Chris Offutt

Chris Offutt grew up in Haldeman, Kentucky, and lives near Oxford, Mississippi. He is the author of four books of fiction, including Country Dark, and three books of nonfiction. His work has been included in many textbooks and anthologies, such as Best American Essays, Best American Short Stories, and the Pushcart Prize 2017. Reach him at offuttchris1@gmail.com.

September 04, 2018

An installment of Chris Offutt’s Omnivore column, Cooking with Chris. 

Big Bad Breakfast’s official slogan is “Lard have Mercy,” and I own one of their souvenir t-shirts. Recently I began to consider the words more carefully. Could it be sacrilegious? How does the Lord feel about lard? Would God be annoyed that his power of mercy is used to peddle apparel? No, I concluded. The phrase is intended as funny, and one thing is certain: God has a sense of humor. Otherwise, where did ours come from?

 

June 12, 2018

An installment in Chris Offutt’s Omnivore column, Cooking with Chris. 

Consumption of worms is widespread throughout the world among many disparate cultures, particularly in Canada. (The French confine themselves to eating snails.) This tradition extends to contemporary America, especially with children. My son ate worms. As a child I ate them when I felt left out or had my feelings hurt by other kids. Worms were an early comfort food. Eventually a folksong emerged from the hills based on my predeliction. Untold fortunes have been made from the song and I never saw a penny of royalties!

March 13, 2018

An installment in Chris Offutt’s Omnivore column, Cooking with Chris. 

According to the exuberant advertising, my Echo was in full possession of sixty thousand recipes, which is why it’s worth writing about in a “food essay.” I have a very large collection of community cookbooks—three shelves’ worth, totaling seventy-five inches. My wife has another forty cookbooks, all much taller and thicker than mine. Still, we didn’t have sixty thousand recipes between us. Then again, who the Sam Hill needs that many?

September 05, 2017

An installment in Chris Offutt’s Omnivore column, Cooking with Chris. 

Nothing is as powerful as the extraordinary jolt of a teenager’s first love. It’s like seeing the world after a double-cataract surgery. Life is suddenly exquisite. Each leaf becomes the bearer of unbearable beauty. Romeo and Juliet were so deliriously happy that they embraced murder and suicide as an ideal solution. I didn’t go that far, but I fell deeply and totally in love with Kim.

March 14, 2017

An installment in Chris Offutt’s Omnivore column, Cooking with Chris. 

Conventional thought says that if you want to learn about a foreign culture, you should eat their food, but that’s like saying you could learn about police work by watching Blue Bloods. If you come to my house and dine on an Appalachian delicacy such as squirrel brains, possum stew, or dandelions, you will never know what it’s like to grow up isolated in the woods. To pretend otherwise is a fantasy.

June 13, 2017

An installment in Chris Offutt’s Omnivore column, Cooking with Chris. 

Magic and cooking are based on the same principles of transformation, cutting and restoring, vanishing and reappearing. A blue handkerchief suddenly becomes red! A woman sawn in half returns intact! A coin disappears from the hand and reappears in a child’s ear! An egg becomes an omelet! 

April 05, 2016

An installment in Chris Offutt's Omnivore column, Cooking with Chris. 

Every family has legends of lost fortune and glory, particularly in the South where we keep our history close, and our enemies in sight. 

November 08, 2016

I love potatoes in all their forms—even raw—but especially hash browns, latkes, French fries, baked potatoes, soufflés, puffs, pastries, and homefries. And vodka. Don’t get me started on vodka. Please don’t! The last time I imbibed potato liquor I wound up hiring a bicycle taxi to pedal five people to my mother’s house for a nightcap. Mom was delighted; the taxi-cyclist quite a bit less so.

December 22, 2016

In a book entitled What Is Art? Leo Tolstoy writes, “The satisfaction of our taste cannot serve as a basis for our definition of the merits of food.” In other words, being accustomed to a particular dish does not mean it’s good for us. In his own convoluted way, Tolstoy was defining “comfort food.” He was a nineteenth-century aristocrat who sold portions of his vast estate to pay off gambling debts, so his concept of comfort would differ mightily from yours and mine. He also got depressed a lot. He lost four children to early death and killed a bear at point-blank range, making him dang near a Russian version of Daniel Boone. He certainly thought like a Southerner when he wrote the opening line to Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; and every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

August 23, 2016

Thirty years ago, after traveling all night across the desert, I reached the West Coast and promptly jumped into the Pacific Ocean. My plan was to meet a slew of fabled California girls, who’d be deeply impressed with my country-boy resourcefulness and reward me with sexual favors. Instead, the cold undertow pulled me out to sea, and began pushing me far from my pile of clothes.

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