Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Whiskey In A Teacup: What Growing Up in the South Taught Me about Life, Love, and Baking Biscuits by Reese Witherspoon

Whiskey In A Teacup: What Growing Up in the South Taught Me about Life, Love, and Baking Biscuits by Reese Witherspoon
Narrated by Reese Witherspoon
Published September 2018 by Touchstone
Source: audiobook checked out through my local library

Publisher's Summary:
Reese Witherspoon’s grandmother Dorothea always said that a combination of beauty and strength made southern women “whiskey in a teacup.” We may be delicate and ornamental on the outside, she said, but inside we’re strong and fiery.

Reese’s southern heritage informs her whole life, and she loves sharing the joys of southern living with practically everyone she meets. She takes the South wherever she goes with bluegrass, big holiday parties, and plenty of Dorothea’s fried chicken. It’s reflected in how she entertains, decorates her home, and makes holidays special for her kids—not to mention how she talks, dances, and does her hair (in these pages, you will learn Reese’s fail-proof, only slightly insane hot-roller technique). Reese loves sharing Dorothea’s most delicious recipes as well as her favorite southern traditions, from midnight barn parties to backyard bridal showers, magical Christmas mornings to rollicking honky-tonks.

It’s easy to bring a little bit of Reese’s world into your home, no matter where you live. After all, there’s a southern side to every place in the world, right?

My Thoughts:
Guys, do not check out the audiobook copy of this book from your local library. Nothing against Witherspoon's narration (well, sort of, but more on that later); but you're missing all of the recipes, tips, and pictures. There is a pdf that includes all of these things if you've bought the audiobook, but I didn't and I think it took away from the book. I really don't even know why the library carries the book on audio, given how much you lose by listening.

Now, back to that narration. I love, love Reese Witherspoon. She's a woman who has managed to have a successful acting career for almost 30 years, she's an entrepreneur, and she's huge book lover who has done a lot to promote books. And I've always thought her voice was charming and sweet. But, I'm sorry to say, it really started to grate on my nerves as the book went on. Now I'm a little worried that the next time I see her in a movie, I'm going to have this experience coloring my impression of her performance.

I'm sorry to say that's not my only beef with this book.

The book is, of course, Witherspoon's take on her life growing up in the South. But throughout the book, she seems to imply that all Southern women mind their manners, love hot rollers, and wallpaper and monogram everything. The thing is, Witherspoon's experience is as a privileged, white woman. I've been to the South and can vouch that not every woman in that part of the country wears pearls to the grocery story and minds her manners in public. Again, Witherspoon is writing from her own experience, but in trying to wrap her lily-white arms around all women, she's largely ignoring a huge population of Southern women. She does periodically talk about "strong black women" and civil rights activism, but those pieces felt compulsory and not as heart-felt as the rest of the book.

Once in a while, too, I got the impression that Witherspoon was a woman who had never much been out of the South, which is obviously not true. How else, then, to account for the fact that she seems to think that some sayings, some behaviors, are strictly Southern? For example, more than once she talked about how friendly the people are in the South. But I'm told on a regular basis, by people who've come to Nebraska from other places, that the Midwest has the nicest people. I'm not saying we're the only nice people in the country; I'm just saying Witherspoon should be aware that Southerners are either.

These are all things that might not have been as noticeable to me if I had been looking at this book, eager to turn the shiny pages and see the next beautiful image.

All of that being said, I did like this book (and I'm sure it will be hugely successful despite its flaws). Witherspoon's personality shines throughout the book as she shares family stories, the ways her upbringing formed her, and lots of humor. I mean, who else is going to give you a two-page spread about how to hot-roller your hair (that includes telling you to leave the house with the rollers still in your hair!)?

I did learn some things about the South that do make it unique. That Easter scene in the movie Steel Magnolias? Apparently, that's common in the South. Of course, they can probably count on warmer temps in Tennessee at Easter than we can count on in Nebraska. I think my favorite parts of the book were when Witherspoon got personal. In one story, Witherspoon tells about how, on the day of her wedding to her current husband, her best friend reminded her that "You only get married for the second time once,"making Reese crack up laughing and easing the tension. I sort of love her best friend!

I will be checking out the print copy of this book as soon as it's available because I have to get my hands on some of the recipes Witherspoon includes in the book. She talks a lot about food in this book and it's only through tremendous willpower that I didn't find myself regularly driving off to find some comfort food (although even Witherspoon couldn't talk me into trying black-eyed peas again).

I'd also like to be able to get a copy of all of the books she recommends here in both the book club section and a section where she talks about Southern novels she loves.


  1. I actually bought a copy of this at Costco, possibly the first paper book I've bought in 5 years. It's SO pretty. I made her cheese wafers (cheese straws) this week for a friend and they are perfect. (Except I made them as straws, not disks). I'm excited to try some of the other recipes to see if they all hold up.

  2. Just a quick, Happy Thanksgiving wish to you and your family. We'll be busy tomorrow but didn't want to miss a chance to send our wished.

  3. Reading this reminds me of how much I disliked listening to Drew Barrymore's "Wildflower" (reviewed here). The book was quite good, but the audio annoyed me every time she screamed or yelled with enthusiasm about something. :)

  4. Thanks so much for the heads up regarding the audio. I love Reese Witherspoon's narration on previous books so I was going to go the audio route on this one. It looks like I need to check the print version out of the library.

  5. I just got a copy from my local library and look forward to glancing through it and reading some of her tips and personal stories. I'm glad you pointed out some of those flaws. Cuz I'd probably come away with a different idea about Ms. Witherspoon without knowing a bit more about it! So thank you!

  6. I have Whiskey in ebook form. I wonder how the pictures and recipes will translate. Her voice is a little shrill. Can be too peppy for me.