Ever notice how every movie set in the south has some sort of underlying food theme? "The Help" is no exception. I read the book back when it was first released, fell in love, and waited anxiously for the movie, which I also loved. Aside from the charming and humorous story, both the book and the movie are chock full of delicious descriptions of food whether it's mentioned in passing or used as a major plot device. Celia Foote is my favorite character - she and her husband Johnny were so warm and welcoming during a time when racial tensions were high (and unfortunately, they still are). See their friendly smiles up there in the screenshot? I also love the movie cover itself - the bold yellow and purple and perfect representation of the personalities of the characters.
Theme parties are so much fun and as a major film and food lover, viewing parties are right up my alley! Here's a list of recipes guaranteed to round out your festivities.
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Southern Fried Chicken by How to Feed a Loon - Minny Jackson taught us that Crisco is used for everything from fixing a squeaky door hinge to softening your husband's scaly feet. But what is it best for? Frying chicken. This delicious classic recipe does it up right by using melted Crisco in a cast iron skillet and a buttermilk batter to achieve crispy, crunchy perfection.
Southern Chocolate Chess Pie by Livin' the Pie Life - I don't think it is stated precisely what recipe is used for Minny Jackson's infamous chocolate pie, but I bet the chewy fudgy goodness found in a classic chocolate chess pie will get pretty close! Spread a "mile high meringue" in the middle and it looks just like the movie version, eh? Just make sure that no one tries to sneak any "real special" ingredients in there, okay?
Ambrosia Salad by My Baking Addiction - Ambrosia, sometimes called fruit fluff, traditionally contains fruit such as pineapple, mandarin oranges, peeled grapes, strawberries, bananas and/or maraschino cherries mixed with a whipped cream or yogurt base. Most recipes contain shredded coconut and miniature marshmallows as well as chopped pecans. In the story, Hilly Holbrook's mother demands a serving of ambrosia while watching "her stories" during her daughter's Junior League meeting.
The Best Creamy Grits by Southern In Law - One of the few dishes that poor Celia Foote admits to being able to cook, no viewing party would be complete without this delicious and simple southern staple!
Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits by Tracy's Culinary Adventures - Tender and flaky buttermilk biscuits are a must at any southern table, be it breakfast, lunch, or dinner! Biscuits are mentioned several times throughout the book and are seen in many of the meal spreads featured in the movie. These tall fluffy biscuits that Tracy shared will disappear before you can say "Doggone it!"
Peach Cobbler by My Blessed Life - though Minny Jackson states clearly in the book that she "don't take charity from white ladies" she does accept a gift of fresh peaches from Miss Celia that she whips into a delicious cobbler. Peach cobbler is such a ubiquitous summer dessert in the south and would be a perfect fit for your viewing party!
Butter Beans Southern Style by Magnolia Days - In the book, Minny tells Celia that once you learn to cook butter beans, the rest will come easy! I remember eating butter beans all throughout my childhood and I still love them today. Slow cooking with only just enough water to create that thick creamy sauce is the secret to this yummy side dish!
Pan Fried Okra by Macaroni & Cheesecake - Another classic southern dish that I ate throughout my childhood. That perfectly crispy cornmeal batter contrasted with the softer texture of the flavorful okra... yum, just yum.
Southern Sweet Tea by Divas Can Cook - Known as the house wine of the south, this is a must have beverage!
Perfect Deviled Eggs by She Wears Many Hats - I love serving deviled eggs at any gathering, themed or not, they're just so easy to make. Deviled eggs got a special mention in the movie during the Junior League bridge club meeting. Just remember to leave out the paprika if you have any Hilly Holbrooks in attendance!
Other Supplies For A "The Help" Party
Now that you've got the food taken care of, here are a few final ideas to put the finishing touches on your party. Throw in a few vintage style serving pieces on some southern linens and ask your guests to dress in early 1960's style clothes. As your guests arrive, have a few casual hands of Bridge in play as appetizers or snack foods are passed around while the main dishes are finishing up. Once everyone is stuffed to the hilt, it's time to curl up and watch the movie!
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Pint-sized Mason Jars
Serving your lemonade, sweet tea, or any beverage in these mason jars will add some instant southern flavor to your party!
There is something about gingham and checkered patterns that scream "Old South" to me. Wouldn't these placemats and napkins be cute when used to serve all your yummy southern dishes? There are several colors and sizes available - pick one to match your theme!
1960's Vintage Swing Dress
If you really want to get into the spirit of things, pick up one of these adorable classic A-line dresses available in lots of colors (just 'tween us, I think these are totally cute even by today's standards, but I've always thought that I was born in the wrong decade - I love dresses like these!)
Clear Cat Eye Glasses
Wouldn't these be fun to complete a 1960's look?
Retro Mod Chunky Ball Necklace
Don't forget some big colorful costume jewelry!
A Copy of the Book "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett
Having a hardcover copy of the book as part of your buffet decor or centerpiece would be a nice touch!
"The Help" Blu-ray/DVD combo
Just in case you don't already have a copy of the movie to play at the party.