Off the page: Save Room for Pie

Roy Blount Jr.
Roy Blount Jr.

“You know that expression on a dog’s face,” writes Roy Blount Jr., “as he watches you plop food into his bowl? Everything that’s happened in my life has led up to this moment. That is how I feel, at bottom, about something good to eat.”

Believe it or not, those may be some of the most ordinary lines found in the 24-time author’s newest collection of culinary vignettes, Save Room for Pie: Food Songs and Chewy Ruminations. The rest, which include onslaughts on the horror of a five-star restaurant’s bacon foam—“like the belch of someone who ate bacon, captured atop your entrée”—and impromptu poems like “Song to Legumes in General”—“A legume in its pod is/Like a pulse/Absorbed into our bodies/They demulce”—float in and out of humorous nonsense and quirky observation of food culture in the South.

Those familiar with Blount’s name might even recognize some of the stories within from his monthly column in Garden & Gun, or recall the same lilt from his regular role as a panelist for NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! game show. A part-time resident of New Orleans and member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, a group founded by household names like Robert Penn Warren and Eudora Welty, Blount certainly knows how to utilize the specific sweetness of Southern vernacular, which he employs during hilarious recollections of adventures both cultural and culinary. Few other writers, after all, could delight readers with so many characters capable of uttering phrases like, “We done put a man on the moon, you mean to tell me we can’t register a possum?” or “Yeah, this is a little off. Prob’ly used a rabid squirrel.”

More a celebration of rural life minutia than a travel guide or memoir, Blount’s joy in his work and for his subject matter is as visible as a grease stain on a napkin, filled with unabashed satisfaction and appreciation for small amusements (“I once saw a lunch-counter sign, ‘Today’s Soup: Calm Chowder.’ You’d feel bad about stirring it,” he writes).

Still, even minor connoisseurs of Southern culture would be hard-pressed to travel through Blount’s landscape without, in the words of one Louisiana fisherman, “grinning like a cat eating yellow jackets.” If they have the appetite, that is.