Trisha Yearwood knows how to write a successful cookbook as perfectly as she sings a country ballad. The Georgia native's cookbook, "Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen: Recipes From My Family to Yours” (Clarkson Potter, $29.95), has been in bookstores just a few weeks but has climbed to the No. 4 spot on The New York Times best-seller list for hardcover advice books. She wrote the book with her mother, Gwen Yearwood, and her sister, Beth Yearwood Bernard. The three women will be in Oklahoma City on Tuesday to sign copies of the cookbook at the Oklahoma City Borders bookstore. Yearwood, who has made the Tulsa area her home for several years and is married to Oklahoma-born country superstar Garth Brooks, discussed how important this book was to her and her family in a telephone interview last week from her Oklahoma home. Her excitement at how well the book has been received was obvious as she giggled and laughed while describing details of putting the book together. "It was one of those things where we were so specific — my Mom and my sister and I — about exactly how we wanted the recipes to be laid out and what we wanted the book to look like and the photographs, everything. And we just couldn't have been happier” with the end product, she said. "These are recipes we have been making for our whole lives, and this is a lot of family recipes, a lot of family stories and history, so it was really sentimental for us, and we wanted it to be right,” Yearwood said. "We didn't have any idea how it would go over, because I've never done this before. And the response has been so overwhelming. We're just like — oh, my gosh! We're really glad we didn't have other things planned, because it's just gotten crazy,” she said. Yearwood has prepared the German Chocolate Cake With Coconut Frosting (that's Garth's favorite birthday cake, she said) on Rachael Ray's television show, and has done a live call-in segment on Martha Stewart's weekday Sirius radio show. But Yearwood said the most fun show she appeared on to promote the cookbook was "The View” on ABC-TV. "I've done ‘The View' probably a dozen times,” Yearwood said, ‘but this time, well, I've never done a segment where everybody just ate and nobody talked. They were supposed to be asking the questions, and they just ate the food, and it was so funny. I think they sold a lot of cookbooks that day because they had a lot of people who came into the bookstores after that and said they had to make the ribs after seeing ‘The View.'” Yearwood said she, her Mom and her sister were actively involved in producing the book, right down to preparing the food photographed on location in Georgia. "I love cookbooks, and I have a lot of cookbooks, and the ones that have things I want to make are the ones with a lot of photographs. I like when the photographs are throughout the book with the recipes, not with one little section in the middle and you have to keep flippin' back and forth. So I had specific ideas about how I wanted it to look.” They did photo shoots in New York and Georgia, then a day in Nashville, Tenn., for the book, Yearwood said. "On the New York shoot, there was a food stylist who prepped the recipes, and 99 percent of what she did was perfect. There were a couple of things she made that we did again, because we felt it was really pretty, but it didn't look like ours. It was really important for it to look like our food, and so we sent our own dishes to New York. All the dishes and everything are ours. And then we went to Georgia; we didn't have a food stylist; we had my Mom, my sister and I, so in two days, we cooked about 30-something dishes. So the majority of the photographs, especially all the ones you see my family in, those were all the things we made ourselves. So it makes it even more special.” And there was a humorous side to doing all that cooking and being in the photos. "We were cooking in hair and makeup,” Yearwood said, laughing, "and it was like, ‘OK, the food's ready, now pat us down so we don't look like we're sweating for the photographs.' It was crazy. We really didn't think about how crazy it was until the day was over. I can't believe we did that. But I think it made it even more authentic.” In the book, Yearwood writes that strangers know her for her "singing thing” but friends know her best for her cooking, and she loves time spent with friends talking about cooking, new recipes and new local restaurants. "Sharing recipes and memories about food has always been a great way to connect with friends and family,” she writes. In fact, when Yearwood moved to Oklahoma, her mom and sister compiled a notebook of family recipes for her to use in her Oklahoma kitchen. They called it "Georgia Recipes for an Oklahoma Kitchen,” and it became the basis for this cookbook. The Yearwoods' love of cooking for family and friends is reinforced in the book with lots of colorful photos of gatherings as well as details about many of the recipes and how they've become family favorites through the years. She writes with humor about the pasta salad her husband reworked to suit his tastes, calling him "Gartha Stewart” in notes preceding Garth's Pasta Salad recipe. She describes how she doubles the frosting recipe for Brooks' favorite German chocolate cake, because he likes plenty of coconut frosting on her homemade specialty. The simplicity of the book's recipes — from Mama's Awesome Chicken Noodle Soup that Yearwood said her mother shipped to her in Oklahoma when she had the flu and was so homesick, to Gwen's Fried Chicken With Milk Gravy, Banana Pudding prepared two ways and Home-Churned Ice Cream — shows how much cooks in Oklahoma have in common with the Yearwood family and good Southern cooks from Georgia. We especially admire how Yearwood invites us to enjoy the best of Georgia and Oklahoma cooking in this homey collection of tried and true recipes with which many cooks are familiar. Yearwood has a new album out and will be on tour in June and July, after her book promotion winds down. Brooks wrote the foreword for his wife's first cookbook, paying tribute to "Miss Yearwood” and her love of cooking, noting not only how much she loves to cook but that she cooks for those she loves. Yearwood said the cookbook definitely "comes out of the spirit of something the three of us were so proud to do and excited to do.” The recipes are basic favorites, with common ingredients and simple directions. "I've been jokingly saying — but it's also really true — the most exotic spices in this cookbook are salt and pepper. It's pretty simple stuff.”
Book signingTrisha Yearwood, her mother, Gwen Yearwood, and her sister, Beth Yearwood Bernard, will sign copies of "Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen” at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Borders Books, Movies, Music & Cafe, 3209 Northwest Expressway. Tickets for the signing will be available that day at Borders. For more information, call 848-2667.
Farmers markets and gardeningTrisha Yearwood said she's not shopped the local farmers market in Oklahoma yet, "but I need to learn about the farmers markets here, because I used to do that a lot in Nashville.” She relies on local friends who bring her produce from their gardens and local produce stands in the summer. "I was raised on a farm with a garden and there's nothing like it. We don't have a garden out here yet because I'm usually on the road and I would be the one to do the gardening, and there's a lot of rock out here,” she laughed. "I'd have to find a way to completely enclose it because we have a ton of deer and I'd have to share with them.”
Tomatoes and watermelonsHer favorite summer produce, Yearwood said, is tomatoes and watermelon. "Watermelon is a big Southern thing for us, but when those first, real summer tomatoes start coming in, that's my favorite,” she said. "I like tomato sandwiches. Sometimes I make homemade bread and that's the best way to have them — homemade bread, a little mayonnaise, salt, pepper, tomato slices and that's it. That's just my favorite. "You're making me want summer to get here now,” she said. As for watermelon, she recalled childhood memories of trips to the watermelon patch to "pick a watermelon and bust it open on the tailgate of the truck, and eat it like that. My memory is just I've never had sweeter tasting watermelon than then.”