Deep South Dining: Bringing Back Radio Shows
Imagine a cozy kitchen klatch, sharing recipes with friends and discussing what you have cooked or plan to cook. Now imagine that gathering including thousands of people, many from across the globe. A radio program produced at Mississippi Public Broadcasting Think Radio has made it possible for both home cooks and serious foodies to share their tips and techniques with a broad audience. Listeners of Deep South Dining can also ask questions and get answers from hosts Malcolm White and Carol Puckett, as well as from other listeners.
“It’s a fun show to do,” says Malcolm, who says the weekly radio program has loyal listeners and regular callers. The program has been on the air for years, first hosted by Deborah Hunter. “I was an avid listener,” says Malcolm, who also hosted a show at MPB in his then-role as director of the Mississippi Arts Commission. “I hosted Mississippi Arts Hour, and I got to know Deborah from seeing her at the MPB studios. I really enjoyed her show and learned a lot about cooking from her. We became good friends.”
One week, Malcolm heard a re-run for Deep South Dining. The next week, when he heard another re-run, he asked the director of MPB’s Think Radio, Jason Klein, if everything was OK with Deborah. “He told me she was no longer doing the show.” Malcolm thought about it for a moment and said, “I’d like to do it!” Klein called in Java Chatman, a radio producer at MPB, and the two asked Malcolm what his vision of the show would be. He immediately told them he’d like to have Carol Puckett co-host with him.
Both Malcolm and Carol have strong food backgrounds. From being an excellent home cook to the president of Viking Hospitality, Carol also founded The Everyday Gourmet, a wildly popular retail store. She has also written the forward for numerous cookbooks in addition to being a food and entertainment consultant. Malcolm is also a home cook and the co-founder of Hal & Mal’s restaurant in Jackson. He also had a good bit of experience in radio, doing his show for the Mississippi Arts Commission, as well as the radio program on MPB called Next Stop: Mississippi, which Malcolm created and hosted when he was the Mississippi Tourism director. “I have always loved radio. I’m very old-fashioned that way.”
Now Malcolm is joined by Carol in the studio along with Java as their producer, each Monday at 9 am for the hour-long program, Deep South Dining. “Even if we didn’t have a single listener, I just love spending an hour each week talking food with one of my best friends,” says Malcolm.
The show focuses on recipe swaps and answering questions, like the one they got recently from someone who had a bush full of green figs. “He wanted to pick them before they froze and wanted to know what he could do with green figs. I had no idea, nor did Carol, but we told him we’d do some research and share our findings on the next show.” Folks even write letters, one correcting Malcolm’s use of pronouns. “I evidently know more about cooking than English grammar.”
Choosing the topics for the show is a collaborative effort between Carol, Malcolm and Java. “It’s been a joy working with Java,” says Carol. “He is such an important part of the show, and he brings his own personality and humor. He is way more than a producer. We are a real team.”
The show features guests each week as well. “A lot of guests are people we know,” says Malcolm. Others are suggested by booksellers at Lemuria Bookstore in Jackson. “They’ll call and let us know about cookbook authors who will be in the store for book-signings and ask if we would consider hosting an in-person event, which we love to do.” Occasionally, the show will feature a special in two or three parts, such as when they had Chef and restauranteur Sean Brock in the studio.
“I start getting excited every Sunday night,” says Carol. “I have so many different interests when it comes to cooking, but most often, the topic of our conversations revolves around what we are cooking in our own homes.” Carol has extensive knowledge gleaned from the many professionals she has met through The Everyday Gourmet, which she opened in 1981, as well as collaborating with chefs from around the world at Viking Range. “Malcolm’s career goes back to his college days, working in restaurants.”
Malcolm explains that there are three “legs” to Deep South Dining. “We do the radio show, which is then packaged into a podcast, and last year when the Covid pandemic struck, we developed our Facebook group page, Cooking and Coping: Dining Around the Virtual Table, which has taken off.” LeAnne Doss Gault created the Facebook group and came up with the name. “LeAnne is such a big part of Cooking and Coping,” says Carol, who first met LeAnne when the two worked at Viking Range in Greenwood.
A fourth leg is in the works. Carol has an idea of doing weekend events. “At the first event, I’d love to get all the folks who regularly post on Cooking and Coping to come,” says Carol. “I’d love to see cooking demonstrations by some of the posters. The events would be a natural outgrowth of everything else we are doing. Our listeners and posters on Facebook could meet faceto-face and share. Already, a lot of people have made new friends and rediscovered old friends on Cooking and Coping.”