Johnathon Scott Barrett


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Cook & Celebrate

A Collection of Southern Holiday & Party Culinary Traditions

Barrett presents the convivial and delicious Cook & Celebrate. Barrett takes readers from the Commonwealth of Virginia, down to the Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry, over to Mobile Bay, and on jaunts in between to showcase the favorite dishes (and the stories behind them) that Southerners use to fete the holidays, and one another. Memories abound with Hoppin’ John and collards at New Year’s, fried chicken and potato salad on Independence Day, sweet, cloud-like coconut cakes at Easter, and the veritable Tom Turkey and cornbread dressing which crown dining tables at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Barrett shares these recipes, along with 100+ more, while introducing in each chapter friends and loved ones along the way. And besides their enthusiasm for the holidays, Southerners, with their ingrained sense of graciousness, are also known for toasting life and one another with a variety of appetizing affairs. Barrett relates herein with a sampling of delightful soirees and dinners, some as casual as a fish-fry to others with four courses and your grandmother’s silver and china. Cook & Celebrate is a wonderful, delectable, and nostalgic read that will invoke warm, festive memories and inspire you to celebrate life in the kitchen.

If you were to look at the road map of my life, the starting point was in the small town of Perry, Georgia almost 60 years ago.  Life was simple, but for the most part sweet: I was raised on farm-to-table food, fishing and hunting were year-round sports, and my family – though filled with its quirks and sometimes Southern gothic eccentricities – a loving one.  My father, the baby of his family, married my mother late in life, and I didn’t come along until fifteen years after that union – so a great deal of my life was spent around older adults.  My first cousins on Daddy’s side were well into their thirties when I was born; I referred to them all as my ‘aunts’ and ‘uncles’ growing up because, being a polite Southerner, there was no way I could call them by their first names.

That exposure, along with being a seventh-generation Georgian, gave me a sincere appreciation of tradition, and a real sense of place – which comes across in each of my three books.  In those pages, stories and recipes are shared that comprise a six-decade culinary journey with friends and family.  As you read through them, you will hopefully get a number of good laughs – I can make a great deal of fun of myself – and I wish as well, in the rather reflective passages where a bit of sorrow is shared, that your memories are sparked about the blessings you have had in life.

Besides writing, professionally I am a CPA, and have worked as a nonprofit executive for the past three decades.  These days I have the honor of serving as the Executive Director of Development for the State Botanical Garden at the University of Georgia in Athens. Married for almost ten years to my husband Tom, we have been together for 33 turns around the sun.  Home is a brick, stone, and stucco cottage on three acres in rural Winterville, Georgia – along with our best friend, Max, a twenty-pound schnauzer I found wandering in traffic back in 2014.


“I read Cook & Celebrate in bed, like a letter from a dear cousin – one who holds food and family in equal esteem, with what I can only describe as true Southern elan. Every recipe has its story (as it should) and every story is illuminated with a richness that simply warms the heart. The combination makes for a cookbook that is a treasure trove of exquisite food, from homemade pimento cheese to expert pointers on the craft of cooking wild game. Johnathon Barrett’s delightful voice is that of a favorite country cousin who you adored as a child, who grew up and moved to the city and lived large, but never forgot their country roots. They are that cousin who not only returns for the family funerals, but brings the best cakes and hugs you for two solid minutes, and offers to pay for the casket flowers. He’s a reminder of all that is worth celebrating in our beloved home.”

Janis Owens, Award-winning author of ‘The Cracker Kitchen,” “American Ghost,” and
“My Brother Michael”

“Beloved author, chef, and consummate host Johnathon Scott Barrett brings his love of Southern cooking and gift for creating unforgettable celebrations to your kitchen and your table. Within these story-and-recipe filled pages, you’ll learn Johnathon’s secrets for entertaining with Southern style and joy, from New Year’s Day through the Twelve Days of Christmas. I can’t wait to season my holiday gatherings with this book in hand!”

Nancie McDermott, Award-winning author of “Southern Cakes:  Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations”

“From the minute you open this book, you will step into Johnathan’s world of wonderful dinners, family gatherings, and elegant parties – and you will become fast friends.  Johnathan, the consummate host, will guide you through every aspect of any occasion, from the invitations to the menu to the libations! He’ll make you want to start writing out your guest list (or multiple lists for multiple occasions) and planning your next soiree. This book is a must for every host and hostess!”

Mary Martha Greene, Author of “The Cheese Biscuit Queen Tells All”

Books by Johnathon

When you purchase books at Georgia Writers Museum up to 40% of your purchase supports our non-profit, and helps us provide programs, exhibits, and workshops to children, students, adults and seniors! Stop by our bookstore, Thursday – Saturday, 10am – 4pm or email us at to reserve your copy. Signed copies can be ordered prior to the event.

Amanda Vining photo

Amanda holds a BS in Biology from Georgia College & State University. She began her career as an educator with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. After leaving the DNR, Amanda became a formal educator with Baldwin County School System and Jasper County School System. Amanda began her museum career at the Museum of Arts and Sciences (MAS) in Macon, Georgia, where she served as Curator of Environmental Science
(2011-2020). While at MAS, Amanda developed a love for sharing the world around us with the many students who visited on school field trips. During her time as Curator of Environmental Science, Amanda launched a storytime
program for preschool children.

Since 2020, Amanda has been serving Georgia Writers Museum as a volunteer on the Education Committee. Amanda has brought her love of sharing stories with students by launching Peaches’ Reading Pasture. As Museum Manager, Amanda looks forward to serving the community and helping to inspire those within our community to put words to paper and share their stories.

Amanda was born and raised in nearby Shady Dale, Georgia. Her husband, Rodney, is a native of Eatonton, and they currently reside in Putnam County. They have three children.