Black History Month Cookbook Round-Up: A Feast for Cooks and Readers
Throughout February, I’ve been celebrating Black History Month on my Facebook page, with daily postings of cookbooks written by African American authors. I got the idea from my friend Nicole Taylor, who is always cooking up something fine: Check her out at Food Culturist , My Black Journey, @foodculturist, Facebook page, and her Heritage Radio Network show “Hot Grease”. Twenty-eight cookbooks in all, pictured about on the stairs leading up to my office. My friend Carroll Leggett asked if I might share a list once I was finished, and I said “Yes!”.
Here it is: Each book cover, and a little commentary about each one, what I put up on Facebook each day, some long, some short. I had so many to choose from that I gave myself some guidelines. I decided to stick with modern/current books, since the subject of historical cookbooks by African Americans is being handsomely covered by my friend, journalist, author and culinary historian Toni Tipton-Martin, of The Jemima Code. Her book, The Jemima Code: 150 Timeless African American Cookbooks and Their Extraordinary Legacy” will be published by the University of Texas Press next year. Check out her blog HERE; her Jemima Code Facebook page HERE.
While some of the authors have written multiple books, I kept it to one per author, in order to showcase as many people as possible. I didn’t post any books that I saw other people posting on their own #bhcookbooks lists, again to broaden the field. Despite my chosen guidelines, I still I ran out of days, and not out of books! I still have more here, and this list is limited to the ones I happened to have already in my own cookbook library; this is by no means an exhaustive, complete, or ranked collection. It’s just a wonderful start. I love every book on this list and I hope you will enjoy them, too. Happy reading, happy cooking, happy learning, happy history-celebrating. All year long, not just February. No reason to stop celebrating, learning, and thinking just because we turned a calendar page.
My friend Nicole Taylor is posting photos of black-authored cookbooks daily during Black History Month, and inviting us to follow along and/or do likewise. Here we go: “America I Am Pass It Down Cookbook: Over 130 Soul-Filled Recipes” by Chef Jeff Henderson with Ramin Ganeshram. This collection of recipes from both home cooks, professional chefs, includes history, portraits of contributors, historical photos and pictures of some of the dishes, and an inviting collection of recipes worthy of picnics, brunches, family reunions and celebration feasts. Published in 2011 by Smiley Books, it includes space for us to write in some of our own family recipes to this collection; to keep on passing it down.
Black History Month is five days along and I have some catching up to do. #bhcookbooks Today’s cookbook is “High On The Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America” by the brilliant, prolific, trailblazing and incomparable Dr. Jessica B Harris. (Bloomsbury 2011). We could go nearly two weeks through this month of books featuring Dr. Harris’s works alone! As prolific as she is articulate and creative, Dr. Harris knows the worlds and ways of which she writes so eloquently in this history book, story book, academic work, and adventure chronicle, foodways essay and recipe book. We needed this book, and what a gift that Dr. Harris has written it. Start the journey with her in the Marche’ Kermel in Dakar, Senegal, and finish it at her American kitchen table, sharing sauce gombo from Benin, calas from New Orleans, snow eggs from Monticello, and her signature Sunday dinner dish, garlic-, rosemary-, and lavender-scented leg of lamb with spicy mint sauce.
Today’s cookbook by an African American author: “Creole Feast: 15 Master Chefs of New Orleans Reveal Their Secrets” by Chef Nathaniel Burton and Dr. Rudy Lombard. Published by Random House in 1978, it features interviews with and biographical information about fifteen accomplished chefs, handsome photos and incredible array of recipes, arranged by type of dish with credit to each chef. Treasure. #bhcookbooks Thanks, Nicole Taylor Black History Month.
