Books: Down-Home Around the World

The season's new cookbooks dish up traditional comfort foods

The meatloaf-and-mashed-potatoes theme so fashionable at many trendy restaurants has apparently sparked a hunger for nostalgia in America's home cooks. At least that is the impression one gets from the season's crop of cookbooks. Their titles and dust-jacket blurbs are cozy with words like down- home, traditional, family and old-time, as in "Give me that old-time culinary religion."

Several of the more valuable works are devoted to the food of the American South, a region that provides the nation's richest and most colorful local cuisine. The best entry is Southern Food, by John Egerton (Knopf; 408 pages; $24.95). More a social...