Madison mom teaching classic dishes to millions each month
by Jennifer Cohron
Mar 19, 2011 | 1634 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Christy Jordan was 3 years old when she started learning her way around the kitchen.

Some of her first memories are of helping her mother make peach crisps. Jordan’s job was to stir the dry ingredients, which had already been measured for her, and then sprinkle them over a dish of peaches.

“I would be busy at the kitchen table doing that while she was at the countertop slicing and dicing and making supper. It got me to hush for a few minutes,” Jordan said, laughing.

The Alabama-based mom is now building a cooking empire that may soon rival that of her Georgia neighbor, Paula Deen.

Jordan’s website, www.SouthernPlate.com, gets approximately 15 million page views a month, and her Facebook page has more than 19,000 fans.

Jordan also has a successful cookbook, “Southern Plate: Classic Food That Makes Everyone Feel Like Family,” that was released in October and received an endorsement from Deen.

Two months later, she was making fried pies on “The Today Show” set with Al Roker.

Jordan recently signed a deal for her next two cookbooks, and there is a possibility that she will get her own TV show soon.

Although Jordan has a degree in home economics from the University of North Alabama, it isn’t her technical training that attracts members to the Southern Plate family.

Like any good Southerner, Jordan is a storyteller.

Her online recipes include as much commentary as cooking tips.

Her first post was called “How to Make Homemade Banana Pudding.” She posted it several years ago on her blog for a friend “up North” who had never had homemade banana pudding.

“I posted step-by-step photos and was being sort of chatty throughout it. From there, it took off and Southern Plate was born,” Jordan said.

The banana pudding recipe was soon featured on the blog’s homepage. Jordan’s tutorials on mandarin orange cake and fried green tomatoes received even more attention.

She told her husband that she thought she could attract 400 or 500 readers with her own website.

Southern Plate received 18 million page views in its first year. Nearly three years later, the site gets almost as many views in a month.

Jordan believes that her recipes are popular because many mothers are no longer at home to teach their signature dishes to their daughters who then pass them on to the next generation.

“This is our heritage, and it’s getting lost. My passion is to bring back these recipes,” Jordan said.

Jordan’s post about her great-grandmother Lela’s fried peach pies struck a chord with many readers.

One 97-year-old woman sent her an e-mail saying that she had never been able to make her mother’s fried pies.

She wished that she could have them just one more time. She followed Jordan’s recipe and felt like her mother was with her again.

Jordan also had a good response to her post on butter rolls.

She stressed that a butter roll is served for dessert, not dinner. When she asked her Grandmama for the recipe, she was told, “Well, it’s just a little bit of this and a little bit of that.”

Jordan didn’t give up until she had exact amounts of each ingredient that she could share with her Southern Plate fans.

Jordan is well-aware that each family has its own way of making potato salad or some other Southern classic. She is careful to respect everyone’s traditions.

“How your Mama made it is the right way, but when you come to Southern Plate, I’m going to show you how my Mama made it,” Jordan said.

Jordan said she tries to make her recipes as simple as possible.

Each dish is explained through words as well as pictures and uses ingredients that should be familiar to even amateur cooks.

She maintains that anyone can be a good cook with the right recipe and a little confidence.

Jordan said the beauty of Southern cooking is that it is inexpensive, easy and made from things that are in most people’s pantries.

She added that if a recipe calls for too many things that her sharecropping ancestors would not have had on hand or calls for an expensive spice she knows will only be used once, it isn’t suited for Southern Plate.

“If I look at a recipe and the ingredients list reads like an encyclopedia, I’m not going to make it,” Jordan said.

Jordan is convinced that most people want to come home to a meal they grew up on that has been cooked by someone who loves them.

She fears that some experts in the food industry have lost sight of the fact that the average person doesn’t want to spend hours in the kitchen putting a dinner together.

“I don’t care if you’re a stay-at-home mom, a teacher or a business executive — we work hard all day long. At the end of the day, you want to sit down with your family,” Jordan said.