I’m going to be cooking from these 9 African American cookbooks all summer long ~ choose one or two to add to your collection and join me as I explore the rich world of black cuisine in America, I can’t wait to get cooking!
As part of my own personal response to the social unrest of the past weeks and the latest reminder of the disturbing reality of inequality in our country, I’ve spent some time immersing myself in black cooking culture. It’s a small way that I can acknowledge this crisis and use it to broaden and enrich my own understanding of what it means to be black in America.
Here’s a short list of books I’ve bought in my effort to learn more about the complex culinary history of African Americans. I can’t wait to share some of the recipes I discover with you in the coming months; I’m planning to cook and post from these books throughout the summer. If you decide to purchase any of them we can cook and grow together.
THE COOKING GENE ~ Michael W. Twitty
Michael Twitty is a chef and culinary historian who dives into the world of race, slavery, culinary injustice and Southern food culture in The Cooking Gene, which won the James Beard 2018 Foundation Book Award for Book of the Year. His mother’s recipe for heirloom apple crisp will be one of the first I try. Michael is a food blogger and blogs at Afroculinaria.
SOUL: A CHEF’S CULINARY EVOLUTION IN 150 RECIPES ~ Todd Richards
A chef and Atlanta based restauranteur, Todd Richards has two James Beard nominations for Best Chef in the Southeast, was named one of the “Four New Chefs to Watch” by Esquire Magazine, and was an Iron Chef competitor. Soul is his first cookbook and it brings a chef’s sensibility to humble down home cooking, starting with the iconic soul food ingredient: collard greens.
Collard greens ramen anyone?
BETWEEN HARLEM AND HEAVEN ~ Alexander Smalls and JJ Johnson
Alexander Smalls is a chef and restauranteur whose NYC restaurant The Cecil was the first Afro-Asian-American restaurant in the city, and was named “Best New Restaurant in America” by Esquire magazine in 2014. Between Harlem and Heaven traces the African diaspora and its influence on the culinary renaissance of Harlem.
PLUM | Gratifying Vegan Dishes ~ Makini Howell
Recipes from Seattle’s Plum Bistro are wildly creative, vegan, and delicious proof that African American chefs aren’t all defined by the southern tradition. Makini Howell is a lifelong vegan and plant based food advocate ~ if you live in the area, Plum Bistro is offering curbside pickup right now!
PRINCESS PAMELA’S SOUL FOOD COOKBOOK ~ Pamela Strobel
This is a new printing of a vintage classic written by Pamela Strobel who opened the The Little Kitchen, a twelve-seat soul food restaurant in Manhattan’s East Village in the 1960s. The speakeasy style restaurant counted Diana Ross, Andy Warhol, and Gloria Steinem among its many fans. Her peanut butter biscuits are first up on my list to try 🙂
AFRICAN AMERICAN HERITAGE COOKBOOK | Traditional Recipes and Fond Remembrances From Alabama’s Renowned Tuskegee Institute ~ Carolyn Quick Tillery
I can’t wait to dig into this book! The Tuskegee Institute was founded by former slave Booker T. Washington in 1881, and this cookbook includes 200+ recipes, as well as vintage photos and first hand accounts of the early days of African American cuisine.
GRANDBABY CAKES ~ Jocelyn Adams
Jocelyn is a virtual friend and fellow food blogger who’s been cooking up amazing food on her blog of the same name since 2012 where you’ll find everything from baby back ribs to Southern strawberry lemonade cake. Her recipes are inspired by her grandmother, and have a wonderful vintage charm.
JUBILEE | Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking ~ Toni Tippton-Martin
If you’re looking for a way to introduce yourself to the canon of black American cooking, Jubilee is a great choice. You’ll get access to generations of historical recipes that have been ‘translated’ for the modern kitchen. Food historian Toni Tippton-Martin has done the work, all you have to do is cook and enjoy. My husband has already chosen that Louisiana barbecued shrimp (on the cover) as the first recipe we make.
THE TASTE OF COUNTRY COOKING ~ Edna Lewis
This is the 30th Edition of the seminal cookbook by the grand dame of Southern cooking, Edna Lewis. She organizes recipes according to the seasons the way she grew up making them in a rural Virginia farming community of freed slaves. The Taste of Country Cooking is a must-have book for anyone who loves to cook. Edna’s Busy Day nutmeg cake is a fan favorite.
Questions and Reviews
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I was just watching a video on how to make fufu which is an African dish, African American dishes are inspired by Africa, and this article I just read gave a brief history about it, https://www.ez.insure/landing/2021/02/how-african-americans-shaped-american-cuisine/ . It is very interesting and now I understand where southern comfort food andddd hospitality came from! What are your thoughts on the article?
I thought you were going to cook from these all summer? I didn’t see any mention of any of them after 6/19 on your instagram.
Hey Leah ~ I’ve made a couple of things so far, Princess Pamela’s peanut butter biscuits here, and strawberry bbq sauce from Soul, here. Covid messed with a lot of my plans this summer (!) but I’m planning to keep cooking from these books all year long and into 2021, I’m looking forward to it.
Hi Sue, thanks for the wonderful list. I plan to check out the first one, The Cooking Gene. I grew up on the North Carolina/South Carolina border, so feel I have something of an edge when looking at good soul food cookbooks. Two or three smaller volumes I’d recommend are: Dori Sanders Country Cooking, Recipes and Stories from the Family Farm Stand, who grew up on her family farm near Gaffney, SC, I believe, and whose family ran a vegetable stand on their property, as the title suggests. Another is Mama Dip’s Kitchen, by Mildred Council. She is from North Carolina. And then there is Sylvia’s Soul Food, Recipes from Harlem’s World-Famous Restaurant, owner of the famous Sylvia’s restaurant.
Thanks so much Donna ~ adding them to my list 🙂
Reading about the books makes me want them all but shall have to pick one. I spent two years in West Africa and at that time you could not find a book store and I’m not sure if I could have found a African recipe book. But definitely liked the African cuisine and make Peanut Butter stew in the winter which is a favourite of all my friends. Am thinking of purchasing Princess Pamela’s Soul Food Book especially when you mentioned Peanut Butter biscuits as would work nicely with my stew.
What a fantastic list of African American Cookbooks. So very happy to see your post. I have not seen anything from any of the other food bloggers I follow. Thank you for being aware of the current issues and addressing them through food. Your blog is fantastic and I have made many recipes that you have posted. I don’t own Jubliee, but will be purchasing immediately.
Thanks Gwen, I love this little community we’ve got going here, it’s so mutually supportive 🙂