Carla Hall Talks Food, Family, and Her New Book on This Week's Biscuits & Jam

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Carla Hall
Carla Hall

Marvin Joseph

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, sits 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 takes 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.

Season 2

Episode: July 27, 2021

Download the episode now on Apple podcasts, Spotify, and everywhere podcasts are available.

Born and raised in Nashville, Carla Hall began a modest lunch delivery service after moving to Washington, DC. But over the years, her dynamic personality and her creativity in the kitchen have turned her into something of a culinary rock star. From competing on Top Chef, to hosting The Chew, Worst Cooks In America, and now her own podcast called "Say Yes with Carla Hall," she is an inspiration far beyond the world of cuisine.

On this week's program, Carla discusses her new book, what her grandmother would cook every Sunday after church, and the differences between Southern food and Soul food. All that and more this week on Biscuits & Jam.

On Growing Up With Music

"My mother would sit on Sundays and she would just have albums all around her. That would be her 'me time', listening to music. My mother loves going to concerts. Any outdoor concert. There's not a concert that she won't go to. My dad was very much into blues and jazz. And my grandmother would be walking around singing Nat King Cole… And I always liked country music just because I think the storytelling...for me it was all about storytelling. So that's why it was easier for me to remember some of the country songs. And I was a fan of Heehaw back in the day."

On Her Favorite Nashville Restaurants Growing Up

"So when I was growing up, we went to Mary's Pit Barbecue down on Jefferson…I remember they had these fried chicken legs. As a kid, I'd always get the chicken leg. And they also had these fried pineapples…. And there was Ed's Fish, and we also went to Swett's….and Morrison's Cafeteria. My father worked at Belle Meade Cafeteria, so we would go there. And what was so fancy, you know, even though it was a cafeteria, you would go down the line and pick out your dishes when you got to the end— and we never had to pay. I mean, even though I was young, I was still very conscious of this, that it was being taken care of because we were our dad's kids. And then the waiters would take our trays to the table and it just felt so fancy, you know? So those are the places that we went, but I don't remember us actually eating out a lot."

On Her New Children's Book: Carla and the Christmas Cornbread

"I am so excited about this book. I've wanted to do a children's book for the longest time…And so I've always had these characters in my life. And there's a character in the book called Bubba and I've been drawing Bubba since fifth grade…But, the story is based on my life and it's based on when I'm going to my grandmother's house and wanting the cornbread to be ready for Christmas week and the days around Christmas. And I end up eating one of these beautiful cookies that I see. And my sister's like, "you're eating Santa's cookie." And I was just like, "what?" And I got so upset. My grandmother called me into the kitchen, and we make a cornbread for Santa in a little pan and we make some cinnamon butter to go on it. And then I leave it out for Santa, and Santa leaves me a note. And then my grandfather says Santa gets tired of those little cookies, anyway. He wants something different. And, you know, it's just such a sweet story. The illustrator is Cherise Harris. I'm so incredibly excited about it. And I hope that no matter what culture you're from, you get it and you understand that special bond between a child and their grandparents."

On What It Means To Be Southern

"My accent that comes and goes. And so when I hear somebody with a Southern accent, I'm like, oh, are you from the South?.. It is a sense of friendliness. And I absolutely talk to strangers…When I was living in my apartment in New York in order to find a way to talk to people or to make up a reason, I pretended like I needed stuff. And so I would go to my neighbor and say, do you have any cream? Do you have any butter? And I would go to various floors like excuse me, I just moved in down on the third floor. Do you have any blah, blah, blah. And we ended up having, like, progressive dinners in our apartment building in New York City. I mean, people in New York are actually friendly, but no one reaches out. That is the Southerner in me. It is that sense of community and just caring about the folks in your community and actually telling them."

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Listen to the full interview on Apple podcasts, Spotify, and everywhere podcasts are available.

Visit our Podcast Primer for information on how to download and listen to a podcast.

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