Whiskey in a Teacup by Reese Witherspoon - book review

America's southern women may be delicate and ornamental on the outside, but inside they are '˜strong and fiery.'
Whiskey in a Teacup by Reese WitherspoonWhiskey in a Teacup by Reese Witherspoon
Whiskey in a Teacup by Reese Witherspoon

The words of Oscar-winning actress, film producer and entrepreneur Reese Witherspoon’s smart, ambitious and brave grandmother Dorothea speak loudly and clearly in this colourful celebration of life, love, baking biscuits and growing up in Nashville, Tennessee.

Witherspoon, star of hit films like Legally Blonde, Walk the Line and Wild, and an advocate and activist for women’s issues across the globe, invites you into her world in this charming, lavishly illustrated book filled with entertaining and heartwarming family memories, and a glorious infusion of the southern style, parties and traditions that she adores.

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One of the first women to gain a master’s degree from Vanderbilt University, Witherspoon’s grandmother has always been an inspirational figure in the family and her gran’s assertion that a combination of beauty and strength made southern women ‘whiskey in a teacup’ has resonated down the decades.

And Dorothea’s phenomenally successful granddaughter says that same southern heritage informs her whole life. ‘To me, southern womanhood is about both the teacup and the whiskey – the music and the manners, the hospitality and the fight for fairness.’

And Witherspoon loves sharing the joys of southern living with practically everyone she meets. In fact, she takes the South wherever she goes with bluegrass, big holiday parties, and plenty of Dorothea’s fried chicken.

So sit back and enjoy how she talks, dances, entertains, decorates her home, bakes classic southern dishes, and makes holidays special for her children Ava Elizabeth, Deacon Reese and Tennessee James.

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Learn the subtle art of dinner parties and how to make special occasions extra special, discover why southern ladies love holidays, meet Dolly Parton, the ‘eternal symbol of southern womanhood,’ and discover the childhood joys of selling home-made lemonade and catching frogs with your bare hands.

You can even try to master the basics of Witherspoon’s fail-proof (and only slightly insane) hot-roller technique which involves lots of mousse and driving to your special date with your car window open to cool the rollers in your hair!

And if that wasn’t enough, the book is packed with dozens of Dorothea’s most delicious recipes, including Summer Squash Casserole and Brined-and-Battered Fried Chicken, as well as her favourite southern traditions, from midnight barn parties and backyard bridal showers to magical Christmas mornings and rollicking honky-tonks.

Witherspoon, whose career has enabled her to travel and see the world, reckons she is still happiest in the South, in Nashville, ‘surrounded by friends. Listening to country music. A glass of sweet tea in one hand and a barbecue sandwich in the other.’

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Full of old-fashioned, cosy charm, contemporary flair and Witherspoon’s irresistible joie de vivre, Whiskey in a Teacup is a warm and welcoming visit to Tennessee… and the perfect gift for all would-be southern belles.

(Simon & Schuster, hardback, £20)