Catching up on my Daily Posts of excellent cookbooks by African American authors. Today’s book, “Gullah Home Cooking the Daufuskie Way; Smokin’ Joe Butter Beans, Ol’ Fuskie Fried Crab Rice, Sticky-Bush Blackberry Dumpling, & Other Sea Island Favorites”, opens a lovely, moving window onto the world of Sallie Ann Robinson, who takes us all over to her beloved Daufuskie Island, which is just a ferry ride away from Savannah, Georgia. One of the Sea Islands of the Low Country, it is where Ms. Robinson was born and raised, and she brings her childhood to life, while introducing us to the living traditions, culinary and otherwise, of Gullah people. And the food, the recipes: Fantastic! From UNC University of North Carolina Press, published in 2003, still in print, paperback and hardcover. #bhcookbooks Check out Food Culturist, who launched this wonderful idea. I want every book she’s posted….
In celebration of Black History Month, here is today’s post of a cookbook by an African American author: “If I Can Cook/You Know God Can” by is by Ntozake Shange, renowned playwright, artist, essayist, and novelist. Recipes are here, folded into an incredible, unique, moving work published in 1998 by Beacon Press. Newer edition in Beacon’s Bluestreak series has a different cover, same delicious contents. Fabulous introduction by Living National Treasure Ms. Vertamae Grosvenor. Thankful for Food Culturist Nicole Taylor who inspired me to do this. #bhcookbooks
Today’s cookbook in honor of Black History Month, “And Still I Cook”, published in 2003 by Pelican Publishing Company, comes from another Living National Treasure: Chef Leah Chase, who has been firing up the stoves of legendary Dooky Chase Restaurant in New Orleans for decades. After the levees failed and let Katrina’s waters flow into her kitchen and dining rooms, she did not waver in her determination to reopen, and that is just what she did. She is still cooking, still working, still speaking up, at the age of 91. Thanks to Nicole Taylor of Food Culturist for this idea #bhcooks
Today’s cookbook by an African American author is “The Soul of Southern Cooking”, by Kathy Starr. She truly is a star, for bringing the world her family’s stories and recipes in this superb book, published by University of Mississippi Press in 1989. You will meet her grandmother, restauranteur, businesswoman and chef known to all as Miz Bob, and envision Ms. Starr’s Mississippi Delta childhood through stories and recipes. Here’s an interivew with Kathy Starr in the Oral History section of Southern Foodways Alliance‘s website: #bhcooks http://www.southernfoodways.org/interview/kathy-starr/
Today’s cookbook by an African American author is “Treme: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans” by esteemed journalist, author, and screenwriter Lolis Eric Elie who created a story-seasoned cookbook which presents New Orleans cuisine, culture and recipes in a way which works even if you don’t follow the fine television series Treme on HBO. If you are a fan, so cool how the characters are telling the big story through their stories. If you don’t, no worries: it stands alone with NOLA people telling NOLA stories. There are fancy restaurant dishes and home-cooking dishes and street food dishes and essays on such subjects as gumbo and yaka mein. Deep, practical, diverting, fun. #bhcooks
Today I need to catch up on African American Cookbooks for Black History Month #bhcooks. Start with this lovely work, “Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine: Recipes and Reminiscences of a Family” by two sisters from a North Carolina family who penned a classic back in 1994. Norma Jean Darden and Carole Darden season their book with handsome black and white photographs of family members and special occasions, and they pioneered oral history in food research in a beautiful way. I LOVE this comment on the Amazon site: says so much: ”…I’ve just ordered my third copy of this book, having worn out two little paperbacks. I bought my first copy many years ago and was captivated. This cookbook is a perfect blend of memories and recipies–one doesn’t overpower the other. I’ve cooked most of the recipes in the book, and their cornbread recipe has become my standard for home and ‘pot luck’. I’ve bought many copies of this book for gifts. Mine have been worn out from loaning to friends. A great achievement on the part of the writers. A book to keep…” (reader’s review on Amazon).
