Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles Wrote a Cookbook That Pays Tribute to Her Southern Baptist Roots

The country singer and her mom teamed up to write a family-friendly cookbook entitled Sweet, Savory & Simple

Build Presents Jennifer Nettles Discussing #ShineBright
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Jennifer Nettles wants you to learn how to cook like her!

The Sugarland singer and her mom Carla Temple teamed up to write a family-friendly cookbook entitled Sweet, Savory & Simple, that was inspired by her Southern roots. Growing up in Douglas, Georgia, one of Nettles’ biggest influences throughout her youth was attending the Carver Baptist Church, which also influenced the way the cookbook was formatted.

“For those of us who grew up in the south, the church would get together, all the ladies and everybody would have their recipes—all the stuff that they would cook and make and take to the social hall for any sort of wedding, funeral, or baby shower,” Nettles, who will star in the film Harriet in 2019, tells PEOPLE. “After some of the special events, they would put together a cookbook.”

“It was this format; the spiral-bound,” she recalls of those church cookbooks, adding that her own cookbook is similar in format and features family photos in a spiral-bound paperback. “You can open it up super easily in terms of lying it flat on your counter. It’s not super fancy. It’s a few recipes. It’s not about a big, glossy photo shoot—none of that. It is really what the title says, which is part of it being simple.”

Her mom—whom Nettles admits is the “instrument, inspiration and impetus behind” the entire collection of recipes—also approached the cookbook’s format a little bit like a record, throwing in a collection of “greatest hits” and naming and numbering the chapters as if they were song tracks to pay tribute to Nettles’ success with Sugarland.

“I have to give my mother the whole credit for this,” she says. “I mean, this is her idea. She loves the fame and she was definitely playing off the ideas and the themes where music is concerned. This is all of her handiwork.”

Growing up, Nettles recalls learning to cook with her mom and her great-grandmother, and a few of those family-favorite recipes made it into the book, such as the “Sorry Cake” which was passed down from her great-grandmother and her absolute favorite chicken salad.

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“I think as a kid, that was such a wonderful lesson to me because cooking — yes, it is sustenance and often times a necessity to eat, but it’s also an art form,” Nettles says. “Creatively, it’s a beautiful space to occupy and especially for women. I think there’s a lot of power in that space in making something that you want to eat.”

And Nettles is carrying on the tradition of cooking with her own family. One recipe that’s not in the book is one that she loves to make with her son Magnus, 6: chocolate chip banana bread (“he loves it because he is his mother’s child,” she says) and her chocolate crackle cookies.

jennifer-nettles-mom
Jennifer Nettles

“Basically all the sweets—that’s what he likes the most,” Nettles says.

While this is Nettles’ first official venture into the world of food, she’s excited to have the dishes that she grew up on entering family homes around America.

“We leave all kinds of legacies,” Nettles says. “Food is a wonderful way that we enhance ritual in our lives. Just in being open and sharing the person that I am, I thought it would be wonderful to really share just a few recipes that could then be celebrated in food as well. Music is a wonderful way, but food is another way.”

Sweet, Savory & Simple is available for purchase now on Sugarland’s website.

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