About: Rufus Estes rose to prominence as a chef cooking and catering for presidents Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland, Princess Eulalie of Spain, African explorer Henry Stanley and composer Ignacy Paderewski on the Pullman Co. Private Car Service. By the end of his career, he published Good Things to Eat, as Suggested by Rufus: A Collection of Practical Recipes for Preparing Meats, Game, Fowl, Fish, Puddings, Pastries, Etc. in 1911. This is one of the first cookbooks published by a Black chef.
Title: Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time
About: Writer Adrian Miller focuses on the history behind the most popular dishes within the Black community. His cookbook is also partly a history book, identifying the health concerns, healthy options, and the social significance of soul food in American society. This refreshing look at one of America’s most celebrated, mythologized, and maligned cuisines is enriched by spirited sidebars, photographs and 22 recipes.
Title: The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks
About: Author Toni Tipton-Martin is an award-winning food journalist who’s love for food drove her to create The Jemima Code blog. The website documents her love for African-American cuisine. She turned her website into a book this year. She has spent years amassing one of the world’s largest private collections of cookbooks published by African-American authors, looking for evidence of their impact on American food, families, and communities and for ways we might use that knowledge to inspire community wellness of every kind. The book has over 150 cookbooks included.
Title: A Date with a Dish: Classic African-American Recipes
About: Freda De Knight was a famous chef who was most active in 1940s and 50s that aimed at dispelling stereotypes about Black chefs. “It is a fallacy, long disproved, that Negro cooks, chefs, caterers and homemakers can adapt themselves only to the standard Southern dishes. Like other Americans living in various sections of the country, they have naturally shown a desire to become versatile in the preparation of any dish,” the book’s preface states. The recipes start with appetizers, cheese, soups, relishes, and sauces, advancing to meats, fowl, fish, and all-in-one dishes. In addition to suggestions for vegetables, salads, and breads, the menu includes a mouthwatering selection of Creole dishes and delightful desserts.
Title: Eliza’s Cookbook
About: The Negro Culinary Art Club was a group of Black cooks in Los Angeles that gathered to share recipes in the 1930s. This book is a recipe book published in 1936. The cookbook is difficult to find but it is referenced in The Jemima Code.
Title: What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, Soups, Pickles, Preserves, Etc
About: Abby Fisher (c. 1832-1900) was one of the first Black people to produce a cookbook in the U.S. She published What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, Soups, Pickles, Preserves, Etc in 1881 as one of the few cookbooks published by a former enslaved person. Later on in her life, she moved to San Francisco and created a vibrant catering business. This is a wonderful collection of 160 authentic and tasty recipes of the Old South. Prior to Applewood’s edition, it had been reprinted only once in a limited edition of 100 copies.
Title: The Historical Cookbook of the American Negro
About: The book was first published in 1958 by the National Council of Negro Women. It includes contributions from members in thirty-six states plus the District of Columbia and offers exceptional insight into American history and the Black community at the time of its publication. All of the recipes go along with bios of famous African-Americans. The writers combined good food with good history that helps us commemorate African-American history throughout the year.
Title: In Pursuit of Flavor
About: Chef Edna Lewis made a name for herself cooking southern cuisine. The book has almost 200 delicious recipes, plus notes and special boxes on important ingredients, from black-eyed peas and Virginia hams, to Peking ducks and oysters. Lewis writes about some of her personally developed cooking techniques, including how to make your own jelly bags and peel chestnuts.