There is certainly no more delicious way to learn from our black community than to immerse ourselves in black cooking tradition, both old and new. The most natural start, if you haven’t done so already, is to buy cookbooks from some of the best cooks and chefs in the country. Many of these works were groundbreaking; they all feature delicious recipes.
The late Miss Leah, as New Orleanians who knew and loved her fondly called her, ran Dooky Chase’s Restaurant right into her late 90s. She was known as the Queen of Creole cuisine. Her restaurant hosted both Barack Obama and George W. Bush. Her fried chicken was legendary, as was her gumbo. Here are her reflections on work, life, and her recipes.
It’s not your usual soul food cookbook: Expect chickpea turmeric crackers and plaited dukkah bread in this unusual, wholesome tome of recipes. We’re longtime Jerrelle Guy fans, having fallen hard for her blog Chocolate for Basil some time ago. So it’s no surprise that we love her book.
With its immaculate historical research and knockout recipes, Toni Tipton-Martin’s celebrated Jubilee centers and illuminates the African-American cooking tradition. It takes on the incredible task of touching on two centuries’ worth of cooking, with spotlights on pecan pie and fried chicken, seafood gumbo and spoon bread. Her writing is smart and beautiful at once.
A “nose-to-tail” cookbook for vegetables. That’s one way to describe this cookbook from an award-winning Southern chef. Stephen Satterfield of Atlanta restaurant Miller Union believes in using every scrap of every piece of produce. He celebrates it with these recipes. (And if you haven’t, check out the magazine he co-founded, Whetstone.).
There are good bakers, and then there’s Jocelyn Delk Adams. Her recipes in this cookbook just sing. Whether it’s a buttery cake recipe or a zucchini cupcakes with a lemon buttercream, the five-star reviews of Grandbaby Cakes tell you everything you need to know.
It’s true: This Food Network star can cook. Expect recipes like cast iron biscuits, smoked salmon scramble, and mom’s chicken soup. Reviewers just love this book, which is focused on what Ayesha and her husband feed their kids. (Hello, parents; there are some kid-friendly options here!)
As is true of Tipton-Martin’s book, anything by Micheal W. Twitty is an excellent choice for those with an academic bent. The Cooking Gene by the renowned culinary historian tells his personal story through the recipes that enabled his ancestors’ survival across three centuries. Expect historical documents and Civil War battlefield tales alongside your recipes. “Illuminating” undersells this award-winning book.
The Top Chef favorite, TV personality and Nashville native is as interested in cracked shrimp with “comeback sauce,” Ghanaian peanut beef stew and roasted okra rounds as she is in traditional soul food favorites in this book. As one reviewer explains of its particular charm, “These recipes are easy to follow, simple ingredients that you can get anywhere and yet they aren’t plain.”
Among those who eschew meat, Bryant Terry is nothing short of a hero. In Vegetable Kingdom, the vegan, food justice activist, James Beard Award-winning cookbook author and chef takes his cues from the African Diaspora while paying homage to his wife’s Asian heritage to feature flavors and ingredients from East and Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, and the American South.
Arguably as American a cookbook as ever there was, The Taste of Country Cooking was groundbreaking. Reflecting the Black roots of much of this nation’s cuisine, it is some of the best cookery we have. (Fun fact: The late Edna Lewis was edited by Judith Jones, who also edited Julia Child!) Ms. Lewis is famous enough to have a foundation devoted to her legacy. Which is as it should be.