Time for today’s Black History Month cookbook by an African American authors, inspired by my friend Food Culturist Nicole Taylor #bhcooks. “The African-American Child’s Heritage Cookbook” is wonderful for getting into the kitchen with youngsters and up, or for letting older kids get busy on their own. First published in 1993 by Sandcastle Publishing, this collection of over 200 recipes is a workbook and handbook, formatted to make it easy to copy recipes and get in the kitchen with young people who want to cook. Author Vanessa Roberts Parham received her degree in Home economics from historic Tuskegee University.
Today’s cookbook by an African American author, in honor of Black History Month, is a particular favorite of mine. “The Foods of Georgia’s Barrier Islands: A Gourmet Food Guide of Native American, Geechee and European Influences on the Golden Isles” by Yvonne J. Grovner, Cornelia Walker Bailey and Doc. Bill. #bhcooks (Thanks to Food Culturist who inspired me to post these books.) Lots of history, commentary, black and white photos of life, food and cooking, and color photo section. Mrs. Cornelia Walker Bailey is a living national treasure herself, the muse, historian, advocate and hero of Sapelo Island, where she and Ms. Grovner live. Read about her here: http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/cornelia-bailey-b-1945 and check out The Sapelo Project here on Facebook. To buy the book via mail order, go here: http://sapeloislandbirdhouses.com/cookbooks.html .
Today’s cookbook celebrating Black History Month is “An African American Cookbook: Traditional and Other Favorite Recipes”, by Phoebe Bailey. Published in 2002, it has more than 400 recipes, many seasoned with stories, oral history, and family connections. The book celebrates the particular history of Bethel AME Church in Lancaster, PA, a congregation with direct connections to the Underground Railroad.
Today’s Black History Month celebration cookbook by an African American author is “Gullah Cuisine: By Land and by Sea”, by Chef Charlotte Jenkins. Her restaurant, Gullah Cuisine, has been serving people in Mt. Pleasant, SC, nearby Charleston, and far beyond, since she opened it in 1997. Her first book serves up her recipes with family stories, Gullah culture and history, photos, and splendid works of art by Chef Jenkins’s friend and world-renowned artist, Jonathan Green. Here is Chef Jenkins’s website: http://gullahcuisine.net/ Wonderful Preface by my friend Marion B. Sullivan, of The Culinary Institute of Charleston . Thanks to Food Culturist Nicole Taylor for this idea of book sharing: #bhcooks
Today’s cookbook by an African American author is very precious to me: “Mama Dip’s Family Cook Book”, her second book for University of North Carolina Press, published in 2005 and a huge best-seller just like her first. Mrs. Mildred Council is a Living National Treasure and for us here in Piedmont NC, a local and a state Treasure as well. She opened her restaurant, Mama Dip’s Kitchen when she was over 40 years old, and she is still going strong in her 80’s. Ate there last week, had the smothered pork chops, brought one home for my sweetie, cause I do love him so. And cause I had pecan pie, so I was well served. Look for her daughter, Spring Council next time you’re feasting at Mama Dip’s. Love her books, her presence in our community, her example of business smarts, diversifying your work world, dedication to family and community, strength and spirit.
