About Biscuits & Jam: In the South, talking about food is personal. It’s a way of sharing your history, your family, your culture, and yourself. Each week Sid Evans, Editor in Chief of Southern Living, will sit down with celebrity musicians to hear stories of how they grew up, what inspired them, and how they’ve been shaped by Southern culture. Sid will take us back to some of their most cherished memories and traditions, the family meals they still think about, and their favorite places to eat on the road.
Episode 5: June 30, 2020
For Mary Gauthier, music and food have been lifelong passions. A native of Louisiana, she opened a successful creole restaurant in Boston that often had lines out the door. She later sold her share of that business and used the funds to make an album named after that restaurant, Dixie Kitchen. And despite not getting into the music industry until she was 35, she quickly built a reputation as one of Nashville’s most talented songwriters, with names like Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton, and Jimmy Buffett all covering her work.
Now living in Nashville, Mary’s latest album Rifles and Rosary Beads was co-written with wounded veterans. It speaks directly to the challenges and fears that soldiers and their families have faced. Like so many of Mary’s songs, it’s unflinchingly honest.
On Growing Up in Louisiana
I was born in New Orleans, raised down in Baton Rouge and Thibodaux, Louisiana.
I was adopted into an Italian family, actually. And my last name is quite complicated. My adoptive Italian father got the name from a man he never met. He never met his dad. Mr. Gauthier is a mystery to all of us. It's a long story, which I've made records about. It's been quite the journey for me. The reason I ended up in music actually is because of this quest for identity and meaning. The Louisiana heritage is a part of who I am but carry it lightly. I don't really know where I'm truly from.
On Learning to Cook
I wish that I had cooked more with my grandmother, who died when I was 14. She would bake cookies and cookies and cookies. We had so many Italian cookies, dozens of Italian cookies and breads. She had 12 brothers and sisters and we'd have this giant feast of St. Joseph. I just wish I'd cooked more with her because those Italian cookies were incredible.
I didn't really learn how to cook until I went to chef school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts.
On the Holidays
There was always a lot of food. We were weaving Italian heritage into the culture of south Louisiana, which was predominantly French and African. We’d have oyster dressing, fried okra, stewed okra, turkey, and dressing, sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, bread pudding with bourbon sauce. The cocktails were endless.
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