Off the page: ‘Whiskey in a Teacup’ by Reese Witherspoon

One of the most popular recurring features in Us Weekly magazine is called “Stars—They’re Just Like Us!” Readers of the gossip rag can’t get enough of seeing Justin Timberlake eat potato chips or Paris Hilton buy dog food. Turns out, the magazine is telling us, these famous folks are actually pretty ordinary in many ways.

To Southerners, Reese Witherspoon—the Tennessee-born actress whose empire now also includes a retail brand and media content company—is “Just Like Us!” too, but not in what makes her ordinary. Southern women happily claim Witherspoon as one of our own because of her eagerness to not only embrace our region’s charming little quirks but to proclaim them as good-living gospel to the rest of the world.

“My mother and grandmother and their friends taught me that finding pleasure at home—whether in a family dinner or a book club or a backyard barbecue—can give us the strength to go out into the world and do incredible things,” writes Witherspoon in her new book Whiskey in a Teacup. “My Southern heritage has informed my whole life—how I value generosity, how I decorate my house, and how I make holidays special for my kids—not to mention how I talk, dance and do my hair.”

That explains why one of the most memorable chapters of this book involves Witherspoon demonstrating each step of styling her hair with hot rollers. Once the cylinders are firmly in place, she recommends hopping in the car and heading to your destination before removing the rollers. “The whole drive, pray you do not see any ex-boyfriends or current crushes until your hair is finished,” she advises. Since the book’s release, this girly guidance has gone on to inspire an Instagram #hotrollerchallenge, kicked off by Jennifer Garner—a Southern-born girl herself, naturally.

There’s plenty of other practical knowledge being imparted in these pages, from how to properly set a dinner table and how to roll out a pie crust to how to pronounce “pecan” and what songs work best on a Southern party playlist (hint: choose plenty of Dolly). And of course, Witherspoon shares dozens of favorite family recipes, all aimed at helping readers share their homes and their time with the people they love.

“The South is about hospitality in the oldest sense,” she writes. “The South is about enjoying this one life you’ve got.”