Today’s Black History Month celebration-via-cookbooks continues, thanks to inspiration from my friend Nicole Taylor, the Food Culturist who started #bhcooks. “Sweety Pies: An Uncommon Collection of Womanish Observations, with Pie”, is the second book by Patty Pinner. Published in 2007 by Taunton Press, it is gorgeously produced and beautifully written. The photo of Vertamae Grosvenor’s coconut custard meringue pie that ends the book is mesmerizing, and it is but one of an entire CHAPTER of meringue pies, each one splendid. Ms. Pinner writes beautifully and her stories like the photos enrich and enhance the book. Ms. Pinner’s first book, “Soul Food Desserts and Memories”, shines brightly as well. Why can I not find my copy? That’s all right, I know it’s here…
Today’s cookbook celebrating an African American author is “Ideas for Entertaining from an African-American Kitchen”, by Angela Shelf Medaris. Published in 1998 by Plume/Penguin, this book brings a year of holidays and gatherings home with 150 recipes taking us from Emancipation Day on January 1st and Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday January 15th through a Caribbean-style Juneteenth Dinner, and Kwanzaa, along with dinner on the grounds, family reunions, and Thanksgiving and Christmas menus and ideas. This is one of three cookbooks by Ms. Medaris who is also author of more than 50 children’s books, and loves to cook and share the stories. Thankful for her and for my friend Nicole Taylor the Food Culturist, whose idea it was to celebrate Black History Month in this delicious way. #bhcooks
Celebrating Black History Month, here’s today’s cookbook by an African American author: “Brown Sugar: Soul Food Desserts from Family and Friends” by Joyce White. A distinguished journalist and food editor, Ms. White draws on her Alabama roots and her lifetime of traveling and living in NYC, gathering in stories along with recipes for black walnut pound cake, biscuit bread pudding, candied pecans, and three-sisters coconut custard pie. Published in 2003 by Harper Collins. #bhcooks Thanks to Food Culturist Nicole Taylor for the idea to celebrate in this delicious way.
Celebrating Black History Month #bhcooks here’s today’s cookbook by an African American Author: “Soul Food: Classic Cuisine from the Deep South”, by Sheila Ferguson. Published in 1989 by Weidenfeld and Nicholson, and reissued in 1994, this book is seasoned with family photos, both antique and current, and luscious food photo spreads, including an image on page 170 of a woman in the kitchen that moves me every time I see. Recipes, essays — it’s a treasure. A little extra pleasure for me, though the book completely stands on its own without this aspect, is that the author, Sheila Ferguson, was lead singer of The Three Degrees, whose song “When Will I See You Again” remains a favorite for me and my buddies, from back in the day when we were dashing off hither and yon, before reading glasses and such. Uncle Boykin’s Gumbo, Daddy’s Pinto Beans with Rice, Vertamae’s Fried Crab ‘n’ Grits, Black Walnut Cake, and a strong clear voice throughout. Grateful to my friend Food Culturist Nicole Taylor for inspiration to celebrate BHM this way.
Black History Month continues, and today’s cookbook by African American authors is “The Ultimate Gullah Cookbook”, by Jesse Edwards Gannt, Jr. and Veroncia Davis Gerald of Conway SC. History, family stories, and abundance of recipes such as mustards & corn meal dumplings, stewed shrimp n’ gravy, perlow rice and more. Check out their Facebook page here Ultimate Gullah and website here, http://www.ultimategullah.com/food.html where you can order this book directly, or find their store should you be traveling in South Carolina. #bhcooks Thanks to Food Culturist for this idea.
Still celebrating Black History Month with a daily cookbook celebration. Today it’s “The New Low-Country Cooking: 125 Recipes for Coastal Southern Cooking with Innovative Style” by Chef Marvin Woods. Published in 2000 by Harper Collins, this book opens with an introduction by esteemed culinary historian Karen Hess, and serves up a low-country buffet of recipes from pickled shrimp and five-greens rice to Southern summer ratatouille, quail with cornbread stuffing, and sweet potato creme brulee. Thanks to Food Culturist for the inspiration to celebrate via #bhcook
