Protect yourself, your family, friends and our community from disease and heartache. A quote from Peters’ friend Jack Sammons:

“... This COVID is cruel. I’ve lost numerous friends from this dreaded disease and every one of them were unvaccinated. He’s going to be missed. I guess he and B.B. are up there playing on Lucille today.”

Finally, this isn’t about food, but here’s a link to an excellent Q&A our reporter Don Wade conducted with Dr. Jon McCullers, chief operating officer for the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, and Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, who you might recognize as a regular guest on CNN. Good questions and straight answers; it’s a fine piece of work well worth your time. Part one is here, and you can click here for part two.

Have a great week. Be kind, to others and to yourself; it makes these tense days easier. And be Mrs. Louise: Eat the doughnut, drink the wine, and if you don’t have to, don’t drive in the rain.

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