Black History Month is still cooking! Today’s cookbook post is “Sylvia’s Family Soul Food Cookbook: From Hemingway, South Carolina, to Harlem”, by Chef Sylvia Woods and Family. This handsome book was published in 1999 by William Morrow and Company. It features wonderful family photos and stories, beginning with these words: “If you might have been wonderinghow a young girl could go from picking beans in the fields in a small town in the South to opening one of Harlem’s oldest and most respected soul food restaurants with a branch in Atlanta, I can tell you that it was no easy road.” This was her second book; the first, “Sylvia’s Soul Food: Recipes from Harlem’s World Famous Restaurant” came out in 1992, also from William Morrow. Chef, restaurant and catering business owner, prepared foods entrepreneur as well as cookbook author, Mrs. Woods passed away at the age of 86 in 2012, just as the Mayor was hosting a celebration of Sylvia’s Restaurant’s 50th anniversary. Her family continues to run the restaurant, where I had the great pleasure of dining in 2012. Here is their FB page: Sylvia’s Restaurant, the Queen of Soulfood This New York Daily News obituary remembering Mrs. Woods. features a wonderful buffet of photographs from her amazing life. http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/harlem-queen-soul-food-sylvia-woods-dies-86-article-1.1118029 Thanks to Food Culturist for the idea to celebrate Black History Month with a parade of cookbooks by African American authors! #bhcooks
Today’s Black History Month cookbook is “Southern Homecoming Traditions: Recipes and Traditions”, by Carolyn Quick Tillery, published in 2006 by Citadel Press. A prolific author dedicated to preserving and sharing history, Ms. Tillery’s cookbooks include “The African-American Heritage Cookbook”, “A Taste of Freedom”, and “Celebrating Our Equality”. In this latest work, she celebrates the people and traditions of Atlanta’s great HBCU’s: Clark-Atlanta University; the Interdenominational Theological Center; Morehouse College; Morris Brown College; and Spelman College, with essays, stories, photos, and abundant recipes. Thanks to my friend Food Culturist , for the inspiration to celebrate African American cookbooks throughout Black History Month #bhcooks
Still celebrating Black History Month with daily posts of cookbooks by African American authors. Today, it’s “The Lost Art of Scratch Cooking: Recipes from the Kitchen of Natha Adkins Parker”, published in 1997 by Curtis Parker. This small book is a personal collection of recipes self-published by Mrs. Parker’s son in honor of his mother’s lifetime of cooking for her family. The 75 recipes include buttermilk tea cakes, chicken and dumplings, and old-fashioned lemonade. This books celebrates the life of a mother of ten children, with Mrs. Parker’s favorite Bible verses seasoning each page.
Black History Month rolls on, and as my friend Nicole Taylor of Food Culturist tells us, #bhcooks! Today’s book is “Food for the Soul: Recipes and Stories from the Congregation of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church”. This handsome collection of recipes and stories celebrates food and cooking in the life and work of The Abyssinian Baptist Church in the City of New York, Inc., the second-oldest African American church in America, with its 206th anniversary coming up this year. Historic photos join portraits of today’s congregation, many of the dishes, and a feast of stories. A thoughtful foreward by a Ms. Carole Darden-Lloyd, a church member and one of the two sisters whose fine book “Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine” has been featured in this month’s feast of cookbooks.
Today’s cookbook in celebration of Black History Month is “Smothered Southern Foods” by Wilbert Jones, published in 2006 by Citadel Press. A prolific writer and culinary entrepreneur, Chef Jones’s other books include “Tea Cakes: 101 Soul Food Desserts”. Hoping I might meet him when I travel to Chicago for IACP: The International Association of Culinary Professionals conference next month. Family photos and stories season more than 100 recipes, defining and conveying the classic Southern technique of smothering in both sweet and savory dishes. Thanks to my friend Nicole Taylor of Food Culturist for the idea to celebrate the African American kitchen in this way. #bhcooks.
Home stretch for celebrating Black History Month with cookbooks. Today’s #bhcooks book is “Well, Shut My Mouth!: The Sweet Potatoes Restaurant Cookbook”, by Chef Stephanie L. Tyson, published by John F. Blair in 2011. This fine, cinnamon-colored book sizzles with a mix of restaurant-style recipes and traditional family recipes, reflecting the author’s childhood and Southern roots as well as her professional culinary education and years cooking at Sweet Potatoes – a restaurant in Winston-Salame, NC. The introduction tells how Chef Tyson and her partner Vivian V. Joiner made their dream of opening a restaurant come true, and the recipes include Pan-Roasted Oyster-Stuffed Quail with Red-Eye Gravy, V.V.’s Mama’s Meatloaf with Wild Mushroom Gravy, Icebox Soup, and Pineapple Coconut Pie. Lucky me, to count Stephanie and Vivian as friends, and to live within an hour of their wonderful restaurant. I love this video of the author telling about and cooking Miss Ora’s Best Fried Chicken in the Entire World (8 min 32 seconds). Click HERE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fc7Lh4mdxSQ Thankful to Food Culturist Nicole Taylor for the inspiration to celebrate Black History Month with cookbooks by African American authors.
Black History Month Day #27: Part 2. A bonus book, ’cause somehow I missed a day. Celebrating African American cookbooks with the delightful volume: “Sweet Auburn Desserts: Atlanta’s ‘Little Bakery That Could'” by Chef Sonya Jones. Published in 2011 by Pelican Publishing Co., this book is a gorgeous valentine to sweetness and treat-ness, with an abundance of gorgeous photographs of apple roly-poly with cranberry sauce, buttermilk lemon chess pie, dried apple stack cake with divine caramel sauce, and buttermilk cathead biscuits. Chef Jones’s intro shares the story of her pathway from home cook to fashion merchandising to culinary school, assisting Miss Edna Lewis when she taught cooking classes in Atlanta, and opening her bakery in the historic Sweet Auburn community in 1997. A whole chapter of Stack Cakes & Jelly Rolls? Recipes inspired by “What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking”? Yes! Grateful to @Food Culturist for the inspiration to share cookbooks #bhcooks. I missed a day in there, so this is my catch-up, two in one day. See you tomorrow….
Day #28 of Black History Month, and here is still another wonderful cookbook: “Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time”, by Adrian Miller , published just last fall by University of North Carolina Press. This is the newest book amongst our posts, and I get to call it a cookbook because it has 22 recipes, but like one of our earlier posts this month, “High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America by Dr. Jessica B Harris, it is a history book in which a fine small selection of recipes helps to express the ideas and stories. (Just in case one or two of you thought ‘history book? nah…boring, dry, not my thing’, know that Like Dr. Harris’s book, this is history as story and lit and compelling read). If you follow Mr. Miller via Twitter @soulfoodscholar or on his excellent blog linked below, you will recognize some of the photos from his extensive over-time travels to research and document for this book, albeit in black & white not color. He includes maps and sidebars (Cornbread and Pot Likker as National Discourse; Possum ‘n’ Taters: The Most Famous Dish Probably Unknown to You; Chicken and Waffles) and those recipes, from Minnie Utsey’s never-fail cornbread and purple hull peas to Nyesha Arrington’s mac and cheese and banana pudding. A self-described ‘recovering lawyter turned culinary historian’, Mr. Miller first came to my attention as a dedicated board member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, (which I suggest you consider joining at once and reading the SFA blog and listening to fabulous oral histories online and attending events for which, but I digress: let’s see, Mr. Miller: I met Mr. Miller through SFA and have followed his work on this book with delight. It is excellent, and an ideal place to conclude this month of posts celebrating Black History Month, inspired by Food Culturist. Check out Adrian Miller’s blog here. http://adrianemiller.com/soul-food-scholar-blog/
And that’s it for this particular 2014 Black History Month cookbook parade, but in terms of cookbooks to post, we’ve really only just gotten started. Many more cookbooks await us. Let me know your favorites in the comments, and while you’re cooking, continue this journey by listening to Dr. Jessica B. Harris’s radio program “My Welcome Table” on Heritage Radio Network.
Entry filed under: Classics, Cookbook Reviews, Food and Holidays, Good Times and Special Events, History, Southern food, Uncategorized. Tags: African American cookbooks, American history, Black History Month, culinary history, Food Culturist, Nicole Taylor, soul food.